Person of the Year: Transgender Americans

As always, we limited ourselves to selecting the 10 people (or groups of people) who were most influential on LGBT lives during the past year, and the resulting list represents some of the most inspirational figures of 2017. This was been another difficult year, with many fighting just to keep hold of recent advances for equality and to awaken the country to systemic inequities for LGBTs, people of color, religious minorities, and women — all of whom have come under attack with the ascendancy of the Trump administration. This year's list gives us reason to rely on our strength and persistence.

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PERSON OF THE YEAR: TRANSGENDER AMERICANS
Transgender Americans have borne the brunt of the Trump administration’s hostility toward vulnerable populations. Barely a month after Donald Trump took the presidential oath of office, his Justice and Education departments rescinded guidelines issued under President Barack Obama advising school districts on how to accommodate transgender students. The action led the Supreme Court in March to cancel its plans to hear trans teen Gavin Grimm’s case, which hinged partly on the guidance. (In a bit of irony, Grimm was honored by the Justice Department during Pride Month.) Trump’s announcement of the egregious ban on military service by transgender Americans followed in July. The Justice Department also announced that it would no longer consider Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans sex discrimination in employment, to apply to gender identity (or sexual orientation). The administration banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from even using the word “transgender” in official documents for the 2018 budget. Transgender people stand to suffer along with lesbians, gays, and bisexuals due to the administration’s “religious freedom” guidance, its undermining of an antidiscrimination order for federal contractors, and its anti-LGBT appointees. At the state level, there have been more attempts to pass anti-trans “bathroom bills.” And trans Americans continue to suffer horrific rates of violence, with 26 known homicides so far this year, one short of 2017’s record of 27.

But trans Americans have shown they are nothing if not resilient. Lawsuits by transgender service members have resulted in federal judges blocking the military ban at least temporarily, so trans troops can serve openly for now, and the armed forces will take new trans enlistees beginning January 1. Activists have pointed out that even with the withdrawal of the education guidance, schools can and should establish trans-inclusive policies, and should be pressed to do so, in court if necessary. “It does not change the legal and moral duty of schools to support all students,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said when the guidance was rescinded in February. A “bathroom bill” went down the drain in Texas. Many major corporations have announced support for trans rights. Transgender visibility continues to rise, on television, in movies, and in politics, with November bringing groundbreaking trans victories from coast to coast. (Read more about these political wins in the following pages.)

01 Poty Danica Roem

FINALIST: DANICA ROEM
Danica Roem won a historic victory November 7 in the Virginia House of Delegates District 13 race. An out transgender woman, she decisively defeated the most anti-LGBT member of the legislature, 17-year veteran Bob Marshall. A Democrat and former journalist, Roem won by knocking on doors throughout the northern Virginia district and emphasizing the economy, jobs, and transportation, issues Marshall had neglected in favor of pushing bathroom restrictions and fighting marriage equality, and during the campaign he even refused to recognize Roem as a woman. By contrast, “I campaigned on a platform of building up our infrastructure and not tearing down each other. … A message of inclusion and equality resonated here,” she told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on Election Night. She will become the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the U.S. (a trans woman elected in New Hampshire in 2012 was never sworn in, and at least one other was elected while not acknowledging her transgender status).

There were other victories for trans candidates in November. Not one but two trans people were elected to the City Council in progressive Minneapolis — Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham. Jenkins replaced the departing council member she had worked for, and Cunningham beat a 20-year incumbent. Tyler Titus became the first openly transgender elected official in Pennsylvania with his election to the Erie School Board. Lisa Middleton was elected to the Palm Springs City Council, making her the first out trans person to win a nonjudicial office in California — and her win, along with that of bisexual woman Christy Holstege, made the desert oasis’s council entirely LGBT. 

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