Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lisa Jacobs Given Brenda Howard Award

Lisa Jacobs, creator of the Transcending Boundaries Conference, was honored
at the 18th Annual PFLAG-Queens awards luncheon today by being given the
2010 Brenda Howard Memorial Award. She was introduced by Estraven,
Secretary of BiNET USA, with these words:

"The human race is infinitely variable. People can be all sizes, shapes, and colors, and come in a rainbow of gender identities and sexual orientations. For the wonderful people in this room, and thank you all for being here, human variation is something to be celebrated and appreciated.

Unfortunately, as we know, this is not true for everyone, and queer people are often marginalized and oppressed. Therefore, the big LGBT conferences such as Creating Change feel wonderful, as they are an opportunity to be around other LGBT people in 'queer space.' However, bisexual and transgender people can be marginalized and ignored, if not actually erased, at gay and Lesbian events, intentionally or unintentionally. What Lisa Jacobs has done is to create a conference, Transcending Boundaries, for those of us who live in the closet within a closet, bisexuals, trans people, and others of alternate sexualities.

As a gender-variant bisexual person, when I went to my first Transcending Boundaries conference I felt that I was coming home. To be in a hotel full of people freely expressing their gender variance, using gender-free bathrooms, learning from all the wonderful talks (did you know that there are 146 different ways that a person can be intersex?) was an experience that helped to liberate me from my remaining narrow ways of thinking about gender. Of all the conferences I’ve ever gone to, Transcending Boundaries is closest to my heart.

And this, among other things, is the creation of Lisa Jacobs. She designed her own Social Justice major in college, and social justice has been a focus of her life ever since. Indeed, that is how Transcending Boundaries came to be. Lisa volunteered to help plan the BiNet Tri-State Bisexual Conference that was slated to be in New Haven, CT in 2001. She saw an opportunity for expansion beyond the tri-state area. Vincent Cangiano had the idea to include transgender as a focus, and she thought it was a weird and radical idea and supported it. And then she learned about intersex and decided to include that too. The connections between the communities seemed obvious to her...we were all outcasts among outcasts. And since that's how she has felt all her life, she wanted to find a way to turn that difference, that 'outcast' feeling, into strength.

When she later wrote up the incorporation and 501c3 papers, she tried to list as many 'outcast' sexual, gender and relationship groups as she could think of, and leave it open to include more groups than bi, trans and intersex. She did so because she felt the queer movement is one that constantly grows and changes, and she wanted Transcending Boundaries to be on the cutting edge of that change, to be a home and vanguard for those who don't fit into more mainstream movements. As one who has felt that she does not fit for her whole life, I would like to take this opportunity to offer her my personal thanks, and to say that this exemplar of the new young rising tide of the Bisexual Movement certainly embodies the values of Brenda Howard."

Previous winners of the Brenda Howard Memorial Award:

2005 - Lawrence Nelson
2006 - Tom Limoncelli
2007 - Wendy Moscow
2008 - Wendy Curry
2009 - New York State Assemblymember Micah Z. Kellner