It has certainly been a challenging year for LGBTQ rights, but it’s important to take a moment to recognize the wins. It’s easy to get bogged down in the difficulties, but a lot of great things happened for the LGBTQ community this year, too.
Now, it’s worth taking a moment to remember a few.
Biden issued a historic executive order on anti-LGBTQ discrimination
In January, President Joe Biden signed a sweeping executive order instructing executive agencies to interpret federal civil rights legislation as already banning discrimination against LGBTQ people in many areas of the law.
“All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation,” the executive order states in the introduction.
Then-HRC President Alphonso David called it “the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president.”
The U.S. began issuing nonbinary gender markers on passports
In October, the U.S. issued its first passport with an “X” gender marker, which LGBTQ advocates hailed as a historic moment for the legal recognition of non-binary gender identities.
From 1977 to this year, the Department of State only issued passports with an “M” or “F” gender marker. Prior to 1977, U.S. passports didn’t have gender markers on them at all.
But in June, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that the Department would make it easier for transgender individuals to correct the gender marker on their passports by lifting the requirement for medical certification of one’s gender identity. He also said that people will be allowed to choose X as their gender marker to make the process more inclusive.
The X gender marker is expected to become a part of the routine passport application process in early 2022.
Gavin Grimm finally won his case
Transgender student Gavin Grimm has made national headlines for his years-long battle with the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia over his ability to use the boys bathroom. The battle finally ended this year.
Grimm started using the boys restroom in his sophomore year, which months later some parents and students complained about. The school board held a meeting where Gavin was called a “freak” and compared to a dog that urinates on fire hydrants.
At that meeting, the board passed a policy that said bathrooms “shall be limited to the corresponding biological genders, and students with gender identity issues shall be provided an alternative appropriate private facility banning him from it.” The school installed a toilet in a closet and called it a unisex restroom.
Grimm sued with help from the ACLU. The initial court that heard his case dismissed his claim, saying that Title IX doesn’t ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination. What followed were years of appeals and policy changes, as the Obama administration interpreted Title IX as banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination but the Trump administration did not.
The district court in its 2019 ruling said that the school board’s policy violated Title IX as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. The school board appealed but the appeals court sided with Grimm, citing the Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton Co. extensively, which said that Title VII’s ban on job discrimination “because of sex” also bans anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
The Supreme Court, earlier this year, refused to hear the school board’s appeal, so Grimm’s victory stands.
The State Department reinstated citizenship to the children of gay couples conceived abroad
The Biden administration ended a Trump-era policy that denied American citizenship to same-sex couple’s children born abroad via surrogacy or in vitro fertilization. The State Department announced this year that it was resuming the process of automatically granting citizenship as it did before former President Donald Trump (R) changed the policy.
The Trump administration classified the children as “born out of wedlock” to deny them citizenship.
Tons of celebrities came out
Celebrities were here and queer in 2021, coming out in droves and giving us more and more of that much-needed representation. From teen Youtube sensation JoJo Siwa coming out as gay and then pansexual; to music artist Demi Lovato coming out as nonbinary; to football player Carl Nassib coming out and making NFL history, 2021 was a popular year to ditch the closet.