Stonewall Pioneer Reflects on Global Pride Movements

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Pride is more than a celebration; it is a vibrant assertion of existence and community. From the streets adorned with drag queens to the spirited parades, Pride is a powerful declaration: “We are here, and you will never put us back in the closet.”

Mark Segal, a pioneer in the LGBT movement and the publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, shares his journey, which began in May 1969 when he was just 18. Arriving in New York with no job, prospects, or money, he sought out the LGBT community. He found refuge at the Stonewall Inn, a sanctuary in an otherwise hostile world. Despite the illegality of dancing, holding hands, or even kissing, they found safety inside. However, this sanctuary was shattered when police raided the bar, violently breaking it up and terrifying the patrons.

That night marked a pivotal moment for Mark. Inspired by the cultural revolutions of the time, he realized it was time to fight for LGBT rights. This realization sparked the organization of protests against media and police, the creation of the world’s first LGBT community center, and eventually, the first Pride parade in 1970. From a mere 100 activists showing their faces, the movement has grown to millions worldwide.

The video showcases Mark’s conversations with activists from various countries, highlighting diverse experiences and challenges. In Thailand, Pride has spread to about 40 provinces, becoming a month-long rainbow celebration. While physical abuse is rare, legal rights remain limited, with ongoing struggles for marriage equality and gender recognition. In Botswana, Pride began in 2019 following the decriminalization of same-sex acts. Despite backlash from Evangelical Christians, Pride events foster a sense of community and inclusion for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.

Mark emphasizes the importance of visibility and unity. He shares his personal experiences, reinforcing the idea that every backlash makes the community stronger. Reflecting on 55 years of activism, Mark urges the community to stay visible and fight for rights. He highlights the importance of being known not just as LGBT individuals but as integral members of society—family, friends, and colleagues. The global conversations give hope and underscore the unstoppable progress towards equality.

From one Pride event in 1970 to a global movement, Pride continues to grow, empowering individuals and fostering a sense of belonging. As Mark Segal reminds us, visibility and unity are our strongest tools in the ongoing fight for rights and acceptance.

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