On Sunday February 22nd 2009 at the Queens NYC Chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Annual Awards Luncheon, outgoing BiNet USA President Wendy Curry was given the 4th annual Brenda Howard Memorial Award.
Ms. Curry was formally introduced by Estraven, Moderator of the Westchester Bisexual Support Group who said,
Ladies, Gentlemen, or however you identify yourselves,
We are gathered here today to give the The Brenda Howard Award to Wendy Curry. This award created in 2005 is given yearly, and recognizes an individual or organization whose work on behalf of the LGBT Community best exemplifies the vision, principals and community service exemplified by the late bisexual rights activist Brenda Howard and who serves as a positive and visible role model for the Bisexual Community.
Brenda Howard is known as the “Mother of Pride,” perhaps by now the grandmother of Pride, as it was she who organized the first march a month after the Stonewall rebellion, and then the very first Pride parade a year later, on June 28, 1970 . She was active in the very beginning of the Gay rights movement, and was also a Regional organizer for BiNet USA.
BiNet USA is the American national bisexual Civil rights and advocacy organization. The idea for BiNet USA germinated at the 1987 March on Washington, and was finalized in 1990. BiNet USA was very active in the 90’s, but was hit hard, as were other charitable groups, when donations dried up in the wake of 9/11 in 2001. Wendy had joined BiNet USA in 1997. She started “Celebrate Bisexuality Day” in 1999, which is now widely celebrated throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, and Australia. I would like to read to you from an email I got from NYABN:
“There seems to be a real “grass-roots” thing among the Bi-identified kids (especially junior-high and high-school age GSA Girls) from all over the USA to want to wear and decorate with the colours of the Bi Pride Flag for “their day”. They are saying things like: “I’m loving me some red, purple and blue today”, “gotta dress up and show the red, purple and blue”, “showing our red, purple and blue colors today” — this kid (& a couple of others) sounded like some sort of gang members “showing their colors” LOL! One creative idea that seems to be popular (again, spontaneously in a couple of different places, not connected in any way that I can see) is to take three hair-ribbons in the red, purple and blue and do up your hair as a sign of Bi-Pride. And of course some of the more “creative” kids have streaked their hair with the three colours. This is also popular among the punk and emo boys. And I’m not sure but it sounds like one boy has or is getting a Bi-Pride coloured “Tribal Art” type tattoo.“
So you can see how inspired they are by Celebrate Bisexuality Day!
Wendy is a computer programmer, and her computer and Internet savvy soon came in handy for BiNet USA. She started being a Bi activist in 1991, with her roots in Internet-based Bisexual communities. She was able to use this knowledge to help move the organization onto the Internet, to be able to more efficiently reach out to its constituents, wherever they might be, however isolated they might be. She became Secretary, Vice-President, and is currently President of BiNet USA.
Going on the computer and finding BiNet USA, with all the information and links to the bi community in the US, is where many of the new generation of bi activists such as myself make their start these days, so Wendy can be said, in many ways, to be the mother of the current bi movement in the US.
So as the torch is passed from Brenda to Wendy with this award, she is passing the flame to a new generation with all her hard work, and we are very grateful.
As she accepted the award Ms. Curry said,
I am honored to receive an award named after Brenda Howard.
As a kid growing up in a small town in Maine, the news clips of Brenda (ed. Howard) and her friends at early Pride events were the first indication that there were others like me out there. More so, there was a whole group of them!
Those early images left me with a yearning for a community of my own. Due to logistics, this was not possible. Until, that is, the advent of the Internet.
This new electronic medium enabled hundreds like me to dial in and search for kindred spirits. Through Bulletin Board System’s (BBS), Newsgroups and Listservs, we connected. Together we shared stories, supported each other, and pooled resources. Our activism grew from our communal efforts.
While I am extremely proud of what we created, the playing field has changed.
In the 1990’s, we used the new medium to learn about available books, share reviews and suggest how to acquire them. These days, Amazon provides not only those features, but the ability to download the E-book version in seconds.
Where we created mailing lists to share rare Bi-themed movies, YouTube and Netflix have created instant access to more videos than we ever dreamed possible. And let’s not even talk about Google! Lists of Famous Bisexuals that took us weeks to create can be accessed immediately.
Discussions once only available via membership based, moderated Listservs are now accessible to any interested party through Facebook and Myspace boards.
All national BLTGIQQA groups are in the process of adapting with mixed results.
I’ve come to the conclusion that we are failing because we looking at the technology through our own life’s filter. The third wave of bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, fluid, queer community organizing must be driven by people coming of age in the current climate.
As Brenda was continuing to build coalitions in New York, she saw my generation moving to define our niche. While she mentored, advised, and supported us . . . She made room for us to create what we needed. I am attempting to follow her example, once again. While I will always be available for consultation and support, I’m stepping down from the BiNet USA presidency to make room for the new blood.
To all the new organizers out there, I challenge you to dream up what you need and make it happen. If the current infrastructure is useful, use it. But when it limits you, scrap it. There is no name recognition, no 501c3 status that can’t be recreated
To my peers, I challenge you to give these 3rd wavers the space they need to soar.