Alex Blaze

The top 15 queer newsmakers of 2009

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 31, 2009 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: bisexual, celebrity gossip, lesbian, LGBT, people, politician, queer, singer, transgender

I drew up a list of the top 15 LGBTQ people who kept on making the headlines, both here in LGBTQ media and in straight media. These are not the "15 greatest LGBT people of 2009," nor are they the "15 people who advanced equality the most in 2009." This isn't "Alex Blaze's favorite people," either, since that list would be very different and a lot less photogenic. They're people who identify as L, G, B, T, or Q who, for one reason or many, got talked about in American media.

Our choices are after the jump, based mostly on what Google and our archives had to tell us about who was important this year. Who would you add to that list?

15. Neil Patrick Harris

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I had 14 people on this list and I asked Bil if he could think of anyone I should add. He said Neil Patrick Harris, with two exclamation points. Fine, Bil, and I hope you get to meet him in 2010, because something tells me you're going to end up in prison and we're going to be reading headlines about what that gay blogger did to the How I Met Your Mother star. He hosted the Emmy's and the Tony's this year, and appeared all over the TV, showing America that gay people could be blond, cute, television stars too.

14. Leiomy Maldonado

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On America's Best Dance Crew, Vogue Evolution wowed the judges and the audience with their underground vogue dance routines. Leiomy, the star of the crew, was openly transgender from day one, but kept the focus on her out-of-this-world dance moves.

13. John Berry

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Outside of politics wonks, few people in the community know his name. But people know the impact of his work as the openly gay OPM chief, making him the most powerful LGBT person in the Obama Administration. He worked during the first half of 2009 getting a sweeping new set of rules for LGBT federal employees to ensure their fair treatment, and has continuously defended the Obama Administration to the LGBT community.

12. Tammy Baldwin

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While she wasn't as big a headline grabber as one of the other openly gay Congressional representatives, Tammy Baldwin did extensive work on bills that will advance LGBT equality. She introduced legislation to help LGBT health care, increase CARE Act funding, and grant domestic partnership benefits to federal employees. She later testified for an inclusive ENDA while being an outspoken voice for real health care reform and women's choice.

11. Dan Choi

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Dan Choi, an Arabic linguist, outed himself on the Rachel Maddow show and was subsequently discharged from the military. He started an association of gay West Point grads and continued to advocate for an end to DADT throughout the year, appearing at Prides, on the cable news, and at the National Equality March.

10. Diane Schroer

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Col. Diane Schroer was denied employment by the Library of Congress in an obvious case of transphobic bias, and she went to court and fought. The court eventually decided that discrimination based on gender identity was literally the equivalent of sex discrimination. She was awarded half a million dollars in May and testified for the ENDA later in the year.

9. Sam Adams

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The openly gay mayor of Portland, Oregon, came into the national spotlight early in the year when local media found out that he had sex with a much younger adult of the same sex with a name that would have gotten laughed out of a Harlequin novel, Beau Breedlove. Some speculated about whether the relationship started when Breedlove was 17, although the attorney general found there wasn't enough evidence to charge Adams with anything. The recall effort continues in Portland.

8. Kevin Jennings

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The founder of GLSEN and one of the leading gay activists of the last few decades, Kevin Jennings was picked by the Obama Administration to lead the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. While he has lain low and done his job, the right wing has been attacking him the entire year with one easily misproven attack after another, and they show no signs of letting up. Still, the man's representing and the president's standing by him, because nothing the right's thrown at him can stick.

7. Cleve Jones

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Cleve Jones came back into the LGBT movement's radar early in the year with his large role in Milk. Later he called for a march on Washington when the idea wasn't popular. Eventually it got organized and attracted over 100,000 people, energizing a segment of the LGBT community.

6. Rachel Maddow

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Rachel Maddow, one of the most prominent LGBT people in the media, kept on getting attention on her show for not being afraid to take on her guests because she didn't care if they liked her. From Tim Pawlenty to Pat Buchanan to Richard Cohen, Rachel Maddow skewered her debating opponents. She reminded us throughout the year what it's like to have a cable TV host, with all that comes with that position, who was a consummate liberal.

5. Annise Parker

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Over the last ten years, the LGBT community has taken more losses than wins when it comes to elections. But openly queer politicians manage to get wins that LGBT issues often don't. Annise Parker was elected to be the mayor of the largest American city that's to have an openly gay mayor by keeping her nose to the grindstone and working hard while her opponent attacked her sexuality. Good for her.

4. Perez Hilton

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Well, we all knew that Carrie Prejean moment would have to make it into one of these top 10 lists, and this is how we did it. While I was tired of him a long time ago, the man put a homophobe under the microscope when he asked the Miss USA finalist her thoughts on same-sex marriage. Then, in June, Hilton, who wanted Isaiah Washington fired for using the word "faggot" two years ago, called Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas a "faggot," got punched, pressed charges, and then got the Task Force on his case. And then CNN said he was the most prominent gay latino in the US, reminding us all how far us queer latin@s have to go.

3. Chaz Bono

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When Chaz Bono, who most Americans knew as Sonny and Cher's little girl, announced he was transitioning, he became the most famous transgender person in America. He started a deeply personal process on the national stage, and he immediately became the subject of attacks from both the right and other, assorted, uneducated Americans. He's the first person that I know of, though, to explain the difference between sex and gender on Good Morning America. He never shied from LGBT causes in the past, and I'm sure he'll keep on leading America through Transgender 101 well into 2010.

2. Barney Frank

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Representative Barney Frank, one of the most power Democrats in Washington and the most powerful gay man in politics, was in both the gay and straight news throughout 2009, starting with an exhaustive profile in the New Yorker in January. He introduced an inclusive ENDA and worked with LGBT activists to try to convince his colleagues on the Hill to vote for it. He proved himself a thorn in the side of the some of the more... vocal gay activists as he defended the Justice Department's DOMA brief and voiced opposition to the National Equality March. He sent the teevee gasbags into a collective case of the vapors when he called Antonin Scalia a "homophobe," and video of him asking a tea bagger "On what planet do you spend most of your time?" was a much-needed antidote to the August of Crazy. And that's not even getting into when he was in the news for banking regulation....

1. Adam Lambert

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In the beginning of 2009, we met this scrappy young not-publicly-out singer on American Idol, who was subjected to a whole lot of "Is he or isn't he?" speculation until he came out in May in a Rolling Stone interview. We kept on hearing about him over the summer, a hint here or there about his up-coming album, until he shocked the TV punditry with his performance at the American Music Awards in November. He was shunned by ABC, insulted by Bill O'Reilly, and waffled on by GLAAD. Barbara Walters named him one of the most fascinating people of 2009, and we can't deny that he was a big gay newsmaker.


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Nothing against who's on your list, but come on--I haven't even heard of some of those people. You may not like her for whatever reason, but Lindsay Lohan and Samantha broke ground, especially for young queer kids. For Lohan especially, given that she was trying to revive a career that was seriously in trouble, it took a helluva lot of spine for her to decide to live openly with Ronson. And she did it as a young, hyper-heterosexualised international star. The queer community needs to acknowledge that, and the effect they've had on queer youth, and media. It takes all kinds, and as a couple, they insisted on behaving like any other (not that they were ever treated that way). Give a little credit where its due, and don't let their problems overshadow the incredible thing they've done.

For the most part, I'm not impressed.

Just because they are newmakers does not mean you have to whitewash them. John Berry is an Uncle Tom: he is guilty of blocking a court order to issue health care benefits to the domestic partner of a lesbian federal employee. Your failure to mention this in your otherwise glowing caption is a whitewash job that a flying elephant with diarrhea could not do better.

And Perez Hilton? ... Everything you say may be true, but the more we ignore him the better off we will be. After all, it is so important to keep homophobic women out of beauty contests that become more trivial as the years go by.

P.S. And while I don't go for tokenism, I'd like to point out that there is not one POC on the list --- unless you want to count Perez's blue hair.

While I agree as a community we should highlight the work of more qpoc, I would point out #11 (Dan Choi) and #14 (Leiomy Maldonado) are on the list. Is two enough? Probably not. But the list isn't exclusively white.

Let me add...if Perez Hilton is on this list, he really needs to be counted as a POC.

I mean, we don't have to LIKE Perez Hilton and Hilton himself may not be so quick to jump on the proud POC bandwagon but he is a POC.

[Urbandictionary.com] indicates several accepted meanings for POC, one being (#3) "everyone except Caucasians" and another being (#5) "a brown person". Seems that Alex and Chi are using first definition, and my intent was the second. Even so, I should have counted Maldonado just based on the photo included --- although I'm not familiar with her ethnicity, yes, she obviously has darker-than-Caucasian skin.

Definition #2 is tempting in Perez's case ... but I'll pass.

Chitown Kev | January 1, 2010 7:49 AM

LOL, AJ, I get you...

Part of the reason I'm including Hilton as a POC is because Pat Robertson actually did pull the "he's a latino" card when he was critcizing Hilton for his name-calling of Carrie Prejean.

And I may be wrong, but I don't think that Hilton (unlike Tiger Woods) has ever run away from his ethnic heritage even if he doesn't make a big issue of it.


Norm D Plume | December 31, 2009 2:36 PM

BARF. This is offensive. Separate your fanboy fetishes from real lgbt newsmakers. Perez Hilton higher than Cleve Jones? Blaze, you are as relevant as Bill O'Reilly.

Number one SHOULD have been the millions of lgbt and straight people who have spurned Gay Inc. and become self-conscious activists and organizers for their own liberation. But y'all don't seem to care about them.

Know what's even more offensive and barf-worthy? Commenters who can't be bothered to read.

These are not the "15 greatest LGBT people of 2009," nor are they the "15 people who advanced equality the most in 2009." This isn't "Alex Blaze's favorite people," either, since that list would be very different and a lot less photogenic.

Alex's "fanboy fetishes", anonymous chickenshit, or Google results? Meh. Why let the plainly stated facts stop you from attacking someone? Did you work for the Bush White House?

You posted this and put it together before Amanda Simpson was appointed to the Dept of Commerce. She should at least be 13B.

Alex, as you very clearly stated this is a list of the "top 15 LGBTQ people who kept on making the headlines". In my opinion, that objective has been achieved.

The primary objective of this list was not based on them being the top fifteen most admired or respected LGBTQ individuals. A listing of these people may have probably been quite different. It may have contained lesser known people who in their own local communities are making outstanding contributions to the LGBTQ community.

Thanks, Alex.
One of the things I most enjoy about lists like these is reading the comments to see who else got brought up. Thanks, Joanne and Monica, for adding Lindsey Lohan/Samantha Ronson and Amanda Simpson (great late-breaking news!)
I'd love to see more suggestions (including queer people of color?) in addition to the critique of how Alex may or may not have put this list together.
Also, this is basically a US-centric list. Anyone have newsmakers from other parts of the world to add?

Chitown Kev | January 1, 2010 7:27 PM

Nikolai Alexeyev, the Russian gay rights activist, who went through 9 hours of interrogation following his arrest at the gay rights protest in Moscow on the last day (I think) of Eurovision would fit in well.

There were 40 activists arrested that day in Moscow including British activist Peter Thatchell and Chicago activist Andy Thayer.

Lynn Miller | January 1, 2010 8:17 PM

The UK newspaper The Independent recently released their annual Pink List which is basically a top 100 queers of the UK list.

I flipped through the first 25 and only recognized one name, Clare Balding of the BBC. I guess I should be ashamed of my ignorance of UK news. The number one pick is Peter Mandelson, who is the UK's Business Secretary.

I only saw on POC in the top 25, Gok Wan, who is a designer and TV show host. This surprises me a little, because I thought the UK embraced multiculturalism a bit more than the US.

Lynn Miller | January 3, 2010 5:49 PM

Referring to the Independent's list as a ranking of queer people may have been too broad. After going through all 100, I didn't see any trans persons selected.

However, a list of the most influential Australian GLBT persons does include one trans person in the 25, as well as at least one POC.
http://gaynt.e-p.net.au/news/2009-samesame-25-announced-3.html

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