Metro Weekly’s 2018 covers
If 2017 was the year where Trump became a daily presence in our lives — through incessant tweeting, unpredictable actions, or constant fodder for late-night hosts — 2018 was the year of backlash. The LGBTQ community, still under attack on many fronts, is fighting back — and not just against Trump, but against anyone who would seek to deny our existence or trample on our civil rights.
As the year progressed, the LGBTQ community turned stunned silence over Trump’s win into anger and action. Because 2018 was an election year, the midterms consumed most of the oxygen. Hundreds of LGBTQ people ran for office, thousands of others worked on or volunteered for political campaigns, and millions followed the daily drama and poll numbers unfold in headlines and news scrolls across the nation.
Some activists began organizing on a grassroots level to push for change within their own communities. In the absence of federal or statewide action to protect LGBTQ people, local communities and school boards shouldered the burden, passing laws to ban conversion therapy, outlaw discrimination, and allow transgender kids to express their true identities at school. There is still much work to be done to achieve full equality, but 2018 seemed like a turning point for those who thought America was turning its back on inclusion.
Ultimately, for some, particularly those on the political left, 2018 offered the chance to exhale and push back against the erosion of LGBTQ rights. But 2018 also proved that the LGBTQ community is a resilient one. Born out of the Stonewall riots, the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement is never too far removed from its activist roots. Even when things seem bleak, the movement’s heirs continue to exceed expectations, proving their detractors wrong and showing off their organizing skills. It is those little-known and rarely hailed everyday activists, who do yeoman’s work without much in the way of infrastructure or financial support, who provide hope for the future. Their continued perseverance affirms that the community, despite occasional defeats, will never allow itself to be erased.
With that in mind, let’s reflect on the victories, the setbacks, and the indomitable spirit of the LGBTQ community in 2018.
Danica Roem – Photo: WUSA 9/Peggy Fox.
The year started with a theme that would carry through the remainder of 2018: whether religion can be used to justify discriminating against LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court declined to hear a legal challenge to a Mississippi law that allows individuals, businesses, and state employees to refuse service to LGBTQ people by citing their religious beliefs opposing homosexuality, transgenderism, or same-sex marriage. Many advocates feared that high court’s refusal to hear the case would send a message of effectively condoning discrimination.
Perhaps more troubling were the results of a survey by GLAAD finding that the number of Americans who support LGBTQ rights declined for the first time in the history of the survey. Fewer than half of all respondents said they felt “very” or even “somewhat” comfortable with LGBTQ people.
Despite President Trump penning a letter to the Log Cabin Republicans affirming his “commitment” to equality and praising the organization for its work, Trump-appointed judges, including several with questionable or outright hostile records on LGBTQ rights, continued to be confirmed at a breakneck pace. And it wasn’t just judges: Trump continued to stock his administration with anti-LGBTQ appointees, such as former Kansas Senator and Governor Sam Brownback, who was nominated as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Senators split on the anti-gay Brownback’s nomination, forcing Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote.
The Department of Health and Human Services stoked anger when it announced the creation of a new “Conscience and Religious Freedom” division within its Office for Civil Rights. Along with the creation of the new division, HHS announced it would protect the rights of religious healthcare workers who want to refuse treatment to LGBTQ people. Yup, 2018 was the year of religious discrimination.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, following a successful 2017 election, the number of out LGBTQ lawmakers in the General Assembly nearly doubled with the swearing in of Dawn Adams, the first elected lesbian delegate, and Danica Roem, the commonwealth’s first elected transgender delegate, who also made history as the first out transgender woman in the country to be seated in a state legislature.
In entertainment, The CW made history with superhero show Black Lightning, which featured network TV’s first ever black lesbian superhero. And the end of the month brought four Academy Award nominations for gay coming-of-age drama Call Me By Your Name — it would eventually win for Best Adapted Screenplay. Chilean transgender drama A Fantastic Woman, which starred transgender actress Daniela Vega, was nominated for — and eventually won — Best Foreign Language Film, becoming the first trans-focused narrative film to win an Oscar. And transgender director Yance Ford was nominated for Best Documentary for Strong Island. Though he didn’t take home the Oscar, Ford became the first trans director to ever be nominated.
Betsy DeVos — Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr
An emboldened Trump continued pushing for a ban on transgender personnel in the U.S. military, and the Republican National Committee promptly fell in line, announcing its support for the policy and calling being transgender “a disqualifying psychological and physical” condition. Days later, Trump refused to join other North and South American nations in signing a statement supporting marriage equality and transgender rights. Despite that, Gregory T. Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, defended his assertion that Trump is the most pro-LGBTQ Republican president ever.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continued enforcing the Trump administration’s interpretation that Title IX’s provisions against sex discrimination do not apply to transgender students. And in a further blow, the Education Department announced that it would be ignoring discrimination complaints from transgender students who had been barred from using restrooms that match their gender identity.
Thankfully, the courts once against stymied some of the Trump administration’s efforts to erase transgender protections from law. In Missouri, a federal court ruled that Jessica Hicklin, a transgender inmate, was entitled to receive hormone therapy under the Eighth Amendment prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” That same month, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does protect gay people who have been fired because of their sexual orientation from discrimination.
In South Carolina, Republicans introduced a bill that would redefine same-sex marriage as “parody marriage” and remove all protections and benefits associated with marriage. And Trump.Dating, a hookup site for Trump supporters, was found to ban gay members, but allow married people to join, tout their married status, and commit infidelity.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., as conservatives from all over the globe gathered for the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference, a group of transgender Republicans made a stand and called for greater inclusion within the conservative movement. Futile? Perhaps. Powerful and brave? Absolutely.
The Winter Olympics took place in PyeongChang, South Korea, and drew attention and praise after NBC aired a kiss between Olympian Gus Kenworthy and his partner Matthew Wilkas. It came after Fox News Executive Editor John Moody wrote a Washington Post column arguing the U.S. team was too gay and too diverse to win any medals. Moody ultimately lost his job following the backlash.
Gen. James Mattis – Photo: U.S. Department of Defense.
Hundreds of thousands of people, including several pro-LGBTQ groups, traveled to Washington for the March for Our Lives, a rally calling for gun control organized in the wake of the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Later that month, Parkland student and gun reform activist David Hogg successfully harnessed the power of social media to pressure sponsors of anti-gay Fox News host Laura Ingraham‘s show to pull their advertising, after she mocked him for being rejected from certain colleges. Ingraham was later forced to apologize for her comments on social media.
In Illinois, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives nearly knocked off incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner in the primary, bolstered in part by her appeal to social conservatives. Ives gained recognition after one of her campaign ads featured a man pretending to be a transgender woman, and attacked Rauner on pro-LGBTQ legislation he had signed into law.
The NFL earned itself a black eye for inappropriate questions directed to draft prospects at the NFL Combine. Derrius Guice, a running back from Louisiana State University (who was eventually drafted by the Washington Redskins), told media that he had been asked if he was gay or if his mother was a prostitute by scouts at the combine.
The Country Music Association Foundation was criticized by several music executives, country music performers, and managers after it named former presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to its board. The backlash against notorious homophobe Huckabee, whose political and public life has been dominated by anti-LGBTQ comments and activism, was so intense and rapid that he was forced to resign his post the following day.
LGBTQ people enjoyed several victories in March, with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that a Michigan funeral home had unlawfully discriminated against employee Aimee Stephens after it fired her for transitioning on the job. In Maryland, a federal judge found that the Talbot County Board of Education had violated a transgender student’s rights when it barred him from the boys’ restroom. Another federal judge in Idaho ordered the state to begin allowing transgender people to change their name and gender on birth certificates. In Texas, the state Department of Criminal Justice was forced to settle a lawsuit brought by a transgender inmate who was raped and attacked while in prison.
Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis issued a revised policy outlining how the Department of Defense plans to move forward with efforts to ban transgender people from serving in the military. Under the “new” plan, which the administration billed as significantly different from Trump’s 2017 proposed ban, transgender people will only be allowed to serve if they do not transition and adhere to military standards based on their biological sex at birth. But, as we’ll later see, courts disagreed with Mattis’ framing of the new plan.
We also had a strong sign of how the 2018 midterms would play out when, Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb, who was backed by Pittsburgh-area LGBTQ groups, won a special election to Congress. Meanwhile, in New York, bisexual actress Cynthia Nixon announced her candidacy for governor, challenging longtime LGBTQ ally Andrew Cuomo.
Donald Trump — Photo: Gage Skidmore
Spring brought yet more anti-LGBTQ movements from “friend” to the LGBTQ community Donald Trump. Two more high-level officials with a history of LGBTQ opposition were confirmed: former Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine was named administrator of NASA, and former congressman and CIA chief Mike Pompeo was confirmed as Secretary of State after Trump fired Rex Tillerson on Twitter. LGBTQ advocates vainly tried to raise questions about both men’s records — and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker fiercely grilling Pompeo about whether he still believed being gay is a “perversion” during his hearing — but both were easily confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate.
President Trump did score one LGBTQ victory when Richard Grenell, his first openly gay appointee, was finally confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Germany despite having his confirmation blocked and slow-walked by Democrats. However, a blow was dealt to the administration’s push for a transgender military ban when the American Medical Association reiterated an earlier claim that there is no “medically valid” reason to bar transgender service members from the U.S. military, and accused Defense Secretary Mattis of misrepresenting the science surrounding transgender health care. Less than two weeks later — as we teased in March — Washington State federal judge Marsha Pechman ruled that the new “Mattis plan” was not substantially different from ban proposed by President Trump in 2017.
Transgender people also won another victory in Anchorage, Alaska, when voters rejected an initiative that would have barred transgender people from using facilities matching their gender identity.
A reminder of the anti-LGBTQ laws and statues in many states, Texas man James Miller successfully used a “gay panic” defense to avoid jail time after killing his neighbor, Daniel Spencer. Miller claimed Spencer came on to him and refused to take no for an answer, and received 10 years probation after stabbing Spencer to death. The American Bar association recommended back in 2013 that such defenses be eliminated nationwide.
On the national stage, MSNBC host Joy Reid came under fire for past anti-LGBTQ comments she made when she was a blogger in Florida. Reid publicly apologized for the posts, which alleged that former governor (now congressman) Charlie Crist was a closeted gay man. More posts with anti-LGBTQ comments emerged, but Reid denied writing them and alleged that her blog had been hacked and manipulated.
Sgt. Nick Harrison — Photo: Todd Franson
Same-sex couples were dealt a handful of defeats, most notably with the approval of bills in Kansas and Oklahoma allowing child placement agencies to discriminate against prospective parents by citing their religious beliefs. Republican Governors Jeff Colyer and Mary Fallin signed the laws into effect, making them the eighth and ninth states to adopt such a law.
And the hits kept coming back in D.C., when President Donald Trump issued an executive order establishing a faith-based initiative to protect people’s “religious liberty.” The newly-formed office is intended to design exemptions to ensure that people who wish to discriminate based on “sincerely held religious beliefs” are not penalized or prevented from receiving taxpayer money.
Good news arrived when the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Pennsylvania school system’s policy allowing transgender students to use facilities matching their gender identity. Meanwhile, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission ruled that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination by provisions in the state’s civil rights law that prohibit sex-based discrimination.
Nick Harrison, a sergeant in the D.C. Army National Guard, filed a historic lawsuit challenging the Department of Defense’s classification of HIV-positive individuals as “undeployable,” after he was denied the opportunity to become a JAG officer. (Read our feature interview with Sgt. Harrison here.) And transgender advocates threatened a lawsuit as they called for an investigation into the death of Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender immigrant seeking asylum who died of dehydration while in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.
In the races for Congress, two California Republicans made serious anti-LGBTQ missteps. Jazmina Saavedra, a congressional challenger for a Democratic-held seat, went viral for all the wrong reasons after she inexplicably filmed herself stalking and harassing a transgender woman who was using the women’s restroom at a Denny’s restaurant in Los Angeles. And a bit further south, Orange County Republican U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher lost a key endorsement from a realtors group after he said he believed realtors should be able to refuse to sell houses to LGBTQ people and same-sex couples. Not exactly great for business.
Closing Night at Town
Pride Month — which Trump refused to officially recognize for the second year in a row — started out on a sad note for LGBTQ people after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not taken seriously enough the concerns of a baker who claimed his religious beliefs prevented him from selling a wedding cake to a gay couple. While the ruling was not sweeping, and did not completely resolve the issue of religious exemptions, LGBTQ advocates warned that the decision would be used to justify other attempts at “religious liberty” discrimination.
That warning came true just a few weeks later, when lawyers for Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers, of Richland, Wash., filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to hear their challenge to Washington State’s law prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations to LGBTQ people.
Adding insult to injury, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote behind most of the court’s pro-LGBTQ decisions, announced in June that he was retiring, giving President Trump his second chance to appoint a judge to the nation’s highest court.
On a bright note for LGBTQ youth, bans on conversion therapy continued to enjoy success, passing in Hawaii, Delaware, Maine and New Hampshire. Unfortunately, Maine’s Republican governor, Paul LePage, made history by issuing the first gubernatorial veto of a ban. Just over the border, in New Hampshire, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu doubled down on his commitment to LGBTQ equality, signing a bill providing protections for transgender residents that had been defeated in previous legislative sessions.
The popular D.C. restaurant Cuba Libre gained national infamy online after two of its employees discriminated against and ridiculed Charlotte Clymer, a transgender HRC employee, for using the women’s restroom. The restaurant ultimately apologized and promised to have staffers undergo cultural sensitivity training after widespread outrage on social media. (Read our feature interview with Charlotte Clymer here.)
Elsewhere in D.C., the LGBTQ community gained a new nightlife spot when Pitchers, an LGBTQ sports bar from former JR.’s manager David Perruzza, opened on 18th Street. Featuring multiple levels and bars, each designed to cater to different aspects of the LGBTQ community, Perruzza told Metro Weekly, “I don’t care what you identify as — I want everybody in this bar. Pitchers is for everyone.”
FX’s Pose made history when it debuted this month, the drama series set in late ’80s New York offering the largest cast of openly transgender actors of any show in television. Further history was made when writer and activist Janet Mock became the first transgender woman of color to both write and direct an episode of a television show.
June ended on a sad note for D.C.’s LGBTQ community, as Town Danceboutique closed its doors, following the sale of the land it resided on. The city’s largest LGBTQ nightclub, it became a landmark nightlife location in the ten years it was open. As Metro Weekly editor-in-chief Randy Shulman wrote in our feature honoring the club, “Town transported you out of the city and into its own magical world, one filled with fabulous drag queens and first-rate DJs, a place where people could feel good, and exhale.” It is missed. (See photos from Town’s closing party here.)
Jimmy Carter – Photo: Facebook.
President Trump once again angered LGBTQ advocates — a recurring theme in 2018 — by tapping D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh, a member of the conservative Federalist Society who had previously worked in the Bush White House, was quickly deemed unacceptable by many civil rights groups due to the belief he would be overly partisan and hostile to marginalized groups, including the LGBTQ community.
Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Robert Aderholt of Alabama introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that would create a right for child placement agencies throughout the nation to reject same-sex couples based on the agency’s professed religious beliefs.
At the state level, July seemed to be all about transgender rights — both for and, unfortunately, against. An Arizona pharmacy gained negative press after one of its employees refused to fill a prescription for hormones for a transgender woman. In Wisconsin, a federal judge ordered the state to reimburse or provide coverage for gender confirmation surgery for two state employees. A federal court in Florida ordered a Jacksonville-area school district to allow a male transgender student to access the boys’ restroom, writing that his presence “poses no threat to the privacy or safety of any of his fellow students.” And in Montana, a proposed referendum to institute a North Carolina-style law restricting transgender access to public restrooms failed to gather enough signatures to land on the ballot.
Former president Jimmy Carter made headlines when he said he believed that Jesus would have no problem with same-sex marriages. “I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else,” Carter said.
Speaking of presidents, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer shocked no one when he claimed in his book that Trump’s support of LGBTQ people during the 2016 election was fake news, and instead part of efforts to secure the party’s nomination at the Republican convention by appealing to pro-gay Republicans.
Pitchers and ALOHO — Photo: Todd Franson
Democratic voters in Vermont made history by selecting businesswoman Christine Hallquist for governor, making her the first transgender person in the country to win a major-party nomination for governor.
After the opening of Pitchers in June, David Perruzza launched A League of Her Own, a bar within the Pitchers complex for all LGBTQ people, but particularly feminine presenting queer women and non-binary people. “Queer women don’t want to be told what to do,” ALOHO general manager Jo McDaniel told Metro Weekly. “They don’t want to be told what to wear, they don’t want to be told what the theme is. They just want to have a space they can come into and do whatever they want.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden announced the creation of the “As You Are” initiative, which will collect personal stories from LGBTQ youth and those closest to them to educate the public about the importance of creating affirming and accepting environments for LGBTQ young people.
On the flipside, Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘ Justice Department continued pushing for federal courts to refuse to acknowledge LGBTQ protections under the Civil Rights Act. Sessions was quickly aided by Republican governors or attorney generals from 16 other states in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up and overturn lower court decisions recognizing such rights. Meanwhile, in Colorado, Jack Phillips, the baker at the center of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case, found himself once again reported to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission after refusing to bake a cake for a transgender woman.
August brough two particularly disturbing stories. The first took place in Oklahoma, where the superintendent of Achille Public Schools cancelled classes after parents declared “open hunting season” on a 12-year-old transgender girl. Parents and adults issued threats ranging from castration to killing the girl after she used the girls’ bathroom because she didn’t know the location of her designated single-stall restroom in a new school building. A GoFundMe page was eventually launched to help the girl and her family relocate out of state.
Later in the month, news broke that nine-year-old Colorado boy Jamel Myles had reportedly taken his own life after coming out as gay to his classmates. Myles’ mother said that intense bullying in the days after he came out led him to take his own life, and it renewed calls from LGBTQ activists and celebrities to better tackle anti-LGBTQ bullying.
Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh — Photo: C-SPAN
Americans, including LGBTQ people, were glued to C-SPAN and cable news as Trump’s Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh testified before the full Senate Judiciary Committee, after he was accused of sexual assault by former acquaintance Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Ford provided a powerful, cogent, and respectful testimony to senators, and her words led to thousands of similar #MeToo stories from sexual assault survivors across the nation. In contrast, Kavanaugh cried, whined, shouted, and belligerently interrupted Democratic senators who sought to question him, while Republican lawmakers closed ranks, arguing that Ford was mistaken. Kavanaugh was eventually confirmed on a hugely controversial, largely party-line vote.
In Congress, Democrats and pro-LGBTQ Republicans successfully removed the Aderholt Amendment allowing discrimination against same-sex couples from an appropriations bill. Meanwhile, a federal court in Colorado chastised the State Department for its refusal to issue a passport to Dana Zzyym, an intersex LGBTQ rights activist, that reflected Zzyym’s correct gender identity.
September could also rightly be called the “Month of Litigation,” as several LGBTQ-related cases made their way through the courts. In Michigan, an appeals court revived a lawsuit brought by a cisgender woman against Planet Fitness for terminating her membership after she made a scene over the presence of a transgender female in the women’s locker room.
Meanwhile, in Louisiana, the city of Lafayette and the local public library were sued by anti-LGBTQ activists in an attempt to stop an ongoing “Drag Queen Story Time” event from taking place — because apparently they’d nothing else to get outraged about. In Washington State, Helen Thornton, a lesbian, sued the Social Security Administration for denying her survivor’s benefits, which she was unable to take advantage of because marriage equality had not yet been legalized when her partner of 27 years died in 2006 — opening a valid debate about the impact of marriage equality bans on LGBTQ widows and the legal recognition of longterm relationships. It was the first of three such lawsuits that would be filed before year-end.
In California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a landmark bill that allows transgender youth in foster care to be able to access gender-affirming health care under the state’s Medicaid system.
And in the D.C. area, two longtime organizations, HOPE DC, an HIV support and social group, and Whitman-Walker Health, the most prominent provider of LGBTQ-affirming and HIV care, celebrated their 30th and 40th anniversaries, respectively. The D.C. Council also passed a law that allows the local DMV to issue non-binary identification cards and licenses, something that was implemented via executive order last year but had not yet been made permanent.
Dennis and Judy Shepard with Cathy Renna
In October, a month before the midterms, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he would stop actively pushing for an anti-transgender bathroom bill in the state — a shift from his previous support of such legislation.
There was outrage in the D.C. area and beyond after a transgender student at Stafford County Middle School in Virginia was barred from sheltering with other students during a mass shooter drill. After debating where would be safest for the student to shelter — during a drill designed to mimic the response to an active shooter — teachers ultimately told her to sit alone in the locker room hallway.
At the international level, the Trump administration stopped issuing visas to the same-sex unmarried partners of foreign diplomats, officials, and United Nations employees. A memo was circulated at U.N. headquarters in New York, in which same-sex partners were told to legally marry before the end of the year, potentially outing them in their home nations, or risk expulsion from the United States.
The Trump administration also sought to redefine gender as based on biological sex at birth, in order to prevent the government from recognizing transgender people’s identities or declaring them eligible for certain federal programs — effectively erasing transgender people from the federal government. The administration also began weighing a request from South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster for a waiver that would allow state adoption agencies to continue receiving federal funds while discriminating against same-sex couples.
The U.S. Senate continued to confirm Trump’s anti-LGBTQ federal nominees, including Eric Dreiband to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. LGBTQ groups raised objections to another nominee, Allison Jones Rushing, who was nominated for a seat to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, due to Rushing’s anti-equality activism and ties to Alliance Defending Freedom. But Trump earned praise from the Log Cabin Republicans after he nominated gay conservative Patrick Bumatay for a seat on the liberal-leaning 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
October also marked a somber remembrance, when the Washington National Cathedral held a memorial service for Matthew Shepard to mark the 20th anniversary of his death and the interment of his ashes in the cathedral’s crypt, which houses the remains of several other notable historical figures. Shepard’s parents, Denis and Judy, also donated several of his personal artifacts to the Smithsonian, where they will teach visitors about the consequences of intolerance and anti-LGBTQ violence.
(Clockwise from top left) Chris Pappas, Katie Hill, Sharice Davids, Angie Craig – Photos: Facebook.
President Trump received his worst news in November, when Democrats won 40 seats to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives, effectively cutting his legislative agenda off at the knees come January. Despite efforts by Trump to tout his effectiveness in helping Republicans maintain control of the Senate, a “blue wave” swept out many members of Congress and nearly 400 Republicans holding lower-level state or local office.
A “Rainbow Wave” also swept the nation, bringing a a number of “firsts.” Sharice Davids became the first out LGBTQ Native American member of Congress. Angie Craig became the first out lesbian elected to Congress from Minnesota. Katie Hill became the first out lesbian elected to Congress from California. And Chris Pappas became the first openly gay person elected to Congress from New Hampshire. Their combined victories helped double the number of LGBTQ members of the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, the Senate LGBTQ Caucus also doubled, as out lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin was re-elected and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona became the first out bisexual member elected to the U.S. Senate. Victory Fund estimated that more than 600 LGBTQ people had sought elective office in 2018, with 244 winning their races.
The day after the election, Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned his post at President Trump’s request — not that it meant much for the LGBTQ community. Trump merely swapped anti-LGBTQ Sessions with anti-LGBTQ former GOP politician and U.S. attorney Matt Whitaker.
Away from the election, a few curious and concerning stories cropped up this month. In Boston, police arrested a teenager who was accused of threatening to “kill everyone” at two local gay bars. In New Jersey, Rider University drew attention after officials decided to remove Chick-fil-A from a list of potential new restaurants to open on campus — and specifically because of the company’s perceived anti-LGBTQ history. And in entertainment news, singer Shawn Mendes admitted that the anxiety and stress caused by constant speculation and rumors about his sexuality had left him feeling the need to “prove” he’s not gay by staging dates with women.
The fight over LGBTQ rights continued in the courts this month, with anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal of the 3rd Circuit’s decision upholding the right of the Boyertown Area School District to allow transgender students to use facilities matching their gender identity. Lawyers for ADF are also representing Brush & Nib, a calligraphy business in Phoenix that wants to challenge the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.
Sen. Cory Booker attends Pride Festival in Asbury Park, N.J. — Photo: Facebook
As the year drew to a close, President Trump caved to the whims of congressional Republicans and demanded the removal of language requiring protections for LGBTQ people from a final trade deal with Mexico and Canada. The president also angered HIV advocates when he suspended research looking into a cure for the virus because it involved the use of fetal tissue.
Federal courts continued to block the president’s anti-transgender military ban, even as the Trump administration petitioned the Supreme Court to lift the various injunctions preventing the Pentagon from implementing the “Mattis Plan.”
In Idaho, a federal judge ordered the state Department of Corrections to allow a Native American transgender woman to obtain gender confirmation surgery. And in Virginia, the West Point School Board unanimously voted to fire a teacher for insubordination after he repeatedly refused orders by his superiors to use male pronouns when referring to a transgender student.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker finally put to bed longstanding rumors surrounding his sexuality. The single 49-year-old, a tireless ally and advocate for LGBTQ rights, told a Philadelphia newspaper “I’m heterosexual,” but noted that his sexuality made no difference to his politics or ability to do his job.
And a warm note to end on: the Library of Congress selected Ang Lee‘s landmark, Oscar-winning, 2005 film Brokeback Mountain for inclusion in the Library’s National Film Registry. The movie, about two cowboys falling in love in the wilds of Wyoming, was deemed worthy of preservation due to its “cultural, historic and aesthetic importance to the nation’s film heritage.”
Rhuaridh Marr contributed to this report.