2019 has been a mixed bag for the LGBTQ+ community. On the one hand, inclusion and visibility have improved, as exemplified by better media representation. Last Nov. 7, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) released its annual “Where We Are On TV” report, where they found that more than 90 (10.2 percent) characters were LGBTQ+ out of 869 series characters—the highest percentage in the past 24 years. There are also new bills that focus on protecting the rights of LGBTQ+. For starters, there’s the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) bill, which aims to stop gender-based violence and discrimination. Cities and provinces like Angeles City, Antipolo City, Quezon City, and Cavite have also passed anti-gender discrimination ordinances.
On the other hand, there’s still the fact that only 27 countries out of 195 have legalized same-sex marriage. That’s still a really small number, considering that we’re about to enter 2020. Moreover, the LGBTQ+ community is still the subject of serious discrimination by our very own leaders, with some of them even comparing gay people to animals. And then there was the tragic incident last August, in which trans woman Gretchen Diez was barred from entering a female restroom. Clearly, we still have a really long way to go.
Nevertheless, it’s important to look at how far we’ve come and remember that it’s not only the big moments that are worth celebrating. As cliché as it may sound, little things can make a huge difference—be it the many heartwarming pride moments in local communities, or seeing people protect each other from homophobic encounters. LGBTQ+ stories don’t always need to be grand in order to be inspiring. It can be as simple as playing the saxophone. You may have to read the whole article first to get my point.
Here’s a list of this year’s big (and small) gay moments we should celebrate:
Based on the life of Elton John, this film has been considered by many people as groundbreaking in its portrayal of gay relationships, particularly in the sex scene between the two lead male characters. Some films could be credited for including such a scene, but not in the way that “Rocketman” has: Even as the characters’ pants come off, the camera doesn’t turn away. The singer wrote in The Guardian, “I just haven’t led a PG-13 rated life.”
2. The homophobic preacher interrupted by performers
A preacher in New York City was reportedly warning people that members of the LGBTQ+ will “burn in hell” and that the “homosexual community has the highest suicide rate of any group.” Fortunately, the preacher’s speech was cut short when two guys turned up and started playing saxophones loudly. One of the saxophone players, Bello, wrote on Instagram: “Today @roel.julian and I were hanging and we stumbled upon some homophobic guy with a mic so we played over him. Shoutout to @newyorknico for capturing this moment.” Thanks to these guys, people in New York were spared from BS.
3. Georgina Wilson responding to homophobic comments against her son
ICYMI: Last October, Sunnies co-founder Georgina Wilson posted a series of photos and videos of her son Archie on Instagram. One netizen replied to one of the posts: “I hope this little dude of [yours] will be normal straight in the future..cause for me [he’s] got gay [feature]/gesture..hope NOT.” Georgina’s comeback? “I will love my son no matter what he chooses to be in the future and there is NOTHING WRONG with being gay.” I mean, for Pete’s sake, leave the child alone!
4. First openly lesbian to compete in Miss Universe
Miss Myanmar 2019 Swe Zin Htet came out as a lesbian ten days before the competition. Myanmar doesn’t allow same-sex marriage and sexual activity. Although Swe Zin didn’t make it to the Miss Universe top 20, she has already made history by representing the LGBTQ+ community on stage, particularly on the biggest beauty pageant in the world. “I have that platform that, if I say I’m a lesbian, it will have a big impact on the LGBTQ community back in Burma. The difficult thing is that in Burma, LGBTQ people are not accepted. They are looked down on by other people and are discriminated against,” she told People.
#MissUniverse Myanmar 2019 Swe Zin Htet is the first openly gay Miss Universe candidate. Her advocacy includes shining a positive light to the #LGBTQ people in her country, who are looked down on and are being discriminated against. We need more people like See Zin Htet ❤️ pic.twitter.com/zX9FQyj9lm
— Remus Mark Carballo 🏳️🌈 (@javalavamanila) December 8, 2019
5. Pantene Trans commercial
Holiday commercials always make our hearts melt, and this commercial did not disappoint. Pantene, in partnership with GLAAD, told the stories of trans people going home for the holidays in a series of advertisements. It featured Trans people singing “I’ll be home for Christmas,” and other personal stories. In addition, the campaign also includes a pledge to donate $100,000 to Family Equality.
6. Two women kissing in front of a homophobic Trump supporter
A video of two students shutting down homophobia went viral on Twitter last Dec. 7. It shows a man—who was wearing a Trump shirt—protesting outside the University of California San Diego while holding a rainbow sign that defined marriage as “traditional, one man and one woman.” Two students shared a kiss in front of him, which resulted in cheers from the crowd and a disgusting response from the protester himself: “Do it again!”
this dude was homophobic and a trump supporter so u know we had to do it to em pic.twitter.com/ukraInWSc2
— 𝚌𝚛𝚢𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚕. (@crystalhthai) December 7, 2019
7. The first LGBTQ+ hero in Marvel Cinematic Universe
At the San Diego Comicon last July 20, Tessa Thompson announced that she will be the first openly bisexual actress in Marvel movies. She’ll be playing Valkyrie (who, in the comics, is also bisexual) in “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Thompson said during the panel, “First of all, as king, she needs to find her queen. That will be her first order of business. She has some ideas. Keep you posted.”
— Ryan Gajewski (@_RyanGajewski) July 21, 2019
8. Billy Porter winning an Emmy
“Pose” actor Billy Porter made history when he became the first openly gay Black man to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. “It took many years of vomiting up all the filth that I had been taught about myself, and halfway believed, before I could walk around this earth like I had the right to be here,” Porter said in his acceptance speech, quoting James Baldwin. ”I have the right, you have the right―we all have the right!”
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I had a dream, a dream about you, baby. It's gonna come true, baby…….🏆 @televisionacad #emmys2019 Style by @sammyratelle for @rrrcreative Agency Grooming by @heyannabee Custom look by @michaelkors collection Custom Hat by @stephenjonesmillinery Custom Nails by @cndworld Fine Jewelry by @oscarheyman
9. The rainbow turban
Jiwandeep Kohli, a bisexual Sikh man, went viral on Twitter after he decided to go all out during Pride Month. He wore a rainbow turban that he made using a 19-foot-long turban material, some fabric, and bobby pins. “I wouldn’t want people to have the impression that I’m just wearing it as an accessory,” Jiwandeep said. “A turban is a sign to the world that you’re a person the world can turn to for help.” It might be a small gesture of pride, but what matters is that he was able to inspire a lot of people.
I’m proud to be a bisexual bearded baking brain scientist. I feel fortunate to be able to express all these aspects of my identity, and will continue to work toward ensuring the same freedom for others. #PrideMonth #PrideTurban #LoveIsLove pic.twitter.com/SVhc0iwDF0
— Jiwandeep Kohli (@jiwandeepkohli) June 1, 2019
10. PH’s first trans woman in the airlines
This was the most unexpected, considering the fact that our country does not fully support the LGBTQ+ community. Cebgo Airlines proved to be different when they accepted Mikee Vitug and Jess Labares, both trans women, in their flight attendant program.
Cebu Pacific has now hired trans women and I applaud them for that. Everyone should recognize the fact we exist, we have always existed and we will always exist: NO MATTER WHAT.
I hope everyone starts being inclusive. We deserve the basic human rights we were deprived of. 🏳️🌈
— rainE 🏳️🌈 (@RainelleCanlas) November 19, 2019
Photo courtesy of LGBTQ’s Instagram Account
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