15 Steps We’ve Made For LGBTQ+ Rights In 2017

Photographed by Stephanie Gonot.
When Donald Trump was elected President last year, a chief concern on many people's minds was how his presidency might affect LGBTQ+ rights.
As it turns out, we were right to be worried. Over a year on, his administration has revoked protections for transgender students in school bathrooms, tried to ban transgender people from the military, and failed to even acknowledge Pride Month.
As dismaying as all of that is, we've still made several steps towards more LGBTQ+ equality in 2017, in the U.S. and across the world. Don't get us wrong, we still have a long way to go until LGBTQ+ people really have all the rights they deserve — but, in ways both big and small, we're working to make more of those rights a reality.
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Read on for just a few of the things that happened in 2017 that were a step in the right direction for LGBTQ+ rights.
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In June, Germany legalized same-sex marriage, a decision that was made possible after German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has long been opposed to same-sex marriage, appeared to ease her stance. Despite doing so, Merkel herself voted against the move, but her urging for MPs to vote according to their own consciences is credited as a large part of why the law passed.
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In November, Australia followed suit, legalizing same-sex marriage in a 43-12 vote in the Australian Senate. Given that there have been over 20 failed attempts to pass this legislation in either house of parliament, the decision was a huge deal.
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The New York City subway system is not without its problems, but we were pretty pleased when the underground network pledged that it would change its announcements to be more gender-inclusive, opting to address commuters as "passengers," "riders," and "everyone," as opposed to "ladies and gentlemen."
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Joe Biden may no longer be Vice President, but he's still keeping up the good fight for our rights. In May, Biden made a statement to urge Americans to stand against homophobia. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, the former VP addressed the atrocities happening to LGBTQ+ people all around the world, including the crisis in Chechnya, where gay and bisexual men were reportedly being detained and tortured.

"Governments, including ours, can wield the levers of diplomacy, defense, and foreign aid to promote and protect the human rights of all people," he wrote. "The foreign-policy community can further incorporate and highlight LGBT equality in broader conversations about global health, gender-based violence, and human rights."
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In October, California moved to officially recognize non-binary identities, becoming the first state to legally allow people to identify as non-binary on state-issued identity documents, such as driver's licenses and birth certificates.

The Gender Recognition Act was signed to "ensure that intersex, transgender, and non-binary people have state-issued identification documents that provide full legal recognition of their accurate gender identity."
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In July, LGBTQ+ groups banded together to protest Trump administration appointees they felt would be detrimental to the community. The 27 advocacy groups were protesting Trump's Senate nominees, John K. Bush and Damien Schiff.

Bush, who was being considered for a seat at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, had opposed the Kentucky Supreme Court's decision to remove consensual sodomy from its list of prosecutable offenses.

Schiff had previously spoken out against a Texas ruling to strike down sodomy laws, and criticized Title IX, the law that ensures LGBTQ+ students have the same rights as their peers.
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When news broke of the violence against gay and bisexual men in Chechnya, celebrities like RuPaul and Titus Burgess urged the White House to speak out and condemn anti-LGBTQ+ violence. The celebs joined in with MTV on a campaign called #EyesOnChechnya to demand justice for those who were being targeted.
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It wasn't only celebrities rallying for justice for Chechnya — in July, 53 politicians rallied together to write a letter to urge the White House to take action for those persecuted in the region.

"When the President speaks out against human rights atrocities, or chooses to stay silent, the world pays attention," the letter read. "The lives of hundreds of Chechens are at stake, and it is vital that the U.S. uses its full leverage to pressure Russian authorities to end these atrocities, conduct a fair and open investigation and prosecution of these crimes, and swiftly work to provide a safe haven for the marginalized."
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In 2017, the Church of England began taking steps to be more welcoming towards LGBTQ+ people, first voting to welcome and affirm transgender members in July, and then in November, issuing a guidance encouraging children to explore their gender identities.

"I know we will not all agree on issues to do with human sexuality, marriage, or gender identity," Nigel Genders, the chief education officer, said at the time. "However, there needs to be a faithful and loving commitment to remain in relationship with the other and honor the dignity of their humanity without 'back-turning,' dismissing the other person, or claiming superiority."
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While GLAAD's annual report on LGBTQ+ representation in media found that TV and film this year had the highest percentage of characters who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer since the organization began tracking the numbers, it also found a lack of intersectionality — the majority of characters represented were white and male.

But TV showrunner Shonda Rhimes isn't content to do nothing about it. In September, she called out Hollywood for the lack of diversity in representation while speaking at the Los Angeles LGBT Center's 48th Gala Vanguard Awards.

"We all exist in the world," Rhimes said. "Everyone has the right to see themselves on the screen, and I think it's really dangerous when that doesn't happen. There is a tendency to marginalize or stereotype when these types of characters aren't seen. People deserve realistic portrayals."
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Barbie dolls have become more progressive in recent issues, coming to represent more diverse identities, and in 2017, Barbie showed some love to the LGBTQ+ community with a rainbow-colored "Love Wins" written on her T-shirt. It's a small step, but a step nonetheless.
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In an interview with The Sunday Times earlier this year, Sam Smith got candid about his gender fluidity saying that he feels "just as much woman as I am man"— though, as we noted, it doesn't mean he necessarily identifies as non-binary. Still, it's refreshing that he feels comfortable being open about his gender identity, and his visibility may even inspire others to do so.
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Though homosexuality is still illegal in India (under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code), in August, the country's supreme court ruled that freedom of sexual orientation is a fundamental right for every citizen, which many people think could pave the way for more LGBTQ+ equality.
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As the #MeToo movement picked up speed and we were all faced with a sexual assault reckoning post-Weinstein, queer actors also spoke out against sexual harassment in the LGBTQ+ community.

During the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network)'s Respect Awards actors such as My So-Called Life's Wilson Cruz and Teen Wolf and The Leftovers' Charlie Carver opened up about their own experiences and reiterated just how widespread sexual abuse is.

"Early on, when I was a little twink, there were people who made suggestions about how they could help me," Cruz said. "I did not take them up on it, but it was uncomfortable. I was in my 20s, and I thought: 'Is this what one does?' And also: 'Am I going to ruin my career by not doing it?' In the end, I politely said no and kept on my way."
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LGBTQ+ people haven't always been accepted in certain religions and sects of religions — and that's why a Christian group offered to make up for the church's discrimination by helping to pay for transgender people's surgery costs.

"Christians have disparaged the bodies of trans people, which has contributed to a culture of violence against them," the Faithfully LGBT group's campaign's fundraising website reads. "From promoting anti-trans bathroom legislation to theology that has lead to suicides and homelessness. For those Christians who have seen this violence and have been horrified by it, it’s time to put your tithe money where your beliefs are."
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