Every year, we nominate ten individuals who made headlines over the past twelve months to be our Person of the Year. This year’s crop of potential winners are standouts in their field and in the LGBTQ community. While two nominees are groups of people instead of individuals, we felt that collectively they deserved to be lifted up and potentially honored.
Here’s a quick roundup of our nominees and their accomplishments that put them on this year’s list. Vote for your choice in the poll at the end of the post. Voting will remain open until December 31.
They were 49 people from all walks of life who shared a love of Latin music, dancing and good times, almost all of whom identified as LGBTQ. The massacre at Pulse, which ended their lives so abruptly in the early morning hours of June 12th, sent shockwaves through the community, across Orlando, Fla. and around the world. Their stories, share by their family and friends, as well as those of the 53 people wounded in the nightclub that awful morning, inspire us and motivate us, but also remind us how far we have to go.
Mook made history by becoming the first openly gay man to head a presidential campaign as the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s bid to win the White House this year. While he might be the youngest person to take on the responsibility of running a presidential race, the longtime politico is a veteran campaigner. According to the Washington Post, Mook won praise “both inside the campaign and among Clinton’s vast circle of second-guessers, for the airtight and drama-free campaign he has built.”
While America’s favorite lesbian comedian got into a celebrity feud with Kathy Griffin this year, she’s on our list for Person of the Year for a completely different reason. DeGeneres was honored by President Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom – America’s highest civilian honor. Obama had to stop mid-speech because he choked up, saying DeGeneres had the ability to make people “laugh about something, rather than at someone.”
Gavin Grimm may just be a high school senior, but his name seems destined to join civil rights trailblazers like John Geddes Lawrence (Lawrence v. Texas) and Jim Obergefell (Obergefell v. Hodges). The transgender student’s lawsuit seeking access to the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms at his school is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court at a time when state governments are increasingly blocking transgender people’s access to public restrooms and changing facilities. If the Supreme Court rules in Gavin’s favor, it will be a watershed moment for transgender civil rights. But a decision isn’t a sure thing, since president-elect Donald Trump could bump the case from the court’s docket by reversing the Obama administration guidance that carried Grimm’s case this far.
It has been joked that Donald Trump chose Mike Pence as his running mate for insurance against an assassination attempt. The reason that joke works is because Pence is everything progressives fear. The ultra-conservative has supported religious-based discrimination against the LGBTQ community, as well as conversion therapy. He is now one heartbeat away from the presidency, which is frightening before you even consider Trump’s fast food diet.
The trans community
One year after Caitlyn Jenner became that one transgender person everyone in America knew about, for better or worse, 2016 was the year in which the trans community broke through the fabric of society, our government and our legal system. And it wasn’t just the famous who made headlines, like Jenner offering to be Ted Cruz’s trans ambassador, Laverne Cox starring in a made-for-TV musical or Kristin Beck running for Congress. North Carolina’s hateful law, HB2, inspired thousands of people to rally for its repeal, and put pressure on entertainers, sports organizations and out of state officials to combat bigotry and transphobia with economic pressure. New York City made it a crime to “discriminate on the basis of gender identity and gender expression in the workplace, in public spaces.” The Obama administration told schools nationwide to treat trans students according to their gender identity, not their sex assigned at birth, or risk federal funding.
When Fanning was confirmed as the Secretary of the Army, he became the first openly gay man to lead a branch of the armed services. While his nomination was held up by a Republican senator originally over the Obama administration’s plan for Guantanamo, Fanning was confirmed by a unanimous vote in the Senate with no real concerns raised over his sexual orientation.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory came into office under the guise of a moderate and quickly became one of the most polarizing figures in not only the state but the nation. He launched himself into public consciousness in the worst way possible, by targeting the LGBTQ community, and in particular the transgender community, with the discriminatory House Bill 2. McCrory quickly signed the bill into law and just as quickly the boycotts started coming, costing the state millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs. It also helped to cost McCrory his own job as governor, losing his reelection bid. But this disaster of a governor may soon go nationwide, as he is being considered for a cabinet position by President-elect Trump.
Milo Yiannopoulos has risen to fame by making outrageous, poorly sourced claims and by bullying anyone who gets in his way. The Breitbart tech editor was famously banned from Twitter for his role in the cyber-bullying of actress and comedian Leslie Jones. More recently he gained headlines for mocking a transgender student while visiting her college on his Dangerous Faggot Tour. A profile by Out caused an uproar, leading to a letter denouncing the piece, signed by members of the LGBTQ media.
The man who brought Hamilton to the stage and inspired millions to declare, “I’m Not Throwing Away My Shot,” is straight and a dad, but he’s also an incredible ally. Following the massacre at Pulse, Miranda created a merchandise website to fund causes to help victims and recorded a song with Jennifer Lopez, “Love Make the World Go Round.” All the proceeds from that song were dedicated to Somos Orlando. Miranda co-wrote a message from the cast of Hamilton to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, delivered from the stage at a performance he attended, asking him to represent “all of us.” The award-winning Broadway star called the LGBTQ community “the cornerstone of our industry.”