December 31, 2018

2018 was a year with some high highs and, as always, some very low lows. Here’s PFLAG National’s top 10-–did your bests and worsts make the list?

Bests

There was solid LGBTQ+ visibility in television this year. We can thank Ryan Murphy for no small amount of that exposure, thanks to his show POSE and its trans cast members. Lena Waithe became the first black, openly queer woman to grace the cover of Vanity Fair, while PFLAG mom Betty DeGeneres’s daughter continued her reign as the queen of daytime. Even cartoons made the LGBTQ+ community’s presence a major part of the story, with the first animated same-sex wedding proposal (and so, so much more) in STEVEN UNIVERSE (from the incredibly creative mind of its non-binary female, bisexual creator, Rebecca Sugar, the first female to independently create a show for Cartoon Network). Plus, there was the long-anticipated kiss between fan favorites Princess Bubblegum and Marceline in the ADVENTURE TIME finale (a show that Sugar worked on prior to creating STEVEN UNIVERSE). Overall, the LGBTQ+ community saw record gains in visibility, with more LGBTQ+ people of color than white LGBTQ+ people; read a comprehensive report from our friends at GLAAD.

LGBTQ participation in politics was at an all-time high in the 2018 midterms. There was a “Rainbow Wave” of LGBTQ+-identified people who ran for office--and were subsequently elected--across America. According to the Victory Fund, an unprecedented 432 openly LGBTQ+ candidates ran for elected office this election cycle, and 244 of them won their races.

There were a number of great “cultural” and business firsts for LGBTQ+ people in 2018. Angela Ponce became the first transgender woman to be crowned Miss Spain and the first openly trans Miss Universe contestant, and Patricio Manuel was the first transgender boxer to compete and win a professional fight. The Pentagon signed in its first transgender recruit (see more on trans military service, sadly in the Worsts below), and Beth Ford, a lesbian and mother of three, was named CEO of Land O'Lakes--the first openly gay woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. Nickelodeon recently featured its first-ever same-sex couple on its family game show Double Dare. And coming up? The Rose Parade will make history with its first lesbian Rose Queen!

Although there are still many challenges ahead (see the Worsts below), there was a major stride forward for LGBTQ+ parenting: Five states--California, Massachusetts, Nevada, Vermont and Washington--now allow a birth parent and another parent of any gender to complete a simple form at the hospital, making them both legal parents with the full force of a court order (unlike a birth certificate). GLAD Senior Staff Attorney Patience Crozier told Mombian’s Dana Rudolph that VAPs are “a real game changer.” There’s more coverage on VAPs, and a fantastic full “Parenting Year in Review” at Mombian; check it out!

Conversion therapy bans continue to roll across the country. Delaware approved legislation in 2018, becoming the fifth state this year, along with Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Washington. They join California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont--as well as Washington, D.C.--which already have bans in place. Florida has introduced legislation to ban this dangerous practice, which they will consider beginning in the 2019 legislative session, and Texas State Rep. Celia filed her bill on a ban, which will be considered when the Texas Legislature begins its session in January. At a local level, advocates in Birmingham, Alabama are also working toward an ordinance banning the practice, Harrisburg, Virginia is considering a local ban, and Denver might become the first city in Colorado with a ban. All in all, this is excellent, and much-needed, progress, and PFLAG has been proud not only to support this legislation across the country, but also to partner on the excellent film Boy Erased--including a PFLAG-featured poster for the film--which is a true story about one family’s experience with this harmful practice. 

**Bonus Best** PFLAG's 45th anniversary! PFLAG celebrated 45 years of saving LGBTQ+ lives, one family at a time. It began simply in 1972, when Jeanne Manford marched by her son, Morty's side, and a first meeting in March 1973. And now there are 400+ chapters across the country, with PFLAGers everywhere providing support, education, advocacy--and much-needed hugs at every Pride parade since 1973. We were moved by the notables who shared words of love and what PFLAG means to them; we were honored to celebrate Champions of Justice Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Jared Polis, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and Rep. Barny Frank (ret) at our 45th Anniversary Celebration, and most of all - we are now further strengthened by the data, which proves what we have known for over four decades: Family acceptance saves lives. Here's to the next 45 years--PFLAG's legacy of love continues.

Worsts

As of this writing, 26 transgender people--that we know of--were murdered this year. The most recent, Kelly Stough of Detroit, was killed by a pastor in her community. Stough’s mother Jessica Chantae Stough told NBC News, “I want people to know that because she was transgender doesn’t mean that she was not loved, that she was not cared for. She has a family who cared about her, who loved her and I want them to know that transgender ladies--expressly those of color--they’re just not throwaways; people care about them.” According to a 2016 report from The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), trans women of color are at greater risk of being killed in hate crimes than any other group, and the rates of these murders have been steadily rising for the last several years. Read more on other members of the trans community, whose lives were taken this year...far too soon.

The attempt to ban transgender servicemembers from the military continues, now making its way through the courts. The Trump Administration, however, attempted to play “legal leapfrog,” bypassing lower courts and asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case instead.Transgender servicemembers and legal advocates (including our friends at GLAD and NCLR) filed briefs asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block the Trump Administration’s request, stating, among other things, that lower courts have not yet been given an opportunity for review and decision. Stay tuned to--or sign up for--Policy Matters, our bi-weekly policy and advocacy newsletter, for updates.

Yet another threat to the lives of our transgender loved ones came in the form of a memo, reported on by The New York Times, which stated that the current administration plans to define gender based on people’s external genitalia, as part of their larger efforts to roll back protections for transgender Americans. Over 1,600 scientists weighed in, stating that the redefinition isn’t grounded in science, while dozens of companies across the country spoke out against this potentially harmful action. Dozens of advocacy organizations spoke out, including PFLAG National in a statement from board member Stephanie Battaglino.

Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation overall was on the rise again in 2018, and not just the many active bills targeting trans persons. There was legislation introduced infringing on LGBTQ+ rights in the areas of adoption, schools, and healthcare access in states across the country. There was also a continued rise of so-called First Amendment Defense Acts (FADAs), and the spread of religious exemption laws. Kansas, Oklahoma and South Carolina this year joined Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia in allowing adoption and foster-care agencies to cite religious beliefs or moral convictions as reasons to reject otherwise qualified parents, including those who are LGBTQ+. PFLAG National co-leads the coalition to pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, a federal law to end such discrimination; the work is clearly not over. For a comprehensive review of this legislation--which is updated every Monday--visit our friends at the ACLU and be sure to stay current with our Policy Matters newsletter.

The continued marginalization of, and violence towards, a variety of communities made 2018 a particularly harmful and devastating year for many. Despite wins on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the travel ban (at least for now), and election gains in the midterms, immigrants continued to take legislative and administrative hits--with sometimes fatal consequences--throughout 2018. Police violence against people of color was on the rise, and the hashtag #LivingWhileBlack tracked incidents of people being reported for such non-crimes as “swimming while black,” “golfing while black,” and “using the restroom at Starbucks while black.” Despite continued issues of sexual harassment in the boardroom, sexual assault in the bedroom and elsewhere, a lack of access to healthcare for many, and the expiration of the Violence Against Women Act thanks to a partial government shutdown, women continued to push back in 2018.

We’ll end with our most important best: YOU!

From the addition of 23 new chapters providing peer-to-peer support, to the much-needed PFLAG-provided education which continues to move people forward on the ally spectrum, to the incredible advocacy both with legislators and one-on-one with neighbors, friends, colleagues and co-workers, there is no question that you top our list of bests. We thank you for all you’ve done in 2018--and will continue to do in the year ahead--to make this a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued, and affirmed.

We wish you and yours a happy and healthy New Year!

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