There’s no getting around it—2016 was a rough year. But amidst the heartbreak and tragedy, there was a lot of good news for LGBTs around the world. That’s encouraging, but it also means that we’re going to have to fight harder than ever to prevent those gains from being taken away in 2017.
Winning Visibility for Queers
The international advances of last year ranged from the small (marriage legalized in part of mostly-uninhabited Antarctica!) to the large (ex-gay camps banned throughout the entire country of Malta!) but one of the most important milestones centered around visibility. That’s because raising visibility is one of the first steps to securing more rights and overturning unjust laws. So it’s a big deal that the Navy announced they’ll name a ship after noted veteran Harvey Milk; and that an openly trans woman addressed the Democratic National Convention for the first time.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave the Small Business of the Year Award to Equator Coffees & Teas, the first time that award’s gone to an openly LGBT-owned business.
Proving that we exist everywhere is a crucial first step to improving LGBT lives.
Queers Fought Back
But the progress for queers didn’t stop there. Around the world, LGBT people and their allies stood up to unjust regimes, abuse, and discrimination—even in countries normally thought of as progressive, like Canada. There, the Conservative Party finally got around to removing opposition to same-sex marriage from their official platform.
In Alabama, a citizen uprising resulted in the removal of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore from the bench. He had previously told county clerks not to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. And Salt Lake City now has its first openly queer mayor, a remarkable achievement for the epicenter of Mormonism.
Fixing Anti-Gay Laws
Multiple countries overturned laws that criminalize homosexuality in 2016, including Belize and Seychelles. That’s a huge deal, because those countries are surrounded by others where abusive attitudes toward LGBTs are deeply entrenched, and advocates can use the momentum of decriminalization to affect positive change throughout the region—particularly with other African nations at the UN.
Estonia legalized civil unions, Northern Ireland legalized blood donation, and Portugal legalized adoption for queers in 2016. And one of the most remarkable milestones of all is that there are now one billion people living in countries where same-sex couples can get married.
Making 2017 Great for Queers
These advances didn’t just happen by themselves—they happened because queers were visible, noisy, and insisted that laws improve. We had a lot of setbacks in 2016, but we’re ending the year in a better position than ever before.
Now we have just 365 days to make sure we start 2018 in an even better position.