Partner Lawrence "Larry" Nelson
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 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 and for several years chair of the Gay Activists Alliance's Speakers Bureau 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. Additionally, Howard along with fellow LGBT activists Stephen Donaldson and L. Craig Schoonmaker are credited with popularizing the word "Pride" to describe these festivities.
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.
In addition to being openly bisexual, Howard was openly polyamorous and involved in BDSM.
Howard died of colon cancer on June 28, 2005. She is survived by her longtime partner Lawrence "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.
The Brenda Howard Memorial Award was created in 2005 by the Queens Chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). 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.
Brenda Howard was named by Equality Forum in 2013 as one of their 31 Icons for LGBT History Month. 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."
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.
Lawrence Nelson was 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.