14 Of Our Favorite Queer Heroes Of 2016

To everyone on this list we'd just like to say: THANK YOU!

2016 was a rough year for queer people.

From the Pulse nightclub massacre to the election of anti-LGBTQ extremist Mike Pence and a complete lack of LGBTQ support in President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet, it’s certainly an anxiety-inducing time to be queer.

Yet certain people have shown heroism this year in spite of the mounting challenges facing LGBTQ people. While this is by no means an all-encompassing list, we wanted to reflect on the actions of these people over the past 12 months and pay tribute to the notable work that they ― and others ― have done in the fight for achieving queer liberation.

To everyone listed here: our community owes you a great deal of gratitude.

Think someone is missing from this list? Let us know who your Queer Heroes of 2016 are in the comments below.

Glen Pannell, Gay Mike Pence Doppelgänger
Some of the most inspiring moments of queer activism came in the days after the 2016 presidential election. One such hero: Glen Pannell, a gay man living in NYC who bears a striking resemblance to Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Pannell donned a suit jacket and short shorts, navigating the streets of NYC gathering donations for organizations the will prove crucial to protecting minorities under Trump... all while calling himself Mike "Hot-Pence."

“I want to raise dollars and I want to raise awareness,” he told The Huffington Post.
Owen Jones, Guardian Columnist
The Pulse nightclub massacre on June 12 left LGBTQ people all around the world stunned and in a state of mourning.

The attack was an act of homophobia, though some mainstream media outlets tried to question it. In one such instance, Owen Jones, an openly gay columnist for The Guardian and author of The Establishment, literally walked off a live television program after the host and another guest refused to acknowledge the homophobic roots of the massacre.
Pulse Nightclub Survivors
All praise to those who survived the Pulse nightclub massacre -- the ones who not only pushed on after losing countless friends and loved ones, but who were forced to relive the experiences of that night repeatedly in the media spotlight.

The survivors not only shouldered the communities' pain, but they worked to help the public understand that this was an attack on the LGBTQ community and that homophobia is still alive and well in America.

You are all our heroes.
Caroline Cossey, Transgender Supermodel
Caroline Cossey was a trailblazer for transgender individuals long before mainstream trans visibility or what Time magazine dubbed "The Transgender Tipping Point."

Born in the 1950s, Cossey came to live as her authentic self as a trans woman in the fashion and entertainment worlds, eventually appearing in the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only” and modeling for Playboy.

She was later outed by a tabloid and lost everything — in both her career and personal life. The years that followed the outing, in the words of Cossey, "propelled me into the realm of activism... I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life feeling ashamed or apologizing for it and I didn’t think anyone else should either," she told The Huffington Post.

Today she is a voice for the transgender community, having most recently appeared in "The Trans List" on HBO.
Jordan Eagles, Blood Mirror
Jordan Eagles is New York-based artist whose work radically challenges discriminatory laws, like the FDA's Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM) blood donation policy.

Currently, MSM must be celibate for a full year before donating blood, which feels highly discriminatory, especially after events like the Pulse nightclub massacre when many LGBTQ people want to take action.

In 2015, Eagles first constructed his Blood Mirror sculpture, raising awareness about the blood ban by using the blood of nine different queer men from diverse walks of life in the project itself.

This year, Eagles expanded on Blood Mirror to include the blood of 50 men on the HIV-preventative drug PrEP in an additional layer of the sculpture.

“It doesn’t matter if you are gay, straight, male, female, young, old, or where in the world you were born,” Eagles told The Huffington Post. “This is both an equality and science issue, that affects us all on so many levels. We have the ability to save lives and do what’s right.”
Lindsay Amer, "Queer Kid Stuff"
One of the best things to come out of 2016 was our favorite new web series for children, "Queer Kid Stuff," created by and starring Lindsay Amer and her best friend Teddy.

The incredible project breaks down queer experiences and themes for children to be educational, accessible and -- most importantly -- fun!

Each episode focuses on a different idea, like gender, feminism or even the fundamental idea of queerness itself.

Helping kids understand and appreciate diversity among human experience is crucial to building a more tolerant society, and resources like "Queer Kid Stuff" are amazing tools for achieving this.

Lindsay, you are a hero to us and queer kids all over the world!
Aaron Jackson, The Equality House
Planting Peace
Aaron Jackson is the president of Planting Peace, the nonprofit that owns the rainbow-colored Equality House which sits across from the Westboro Baptist Church compound in Topeka, Kansas.

In the days leading up to the election, the Equality House was hit by seven bullets and defaced with graffiti in an anti-LGBTQ attack.

“The blatant acts of hate we experience at the Equality House mirror the acts of hate and discrimination our LGBT family experiences every day,” Jackson told The Huffington Post.

The attack served as a reminder of how powerful and far-reaching Jackson's efforts are as an activist.
Julie Tarney, My Son Wears Heels
One of our favorite books from 2016 is a memoir from popular HuffPost blogger Julie Tarney.

The book My Son Wears Heels details Tarney's life raising a gender non-conforming child named Harry in the midwest -- a journey that ultimately strengthens the pair's relationship and challenges Tarney to examine her relationship with her own mother.

Not only does Tarney deserve the "mother of the year" award for the way she raised Harry as a GNC kid, her story will now help countless other mothers searching raising children who don't subscribe to traditional notions of the gender binary.

Julie you will always be ours -- and Harry's -- hero!
Chris Mosier, Trans Athlete
Chris Mosier made history this year by becoming the first transgender athlete to be featured in ESPN's body issue.

The issue, released this past summer, was billed as a "celebration" of "amazing bodies," and featured a slew of diverse individuals who shot tastefully nude photographs for the issue.

The inclusion of Moiser was a big step for the inclusion of trans people in the traditionally heteronormative sporting world.

“Even two years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined I would have the courage or desire to do the Body Issue. But I’m more and more comfortable and confident every day, and I finally feel at home in my body,” he told The Huffington Post. “I love my body. It took a long time for me to get to a point where I could say that, so I’m happy to be in a place where I can share that with the world.”

We're excited for more people like Moiser to break barriers such as this one in the sports world as we continue the fight for queer liberation.
One of the most unlikely heroes of 2016 came in the form of the Merriam-Webster dictionary -- specifically, the publishing company's Twitter account.

Over the course of the past year, the company's Twitter account has not only been committed to the evolution of language in regards to the LGBTQ experience, but they've also been hilariously shady about it in the process.

“The set of terms relating to gender and sexuality that we’ve added in recent years is like any other; as established members of the language ― we have evidence of these terms in published, edited text from a variety of sources and over an extended period of time ― they meet our criteria for entry,” Emily Brewster, Merriam-Webster Associate Editor, told The Huffington Post. “We would be remiss not to define them."
TC, Conversion Therapy Survivor
Syldavia via Getty Images
TC is a conversion therapy survivor who took part in an anonymous interview with HuffPost Queer Voices earlier this year in order to help the public understand what actually happens during this barbaric practice.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence is an anti-LGBTQ extremist who supports conversion therapy. The 2016 Republican party platform also promotes the practice.

TC's accounts of what happened to him in conversion therapy and how it has affected him long-term are emotional, evocative and crucially important as we head into the Trump presidency.
Ellen Page, "GAYCATION"
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images
Openly lesbian actress Ellen Page teamed up with VICE this year to produce a groundbreaking web series highlighting the many different shades, experiences and cultures of LGBTQ identity around the world.

Along with her best friend Ian Daniel, Page took viewers to a number of different countries in "GAYCATION" -- including several where same-sex marriage is illegal or it's extremely dangerous to be queer.

As specific experiences in the LGBTQ community become normalized in the West, "GAYCATION" played an important role in helping viewers both understand the myriad of queer experiences on a global level and expand perspective about LGBTQ identity.

For helping the public broaden their perspectives about LGBTQ identity globally, we're naming Page one of our Queer Heroes of 2016.
Bisexual Celebrities
Emma McIntyre via Getty Images
2016 was a HUGE year for bisexual visibility, as a number of people of influence across a variety of industries got candid about their sexuality.

In early 2016, actress and activist Amandla Stenberg shared the revelation that she identifies as bisexual in an empowering moment while using the Teen Vogue Snapchat.

Another actress, Mara Wilson of "Matilda" fame, also opened up about her bisexuality after being moved by the Pulse nightclub massacre.

"Grey's Anatomy" star Sarah Ramirez also came out as bisexual in October, while Fifth Harmony's Lauren Jauregui shared the same news last month in a letter to Trump supporters.

Finally, in a massively inspirational moment, North Carolina's battle over House Bill 2 inspired State Rep. Cecil Brockman to come out as bisexual in early November.

You're all our heroes for living authentically!
Frances Goldin
For over 30 years, Frances Goldin has held the same beautiful sign at the NYC Pride march: “I Adore My Lesbian Daughters / Keep Them Safe.”

Now well into her 90s, Goldin attends the festivities in a wheelchair while still holding that same sign. She is a powerhouse of a woman who has served as an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community since both of her daughters came out in the 1970s.

Now her sign is a fixture in the annual NYC Pride march that people look for each June.

“I keep going back because of the reaction to from the marchers,” Frances told The Huffington Post. “It’s so gratifying – people rushing and kissing me. Some of them say to me, ‘Will you call my mother,?’ I say, ‘Give me her number!’ And I do call their parents because theres an organization called PFLAG for parents of gays and lesbians. And I tell them about that organization and urge them to join it because it helps them get over their reluctance.”

Frances has been an advocate, ally and mother to countless LGBTQ people over the past three decades. For that reason, and many others, she is one of our biggest heroes of 2016.