Brendan Fay is a human rights activist and filmmaker. Born in Athy, Co. Kildare Brendan and his family moved to Drogheda when he was 13. The third child of 7 his father was a union leader while a fitter in the asbestos factory in Athy and the fishmeal factory in Mornington. Brendan lives in Astoria, New York with his spouse, Tom Moulton.
Brendan is a popular public speaker and an engaging story teller. He has been active on campaigns for immigration reform, civil marriage, HIV/AIDS awareness, inclusive parades, cultural hospitality, policing reform and human rights and nuclear disarmament. He has been arrested for civil disobedience.
Brendan has a BA from Maynooth University (Ireland) and an MA from St. John's University. He taught in New York Catholic high schools for five years. His writings include “Finding Jesus on Christopher Street.” in Love, Christopher Street: Reflections of New York City, “The Pain, The Passion, the Pride”(1991), “Gay Love – A Holy Love.” (An essay in honor of pioneer gay priest John McNeill) and “Pride 2018. We raise the rainbow. We hold hands. We tell stories of how we got from there to here.” Irish Times, June 2018).
Brendan met his spouse Tom Moulton in 1996. Tom is a pediatric hematologist-oncologist. They were among the first bi-national couples to legally marry in Canada on July 27, 2003. Their marriage was the subject of a popular documentary on Irish television in October 2003
SEXUALITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE:
In schools and communities Brendan has presented workshops on spirituality and sexuality and led retreats in the U.S. and in Ireland. He has spoken at many conventions including the LGBT Creating Change Conference and the College Theology Society. He taught on Celtic spirituality, ecology, cultural hospitality, and LGBT activism. In 2004 he presented one of early workshops at the national Call to Action Conference on “Same Sex Marriage -Catholic Conversations”. In addition, he is a leading authority on Margaret Anna Cusack - the Nun of Kenmare (1829-1899). He leads retreats and workshops on LGBTQ spirituality on recovery and creating culture spaces of welcome and inclusion.
Brendan is on the advisory council of Pride for Youth, a service for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in Long Island and Queens, New York.
Shortly after arriving in New York Brendan became involved with the anti-apartheid movement and with Dignity NY, a catholic LGBT organization. He collaborated with community organizers Jesús Lebrón, Robert Rygor and Andy Humm on LGBT causes, including same-sex civil marriage, AIDS awareness and policing reform. Brendan worked for a while at LGBT pioneer, Randy Wicker’s, Greenwich Village lamp shop, where he met other early movement leaders - Barbara Gittings, Jim Kimpton and Harry Hay.
Brendan was active with the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO) from 1990 to 1994.
Lavender & Green Alliance:
In March 1994 Brendan founded the Irish LGBT group Lavender and Green Alliance - Muintir Aerach na hÉireann. In 1995 he initiated the group’s Roger Casement- Eva Gore Booth leadership Award. In 1994, for Stonewall 25 with Peter Hendrick, he co-curated an exhibit on Irish LGBT history. For 10 years the group celebrated Irish LGBT heritage and culture with a dinner dance called “OICHE AERACH” (Gay night). He co-founded Irish Aids Outreach (IAC) in 1996 to break the silence around AIDS in the Irish community. Brendan was also among the leaders of “Gay & Lesbian Advocates for Change” (GLAC) that was involved in community activism and electoral politics.
St. Pat’s for All:
After marching with ILGO (Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization) in the 5th Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1991, Brendan’s employment as a Catholic high school teacher in Queens was terminated. Following years of exclusion, protests and arrests he founded New York City’s inclusive St. Pat's for All parade in 1999. The parade in Queens is known for its spirit of diversity and hospitality. The theme of St. Pat’s for All, “Cherishing all the children of the nation equally”, is taken from the proclamation of the Easter Rising 1916. He has been honored to work with inspiring co-chairs and organizers including Ellen Duncan, Barbara Mohr and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy.
March 17, 2016 was historic when after 25 years the Irish LGBT group Lavender and Green Alliance - Muintir Aerach na hÉireann marched in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade with their banner. Brendan calls it a day of history and hospitality.
Brendan, with close friend and community activist Jesús Lebrón, has been involved in the grassroots movement for marriage equality since 1996. In 2003 they co-founded The Civil Marriage Trail Project, bringing couples across borders for legal marriage. Among the couples were Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer whose US Supreme Court case (2013) led to the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In 2005 Brendan, with other members of Lavender and Green Alliance, campaigned and organized New York support for civil marriage in Ireland and the “YES campaign” for marriage equality in Ireland in May 2015.
Brendan has been involved in Polish LGBT politics and activism as a result of President Lech Kaczynski’s March 17, 2008 national address denouncing same-sex marriage using images of his wedding with Tom in Canada. They have visited Poland a number of times, including Euro Pride, 2010. Invited by the LGBT community Brendan returned to Krakow for the visit of Pope Francis and the World Youth Day gathering in July 2016 to screen films and hold conversations with European youth on activism for change.
Brendan with Lavender and Green members produced the “Silence to Speech” documentary series on being Irish and Gay in America. He is working on a new series. He is director of Remembering Mychal (2021)and co- producer and European director of Saint of 9/11(2006) documentaries about Fr. Mychal Judge, the FDNY Franciscan chaplain who died in the WTC tragedy on September 11 2001. He is associate producer of the award-winning Edie and Thea - A Very Long Engagement. His film about gay pioneer priest John McNeill (1925-2015), Taking a Chance on God (2012, 2016) has been translated into Polish, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. The film screened in international festivals including Rio, Warsaw, Durban, Belfast, Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Florence and London. Current projects include In Silence I Part- a story of three Drogheda sisters, their years in an Armagh orphanage and immigration to NYC and The Bravest of Loves– profile of firefighter Gene Walsh, pioneer and founding member of FireFlag- EMS.
Brendan has spoken at many colleges, rallies, high schools and film festivals including Notre Dame University, Georgetown University, Columbia University, Drew University, University of Pittsburgh, Iona College, Fordham University and Galway University,Riverside Church, Unitarian Universalist Church, MCC New York, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, Ethical Culture of Queens and Westchester Community College. To book Brendan for a speaking engagement or presentation click here.
Brendan has interviewed on international TV, radio and press including PBS, RTE, CNN, CBS, WOR, 1010 WINS, Japan TV, WBAI, BBC, NBC, TVN Poland. He has been profiled in the NY Times, Gay City News, Daily News, Newsday, Irish Voice, National Catholic Reporter and People Magazine.
AWARDS & ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
For his work on human rights and community organizing Brendan was grand marshal of the Queen’s Pride Parade in 1996 and has received a number of awards including the Carmel Tavadia Award from PFLAG Queens (2001), The Gormley Award from Dignity NY (1996) , the Pax et Bonum Award from Dignity San Francisco (2008), The LOFT LGBT Center Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer Equality Award (2014) and the NY Gay City News Impact Award (2016). He was Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick’s parade in Drogheda in 2017. Brendan was a recipient of the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad presented by Irish President Michael D. Higgins on December 8, 2016.