Look What Happened When You Weren’t Looking – A Brief Retrospective of 2011 in GLBTQ News

A Guest Post by Tj

Picture this. I’m in my local drug store doing a little shopping, and yeah, maybe checking out that cute guy picking up a prescription at the pharmacy counter. (Oh wait, maybe that’s not such a good idea – Lord knows what he’s being treated for!) Shaking my head, I turn my focus back to shopping, and quietly singing along to the music playing – yes, I’m that annoying guy. “I really can’t stay. But baby it’s cold outside…”

Suddenly I stop short when I realize that they‘re playing the Darren Criss/Chris Colfer  version of Baby It’s Cold Outside. In case you don’t watch Glee, Darren and Chris are both guys. That’s 2 guys – singing to each other – in my local drug store! And we’re not talking national chain – this is a locally owned store!

And maybe because I was suddenly hyper aware of my surroundings, later that day when I was browsing in the public library, I noticed that they now carry gay themed DVDs. I had seen that they had been carrying gay themed books for the last few years, but now actual DVDs? Wow. It’s not that I live in the most repressed town in the US – it’s just a quiet little town. But when did it become so open, so accepting, so, dare I say… gay?

All of this made me really stop to think about the recent changes that have occurred in the world. Changes that may have snuck up on many of you, as they did me. And as we often do at this time of year, I starting thinking back over the events of the passing year. 

Happily the news in the US this year was not all doom and gloom. The GLBTQ community did make some major strides in 2011. First, although passed in 2010, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the US military prohibition on serving as an openly gay person, was finally put into practice. Had that not been the case, this homecoming photo of Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta and Citlalic Snell would not have been possible.

Secondly, President Obama’s administration reversed policy by stating that the US Justice Department will no longer defend DOMA – the federal Defense of Marriage Act which in essence says that no state can be forced to recognize a same sex marriage performed in another state. This pushes the issue back to the individual state’s legislation. Unfortunately our Congress can decide to continue to defend it, so that struggle is far from over.

Then on the local level, Governor Andrew Cuomo successfully added New York to the previous 5 states that now allow same sex marriage. I know that six out of fifty states may not sound like much, but discrimination didn’t happen overnight, and will surely take many years to reverse. Now if only I could find some guy to marry. Where’s that hot little Buda when I need him?

One of the highlights of this year for me though, was a perhaps controversial, but definitely impassioned Human Rights Day speech given by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Geneva. At President Obama’s direction, Secretary Clinton spoke of the US commitment to support all Human rights, and that human rights include gay rights. It is what I’m sure will become an historic speech. From what I’ve read there were a few attendees who walked out of the room once Secretary Clinton’s intent became clear. Look at this excerpt – this speech really is amazing:

“Finally, progress comes from being willing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. We need to ask ourselves, “How would it feel if it were a crime to love the person I love? How would it feel to be discriminated against for something about myself that I cannot change?” This challenge applies to all of us as we reflect upon deeply held beliefs, as we work to embrace tolerance and respect for the dignity of all persons, and as we engage humbly with those with whom we disagree in the hope of creating greater understanding.” 

If you’d like to read the full transcript, follow this link or to see the full 30 minute video on Youtube follow this link.

Unfortunately not all of this year’s news has been good. Tragically we lost several bright lights from our community – those who barely had the chance to show more than a glimmer of the wondrous people that they were to become. And sadly, these senseless losses were often a direct result of bullying which continues to be a problem and not just for GLBTQ youth. Some progress is being made in changing school policies, but there is much work still to be done. We did also continue to see caring and generous allies work to support and encourage our at-risk youth. Although this took place in October of 2010, I wanted to share this very emotional speech given by Fort Worth Texas City Councilman Joel Burns. Be warned it’s sure to make you cry, but it’s also sure to leave you smiling at his message.

I’m happy to say that in 2011 we were more visible in the media than ever. We had transgendered contestant Chaz Bono along with the out and proud Carson Cressley on TV’s Dancing with the Stars. We saw Star Trek and Heroes actor Zachary Quinto come out after Jamey Rodemeyer’s tragic death, not in a big media frenzy, but in a rather dignified, understated way, stating his need to “live an authentic life of compassion and integrity and action”. His coming out seemed to be almost a non issue. Wouldn’t it be great if that were always the case?

I can’t help but believe that this increasing visibility – having so many very talented and proudly out personalities coming into people’s lives through the media – every day, does and will continue to, have a very profound effect on our acceptance. And perhaps more importantly, these celebrities provide a wonderful role model for our youth. I often think how different my own life might’ve been had I had even one of these brave souls to look up to.

So I look back over the events of the passing year with both sadness for the losses and joy for the accomplishments. And although our struggle is far from ended, I also find growing within me, with the dawning year, a feeling of hope, a deeply held belief in the innate goodness of people, and a vision of the way that the world could be. Perhaps not the utopia of my drugstore concert, but certainly a more accepting world, a world that, believe it or not, seems to be slowly coming to life before our very eyes – the proof having slipped into our everyday existence without our awareness.


  • Thanks for the post TJ. In making slow progress and dealing with backlash it is easy to forget that so much change has happened.

  • Hi Gaye –
    Yes our Secretary Clinton is a very impressive speaker – I’ve admired her since her days as first lady, but sadly she has many detractors in the states. I often wonder if it isn’t partially because she is a strong woman. Shameful I know, but as we’ve said discrimination of all kinds still exists.

    And I must simply say “wow” – what a great video. Thanks for linking it.

    Sad isn’t it that Adam Lambert’s dust up with the law is what makes headlines, but sadly gossip sells. I suppose it is progress that they even mentioned Adam and acknowledged his boyfriend on the radio. There was a time when it would been just “friend” if they ran the story at all.

  • Thanks for this great article, TJ. I thought Hillary’s speech (and her presentation) was amazing. I haven’t seen much of her before, and was very impressed. I only hope she wasn’t just preaching to the converted, and that some people listening did actually take on board what she was saying, and responded to her words in a positive way.

    Regarding my own country – we had the brilliant “It’s Time” video clip. Watching that was another amazing experience. :hearts01:


    Unfortunately, progress is slow. Equal marriage won’t happen here soon, but it will happen.

    As a side-note, I found it ironic that one of the rare gay moments I noticed in my home city was when our local radio station carried the news story about Adam Lambert and his boyfriend being involved in a dust-up just before Christmas. I’ve never heard anything about Adam before, locally. They just had to run THAT story. 😕

  • Tj
    If we only look at the negatives we will never move forward. I understand what Angel is saying about the apparent lack of progress in some areas and the past is very painful, but we have to move on or we’ll never move forward.

    In Canada life for GBLTQ people is a little better than in the US. Gays can get married, the acceptance level is a lot better here especially in cities like Toronto, but the rest of the country still has a ways to go. We never had DADT so I can’t compare what it was like for our gay men and women in the military as opposed to gays in the US military.

    Angel mentioned Blacks and women and their continuing fight for equality. Being Black, I think having a biracial president and a Black Conservative candidate who recently withdrew from the presidential race shows how far the US has come in 50 years. Nothing good comes easy and fighting for equality will continue long after you and I are gone. Never having lived in the US I can’t relate to the experience of Blacks and women there and the discrimination they suffered and are probably still suffering, but to all accounts things are changing there as well.

    The LGBTQ fight for equality has made enormous progress over the past decade and I’m really happy that your piece emphasized the positives rather than the negatives. Imagine what happened to gays in the fifties and sixties. Of course there’s still a lot of hate crimes and the fight will continue, especially with at-risk youth, but each step on the positive side of the ledger is a milestone.

    Thank you for this Tj.

    • It’s not just the slow progress. It’s also the backlash. I hate that every gain anyone makes is met with ten people trying to smack them back to the starting point.

      We have politicians actively promoting banning BIRTH CONTROL for godssake. I’m waiting for one of the rightist candidates to lose it and use the N-word on TV.

      We’ll get there. And it’s good to be reminded that we can get there.

      And BTW: the big thing on the right is the Marriage Amendment. Remember that 11 states allow marriage or civil unions, leaving 39 and it takes 38 to ratify any amendment to the constitution.

      My position is that we might be winning, but watch for snipers at the finish line.

      • I know Angel. I am often left speechless (and angry) when I read stories about the latest backlash – be it some attempt to limit people’s civil rights or worse – violence. Some days it seems like just too much, and I have to search for the good in the world just to stay sane.

        No matter how far we’ve come, there will be someone trying to bring things back to the way they were. If only, as Secretary Clinton suggested, people could walk a mile in our shoes.

    • It was my pleasure Wave.

      And thank you for your eloquent words. The fight for equality for all people, not just GLBTQ, is an ongoing struggle that will certainly continue throughout our lifetimes. But I do hope that the day will come when it is not an issue.

      It can be very disheartening for me at times when things don’t progress faster, or when I encounter bigotry in my daily life. And I am still surprised at times that after all of these years of struggling for equal rights for women and blacks that there are still people who hold fast to their misguided beliefs.

  • TJ, thanks

    Sometimes, as I follow politics and listen to people talk about executing gays, imprisoning women who have miscarriages, annulling existing same sex marriages and destroying the separation of church and state, I need a reminder that yes, we are making progress.

    Some people say we’re seeing the death throes of the culture war. I’m not so sure. I’d like to hope we are, but let’s not get complacent. Women (a group 5 times bigger than the GLBT community) have been fighting for a century. Blacks (about the same size) have been at it for fifty years. And for every step forward, there are plenty of people willing to push us five steps back, or shoot us.

    • Sadly you’re right Angelia, we are making slow progress, but we have far to go and can’t afford to get complacent.

      I think it’s good to the take time in life to appreciate the good things – whether that’s in our personal lives or the world in general.

      I had read this wonderful thing once that life is like a set of railroad tracks – one track representing the good things, and one the bad. They are both always present, but our perception, which we chose to focus on, colors our whole outlook.

      So today although both are present, I thought I would focus on the good – and applaud how far we’ve come.

  • TJ, thank you. Your post both made me happy and it made me cry. Because, unfortunately, some of us don’t live in the U.S. This year, the Pride Parade in my country was postponed, because the police “couldn’t guarantee the safety” of participants. The girl wearing GLBT t-shirt was stabbed by 17-year-old who didn’t like it. Ironically, the girl was straight, which drove home the fact that it isn’t safe for anyone supporting GLBT rights. More than ever, possibly because I review for this site, I notice the bigotry in ordinary people who I meet every day, in very ordinary circumstances. I know part of the reason is a huge crisis, but sometimes I am truly dispirited. I know that some of the people weren’t happy with Obama because they were feeling that he didn’t change things fast enough. But, he did change them. I just wish things could change in the rest of the world as fast. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that things do get better. I hope they will be in 2012. Thanks again! :hug:

    • Hi LadyM,

      I did read about your pride parade and the senseless violence. So sad and awful. Although I was trying to take a step back to appreciate how far we’ve come, things are unfortunately not all good anywhere in the world.

      In the US we have states that have passed laws banning same sex marriage. We’ve had continued harassment, and violence and sadly too many losing hope in the face of all this.

      I’ve also run into bigotry in my life, sometimes from people who I thought were far more accepting, but that’s something that, although decreasing, will probably always exist.

      But things are changing, granted very slowly, but they are. My drugstore story was true and during the holidays because I was home more, I noticed a gay couple shopping in town and so many cute boys walking the streets. Wait that sounds bad – not “that” kind of street walking. As I said – when did it get so gay?

      But all this is a sign of the great strides that we’ve made. And gives me hope for the future.

      • I think the hardest thing would be changing the way some people think and that is one of the reason why antibullying work is so important, not just explaining to kids that bullying of lgbt kids is bad, but that just bullying is bad – period. But yes, good things happened too and its wonderful.

        • Exactly Sirius. It’s always a challenge to change how we think. I’ve spent a good deal of time overcoming some bad thought processes that were not healthy, and I can tell you it is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. And like much of life, it’s a continual process.

  • Thank you so much for this post Tj. I was so happy for my state when they finally allowed gay marriage. Goodness I am typing it and it sounds so wierd as if it something different that needs to be specially allowed and not just two people in love wanting to spend their life together. But no matter what I was happy with the result. But so much work ahead indeed. Thank you.

    • I know exactly what you’re saying Sirius. It was a little surreal when NY approved same sex marriage. I got so used to marriage not even being an option for me and now… Wow! 😯

      I just saw on CNN that civil unions in Delaware and Hawaii go into effect today. They join Illinois, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Not quite the same I know, but small steps.


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