The police knew that gays went to Stonewall. They would raid the bar, arrest the queers, and fine the establishment. Many times, the raiding officers got rough, making police brutality a common occurrence at Stonewall and other LGBT-focused watering holes around the country. Until June 28, 1969, when those fairies, drag queens, queers, trans people, and gender-nonconforming folks said “Enough is enough.” The three-day standoff that ensued, infamously known as the Stonewall Riots, launched the modern-day LGBT rights movement.
“You needed some kind of help organizing some type of protest or something in social justice?” recalls Howard’s partner, Larry Nelson. “All you had to do was call her and she’ll just say when and where.”
She was militant and was a voice for all minorities. “She was an in-your-face activist,” Nelson said. “She fought for anyone who had their rights trampled on.”
Howard was arrested in Chicago in 1988, while demonstrating for national health care and the fair treatment of women, people of color, and those living with HIV and AIDS. She was arrested in Georgia in 1991 for protesting the firing of a lesbian from the state attorney general’s office due to Georgia’s anti-sodomy law. She was arrested multiple times for social justice causes, but she always kept fighting.
While she was undoubtedly an accomplished activist, some of the work closest to her heart was in the bisexual community. Howard cofounded the New York Area Bisexual Network in 1988, an organization that, to this day, serves as a central communication hub for bisexual and bi-friendly groups in New York City and the tri-state area. She successfully lobbied for the inclusion of bisexuality in the 1993 March on Washington, at a time when the movement was focused primarily on gay men and lesbians.
Howard was a hands-on, grassroots activist who fought for the rights of the minorities. And even if her name isn’t as well-known as some other LGBT pioneers, her accomplishments can’t be forgotten. That’s because every year around the world, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals march proudly, celebrating their individuality, their families, and their freedom. We march today because a bisexual woman marched then.
All images via Facebook.