If you’ve been doing anything for a long period of time and people believe you to be somewhat knowledgeable on a particular issue, they ask all types of questions.

That’s true with me as an LGBT activist and the many forms that activism has taken over the last almost half-century. During that time, I’ve done literally thousands of interviews, in various forms, and I must admit many interviewers ask the same questions — so it always surprises me when I’m asked a question I’ve never gotten before. It’s even more surprising when an interviewer has the foresight to take a nugget of a story and add a twist to the question, all to try and get something that others have not gotten on paper or tape before. As I said, this seldom happens, but it did last week.

A question I’ve been asked before is, “When you disrupted ‘The CBS Evening News’ with Walter Cronkite, were you scared or nervous?” However, as I was sitting on a stool being filmed for several hours for a “project under development,” the interviewer took that old question and re-used it in a different context. This showed that the company and individual had done their homework.

In stating the question, the interviewer asked, “In your many years of activism — when you received death threats, taking nickel rides in police vans, when your office was destroyed — were you ever scared?”

Putting the question over a scope of work rather than one incident caught me off guard and, it may seem strange, but I never thought of it in that context before. My immediate reaction was to answer from the last event mentioned, which was the trashing of our offices. I thought and said, “No, we didn’t have time to be scared. We had to solve the problem so we could go forward.”

I’ve been thinking of that question ever since, and wonder if it has been my determination, or just foolishness not to be frightened, that kept me from being scared at those moments. Like everyone, I have times when I get nervous — I’ll admit here to a little stage fright before addressing a crowd or a speaking gig — but getting arrested and threatened doesn’t affect me very much. It’s almost like it’s part of my job. In fact, one of the chapters in my book is titled “Don’t worry Mom, I’ll most likely be arrested today.”

Like you, I get nervous about harm to friends and family and safety issues for our community, but activism is not one of those things that makes me fearful. Maybe that’s thanks to my family, who always had to fight for survival and their rights. It’s part of one’s DNA.


Mark Segal, Philadelphia Gay News publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at PhilaGayNews. His memoir AND THEN I DANCED is available online and at your favorite bookstore.



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