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GA Voice - - Out Spoken -

“I’m stand­ing across the street from Stonewall in Sheri­dan Square. Here I was, an 18-year-old kid liv­ing at the YMCA in a six-dol­lar-a-night room with no job, no prospects for the fu­ture, no real place to live and no money in my pocket. I’m think­ing, What am I go­ing to do? And it came to me: This is ex­actly what I want to do. I’m go­ing to be a gay ac­tivist.”

More than 45 years af­ter that fate­ful night out­side the Stonewall Inn, Mark Se­gal still con­sid­ers him­self, first and fore­most, an ac­tivist.

“That’s what’s in­side me and what al­ways will be,” he says. “Every­thing else is sec­ondary.”

Adding to his list of “sec­ondary” ti­tles is a new one: author. Se­gal, the founder and pub­lisher of Philadel­phia Gay News, has just re­leased his mem­oir, “And Then I Danced.”

The 320-page book takes read­ers from Se­gal’s mea­ger be­gin­nings in a Philadel­phia hous­ing project to his pin­na­cle of danc­ing with his hus­band in the White House.

But as the sig­nif­i­cance of his decades of ac­tivism be­gan to man­i­fest it­self to him, Se­gal started se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing re­count­ing that work in book form—es­pe­cially at the prompt­ing of his now-hus­band, Ja­son Ville­mez.

Se­gal had been amass­ing vi­gnettes of his rec­ol­lec­tions, which he thought could serve as the mem­oir’s foundation. He set to work cre­at­ing an out­line of his life, check­ing dates and facts and re­search­ing his own sto­ried his­tory.

Ex­plor­ing the strug­gles of his child­hood in the first chap­ter was among the most chal­leng­ing as­pects of writ­ing “And Then I Danced”—as the self-doubt Se­gal ex­pe­ri­enced in his youth resur­faced.

Work­ing with editor Michael Den­nehy, Se­gal crafted and re­crafted 15 chap­ters for a fi­nal prod­uct that takes read­ers through the LGBT com­mu­nity’s evo­lu­tion, seen along­side Se­gal’s own de­vel­op­ment. From his bur­geon­ing com­ing out—be­gin­ning with a child­hood pull to the Sears, Roe­buck cat­a­log’s male mod­els—Se­gal’s story is as much a com­men­tary on the times as it is on his own ex­pe­ri­ences.

“I wanted to show young gay peo­ple how our com­mu­nity got the rights that we

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