It’s been a big year for progress…
When it comes to the fight for equality for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, it can seem like progress is slow. Older generations can be set in their ways and unwilling to open their minds to how the world is changing. Luckily, younger generations don’t seem to have the same attitudes. They’re a lot more naturally accepting and comfortable with not forcing themselves and others into a box of gender and sexual orientation norms.
GLAAD’s third annual Accelerated Acceptance report found that 20% of Millennials identify as LGBTQ and 63% reported being very or somewhat comfortable with LGBTQ people in all situations. That’s compared to 53% of Generation Xers, 51% of Baby Boomers and 39% of Elders. There have been a lot of history-making moments this past year for the LGBTQ+ community and those moments should be celebrated by everyone regardless of how you identify because in the long run, acceptance can only make the world a better place. Here are just a few steps in the right direction that have been taken this year—because, honestly, it’s about time.
Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture
Moonlight is a coming-of-age drama that follows the main character Chiron through childhood, adolescence and adulthood as he struggles with his sexuality, identity and dealing with emotional and physical abuse. It premiered in September 2016 and became the first film with an all-black cast and the first LGBT film to win the Oscar for Best Picture at the Academy Awards in February 2017. You probably remember the controversy when La La Land was mistakenly announced as Best Picture before the correction was made live on stage.
The film was both a critical and commercial success grossing over $65 million worldwide against a $4 million budget. It has a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a 99 out of 100 on Metacritic and is part of a number of film critic top ten lists. Moonlight has paved the way for the potential success of future films with LGBT themes and this year’s Call Me By Your Name might be following in its award darling footsteps.
Same sex marriage became legal in Australia and Germany
Marriage equality is something LGBTQ+ identifying people have been fighting for for a long time. The Netherlands was the first country to make same sex marriage legal in 2001, Canada followed suit in 2005 and the US made it legal in all states in 2015. There are still plenty of countries that do not allow or recognize same sex marriage, but in 2017 both Germany and Australia officially made it legal for couples of the same sex to get married.
The changing laws reflect the evolving the perspectives of the general public. More and more people believe that love is love and everyone who wants to get married should be able to. Support for marriage equality is definitely on track to keep spreading throughout the rest of the world.
The Pentagon announced they will process transgender military applicants
On July 26, 2017, President Donald Trump tweeted, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruptions that transgender in the military would entail.” His statement meant that transgender military personnel in the midst of gender re-assignment surgery would lose their medical leave rights and current transgender members of the military would be discharged, losing pension rights, family medical benefits and their chance for a career in the military.
Since then, lawsuits have been filing against Trump’s ban and the Pentagon announced that it will allow transgender recruits to enlist again starting January 1, 2018. Trump’s tweets were reportedly a surprise to many top officials, including leaders in the military which means the President’s opinion on the matter is thankfully not the opinion of the government as a whole.
Justin Trudeau apologized for discriminatory Canadian laws against LGBTQ+ individuals
In a heartfelt speech on November 28, 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed Canada’s past of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and apologized for the unnecessary hate and hardships they had to endure. “You are professionals. You are patriots. And above all, you are innocent. And for all your suffering, you deserve justice, and you deserve peace,” he said. “It is our collective shame that you were so mistreated. And it is our collective shame that this apology took so long – many who suffered are no longer alive to hear these words. And for that, we are truly sorry.”
With the apology, Trudeau called on Canadians to do their part of end discrimination of any kind against LGBT people moving forward. He announced that $110 million was allocated as compensation for LGBT civil servants whose careers were affected and/or ended because of their sexuality with an added $15 million for historical reconciliation, education and memorialization efforts. The apology has been called a historic moment and should serve as an important catalyst to work towards true equality.
Various states approved legislation to outlaw conversion therapy
Even with all the acceptance, there are still plenty of people who haven’t caught up to the rest of us when it comes to their views on homosexuality. That’s why conversion therapy, which includes a number of different strategies that have been developed to convert someone from gay to straight, is still something that exists. But now, it’s starting to become recognized and labeled as inhumane and discriminatory. California was the first state to outlaw conversion therapy in 2012 and in 2017, Nevada, New Mexico, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have all followed suit.
Conversion therapy can be violent and psychologically damaging as the “therapists” attempt to scare, intimidate or condition their “patients” into being straight. The court’s acknowledgement that sexuality doesn’t work that way is an important part of changing what is considered “normal” and supporting every person regardless of who they choose to date and fall in love with.
Will and Grace returned to TV
Will and Grace, which premiered in 1998 and was on the air for 8 seasons, broke a lot of ground for LGBT representation in mainstream media. It focused on the friendship between Will Truman, a gay lawyer and Grace Adler, a straight interior designer and at the time, was the most successful TV series to feature gay principle characters. The show racked up countless Emmy wins and nominations and has been credited with helping to educate the public on LGBT issues.
The show originally ended in 2006 but was rebooted in September 2017 for a whole new season. The ninth season picks up 11 years after the finale left off with both Will and Grace mentioning they were previously married (to other people) and are now trying to get back on their feet after divorcing—and of course, they are living together. The ninth season will have 16 episodes and NBC has already ordered a 12-episode 10th season.
MTV offered the first genderless acting award
Acting awards have always been separated by gender: Best Actor and Best Actress. But as more and more people—and performers—begin coming out as non-binary, it’s becoming clear that limiting how awards are given out could be making it hard for everyone that deserves it to be recognized. 2017 was the first year the gender-neutral award was given out and Emma Watson won the honour for her role as Belle in Beauty and the Beast.
“MTV’s move to create a genderless award for acting will mean something different to everyone,” Watson said. “But to me it indicates that acting is about the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and that doesn’t need to be separated into two different categories.” The award was presented by Asia Kate Dillion, an actor who identifies as non-binary. It may be awhile before more prestigious award like the Oscars and Golden Globes even consider gender-neutral awards, but the MTV fan-voted awards are a great place to start recognizing that gender shouldn’t be black and white.
It’s been a big year for progress…