In the 1970s, my parents pioneered LGBTQ visiblity

My mom and dad.

The person I am today is mostly due to the support my parents gave me throughout my life. All the contributions that my work has produced is based on the security they gave me growing up and their continued support of my activism as I tried to raise national LGBT visibility. In standing by me, it appears that my parents were the first out and proud parents in Philadelphia. While I always give them credit in my talks, I also have to explain that I didn’t have anything tangible to hang on to as a keepsake other than my memories. Which brings me to something that has always made me sad.

In 1974, my parents and I taped an hour long Phil Donahue show in Chicago. It was the first time on American TV that a family with an OUT protesting son was interviewed, they even had my partner at the time on. The perfect American family: mom, pop, son and son in law all together in 1974. A month after the taping I wrote the Donahue show asking for a copy of the tape. They explained that I can have a copy for $106. Activists in those days didn’t get a salary. In fact, I was living with my parents. So my thoughts were that some day I’d get ahold of that tape. Years later, after my parents were both gone, I saw Donahue at a conference and asked him. He explained that the tape was in a warehouse, but unfortunately it went up in flames. Years later my friends at Comcast which owned the TV station where it was taped went on a search for it and came to the conclusion it was lost for the ages. 

But, it turns out, there is a public record of my parents’ support of me. Last Sunday, while doing research, I came across an interview I gave with my parents in the Philadelphia Daily News on September 7th, 1972, two years before the Phil Donahue interview. 

The Daily News interview was about my disruption of Action News a few weeks earlier, which to this date created an abundance of media attention in Philadelphia unlike anything seen before. All of my quotes in the interview are not important to me, what is invaluable is the section where the reporter questions my parents.

The reporter asks my father, Marty: “Now what kind of reaction are you getting from your friends and coworkers, Mr. Segal?” Dad replies: “I’m not getting any reaction. I couldn’t care less what others think. Got news for you, nobody has said a thing to me.”

Then the reporter turns to my mother, Shirley, and asks for her reaction. Mom talks about how a woman she works with asked her if it was her son in the newspapers? My mom said: “I called Mark about it and he said that he would be willing to come down and explain it if I wanted him to. Another woman comes to me and says ‘I don’t want to hurt your feelings but is that your son in the papers?’ I said yes, and that was all there was to it. They didn’t bother me after that. Whatever Mark does I’m proud of!”

This is followed by Dad again, who is doing his macho thing and says “I can care less what people think. If they don’t like what he’s doing, let them stay away from me. That’s the way I feel about it. I don’t need their friendship.”

Mom and Dad went on to do other interviews, all lost to time. They even marched in Gay Pride in the 1970s holding signs that said “Parents of Gays.” But since this Daily News article turned up, who knows what else might be out there. I’ll always regret not having the $106 to get the video of them on the Phil Donahue Show, but it’s a great comfort knowing that their incredible love and support of me is archived in other ways outside of my memory. They deserve all the credit in the world for helping spread LGBTQ visiblity. They were true pioneers.

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