Living life to the fullest

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This time of year, we all get to pause and reflect on the new year, and what the last year brought. For me it has always been a double dose since my birthday falls so close to the New Year, and this year there is lots of reflection for me.

Aside from the recession of 2010, it was quite a year for the community and me personally. Since I’m closely involved with some community projects, it’s hard at times to separate the two. The best example is the proposed LGBT-friendly affordable senior-housing project. It’s something I’ve been working on for many years. Suffice to say we are close, but there are still hurdles. It gives me great pride since this is the furthest any LGBT project of this scope has made it in this commonwealth. It’s historic no matter what happens.

The plan now goes way beyond its original scope. Aside from buying a building and creating living space for seniors, it also upgrades to code and expands the heart of our community — our community center, which is in need of an upgrade. The plan also leaves those decisions to the community center itself.

I’m impressed in the manner the center has done its due diligence and more proud of those who have an interest in community voicing their concerns. They’ve looked for answers rather than been disruptive. The respect the community has shown has allowed us to get this far. Of course, there will be people with personal agendas but the community seems to have decided to ignore such voices, and that shows political maturity. We are becoming a strong community and hopefully leaving negativity behind.

In a few weeks, PGN will celebrate 35 years. And we’ve become not only the nation’s most award-winning publication for the LGBT community, but this column became the most awarded.

On the personal side, I broke up with my partner of six years, and in short order, we decided to date. Like the rest of my life, I’m not sure where this is leading, but it is my nature to work toward the positive.

Then, to stay busy, the mayor appointed me to the Airport Board once again, I worked on various LGBT history projects (a joy), kept up with old friends from Gay Liberation Front and Gay Youth (we consider ourselves the first graduating class of gay liberation), assisted GPTMC in organizing a gay contingent in this year’s July 4 parade and marched with fellow first-time marchers in the New York Gay Pride, wrote, had speaking engagements and attempted to keep up with our fast-moving, growing community. And let’s not forget a dream coming true: I danced with my boyfriend at the White House. I even dipped Jason as the Marine band played and the portrait of President Clinton looked on.

In May 1969, I walked into the Mattachine offices in New York and met Marty Robinson. That day, I would never have anticipated gays to be accepted in the military or the fight for marriage equality. Instead, we fought to overturn sodomy laws, to pass antidiscrimination legislation, for the American Psychiatric Association to stop labeling us as mentally ill and to end media censorship. That was the beginning and much work still needs to be completed, including beginning to address transgender issues and learning to deal with bullying and the toll it takes on our youth. But we built something else: a community. That is work I am proud to have been a part of, and that I’m dedicated to.

So as we start another year and I celebrate another birthday, I’m happier than anyone should be allowed to be. This is the life I signed up for and it can only get better. And looking forward, this Sunday I’m chief judge again at the fabulous “Miss’d America” pageant in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Now that is a life, and it’s only beginning.

Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media, having received the 2010 Columnist of the Year Award from Suburban Newspapers of America. He can be reached at [email protected].