Brenda Howard

Brenda Howard (December 24, 1946 – June 28, 2005) was an American bisexual rights activist, sex-positive feminist, polyamorist and BDSM practitioner. Howard was an important figure in the modern LGBT rights movement.

Brenda Howard
BornDecember 24, 1946
DiedJune 28, 2005 (aged 58)
OrganizationGay Liberation Front, Gay Activists Alliance, BiNet USA, Act Up, Queer Nation and New York Area Bisexual Network
MovementLGBT rights movement


Brenda Howard was born in the Bronx and grew up in Syosset, Nassau County, New York in a Jewish family. She graduated from Syosset High School and from Borough of Manhattan Community College with an AAS degree in Nursing.

In the late 1960s, Howard was active in the movement against the Vietnam War. In 1969 she lived in an urban commune of anti-war activists and draft resisters in downtown Brooklyn New York. Like many other women in the US anti-war movement at the time, Howard became critical of its domination by men, and she soon became involved in the feminist movement as well.

A militant activist who helped plan and participated in LGBT rights actions for over three decades, Howard was an active member of the Gay Liberation Front[2][3] and for several years chair of the Gay Activists Alliance's Speakers Bureau[4] in the post-Stonewall era.

She is known as the "Mother of Pride" for her work in coordinating a rally and then the Christopher Street Liberation Day March to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Howard also originated the idea of a week-long series of events around Pride Day which became the genesis of the annual LGBT Pride celebrations that are now held around the world every June.[5][6] Additionally, Howard along with fellow LGBT activists Stephen Donaldson and L. Craig Schoonmaker are credited with popularizing the word "Pride" to describe these festivities.[7]

A fixture in New York City's LGBT Community, Howard was active in the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights which helped guide New York City's Gay rights law through the City Council in 1986 as well as ACT UP and Queer Nation.

In 1987 Howard helped found the New York Area Bisexual Network to help co-ordinate services to the region's growing Bisexual community. She was also an active member of the early bisexual political activist group BiPAC, a Regional Organizer for BiNet USA, a co-facilitator of the Bisexual S/M Discussion Group and a founder of the nation's first Alcoholics Anonymous chapter for bisexuals. On a national level, Howard's activism included work on both the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights and the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation where she was female co-chair of the leather contingent and Stonewall 25 in 1994.[8]

In addition to being openly bisexual, Howard was openly polyamorous and involved in BDSM.[9]

Howard died of colon cancer on June 28, 2005.[10] She is survived by her longtime partner Larry Nelson, who wrote in Howard's obituary,

[W]e forged a bond of mutual bad girl respect...that lasted through the years, including the production of the 1993 March and the work to create Stonewall 25. I miss my colleague in crime. The worst part of growing older is that such missing grows right along with it.[11]


The next time someone asks you why LGBT Pride marches exist or why Gay Pride Month is June tell them "A bisexual woman named Brenda Howard thought it should be."

— Tom Limoncelli, in BiSquish, July 27, 2005[12]

Only a handful of activists in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement were there at Stonewall and never stopped.

— Andy Humm describing Brenda Howard in Gay City News August 11–17, 2005

Bi, Poly, Switch—I'm not greedy, I know what I want.

— Brenda Howard describing herself, as quoted in 2013 by, a project of Equality Forum


You needed some kind of help organizing some type of protest or something in social justice? All you had to do was call her and she'll just say when and where.

— Howard's partner Larry Nelson, in "Remembering Brenda: An Ode To the 'Mother of Pride'", June 17, 2014

The Brenda Howard Memorial Award

Winners of Brenda Howard Memorial Award (L to R) Larry Nelson 05, Wendy Curry 08, Tom Limoncelli 06, Wendy Moscow 07.

The Brenda Howard Memorial Award was created in 2005 by the Queens Chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).[13] It was the first award by a major American LGBT organization to be named after an openly bisexual person. The award, which is given annually, recognizes an individual or organization whose work on behalf of the bisexual community and the greater LGBT community best exemplifies the vision, principles. and community service exemplified by Brenda Howard, and who serves as a positive and visible role model for the entire LGBT community.


Year Recipient Notes
2005 Lawrence Nelson Mr. Nelson is a long-time LGBT rights activist. He is a founding member and a current Board Member of PFLAG Queens as well as being an Advisor to the student LGBT Group at Queensborough Community College.[14]
2006 Tom Limoncelli Mr. Limoncelli who identifies as bisexual is a long-time LGBT rights activist. He was the New Jersey emeritus BiNet USA delegate, has worked with Garden State Equality as well as being a noted SysAdmin, and author.
2007 Wendy Moscow Ms. Moscow who identifies as bisexual is a long-time LGBT rights activist focusing on her home borough of Queens NYC. In the early 1980s she helped found the Lesbian and Gay Political Action Club of Queens and was also one of the founders of Queens Pride where she served as their March Committee co-chair from inception until 2001 and was a Grand Marchal of the 2006 Parade.[15]
2008 Wendy Curry Ms. Curry who identifies as bisexual is a long time LGBT rights activist. They are one of the creators of Bisexual Pride Day and are President emeritus of BiNet USA.[16]
2009 Micah Kellner Mr Kellner was the first openly bisexual person elected to the New York State Assembly.[17][18]
2010 Lisa Jacobs Lisa Jacobs who identifies as bisexual is a long time bisexual rights and Gender Non-conforming community rights activist. They are a founder and President emeritus of the Transcending Boundaries Conference and run the Gender Diverse Bisexuals[19] group.
2011 Robyn Ochs Ms Ochs who identifies as bisexual is a bisexual rights activist, speaker and author.[20]
2012 Donna Redd[21] Ms Redd who identifies as a Bisexual Woman of Color is a longtime LGBT Activist. She is the executive director of Sistahs in Search of Truth, Alliance, and Harmony (S.i.S.T.A.H.),[22] a Brooklyn-based bisexual-led group founded in 1991, that serves all Same gender loving (SGL) women.[23]
2013 Cliff Arnesen[24] Mr Arnesen is a bisexual army veteran (U.S. Army, Vietnam era), past president of the New England Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Veterans, and a founding member and former National Vice President of Legislative Affairs of the Lesbian & Bisexual Veterans of America, now known as the American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER).[25]
2014 Estraven[26] Estraven is a Board Member Emeritus of BiNet USA, a director of the New York Area Bisexual Network, and writer on the topic of bisexual history and mental health. In 2006 they founded the Bisexual Discussion and Activity Group[27] at NY state's Westchester County's The LOFT LGBT Community Center where they continue to act as a senior facilitator.[26]
2015 H. Sharif Williams Professor Herukhuti who identifies as bisexual is a LGBT rights activist, playwright, poet, essayist, spiritual teacher, sexual healer, scholar, activist and social entrepreneur.[28]
2016 Alexandra Bolles[29] Ms.Bolles who identifies as bisexual spearheads GLAAD's bisexual-related advocacy and serves as Senior Strategist – Campaigns & External Engagement. In 2016, Ms. Bolles was instrumental in the publication of In Focus: Reporting on the Bisexual Community,[30] GLAAD's first Media Resource Guide specifically about the Bisexual community[31]
2017 Denarii Grace[32] She is a writer, editor, singer-songwriter, and activist.[33]

Other tributes to Brenda Howard

Brenda Howard was named by Equality Forum in 2013 as one of their 31 Icons for LGBT History Month.[34] In 2014 the Trevor Project chose her as one of the role models for their Women's History Month project, "highlighting incredible woman-identified powerhouses who have changed the world for the better" and stating "At The Trevor Project we not only want to celebrate this month, we want to shine a light on the often unrecognized influence LGBTQ women have had, and continue to have, on our youth."[35]

In 2015 Howard's partner, Larry Nelson, highlighted her accomplishments in a video for the #StillBisexual campaign, which was posted online for Celebrate Bisexuality Day.[36]

See also


  1. ^ Notice of death of Brenda Howard,, July 2005; accessed January 1, 2016.
  2. ^ "Gay Liberation Front: In Memorium". Home page. N. A. Diaman. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  3. ^ Teal, Donn (1971). The gay militants. New York: Stein and Day. ISBN 0-8128-1373-1.
  4. ^ Kennedy, Joe. "Summer of 77". Retrieved December 23, 2015.
  5. ^ Channel 13/WNET Out! 2007: Women In the Movement
  6. ^ The Gay Pride Issue: Picking Apart The Origin of Pride
  7. ^ Dynes, Wayne R. Pride (trope), Homolexis Archived July 12, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Steve Stein, Living in Leather (2012), p. 38.
  9. ^ a b "Brenda Howard". Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  10. ^ Lawrence Nelson. "Brenda Howard (1946-2005)". Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  11. ^ "Pride founding mother, Brenda Howard's, memorial service announced". 2005-07-21. Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-02-14. Retrieved 2017-08-17.
  13. ^ The PFLAG Queens Chapter Names New Award for Bisexual Activist Brenda Howard
  14. ^ Brenda Howard Memorial Award Information
  15. ^ 3rd Annual Brenda Howard Memorial Awardee: Wendy Moscow
  16. ^ BiNet USA President Wendy Curry Receives the 4th Annual Brenda Howard Memorial Award February 24, 2009 BiNet USA News and Updates
  17. ^ NY Assemblymember Kellner Given Brenda Howard Award February 21, 2009 BiNet USA News and Updates
  18. ^ Gustafson, Anna Queens PFLAG to honor three in February January 1, 2009 Astoria Times.
  19. ^ "Gender Diverse Bisexuals". Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  20. ^ Robyn Ochs Receives Brenda Howard Award from PFLAG, Queens Chapter Archived 2013-07-31 at the Wayback Machine., February 05, 2012 BiMagazine.
  21. ^ "PFLAG Queens Chapter - 2014 Awards Luncheon Page - Fund Raiser to be held 2/08/2015". Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  22. ^ "S.i.S.T.A.H. (Sistahs in Search of Truth, Alliance, and Harmony)". Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  23. ^ "PFLAG Queens Chapter 2012 Fund Raiser - Awardees Bio's". Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  24. ^ Queens PFLAG NYC Chapter Honors Cliff Arnesen and New Out LGBT members of the New York City Council, February 22, 2014 Transgender Bisexual Political Nerd.
  25. ^ 2010 Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repealed! A look back at Bi one veteran’s story, BiNet USA, 2013.
  26. ^ a b "PFLAG Queens Chapter - 2014 Awardees Bio Page". 1999-11-02. Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  27. ^ "The LOFT's Programs and Services: Bisexual Discussion and Activity Group". Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  28. ^ "PFLAG Queens Chapter – 2015 Awardees Bio Page". 1999-11-02. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  29. ^ "GLAAD About, Our Team, Staff". Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  30. ^ "In Focus: Reporting on the Bisexual Community" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  31. ^ "PFLAG Queens Chapter 2016 Fund Raiser - Awardees Bio's". Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  32. ^ "PFLAG Queens Chapter - 2017 Awards Luncheon Page - Fund Raiser to be held 2/04/2018". 2018-02-04. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  33. ^ "PFLAG Queens Chapter - 2016 Fund Raiser - Awardees Bio's - Fund Raiser to be held 2/07/2016". Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  34. ^ 2013 Icons Announced LGBT History Month 2013 Now Online Archived 2016-01-13 at the Wayback Machine.,, February 22, 2013.
  35. ^ LGBTQ Women Inspire the Future, March 2014 The Trevor Project
  36. ^ Ring, Trudy. "WATCH: Bisexual Pioneer Brenda Howard's Husband Celebrates Her with #StillBisexual Campaign". SheWired. Retrieved 2015-09-24.

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