It’s been quite a year, one full of both good news and bad for the LGBTQ+ community — from anti-drag queen protests to “don’t say gay” to a rainbow wave in the midterm election. Here’s a look at some of 2022’s top stories.
From left: Massachusetts's Maura Healey, the first lesbian to win a governor's race in the U.S.; anti-LGBTQ+ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; and WNBA star Brittney Griner. Healey courtesy of her campaign; DeSantis via Shutterstock; Griner photographed by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
“Don’t Say Gay — or Trans, Bi, Lesbian, or Queer”
Florida may have South Beach and Key West, but it also has a substantial number of conservatives and a Republican governor with presidential ambitions. That governor, Ron DeSantis, signed the “don’t say gay” bill — officially, Parental Rights in Education — into law in March, and it went into effect July 1. It restricts instruction concerning sexual orientation and gender identity in K-12 schools, leading to concern that both students and staff will see their identities erased. And supporters, including DeSantis's press secretary, slandered opponents as “groomers” who were setting kids up for abuse. It’s been challenged in court, so far unsuccessfully, and DeSantis won reelection in November. One bit of good news: Similar legislation has been introduced in several other states but has not passed. But there have been numerous efforts, some successful, to ban LGBTQ-themed books in schools around the nation.
Attacks on Transgender Kids
Right-wingers, having failed to block marriage equality and other aspects of LGBTQ+ progress, have trained their sights on trans youth. Most egregiously, they’re seeking to deny trans kids medically necessary gender-affirming care. In Texas in February, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott (pictured), acting on a legal opinion from Attorney General Ken Paxton, ordered the state’s child welfare agency to investigate parents for child abuse if they allow their kids to access this care. Most of these investigations are temporarily on hold while a court challenge proceeds, but attacks are going on elsewhere. Hospitals that provide this care have been harassed, and in Oklahoma, the main hospital offering these services had to cease doing so when the state threatened to withhold funds. And Florida’s medical boards have banned most of this care for trans youth.
Drag Events Targeted
The art of drag has been around for centuries, but the American far right has now decided that drag performers are a danger to children. There have been at least 141 protests and threats against drag events in 2022, according to a report from GLAAD and Equality Texas. Armed members of Patriot Front were arrested on their way to a Pride event, which included drag performances, in Idaho in June. A doughnut shop in Tulsa, Okla., was firebombed after it held an event that featured drag queens as servers. In Eugene, Ore., those who objected to a drag performance threw smoke bombs and rocks. In South Carolina, there was a bomb threat against a restaurant hosting a drag brunch, along with threats to kill the performers.
Brittney Griner Arrested in Russia
The lesbian basketball star, center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, arrived in Russia in February to play for a team in that nation during the WNBA’s off-season, as she has done for several years. She was arrested and charged with drug smuggling because her luggage contained vape cartridges with traces of hashish oil, which is illegal in Russia. She said she made a mistake, pleaded guilty, and hoped for mercy from a Russian court, but she was sentenced to nine years in prison. The Biden administration negotiated tirelessly for her release, and she was finally freed and returned to the U.S. in December, to the joy of her wife, Cherelle, and other loved ones.
Roe v. Wade Overturned
The right to have an abortion anywhere in the U.S., established by the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, was long considered settled law. But the current Supreme Court, with a 6-3 majority of conservative justices, reversed this landmark ruling in June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case that stemmed from a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks. Since the decision, a dozen states have banned abortion, while numerous others have enacted restrictions, although the procedure remains legal and accessible in the most liberal states. The decision drove home the reality that LGBTQ+ people do need access to abortion and that the right to abortion is tied to other rights to bodily autonomy. The conservative justices strained to say they weren’t coming for other rights — with the exception of Clarence Thomas, who said the court should, if it has the chance, overturn rulings establishing nationwide rights to sexual intimacy, contraception, and marriage equality.
Club Q Shooting
The only LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs became a crime scene November 19 when a person with a gun opened fire. Five people were killed and about 20 wounded; quick action by some club patrons and employees prevented more carnage. Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, is charged with more than 305 counts, which include murder, attempted murder, assault, and hate crimes. Aldrich had been accused of threatening their family with violence in 2021 but was never charged.
The Rainbow Wave
Political observers were predicting a red wave in the midterm election in November — a tsunami of Republicans winning office, as the president’s party usually does poorly in the president’s first midterm. Well, although Republicans did flip the U.S. House in their favor, Democrats retained control of the Senate, and instead of a red wave, there was a rainbow one, with major breakthroughs for LGBTQ+ candidates. More than 400 out candidates won their races at all levels, 100 more than last year, with a 60 percent win rate. Massachusetts and Oregon elected lesbian governors — Maura Healey and Tina Kotek, respectively; Colorado reelected a gay male governor, Jared Polis; and several states elected their first LGBTQ+ state legislators, statewide officials, or congressional representatives. Other good news: Many of the candidates closely associated with Donald Trump were losers.
Pictured, from left, Tina Kotek and Maura Healey; photos courtesy of the subjects
Respect for Marriage Act Passes
Spurred by Clarence Thomas’s threat to marriage equality, Democrats and even a few Republicans in Congress acted to protect the right of queer and interracial couples to marry no matter what the Supreme Court does. President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law in December after both houses of Congress OK’d it, ending the year on an up note. “Love is love. Right is right. Justice is justice,” he said. He gave the pen he used in the signing to Vice President Kamala Harris in recognition of her longtime work for marriage equality.
Photo by Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images