It is my great honor to announce that August’s Homo Hero is the unbelievable Sue Sena. For those of you who don’t know her, this article is going to “blow your mind hole” as the boys on HIMYM would say.
Now I want to start off by saying that I am truly going to be writing this article from an unbiased viewpoint, because I have to admit, that Sue is my cousin. I’ll start this off with a very funny story. In 2005, I came out to my cousin at Vinyl, which is a QUILTBAG friendly restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, and I brought along this adorable “bluey” boy I was dating at the time (He is Australian, and in Australia they call gingers “bluey.” I think it’s hysterical. Anywho, that’s not what this is about). When he met Sue he freaked out a little. He said, “You didn’t tell me your cousin was THE Sue Sena.” I was so confused. Turns out, Sue had been featured in a documentary about “Fag Hags” that had been really big down in Australia, and it was in that moment, that I realized how important and influential my cousin really was.
“HIV was still a bad word”
Sue got the advocacy bug when she was at Rutgers University. She became heavily involved in raising awareness for sexual and reproductive health on campus, as well as promoting woman’s safety, helping to organize the campus “Take Back the Night.”
Sue ended up taking a class called “HIV and Public Policy,” and received credit for working at a local HIV clinic. “It was a really different time 20 years ago,” Sue said to me when I interviewed her on the phone. This was the era of Jesse Helms, and Sue was thrilled when the AIDS Quilt came around while she was there.
In 1993, a dear friend of Sue’s, someone she considered to be a brother to her, came out. This is when she started getting involved in the “LGBT” community.
“Over time, the personal became more political.”
In the summer of 2002, Sue attended the NYC Pride March for the first time. She got all dressed up, headed down to Christopher Street, and had a blast. “I was inspired by it,” she told me. “I thought it was fabulous and colorful, but there was no group for straight friends.”
She knew that she always wanted to work in the world of non-profit; she wanted to make a difference. Enter Swish. (Now I could sit here and write an entire series talking about the amazing things that Swish has done. So for a list of all the amazing awards and accolades that Swish has been honored to achieve, please visit this section of their website.) In the fall of 2002, Sue became a co-founder of Swish (Fun Fact: Swish was originally an acronym which stood for Straight Women in Support of Homos, but as the organization grew in size and recognition, the acronym was dropped, and the organization began to empower a word that has been perceived as derogatory in the past, although you KNOW I own my swish!). When the Pride March rolled around for 2003, Swish became the first Gay-Straight Alliance Organization float in the history of the Pride March, and there were many more firsts to come! They were also the first organization to endorse the Equality March in Washington D.C., and the first organization to represent the United States at EuroPride. In 2013, Swish joined Google at Marriage Equality USA to receive the Community Partner Award.
“We evolved as the movement evolved, or the movement evolved because of us.”
On February 13th, 2014, Swish announced that it would “cease programmatic operations on June 29, 2014 and launch a new chapter as the Swish Ally Fund of the Stonewall Community Foundation.” The Swish Ally Fund will help smaller, grassroots organizations WORLDWIDE and help spread the message of love where it is truly needed.
So we know where Swish is headed, but what about Sue; where is SHE headed after this? When I asked Sue she laughed a bit and said, “Yeah. That’s a good question!” Sue told me she is just gonna see where life takes her: a “waiting and feeling approach” as far as work within the community is concerned. She ended with a fantastic quote, “the universe chose me as a straight ally, and that’s forever.”
Okay. So as established in the first in the series, my August Hemo Hero, I will be ending all of my “Hero” articles with this question. “If there is one thing about the community you could change, what would it be?” She had two answers.
1) She said she wants to encourage the movement to come up with a better word, or acronym, to describe the community. I agree. I use QUILTBAG, but the idea of LGBTQAZYTSPL, or whatever letters we decide to add this week, is a little overwhelming. I don’t know how to define the community without offending the community.
2)”We gotta work on the cleanliness of the bathrooms in the gay clubs.” Well said Sue. Well said.
So I made a meem last time, and decided to make a meem this time. Sue said this in passing and I decided to post it with a picture that Tyler took while we were marching with Swish in the 2011 Pride March in NYC.
For more information, or to make a contribution, visit www.swishallyfund.org, or tweet them @swishpride. #ISwishBecause
Till we meet again…
Photo 1 of Sue: © 2011 Nice N Easy photo
Photo 2 of Sue: © 2014 Saksia Kahn