Wednesday was a great day for the Philadelphia Gay News, publisher Mark Segal, and Philadelphia.
It was Wednesday that a blue and gold state historical marker was unveiled in front of 233 S. 13th Street, the first address of the gay weekly.
Mark launched it in 1976, at that location, which he rented from the Redevelopment Authority for $50 a month. Why was it so cheap? No plumbing, for one thing. That’s enough for most people to move, but Mark couldn’t.
He launched PGN with zero journalism experience. He compensated for that with pluck, a nose for news, a burning sense of justice, and innate business sense.
The plaque marked the achievements of the little operation that became the most award-winning newspaper serving the gay community.
Not New York, not Washington, D.C., not even San Francisco. Philadelphia, a place he had left at the age of 18 because he saw no future for himself as a gay young man.
He returned two years later — after participating in the Stonewall Riot — to help care for his ailing mother. While here, he decided to act, and created for himself, and his community, the future that he had not been able to see.
In introducing Mark to speak, 6ABC’s Adam Joseph, who outed himself at the age of 37, said the publisher was “loud, passionate, enthusiastic and proud.” Correct on all four points. Also a visionary who wrote about the trans community before most people knew it existed, and fought elements of the gay community that did not want them covered at all.
As a youth, Mark said, his voice occasionally cracking, he couldn’t have dreamed he’d be at an event for PGN attended by a U.S. Senator — Bob Casey — and even a Republican City Councilman — David Oh. Plus many others.
A lot of nice things were said about Mark, almost all of them true, and he graciously shared his success with the PGN staff, current and past.
As Joseph said, the marker means he’s done something right for 45 years.
Actually, longer than that.