When you set out to change the world, you never expect to actually see the results of those years of struggle, or to win praise. And if you are lucky enough to, it comes as an overwhelmingly emotional surprise that takes days to come to terms with… and fully accept or appreciate.
Last week I was informed by the Pennsylvania News-Media Association that at its annual convention this year, it would award me its Ben Franklin Award, one of the highest publishing honors one could receive.
This is even more surprising since I had to fight many years to gain membership in the organization simply because I was gay. That battle went on until The Philadelphia Inquirer demanded our membership. Later, PNA asked me to join its board of directors, but almost 30-some years later to receive the organization’s highest honor is making me look back and ask, Do I actually deserve it? And then there was this … the letter that notified me and set out the reasons for my selection.
“This year’s selection committee emphasized your remarkable achievements and contributions to Philadelphia Gay News, the LGBT community, and the news media industry in Pennsylvania and beyond in unanimously selecting you for this award. From the founding of Philadelphia Gay News in 1975, to your crashing the CBS news with Walter Cronkite, to your hunger strike and sit-in at Philadelphia City Council, your groundbreaking memoir, And Then I Danced and, of course, your leadership and extensive news coverage on issues of concern to the LGBT community, you have been an inspirational leader in your community and far beyond.”
You can imagine how emotional those words struck me, but not for the award itself. What got me is the embrace the organization took of the work to change media, including even PNA itself. That is what the struggle for equality is all about, and having an organization that was antigay appreciate that shows how far we as a community and we as LGBT journalists have come.
My second thought was what that acceptance was about: respect for LGBT media. With this award, PNA is embracing LGBT media as its peers, and in a way that still has me very emotional even as I write this.
Then I think of Sally Fields when she accepted her Academy Award. She jumped to the stage and said, “They like me, they really like me.”
Mark Segal is publisher of Philadelphia Gay News. His new memoir And Then I Danced is out now. You can follow him oat Facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.