Was 2008 the year of the queer? As our community gets more and more visibility, we've all had plenty to talk about this year but did anything actually get accomplished?
Alex and I worked together on this post recapping the past year. We had a lot to choose from but we've narrowed it down to a top ten list. These are our picks for the top 10 news stories from around the LGBTQ world in 2008 and my conclusion and thoughts on 2009...
1. California Gets Gay Marriage
California tops the list as the biggest LGBT news story of 2008 when they became the largest state in the nation to recognize gay marriage. Although the state legislature had previously sent Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger same-sex marriage legislation, the liberal Republican vetoed all attempts. In 2008, the California State Supreme Court took the matter into their own hands.
When the weddings actually started, LGBT journalists across the state contributed to Bilerico Project's California Marriage Equality stream by filing stories and photos available for free use by other bloggers, journalists or readers. The photos and quotes have since been published in numerous sources.
2. California Loses Gay Marriage; Florida and Arizona Amendments Also Pass
Amendments to ban same-sex marriage passed in three states on Election Day. Florida and Arizonaboth handily voted in favor of marriage discrimination and in California, voters passed Proposition 8, an amendment to ban same-sex marriage, stopping the state from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
The LGBT community acted in an uproar over the passage of the California amendment, although Florida and Arizona both received scant attention. (Which was also the case before Election Day!) Peaceful demonstrations broke out nationwide in reaction to Prop 8. The law was appealed to the California Supreme Court and Prop 8 supporters have requested that all previous licenses to LGBT couples be revoked. The California legislature, Governor and Attorney General have all expressed support for the court to repeal Prop 8.
3. LGBT Friendly Democrat Barack Obama Elected President
Obama's campaign was littered with missteps with the queer community. Scandal erupted twice over religious figures - Donnie McClurkin, an ex-gay gospel singer, and Rick Warren, a well-known anti-gay minister. While the President-Elect is undoubtedly the most LGBT-friendly President in history, Obama's support stops short of same-sex marriage; he supports civil unions.
Some within and outside the community, like the AP, The Advocate, Newsweek, his killer's defense attorney, and even Larry's own parents, pinned the blame on Larry's gender-bending behavior and questioned why school officials would let him be so out. His death brought anti-LGBT school violence to the foreground, and reminded the community long before Proposition 8 passed what Californians and Americans thought of openly queer people.
5. Stonewall 2.0
Grassroots organizing topped organizational might after the passage of California's Prop 8 amendment to repeal same-sex marriage rights. JoinTheImpact.com launched as a small site advocating a day of nationwide protest, but was quickly overwhelmed and had to move to a larger capacity server. Their call for protests culminated in tens of thousands of LGBT people to demonstrate in citiesacrossthecountry.
Dubbed Stonewall 2.0, the grassroots effort also attempted a "Day Without a Gay" protest that fizzled. A subsequent "Light Up the Night" vigil also failed to gather much support as well, leading some pundits to question whether the outrage was short-lived and won't result in a larger movement for LGBT rights.
6. The APA Picks Work Group to Rewrite GID
In May, the American Psychiatric Association named its work group members to revise the entry for Gender Identity Disorder for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders due out in 2012. The entry will change the definitions of GID and transsexuality themselves.
These people will have the ability to affect the standard care for transsexuals as well as non-transsexual transgender people, determine many people's access to gender-related treatments, and affect the ways transgenders are perceived in the media for generations to come.
The brutality of the event raised awareness of the violence transgender people face constantly, to the police's violence and reluctance to protect the trans community, to how being transgender is still a crime, and to Memphis's particularly violent climate for trans folk. Transgender Day of Remembrance, for some transgender people, was particularly sad this year as the community experienced an apparent epidemic of anti-trans violence.
10. Jared Polis, First Out Gay Man Elected To Congress
Incoming Colorado Representative Jared Polis (D) made history in 2008 when he successfully ran for Congress as an openly gay man. I ran into him at the DNCC in Denver. I was quickly impressed by our short conversation and his campaign team. Still running for office, Polis made the shortest video shoutout to Projectors in the history of the site.
2008 In Review
2008 ends as the year with the most LGBT political participation in history. Tens of thousands of us voted in massive numbers, worked on political campaigns, volunteered for state-level campaigns, gave money to political candidates and causes, and became vocal about LGBT rights. When marriage amendments passed in three states even after all of our hard work, thousands more took to the streets in days of protest. Hopefully the enthusiasm won't die down and our community will focus our time and energy not only on marriage, but the other myriad LGBT issues and other progressive causes.
As our top ten shows, LGBT visibility in the national conversation has never been higher. Setting aside the marriage amendments, the American public has grown ever more gay and trans friendly - including the new President-Elect. As we end the year with murmurings of a delay on Don't Ask/Don't Tell, the legislation commonly thought to be the first to pass, it becomes ever more clear that while we're advancing slowly, a lot of work still needs to be done. Thankfully, our community is still full of energy and ideas on how to advance the cause.
Last year we quoted community organizer Lew Alinsky in the conclusion and it seems a proper way to end the post this year too:
We will start with the system because there is no other place to start from except political lunacy. It is most important for those of us who want revolutionary change to understand that revolution must be preceded by reformation. To assume that a political revolution can survive without the supporting base of a popular reformation is to ask for the impossible in politics.