Arkivi i Lëvizjes LGBTI+ në Kosovë

Remembering Stonewall: Mark Segal’s Story of Resistance and Resilience

June 28, 2024

In the heart of Philadelphia, a young boy named Mark Segal realized early on that he was different. Growing up, he couldn’t find representation on TV, in newspapers, or on the radio because discussions about queer people were prohibited. This feeling of isolation led him to seek refuge in the vibrant, eclectic neighborhood of Greenwich Village, New York City, at the age of 18.

Segal’s journey to New York City was a leap of faith. He left home with no concrete plans, driven solely by the hope of finding a community where he could belong. He found his sanctuary on Christopher Street, at the Stonewall Inn, the only place in New York where queer people could dance, hold hands, kiss, and just themself.

While we reflect on the Pride Month, respectively on the Prishtina Pride Week 2024, CEL Kosova interviewed Mark Segal, discussing his firsthand experiences during the Stonewall Riots of June 28,1969, and their enduring impact.

On June 28, 1969, Segal’s life took a dramatic turn. That night, the Stonewall Inn was raided by the police, an event that was all too common at the time. But this raid was different. The police burst through the doors, smashing things, and assaulting the patrons. For Segal, the brutality of the raid ignited a spark of activism that would define the rest of his life. He joined the chorus of those who fought back, transforming a night of terror into the dawn of the modern LGBTI+ rights movement.

Segal’s journey was significantly influenced by mentors like Marty Robinson, who introduced him to activism. 

“Marty Robinson came up to me with a piece of chalk and said, ‘Go up and down Christopher Street and write on the streets and on the walls, ‘Tomorrow Night Stonewall,'” Segal recalls. This grassroots effort laid the foundation for the first Gay Pride Parade in 1970, which Segal describes as a bold declaration of visibility and unity.

The Stonewall Uprising, as Segal prefers to call it, was a spontaneous, passionate response to years of oppression. It wasn’t a single event but a series of nights where LGBTI+ individuals, including people of color and trans folks, united against police brutality and societal discrimination. During these tumultuous nights, Segal and others realized the power of collective action. The aftermath of Stonewall saw the creation of various organizations to support the LGBTQ+ community. Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, pivotal figures in the uprising, founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) to assist trans people. “They revolutionized that,” Segal says, highlighting their contribution to the movement. The Gay Liberation Front itself was a melting pot of diversity, uniting different factions within the LGBTI+ community under a common cause.

“Rather than be complicit in our own oppression, we began to fight back,” Segal says about the riots and their aftermath. The Stonewall Uprising happened during a cultural revolution when various groups, including women, Black people, and Latinas, were fighting for their rights.

Segal’s activism didn’t stop at Stonewall. He became a prominent figure in the fight for LGBTI+ rights, working tirelessly to build a community where there was none. He helped create the first gay youth organization and many other crucial support systems. His efforts extended beyond activism; in 1976, he became the publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News and wrote the award-winning column “Mark My Words.” His memoir with the name “And then i danced- traveling the road to LGBT equality”, published in 2015, is now going into its third printing.

Love found its way into Segal’s life, too. He met his husband, Jason, 20 years ago through an email introduction from a mutual friend. Reflecting on his relationship, Segal shares a touching message he would give to his late mother, who worried he would be alone: “Mom, I’m old, I have a husband, I’m in love with my husband, and I danced with my husband at the White House.” His love story is a testament to the progress made since those early days of the movement.

Segal emphasized the importance of visibility for the LGBTI+ community in Kosovo. “In Kosovo, you will achieve same-sex marriage and all your rights. It’s important to stay VISIBLE,” he urged. His message to his younger self resonates with many: “You will find a community that will embrace you and you will fight for equality.”

Remembering the first Pride, Segal said, “When they did the Gay Pride in 1970, it came at the one-year anniversary of Stonewall. Before Stonewall, there were around 100 activists in America. The first motto for the first Pride was ‘Out loud and Proud,’ and it was 15,000 people.” He emphasizes that “People were gathered because of the anger of oppression. We didn’t know that Pride as a word would be celebrated around the world.”

Reflecting on the legacy of Stonewall, Segal asserts, “What we did in Stonewall and creating Pride has resonated around the world. The best export that the LGBTI+ community of America ever gave to the world was Pride.” His story is one of bravery, love, and relentless pursuit of justice—a story that continues to inspire generations of activists worldwide.

His story is not just a tale of one man’s journey. It’s an inspiring testament to the power of visibility, community, and the unyielding fight for human rights. Segal’s life, filled with love, activism and resilience, serves as a beacon of hope and a call to action for all those who continue the fight for equality.

(Photo courtesy: Mark Segal)