The Hail Marry Play
Linebacker is not likely to be the first word one associates with marriage equality. But changing times require changing associations. Consider Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (pictured above). Before Barack Obama set foot in the White House and when Massachusetts was the only state that allowed gays to get hitched, Ayanbadejo was an early marriage equality supporter among his fellow National Football League players. Not only has Ayanbadejo been outwardly supportive, he’s campaigned for marriage equality legislation in his adopted state of Maryland. Sure, not everyone is on the same page — his teammate Matt Birk wrote an op-ed for the Minneapolis Star Tribune explaining why he opposes marriage rights for same-sex couples. However, Ayanbadejo, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe are three of the roughly three dozen professional football players who have become vocal about their support for marriage equality, LGBT rights, and out players.
The rising number of marriage equality advocates seems to be reflective of the league as a microcosm for the rest of the country.
“When I first started talking about [marriage equality], it was a completely different set of players in the league, and the league has turned over so much in the four years since I first touched the subject,” says Ayanbadejo. “Now this younger generation has come in and they’re a lot more accepting, a lot more understanding. They’re just a completely different generation of young men who see the world differently.”
The benefits of this changing tide are countless. Perhaps Ayanbadejo and his fellow supportive football players will influence the football fans who can recite every stat about the Ravens or the Rams but don’t really understand exactly why they oppose marriage equality. This kinder, more accepting NFL may even encourage a young kid grappling with being gay to try out for the team, knowing that if he were one of the lucky ones who could play in high school, play in college, and then be drafted by the NFL, he would be just as accepted in the locker room as anyone else.
LGBT Troops Trampled Over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
This was the first full year in which a person could not be discharged from the military just for being gay or bisexual. The sky didn’t fall, straight troops didn’t quit in droves, and according to official studies, units are every bit as cohesive as they were the previous year.
With all of the success, there are loose ends that must be tied up. The military still does not provide health benefits to service members’ same-sex spouses or allow gay couples to live on base together, and transgender troops still can’t be out about their gender identity. But this major policy change may force the federal government to face issues that the Defense of Marriage Act presents for married troops, while also setting a precedent for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Above: Megan Rapinoe
We Scored at the Olympics
An unprecedented 23 openly gay athletes competed in the summer Olympics this year, and 10 athletes earned a total of seven medals (the team sports yield one medal each in the official count) in basketball, equestrian, field hockey, cycling, soccer, and tennis. If those 23 athletes had been a country, they’d have finished 31st, tying Georgia, Ethiopia, and Mexico.
America’s Most Powerful Women Have Our Back
There’s been tongue-in-cheek banter about Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama being the “dream team” for the 2016 election, but one thing that’s completely serious is their support for our rights. Last December, Secretary of State Clinton told the U.N. Human Rights Council, “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” And the first lady spoke to LGBT delegates and activists at the Democratic National Convention in September, thanking them for all they’ve done to “move this country forward and ensure that all Americans are treated fairly no matter who they are or who they love.”
The Transgender Law Center celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, after having provided free legal assistance and information to more than 10,000 transgender and gender-nonconforming people and their families. Not one to rest on laurels, the center teamed with Lyon-Martin Health Services to launched TransLine, the nation’s first online medical consultation service providing health care professionals with up-to-date clinical information and case consultation on a broad range of transgender issues. TransLine is staffed by transgender health experts and is available free to care providers nationwide. This program is expected to be invaluable to physicians who haven’t treated transgender patients before.
The New “Ex-Gay”
After “ex-gay” umbrella organization Exodus International dropped its promise to “cure” gays and lesbians and its president, Alan Chambers (pictured above), told OWN’s Lisa Ling he believes gay Christians are indeed going to heaven, religious zealots left the organization and a backlash began. Chambers and his ilk still offer ways to “reconcile” internalized homophobia (like marrying an opposite-sex partner regardless of physical attraction). But that wasn’t enough for Focus on the Family ex-gay poster boy Jeff Johnston, who came out and endorsed a new, more vehement ex-gay group called Restored Hope Network, which, according to Slate.com, “intends to replace Exodus International as the preeminent group in the country and return the party line to telling gay people that they can become straight.” At its (most likely fabulous) kickoff party, Johnston reiterated that gays are “sexually broken” people who can’t have real relationships.
The Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, may have hit middle age, but they’ve continued to keep their music fresh and exciting by presenting it in new ways: in a rocking series of concerts with up-and-coming band the Shadowboxers, then in their first symphony tour, with orchestral arrangements by Sean O’Laughlin and Stephen Barber. With the backing of a full symphony, some of the Girls’ songs “sounded as if they’d never been performed another way,” observed a Dallas Morning News reviewer.
In the Life Says Goodbye to TV
After 20 years on the air, In the Life, the national LGBT news program (which airs on PBS) will broadcast its final episode this December, producers announced. The Emmy Award–nominated series pioneered LGBT visibility on television long before traditional TV shows were featuring gay characters. Still, production company In the Life Media remains in business and promises to take the show’s rich legacy and create a worthy new digital resource for LGBT folks in 2013.
Suicide Gets National Notice
After a rash of highly visible LGBT teen suicides — Brandon Elizares in Texas, Eric James Borges (pictured above) in California, Kenneth Weishuhn in Iowa, Jack Reese in Utah — the 2012 edition of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention took an in-depth look at the prevalence of suicide among LGBT people and how to reduce it. This was the first revision of a 2001 document that barely mentioned us, and it came not a moment too soon: A full 30% to 40% of LGBT youth attempt suicide.
Above: The New Normal
We’re Becoming the New Normal on TV
Prime-time broadcast TV for the 2012-2013 season offered a record high percentage of LGBT characters. GLAAD’s “Where We Are on TV” report notes that 4.4% of characters to be featured regularly on the five broadcast networks this season are LGBT, up from 2.9% last season. There’s also greater LGBT representation on scripted cable shows.
“This year’s increase of LGBT characters on television reflects a cultural change in the way gay and lesbian people are seen in our society,” said GLAAD president Herndon Graddick. “More and more Americans have come to accept their LGBT family members, friends, coworkers, and peers, and as audiences tune into their favorite programs, they expect to see the same diversity of people they encounter in their daily lives. When young LGBT people see loving couples like Callie and Arizona on Grey’s Anatomy or Degrassi’s confident transgender high school student Adam Torres, they find characters they can look up to and slowly start building the courage to live authentically.”
Boy Scout Ban Sparks Eagle Defection
After the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its policy banning “open or avowed homosexuals” from membership, leadership, or employment, more than 300 Eagle Scouts — the organization’s highest rank — returned their badges in protest. Lesbian mother of four and troop leader Jennifer Tyrrell (pictued above, center, with family) got booted by the Cub Scouts and went on a national campaign to raise awareness of the problem, receiving plenty of Scout support. And nearly 390,000 people have signed a Change.org petition started by a California mother whose son was denied his Eagle Scout badge because he came out to friends and family as gay. Karen Andresen said her son Ryan had dreamed of earning his Eagle award since he was 6 years old. But when leadership in Ryan’s San Francisco–area troop found out he was gay, “the Scoutmaster said he refused to sign the official paperwork designating Ryan as an Eagle Scout, despite the fact that Ryan completed all of the requirements,” Andresen wrote in the petition. Despite increasingly vocal protests from members around the country, the BSA’s leadership affirmed and continues to enforce the discriminatory policy.