By Advocate Contributors
Originally published on Advocate.com May 15 2012 5:00 AM ET
Because there are out WNBA players
Minnesota lynx basketball star Seimone Augustus is, by all means, a homebody, but something told her to go out to a Minneapolis bar one night. After a few moments of quietly nursing a drink, she locked eyes with someone across the room. But this 6-foot-tall guard, the toast of Louisiana State University’s basketball program, a number 1 WNBA draft pick, and an Olympian, was too shy to even muster up a simple “hello.”
Fortunately, fate didn’t allow these two ships to pass in the night, and five years after their first date at a local Six Flags theme park, Augustus is getting married—to a woman. She says her future nuptials with LaTaya Varner encouraged her to come out publicly as a lesbian, and the two are planning a summer wedding. Not this summer, though. The 28-year-old is concentrating on finishing her season in the Russian women’s basketball league, a two-peat of the WNBA league title, and bringing home the gold this summer from the London Olympics.
Augustus has been through a lot between her 2008 and 2012 gold-medal attempts on Team USA. After the last Olympic games, Augustus’s hopes for a WNBA title were cut short after she suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in June 2009. She was forced to sit out for the rest of the season, with plans for a comeback in 2010. Her hopes were dashed again, however, when she learned she had fibroids and needed surgery to have them removed. She said having two health problems in the same year required her to become conscious of her healing and avoiding re-injury.
“When you come back from an ACL injury you always think about the way you tore your knee,” she says. “When I did it, I was making a play to the basket, so you always think about the context in which you injured yourself.”
Good things happened in 2010 too: Four years after graduating from Louisiana State, Augustus became the first female athlete at her alma mater to have a jersey retired. It’s a great honor for athletes, especially at LSU, where only eight other jerseys have been retired, including Shaquille O’Neal’s.
With setbacks and triumphs behind her, Augustus came back to the 2011 season, her sixth with the Minnesota Lynx, more focused and ready to win. During the off-season, with the encouragement of head coach Cheryl Reeve, Augustus started thinking about her career legacy. It also didn’t hurt that it was clear she was on a championship team.
“The situation with the team panned out perfectly,” she says. “We got a great draft pick in Maya Moore, and some other veteran players and free agents, so it was just fitting that we came back to the season as a powerhouse-type team.”
Augustus led the Lynx to its first WNBA championship over the Atlanta Dream and was named the WNBA Finals MVP. But even with the notoriety, Augustus, like several other professional women’s basketball players, still plays in leagues overseas to, as she says, simply live comfortably. She previously played in Turkey and now is on courts in Russia, but Augustus says the league must do more to offer women players the same kind of financial stability their male counterparts in the NBA get. Still, she admits playing overseas has better prepared her to compete on Team USA against the world’s best during the Olympic games.
“Every country is out to beat Team USA,” she says from her hotel room in Russia. “If they beat us, it makes their year, it makes their life, it makes their career. I have Russian teammates that I played against in 2006, when they beat us in the World Championships, and they still talk about that now. So beating Team USA is everything to the other countries because we set such high standards for ourselves.” —Michelle Garcia
Because we’ve got marriage momentum
New York. Washington. Maryland. Pro–marriage equality governors and state legislators have given the movement a 3-for-3 scorecard in recent months, bringing the number of states that recognize marriage rights for same-sex couples to eight (plus the District of Columbia, which passed marriage legislation in 2010). Yes, some of the state gains still face fights at the ballot box come November, and no, none of those awful measures is necessarily doomed to fail. But the push for marriage rights on the state level reflects both the rapidly growing acceptance of marriage equality by the general public as well as the realization among politicians that the issue is hardly the third rail it once was.
Above: Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire (center) celebrates after signing marriage equality legislation into law at the state capitol February 13.
Because young fans of The Hunger Games barely bat an eye over the queer characters
Cinna, played by Lenny Kravitz, is the stylist to protagonist Katniss. Talking to the website Celebuzz, Kravitz said, “I didn’t know about Hunger Games, so when I’m telling kids and they say, ‘Who are you playing?’ and I say Cinna, they go, ‘Oh, you’re playing the gay guy.’ ” The singer actually based his Cinna portrayal on a bisexual friend of his, though he doesn’t think the orientation of the character even matters. Meanwhile, Kravitz’s costar Elizabeth Banks told Celebuzz that the dystopian Capitol where much of The Hunger Games takes place is a sexual free-for-all: “I always read the Capitol as [messed] up pansexuality, everybody is doing everybody. Back to Greek and Roman times!”
Because there’s a 100% transgender, Jewish shtick-rock sensation
And it’s known as Schmekel. The group’s debut album has the energy of early queercore-punk bands like Pansy Division and Tribe 8, and The New York Times called the quartet groundbreaking. Schmekel is Yiddish for small penis; the little in-joke says a bit about how smart and sexy these guys are.
Because Kirk Cameron isn't gay
Because there’s finally an out lesbian on SNL
Comedian Kate McKinnon joined the cast in April. Now we can forgive Lorne Michaels for introducing the world to Victoria Jackson.
Because “don’t ask, don’t tell” is history
Last September, the 18-year-old policy that was supposed to make life better for gay and lesbian troops but didn’t was finally consigned to the dustbin of history, thanks to the tenacity of activists and political allies. Activists aren’t taking it easy, instead turning their efforts toward assuring trans and intersex individuals an equal right to fight for their country, and persuading the government to recognize military members’ same-sex marriages. Gay service members did take time to celebrate, as evidenced by the many photos of them joyously kissing their spouses, providing same-sex equivalents of the iconic kiss captured by Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstadt at the end of World War II.
Because it’s in his kiss
After shouting over then–GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Timothy Tross and Ben Clifford sucked face to the horror and fascination of 2,100 people attending a campaign event at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Ill., in March. Guards soon booted them, while the crowd strangely chanted “USA.” Tross and Clifford won’t say whether they are gay — they claim their orientation isn’t the point, Santorum’s antigay rhetoric is.
Because out male stars are finally catching up with the ladies
For so long, Ellen, Rosie, Martina, and k.d. were out and proud, while gay male celebrities were a little more reticent. Maybe it took a few years to feel the Neil Patrick Harris effect, but now White Collar’s Matt Bomer, Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto, and Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson — all guys at the peak of their careers — speak publicly about their husbands or boyfriends, and, in some cases, their kids.
Because Outfest is more than a film festival
For three decades Outfest, the Los Angeles–based nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing, showcasing, and protecting LGBT media, has created a vibrant community. Each year thousands of people convene in L.A. — this year it’s July 12–22 — to celebrate the rich diversity of LGBT lives.
“Audience members often tell me how much an Outfest film changed them,” says executive director Kirsten Schaffer. Among them is Chaz Bono (pictured), who in 2009 revealed the festival played a significant role in his decision to transition.
Filmmakers have also seen their careers skyrocket after Outfest screenings. Among them, Dustin Lance Black met producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen at an Outfest event and pitched them his Milk screenplay. Gus Van Sant, who screened his first feature, Mala Noche, at the fest, took the occasion of receiving the Outfest Achievement Award to share, “My career comes from this festival.”
Outfest continues to evolve through partnerships. In March it announced a merger with NewFest, New York’s premier LGBT film festival, to help expand its year-round programming. Through the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation, which is a partnership with the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the organization has preserved more than 18,000 stories and images. “We are creating lasting cultural change,” Schaffer says. “At the heart of this organization, we are strengthening the LGBT community and working to end homophobia.”
Because gay art is now recognized as legitimate
Twenty-three years ago, the Robert Mapplethorpe show “The Perfect Moment” caused a national sensation when its homoerotic and sadomasochistic images led to a show being canceled in Washington, D.C., and obscenity charges for Cincinnati curators who displayed the work. Now, queer artists like Ryan Trecartin are celebrated the world over for their contributions. As part of that sea change, the Leslie/Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, the first institution solely devoted to gay works, opened recently in New York City. Of the museum opening, Leslie/Lohman president Jonathan David Katz says, “This is a watershed moment in the U.S. for gay and lesbian art.”
Because Donald Trump can’t ignore us
The Celebrity Apprentice had a pretty queer cast (including gay or bisexual performers Aubrey O’Day, Patricia Velásquez, George Takei, and Clay Aiken), many of whom were either too nice (Takei) or clashed with Trump (everyone else). Then Jenna Talackova (pictured near right), a trans woman, fought and won the right to compete in Trump’s Miss Universe pageant, while Mr. Hairpiece sent out sexist tweets about her attorney (Gloria Allred) and his testicles (no kidding).
Because Because Rick Santorum will never be our president.
At least not before 2017.
Because Åsa Wallander is arriving on our shores
First the award-winning bisexual Swedish actress was on the CW’s 90210, and now her new American film, the cyber-thriller Dragon Day, is out this fall.
Because our fight is their fight
In 2011, Dustin Lance Black’s play 8, based on transcripts of California’s historic marriage equality trial, was performed in New York with Larry Kramer sharing the stage with Matt Bomer and Cheyenne Jackson. In March a similar production took place in Los Angeles and attracted a megawatt class of equality-minded heavyweights such as George Clooney, Brad Pitt (pictured below), Martin Sheen, and Jamie Lee Curtis. “It’s a great privilege and a great responsibility,” Black said of his work on the play. The American Foundation for Equal Rights, which sponsored the federal case challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, presented the event with Broadway Impact and raised more than $2 million to continue the fight for marriage equality.
Because Idahoans won’t take no for an answer
Though Idaho’s GOP lawmakers shut down efforts to get sexual orientation and gender identity added to the state’s antidiscrimination policy, the Add the Words campaign collected sticky notes with “add the words” from all over state, signaling a resurgence in LGBT activism across the state. Idaho’s only openly gay legislator, Sen. Nicole LeFavour (a former wilderness firefighter), is fighting to rep Idaho in Congress next year, and 22-year-old Nate Murphy (pictured) is campaigning to be become the second out gay candidate to win a seat in the Idaho legislature. Meanwhile, Add the Words activists continue to peacefully post sticky notes on glass doors in the state Capitol and camp outside in protest.
Because Ben & Jerry get us
First came Hubby Hubby, now we’ve got Apple-y Ever After. Lactose lovers unite.
Because we vote with our wallets
More than 24,000 people donated to Wisconsin congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (pictured) in the first three months of her campaign to become the first openly LGBT member of the U.S. Senate. The contributions totaled more than $2 million.