History was made this year when the New York City Pride Parade chose Christopher J. Neal to be one of the grand marshals. Neal is the first openly bisexual person to hold that title in the event’s 45 year history. Neil is the founder of FluidBiDesign, an advocacy and support group for bisexual African American men.
"Despite the fact that Brenda Howard the original organizer of the Pride March was herself an openly bi-identified woman, Bi-identified people have had to struggle against a fear, marginalization, and erasure to be visible and included, both inside the LGBTQ community and out,” Neal told media outlets. “So, stepping into this opportunity was a no-brainer for me, and above all an opportunity to put out a call to action to the Bi-community, we must be seen, and we must be visible.”
SFGN looks at eight bisexual pioneers and their impacts in the areas of prison reform, AIDS/HIV research, the military and more.
Born, Robert Anthony Martin Jr.
Aka Donny the Punk
Stephen Donaldson founded the first gay student organization, the Student Homophile League (Now the Columbia Queer Alliance), at Columbia University in 1966. He started a bi Quaker group, the Committee of Friends on Bisexuality, in 1972.
In his 1995 memoir "The Bisexual Movement's Beginnings in the 70s: A Personal Retrospective" Donaldson wrote about discovering his own bisexuality at a time when bisexuality went largely unrecognized.
Donaldson writing on punk subculture was featured magazines like “Maximum RocknRoll,” “Flipside,” and “J.D.s.” But throughout periods of incarceration in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s his writing would focus on the prison system and a culture of sexual abuse within it.
He became president of Stop Prison Rape, Inc. (SPR) The group, now known as Just Detention International, helped to pass the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, the first federal civil law to address sexual abuse in detention.
Known as the “Mother of Pride”
Brenda Howard was co-founder of the New York Area Bisexual Network. Among many groups she organized during her time, she founded the first bisexual chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous, and bisexual S/M groups. She was an active member of BiPAC, an early bisexual political action group, and an organizer for BiNet USA. Howard was also part of a group of bisexual and gay activists who successfully lobbied to include bisexuals in the title of the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.
Howard was the first to conceptualize and coordinate the pride rally, starting with the Christopher Street Liberation Day March one month after the Stonewall riots. She later organized the one year anniversary of the Liberation Day March and the Pride parade. The annual Liberation Day March would eventually become NYC Pride and the start of Pride marches throughout the country.
Dr. Alan Rockway
Psychologist Alan Rockway was one of the founders of Bi-Pol in San Francisco, a group advocating for the equal rights of bisexual people. He started two of the country's first LGBT mental health programs in Miami, Florida, and Berkeley, California. Rockway also helped write Miami’s Full Equality Ordinance and helped pass Florida’s privacy rights amendment in 1980.
Rockway coauthored the first gay rights ordinance to pass by popular vote, an LGBT employment nondiscrimination ordinance, for Dade County in 1977. The legislation was opposed by “Save Our Children,” a group headed by former Miss Oklahoma, and Florida Citrus Commission spokeswoman Anita Bryant. Bryant’s campaign led a successful ballot initiative to repeal the Dade ordinance and then began similar campaigns throughout the country.
When the citrus commission came out in support of Bryant, Rockway was among those who led the national boycott against Florida orange juice. The boycott ultimately resulted in the cancellation of Bryant’s contract.
In a 2014 keynote address, ABilly Jones-Hennin described himself as “an unapologetic, outspoken, bisexual activist who has intimately loved women, men and transgender persons throughout my life span of 72 years.”
Jones-Hennin coming out story was published in the 1991 anthology “Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out.”
Jones-Hennin founded the first local and national political activist groups representing African American gays and lesbians. He organized the DC-Baltimore Coalition of Black Gays in 1978 leading to the creation of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays — and helped organize the 1979 March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights.
Through the NCBLG, Jones was part of the first gay black delegation to meet with White House staff during the Carter Administration. With the NCBLG and the support of the Surgeon General, Jones also organized the first national conference on AIDS in the Black Community.
Lani Ka’ahumanu came out first as a lesbian in 1979 then bisexual in 1980.
The writer, poet, educator, and activist cofounded the bisexual political action group BiPOL in 1983, and helped organize BiNetUSA and the San Francisco Bay Area Bisexual Network (BABN). In 1991 she co-edited the anthology “Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out” along with Loraine Hutchins. In 1992, Ka’ahumanu successfully campaigned to have Bisexuals included in the title of the 1993 March on Washington. Of 18 speakers invited to the event that year, she was the first and only out bisexual.
Dr. David Lourea
In 1984 Lourea convinced the San Francisco Department of Public Health to recognize bisexual men in gathering their AIDS statistics. Statistics at the time only acknowledged gay men. This new standard meant health care providers also needed to consider bisexuals when assessing risk factors for contracting HIV and in HIV prevention education.
Lourea earned his Ph.D from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. He was active with San Francisco Sex Information, and BiPol, the bisexual political organization. He was one of the early members of the San Francisco Bisexual Center and was one of the founders of Bisexual Counseling Services.
Gary B. North
Journalist Gary B. North is a newspaper editor and former president of the Los Angeles Newspaper Guild and Southern California Media Guild. In 1988 North published the first national bisexual newsletter, Bisexuality: News, Views, and Networking.
He is a founder and current treasurer of BiNet USA, the first national bisexual organization. The group formed as the North American Bisexual Network during the 1987 March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights.
Cliff Arnesen was the first openly bi veteran to testify about LGB veteran’s issues on Capitol Hill. In 1989 and 1990, he testified before the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, on issues relating to AIDS, PTSD, homelessness, gays in the military, and upgrading of less-than-honorable discharges based on homosexuality and bisexuality.
Arnesen co-founded the National Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Veterans of America (now American Veterans for Equal Rights). (http://aver.us/ )