by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
The weight of the world got a little lighter for us all in 2012. For the first time in a long time - maybe its just really, for the first time - LGBT wasn't some sort of acronym for a leper colony on the outskirts of the Village. Now, I'm not going to go all out and declare 'Mission Accomplished' (please, I'm not George W.) because the mission has certainly not been accomplished, but let's be mindful of martyrdom. It is healthy to celebrate the triumph that was 2012 and the LGBT modern equality movement! Across the nation we made headway on issues ranging from marriage equality to leadership roles in government, re-elected a Democratic president, and sent the message out to the masses that you can no longer bully, intimidate, or shut us up. We are screaming queens after all - and in 2012 the world heard us!
Here is a look back at some of the people places and events that helped to shape our lives in 2012.
PROP 8 AND DOMA AWAIT SUPREME COURT HEARING
Ending the guessing game of 'will they or won't they?' the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the challenges to California's Proposition 8 and Lesbian widow Edie Windsor's challenge to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. The news barely made this list because the justices declined to place any of the marriage cases on the docket before the November election. Afterwards, however, they agreed to hear the cases - a fact that is considered by some to be a major victory.
OBAMA ENDORSES MARRIAGE EQUALITY
On May 9, in an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts, Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to support marriage equality. Many lashed out at the president, saying he was going after support from Gay voters. Obama's announcement encouraged politicians, religious leaders, pop-culture figures, and citizens to do the same, and the phrase 'Get on the right side of history' began to appear over and over in speeches for pro-marriage supporters across the country. Obama's May 9 endorsement of same-sex marriage is as every bit as historic for the LGBT community as anything. The movement will never be the same.
FIRST OUT U.S. SENATOR ELECTED
Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to elect an openly Gay person to the U.S. Senate when voters chose Democrat Tammy Baldwin over four-term Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson. Baldwin is also Wisconsin's first female senator. 'I didn't run to make history,' she said. 'I ran to make a difference.' Baldwin's election comes just two years after the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unios.
GAYS GO MAD OVER FRIED CHICKEN CHAIN
Homeless LGBT youth get ignored. The Transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act is stalled. Does anybody even say 'peep'? No. But when Georgia-based fried chicken chain Chick-fil-A donated more than $5 million to anti-Gay groups, the Gays screamed so loud you would've thought that RuPaul's Drag Race had been cancelled. While the situation is not particularly funny, it was - and I don't feel like I am alone here - exhausting. The fried-chicken morons donated to hate groups designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center (they definitely have earned the Hater Award. I mean, these folks are right up there with the Westboro Baptist Church) and all Hell broke loose; there were kiss-in protests from our side and 'come out and stuff your face by showing support' from their side. And one activist even vandalized a Torrance, California, franchise with the words 'Tastes Like Hate.' It was a mess. But, no one, not even me, could say that it wasn't news.
HIP-HOP HAD A CHANGE OF HEART
Anderson Cooper, much like our beloved Ricky Martin, came out in 2012. It was yet another 'Well, duh' moment. Nobody attacks these men because that would be wrong. A few people here and there might grumble, 'Why did they wait so long?' but the reality is, they become a headline and within a week, it was back to business as usual. But every now and then - and I mean rarely, if ever - does a guy like Frank Ocean come along. When R&B and hip-hop artist Ocean came out of the closet on Tumblr, he successfully overshadowed Cooper, who made his own announcement just days before. At the time, most of the world responded, 'Who?' Now, everyone knows Frank Ocean. He became hip-hop's first-ever major artist to come out, drawing large support from insiders like Jay-Z and 50 Cent (widely viewed as homophobic), and successfully changed the way the genre deals with homosexuality. His critically acclaimed 2012 release, Channel Orange, did not suffer in record sales because of his disclosure. Some would argue that, for the first time in history, coming out as Gay actually helped an artist with record sales.
LESSONS IN PARENTING
In what was perhaps the most touching news story of the year, German father Nils Pickert became Father of the Year to many after he told feminist magazine Emma that he sometimes wears skirts to support his preschool-age son who prefers to wear skirts and dresses. Pickert said his son is the talk of his small, conservative, traditional southern German town, but the father insists on supporting him. 'I only had one option left: to broaden my shoulders for my little buddy and dress in a skirt myself,' said Pickert. The interview and photos went viral.
GOP HOMOPHOBES LOSE NOMINATION
Admit it - you've got a smile on your face over this one, don't you? I sure do! Twenty-twelve was the year that we saw the GOP leadership working feverishly to out-crazy each other. They thought, He who could be crazier than the others will surely get the nomination for President of the United States and go on to defeat the Black guy.' Well, we all know how that turned out. Four or five years ago that crackpot strategy might well have worked, but not in 2012. Idiots like Rick Santorum (who said it is better for kids to have a father in jail than to be raised by same-sex parents) and the incensed Rick Perry (who released a TV ad whining about DADT repeal) went on the warpath and were not shy in letting the country know what they thought of the Queers. Both opposed marriage equality, opposed the repeal of DADT, vowed to keep the Defense of Marriage Act the law of the land, and opposed hate-crimes legislation. Both also lost the nomination to Mitt Romney, who ultimately lost to Obama. I'm still smiling.
J.C. PENNEY STANDS BY ELLEN
America loves Lesbian talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres. There's just no way around that fact. Department store chain execs at J.C. Penney realized this and announced that Ellen DeGeneres was the company's new spokeswoman. Seemed a like a good fit. The ultraconservative group One Million Moms disagreed, however, and called for a boycott, demanding that DeGeneres be fired because of her Lesbianism. For the first time ever, a national corporation stood up for our team and kept DeGeneres on the payroll and in not so many words, told One Million Moms to get lost.
DADT REPEAL STICKS
This marks the first full year since the repeal of the U.S. military's discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT) law. And would you believe it? The sky didn't fall, there was no mass exodus of straight troops, and according to high-ranking Department of Defense officials, units are every bit as cohesive as they were the previous year. A contingent of uniformed, openly Gay service members marched in the San Diego Pride Parade and, for the first time in history, U.S. military academies graduated out Gay and Lesbian cadets. In addition, there have been, to date, no major issues or incident associated with the repeal of DADT. In other words, Sen. John McCain and all of the other naysayers of DADT repeal should pack up their bigoted rhetoric and go home, and leave the running of this country and its military to people who don't have hate in their hearts and fear in their arsenal.
NFL PLAYER SUPPORTS MARRIAGE EQUALITY
Same-sex marriage got its most unlikely endorsement in 2012 when the NFL's Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo became outwardly supportive. He even campaigned for marriage equality in Maryland - where it won by popular vote, along with Maine and Washington on November 6! The best news of all is Ayanbadejo was joined by Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe to become three of the roughly three dozen professional football players who have become vocal about their support for marriage equality, LGBT rights, and out players.
SUMMER OLYMPICS GOES GAY
This is a big one. An unprecedented 23 openly Gay athletes competed in the summer Olympics this year! And 10 of those athletes earned a total of seven medals (team sports yielded one medal each in the official count) in basketball, equestrian, field hockey, cycling, soccer, and tennis. If those 23 athletes had been a country, they'd have finished 31st, tying Georgia, Ethiopia, and Mexico.
FIRST LADIES HAVE OUR BACK
It's official: Gays love Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. How could we not? They love us. In fact, they've got our back. There are lists of examples that show their support for the LGBT community. But two stand out in particular. Last December, Secretary of State Clinton told the U.N. Human Rights Council, Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are Gay rights.' This year, the first lady spoke to LGBT delegates and activists at the Democratic National Convention, thanking them for all they've done to move this country forward and ensure that all Americans are treated fairly no matter who they are or who they love.'
THE END OF THE EX-GAY' MOVEMENT
Let's all say it together. Ready? FINALLY!' Is it just me or did that take far too long? This year we saw legislation passed in California that made sexual orientation conversion therapy,' more commonly known as the Ex-Gay' or Pray Away the Gay' movement, illegal. The unraveling of the movement began when ex-Gay umbrella organization Exodus International dropped its promise to cure' Gays and Lesbians and its president, Alan Chambers, told OWN's Lisa Ling he believes Gay Christians are indeed going to Heaven. A serious backlash against Chambers and Exodus began and we successfully capitalized on the moment. Ha! Take that, bigots! However, we will have to remain vigilant in 2013 because Focus on the Family ex-Gay poster boy Jeff Johnston came out and endorsed a new, more vehement ex-Gay group called Restored Hope Network. The group intends to replace Exodus International as the pre-eminent group in the country and return the party line to telling Gay people that we can become straight. At its kickoff party, Johnston said that Gays are sexually broken' people who can't have real relationships.
IN THE LIFE SAYS GOODBYE
Some sad news in 2012 as, after 20 years on the air, In the Life, the national LGBT news program (which airs on PBS) broadcast its final episode this month. The Emmy Award-nominated series pioneered LGBT visibility on television long before traditional TV shows were featuring Gay characters. There is some good news, though: the show's production company, In the Life Media, remains in business and promises to take the show's rich legacy and create a worthy new digital resource for LGBT folks in 2013.
TEEN SUICIDE GETS AN IN-DEPTH LOOK
In headline after headline their names appeared; Young boys and girls who died by suicide, presumably because of the pressures of being taunted at school, church, and elsewhere because they were, or were perceived to be, LGBT. How many of these kids have to die before somebody does something?' is a question I'm sure many of you asked. This year, somebody did do something. After a rash of highly visible LGBT teen suicides, the 2012 edition of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention took an in-depth look at the prevalence of suicide among LGBT people and how to reduce it. This was the first revision of a 2001 document that barely mentioned us, and it came not a moment too soon: A full 30% to 40% of LGBT youth attempt suicide.
BOY SCOUTS LOSE SOME EAGLES
After the Boy Scouts of America reiterated its policy prohibiting open or avowed homosexuals' from membership, leadership, or employment, more than 300 Eagle Scouts - the organization's highest rank - returned their badges in protest. Making headline news, Lesbian mother of four and troop leader Jennifer Tyrrell got booted by the Cub Scouts and went on a campaign to raise awareness of the problem - and in doing so, received plenty of Scout support. Also, 390,000 people have signed a Change.org petition started by a California mother whose son was denied his Eagle Scout badge because he came out to friends and family as Gay. Despite increasingly vocal protests from members around the country, the BSA's leadership affirmed and continues to enforce the discriminatory policy.
VICTORY AT THE BALLOT BOX
This is the big one. If there was just one news story to sum up what kind of year the Gays had, it would have to be that for the first time in our nation's history, marriage equality won by popular vote. And we didn't just win once, we won three times for marriage when voters in Maine, Maryland, and right here in Washington voted for love, equality, and being on the right side of history. And as an added bonus, we got a fourth win when voters in Minnesota decided against a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one... (I can't even finish typing that, it's so stupid). While there are still more than 40 states left to win, no one can deny that we have reached the tipping point. We've got the bigots on the run. Let's make sure we keep up the chase until the race is won.
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