With Thanksgiving here, I started to reflect on the year and the positive things that have occurred. In 2016 I believe that I, and the LGBTQ community as a whole, have a lot to be thankful for. Although this year we endured things like the “bathroom bill,” the Pulse night club shooting, and the circus called the presidential election, we also made tremendous progress for LGBTQ equality.
From the beginning of the year, for example, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan became the first transgender White House LGBTQ Liaison, showing significant progress for trans-equality. As the Founder of Executive Pride, the new work-place equality organization, I am extremely thankful for advancements such as this. Although we still have a long way to go for real workplace equality, this is a huge step in the right direction. With the continued hard work and persistence of the LGBTQ community (and our allies), all of us can be credited for this progress. I am continually grateful to belong to a community with such perseverance, persistence, and determination.
A month after Raffi broke barriers, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, a transgender student who, while born a female, wished to use the boys’ restroom at his high school. Although this didn’t immediately allow him the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity, it signified improvements as to who is protected under Title IX.
In a monumental and unexpected move, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina and its discriminatory bathroom bill, giving witness as LGBT supporters came together in a truly remarkable way. Celebrities and businesses, both big and small, threatened to, and did cancel operations, shows, and other events in states that passed the bathroom bill. Businesses have a uniquely influential position to act as a catalyst for positive change, and allies like these are what make such a big difference. This clear and valiant support is something we can all be thankful for.
The strength of our community isn’t only witnessed during accomplishments and “victories,” though. In June, when 49 innocent people lost their lives and 53 others were wounded at Pulse night club, the LGBTQ community remained strong. We supported, loved, and comforted each other during that horrific time and we chose love over hate -- something for which I am infinitely thankful.
Through the ups and downs of 2016, the year draws to an end with a surprising victory for the LGBTQ community. President-elect Donald Trump announced this month that same-sex marriage is settled law and he has no plans to revisit the topic during his time in office. “You have these cases that have already gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled, and I’m fine with that,” Trump said.
We have celebrated together, mourned together, and most importantly, we have stuck together; both as a community continually fighting for our rights and as a community fighting for the rights of those that support us. This holiday season, I’m especially thankful for the community, allies, and supporters who understand that differences are what make our country a great place to live.