Because hunky het guys are no longer afraid to champion our causes
Model Daniel Garofali, musician Jason Mraz, and actors Max Adler and Josh Hutcherson all came out in support of LGBT rights this year. Garafoli (pictured, below) started We're Human Too, a collective focusing on "the right thing to do as a human being," he says. "It stands for humanity in all forms; your religion, race, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and focuses on the foundations of the human condition; we are all human, we all want to love and be loved, we all want to be happy."
Mraz spoke out against bullying, pledged that he wouldn't marry until there was full marriage equality, and then performed for fund-raisers for both the True Colors Fund and the Trevor Project. He appeared in the Give a Damn marriage equality information campaign alongside Elton John and others. His newly formed Jason Mraz Foundation will also support the True Colors Fund, along with other organizations aligned with Jason's four pillars of service: human equality, environmental preservation, arts and education, and recovery and assistance.
Hutcherson, the star of The Hunger Games, has filmed public service announcements for the antibullying organization Straight But Not Narrow, spoke with the Gay-Straight Alliance Network about the importance of straight allies for LGBT youth, and this spring filmed a video along with Straight But Not Narrow leader Avan Jogia. Meanwhile, Adler, best known as Glee's closeted gay former bully Dave Karofsky, inspired his global Twitter and Glee-blog followers to donate tens of thousands to Max's ABC: Anti-Bullying Through City Hearts program (he was the spokesman for City Hearts, an arts group). To help pull it off, he gave away tees that read "Be Brave Enough to Be Kind" on the back and auctioned off a lunch with him, while fans from as far away as Norway gave repeat donations or made "matching" contributions as Valentine's Day gifts.
Because documentaries are actually good
Thanks to Netflix, cable, and crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indie-gogo, LGBT and HIV docs are finally getting major attention. Bully fought the MPAA to make it to a wider audience; Positive Youth, about young people affected by HIV, is currently airing on Logo; and TransBeats, which documents the lives of transgender musicians including StormMiguel Florez, Mina Caputo, and D'Loco Kid, may hit TV soon, now that producer Michael Simon has teamed up with brothers Harry and Joe Gantz, the creators of HBO series Taxicab Confessions, to give life to his passion project.
Because some of us are vertically challenged and still amazing
Tiphany Adams was in high school when a drunk driver hit the car she was in head-on. She and her two friends were all pronounced dead on the scene, but the EMTs heard a faint heartbeat and airlifted Adams to a hospital, where she spent months recovering. The accident put her in a wheelchair, but it certainly didn't stop her dreams of becoming a model -- or exploring her sexuality, both of which she does in the Sundance Channel's groundbreaking new docu-series Push Girls, which premieres June 5. "I am not easily defined," says Adams. "I am attracted on a soul level. Yes the physical definitely catches my attention, but I need an individual that is intellectual, humorous, and confident and who values spirituality. Regardless of defining a person disabled or not, we all have wants and needs just like anyone else."
Along with three other dynamic, outspoken, attractive women who, by accident or illness, have been paralyzed (all of whom were friends before the cameras rolled), Adams takes a matter-of-fact attitude toward her disability and her ability to inspire others. "I am mostly surprised at how many people I inspire just by simply getting out of bed and rolling around the neighborhood for cardio or rolling to the grocery store. I am grateful that I can motivate people just by living my life."
Because when Hillary Clinton wasn't busy giving historic speeches about us to the U.N., she was texting us TextsFromHillaryClinton.tumblr.com
Because in Macy Gray's case, hiding in the closet sounds sexy
Admit it--you probably have sung along to Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" when in the early stages of love, or "Creep" by Radiohead while feeling a little more damaged inside. So has Macy Gray. Her new album, Covered, is filled with, well, other people's songs, making an album that's not only eclectic and adventurous but clearly a reflection of the artist herself.
"Of course I'm a fan of all those songs," Gray says of her new album, which includes the aforementioned as well as "Love Lockdown" by Kanye West and "Here Comes the Rain Again" by the Eurythmics. They key to choosing the right songs for this album, she says, was finding tunes that she could spin in her own peculiar, dark, twisty kind of way, using her signature raspy voice.
In fact, Covered seems particularly dark. As Gray says, the tone is akin to "hiding in a dark closet."
It's been two years since Gray released The Sellout, in which the title track takes a dig at the music industry, in tumult as artists grapple with reduced album sales, a heavily reliance on revenue from touring, and piracy. But Gray can't be held down. Filmmakers are increasingly captivated by Gray's uniqueness, prompting them to cast her in movies including Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls and gay director Lee Daniels's upcoming The Paperboy. Gray has a particular affinity for Daniels, whose own success with Precious nearly won him an Academy Award in 2010. "He's really awesome," she says. "He's different. He's loud. He wants to get exactly what he wants. He's really an extraordinary guy, and a very interesting guy. He's probably one of the most open people I've met. He's not afraid to talk about anything."
The film, starring Zac Efron, John Cusack, Matthew McConaughey, and Nicole Kidman, is about a journalist who has been tasked with returning to his hometown in Florida to investigate a case involving a death row inmate. Being on set with Kidman was by far the most memorable thing about the shoot.
"I just remember I couldn't keep my eyes off Nicole Kidman," Gray says. "I was just starstruck, and I haven't been starstruck in a long time. I think I freaked her out."
Gray isn't one to conform to what everyone expects of her. With big, natural hair, outlandish outfits, and her love of Metallica, Gray happily defies her persona as simply a soul singer. Gray sees the soul in bands like Sublime and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, because in the end, good songwriting is at the core of what she does. While some of her works are particularly popular at LGBT events, Gray says her songwriting -- and in the case of Covered, song selection--knows no gender when it comes to audience. Men and women, straight, gay, and in between can all smell what Gray is cooking. Still she can't help but feel a connection to the LGBT community.
"I have a lot of gay people in my life, so it never occurred to me to not support [gay rights] or discriminate, or have any kind of separatism. And it's a very powerful community in music. And we've all been gay on occasion, you know?" she says with a laugh. "I always support any fight against separatism or discrimination." --Michelle Garcia
Because The Voice gives us a voice
Wait -- American Idol? Which one is that again? Oh, sorry, fans were too busy watching a bunch of openly gay people rock out and bare their souls on The Voice to tune in to Idol. The Voice has had more openly LGBT contestants in its two seasons than Idol has had in 11 (and that includes Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert, who weren't out on the show). Bonus points for Adam Levine, the dreamiest judge in reality television, and CeeLo's cat.
Because you shouldn't touch that dial
Each Thursday night at 11 p.m. Clay Cane Live airs on New York's WWRL 1600 AM via Equality Pride Radio. With wit and edge, the out journalist does what few others on the radio dial in the area do--he reaches an LGBT audience by interviewing newsmakers and discussing issues important to the community. "I am proud and honored to have this platform," Cane tells us. "I prove that being LGBT is no tragedy. I aspire to be a James Baldwin with a pop culture twist."
Because we're turning the tide on bullying
Organizations including the Safe Schools Coalition and events such as February's Supporting Students-Saving Lives conference in San Diego -- which brought educators, MTV executives, White House officials, and parents of bullied children together to discuss issues affecting LGBT youth--are having an effect. Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin school district, a national symbol of negligence after eight of its students committed suicide over a two-year period, is now overhauling its bullying policies after the Department of Justice found it did not do enough to protect students from harassment. In March a New Jersey jury convicted Dharun Ravi of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension, and witness tampering for secretly taping his Rutgers roommate Tyler Clementi in an intimate encounter with another man and then showing the recording to others. Soon after discovering Ravi's actions, Clementi ended his life. But young people themselves are putting a dent in bullying. High school student Katy Butler pushed the MPAA to give the documentary Bully a PG-13 rating so her peers could actually see the film. After her petition accumulated 500,000 signatures and the director removed a couple of f words from the film, the MPAA relented. Also this spring, the entire student body at Texas's Cypress Ranch High School filmed an antibullying video that went viral, with singing, dancing, and cheerleaders. Being kind is becoming cool.
Because even our clothes want equal rights
Clothing company Revenge Is... celebrated the federal appeals court ruling stating that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, by distributing T-shirts that read "All Love Is Equal" on street corners in West Hollywood. Soon the eco-tees (made partly from recycled plastic bottles) were everywhere from Occupy Portland to the backs of dozens of celebs, including Dancing With the Stars' Chelsea Hightower, Charlotte Ross, Michelle Lee, and Josie Loren. Even better: 5% of net sales of the tees (RevengeIs.com) go to Marriage Equality USA.
Because we've almost eliminated the T word
After some uncomfortable backlash, Lance Bass, Kim Kardashian, Neil Patrick Harris, and Kelly Osbourne all helped a clueless public understand why tranny is considered a slur and can go the way of the dodo.
Because our marriage proposals at hockey games make CNN
Because equality is becoming a bipartisan cause
While most of this year's Republican presidential aspirants have upped the ante on antigay rhetoric, there have been signs of support from other party members. Four GOP state senators in New York joined Democrats to pass marriage equality there. When Washington State lawmakers voted on the issue, Republican representative Maureen Walsh (pictured) won fans when she expressed a wish to throw a wedding for her gay daughter. And the ever-quotable Alan Simpson, retired U.S. senator from Wyoming, denounced Rick Santorum as a bad presidential candidate for the Republicans because of his "disgusting" homophobia.
Because we're teaching the world to cook
Lesbian chef Cat Cora's Southern charm is going global. Cora and her cohost Curtis Stone will lead a diverse group of 12 chefs in what Bravo calls its "most ambitious production to date," Around the World in 80 Plates. The culinary competitors race across 10 countries, including China, Morocco, and Uruguay, in 40 days to cook up dishes that encapsulate and reinvent the local cuisine. "I was actually rejuvenated," says Cora of the 40-day race. "It was the best production I've ever worked on and definitely one of the most exciting as well." It's a gay foodie's dream.
Because everything old (Hollywood) is new again
As Full Service, the best-selling memoir by 88-year-old Scotty Bowers proves, we're still fascinated by the secret sex lives of classic Hollywood stars. With a testimonial about his veracity from none other than Gore Vidal, Bowers details a type of prostitution ring he ran in mid-20th-century Hollywood, providing same-sex liaisons for some celebrities long rumored to be secretly gay or bisexual -- and some confirmed to be -- including actors Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Rock Hudson, and Katharine Hepburn. While some take issue with posthumous outings (all the celebrities in the book are deceased), Bowers disagrees. "What I'm saying is not bad or nasty," he tells The Advocate. "But I would not have told it when everyone was living. That wouldn't have been a nice thing to do." Bowers also has tales about noted personalities who are still with us, and let's hope he lives to tell. Fans of bygone LGBT celebrities will also rejoice at two new projects. Sal, a James Franco-directed look at the final day of murdered gay actor Sal Mineo that features a torrid performance by Val Lauren and is expected to be released in August. And on the festival circuit this summer is Joshua Tree 1951: A Portrait of James Dean (pictured), the stylish first feature from director Matthew Mishory, which looks at the pre-fame years of the iconic star, during which he benefited from the generosity of older gay men.
Because even Fox can't keep us down
She may or may not have been ousted from The X Factor because the crowd-pleasing grind she sang, "Ooh Damn," was about another woman (gasp!), but lesbian singer Reina Williams's (pictured) performance got Simon Cowell to say, "A million times yes. She made my year." But TV's queerphobia aside, the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival vet and Baltimore native has got it going on with a new straight-to-the people album, Reina Williams: The Mixtape, and a tour last spring to meet her growing fan base. "I get pride from seeing people from all walks of life who are affected in a positive way by my music," she says. "I feel humbled by everyone's acceptance of me and my music as is. I don't need to wear skinny jeans, buy a gold mouth grill, or dress, as my mother would say, like a hoochie mama to get noticed and move units."
Because our kids may soon have homes
As a high school senior, Teruko Dobashi wrote to the University of California, Berkeley, admissions panel, "My definition of hell is a place called home. School and work are shelters from storms and situations I can't face." Now she's one of three LGBT former foster care youths featured in lesbian filmmaker Shani Heckman's self-funded final piece for her MFA from San Francisco State University, the documentary America's Most Unwanted. Heckman, who was also once in foster care, takes a peek into the lives of Dobashi, Savi Roderick-Deffee, and Connor Baba during their first four years of "aging out" of the system. MostUnwantedFilm.org
Because Broadway's our stage
End of the Rainbow, about the final months of Judy Garland's life, features Michael Cumpsty as her gay pianist. Michael Esper plays an emotionally damaged son in dysfunctional family comedy The Lyons.John Larroquette is the architect of a smear campaign in a revival of Gore Vidal's The Best Man, about a presidential nominating convention where one candidate is accused of being gay. Ricky Martin (pictured) brings his wattage to the role of Che in Evita. Harvey Fierstein rewrote the Newsies movie for the stage. And the superstar musical producer duo of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are behind the current revival of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Because we have our own floating filmfest
The hets can keep their Titanic re-creations. We already have Olivia, Atlantis, RSVP, Sweet, and R Family Vacations. And now there's the Pride of the Ocean Film Festival Cruise, the first and only LGBT film festival on the high seas, which will have folks watching flicks while cruising from Cape Liberty to Bermuda in June aboard the Celebrity Summit. PrideOfTheOcean.com
Because our kids are impressive too
Pop sensation Hayla, whose dance hit "I'm Free" was written to support an ex-boyfriend she found in bed with another man, was raised by two lesbian moms and is the daughter of a gay hairstylist. Hayla had her first number 1 hit at 17, later sang at Wanda Sykes's wedding, and watched "I'm Free" dance up the charts this spring. Experiencing the wrath of prejudice during her youth, Hayla says she's all about love and compassion today. She believes that everyone should be free to express themselves honestly. "I wrote 'I'm Free' because I surprisingly found my boyfriend of seven years cheating on me with another man," explains Hayla. "But guess what? I didn't freak out at all. Everything was cool because a person needs to be true to himself first. I was just so amazed that I didn't figure it out sooner! [Laughs] We were both set free to find our true selves." Her new album, W.E.D.M. 2012, drops in June.