As the holiday season kicks into full gear and another wild year comes to a close, the events of the last 12 months are cause for reflection, especially in terms of social strides forward.
While there was no shortage of political unrest in our country, it was queer, Asian-American pop star Hayley Kiyoko's divine foreshadowing in the hashtag #20GAYTEEN that turned lemons into LGBTQ resistance-flavored lemonade, one radio-friendly bop at a time. It earned the breakout star, who is truly the first of her kind, her Internet nickname, Lesbian Jesus.
This is just one example of the power of the (unapologetically) gay agenda: in a year where politicians really tried to keep us down — from the current administration's infuriating trans memo to the constant attempt to strip back hard-won civil rights, what better way to resist than through mass infiltration? See also: sartorially fabulous moments of resistance a la Lena Waithe's rainbow cape at this year's Catholic-themed Met Gala.
Related | Hayley Kiyoko Knows What She Needs
We also placed 100 LGBTQ candidates in office through the power of our vote, proving how important fucking the system up from the inside is, sure, but also proving that representation matters. There were big firsts in sports, with gay and trans athletes' triumphs — Adam Rippon, Jessica Platt, Patricio Manuel — changing the face of high-stakes athletic competition, and paving the way for those to follow.
And in media and entertainment, there's still more to celebrate: mega-successful shows like Pose and the Queer Eye reboot and films like Love, Simon showed larger audiences than ever who might have limited exposure to trans and queer people that we are more than the characters we play. Our stories have nuance, integrity, and meaning. Drag became more mainstream, trans icons emerged to reign supreme, and with all that major leadership in office, including the first openly gay and trans governors in Jared Polis of Colorado and Christine Hallquist of Vermont, respectively. Riding "The Rainbow Wave" has never been more the move, and it is so damn becoming for the country, and the world.
We've assembled a list of 20 major moments of LGBTQ resistance this year, arranged in no particular order of importance, because they all are. Because the truth is, as the empowering community-wide mantra goes: we're still here; we're still queer, and at this point, if anyone takes issue, it's best they find a way to get over it. And as for 2019, consider the jury still out on widespread hashtags, though, trust that if there's a trending topic (there will be), we're most likely the ones responsible.
Patricio Manuel becomes the first trans boxer to go pro
Patricio Manuel first came to public prominence as one of the first transgender athletes to vie for a competition slot in the 2012 Olympics, but the road to victory was derailed by a shoulder industry. In the years since, Manuel buckled down and focused on recovery, training, mentoring other young boxers, and, after getting his amateur boxing license approved by USA Boxing in 2016, going pro. He made history this year as the first-ever transgender male boxer to fight a professional match and win against Mexican super-featherweight Hugo Aguila. PAPER caught up with Manuel to gauge his feelings about the victory, a big step forward for all aspiring professional trans athletes: "I hope my win can show everyone, whether they are trans or cis, we are not limited by the labels society assigns us," Manuel said. "Doing is not only possible but thriving is as well." — Michael Love Michael
Photography: Clay Stephen Gardner for PAPER
Christine Hallquist of Vermont becomes the first trans governor
This August, during the primary elections, Vermont Democrat Christine Hallquist beat out three other candidates to secure the governor's race, becoming the first openly transgender gubernatorial candidate and governor for a major party. This win also follows a historic year that saw Danica Roem, who was elected last year in the Virginia primary vote to the Virginia House of Delegates, becoming the first in American history to both be elected and serve while openly transgender in any U.S. state legislature. — Michael Love Michael
Adam Rippon becomes the first openly gay athlete to win big in Winter Olympics
Adam Rippon wowed the world this year with his outspokenness, activism efforts, and instant relatability as a figure skating queer icon. Rippon competed for and won the bronze medal as part of a figure skating team for the Winter Olympics back in February, and made history as the America's first openly gay athlete ever to qualify for any Winter Olympics — and yes, to take home a major metallic prize. — Michael Love Michael
Photography: Ryan Duffin for PAPER
Jessica Platt becomes first trans woman in professional hockey
This year was also a landmark year for other sporting categories, among them, hockey. At the top of 2018, Canadian Women's Hockey League player Jessica Platt came out as a trans woman, thus making her the first transgender woman to come out in North American professional hockey. Months later, Harrison Browne retired from the sport; he was the first openly trans male professional hockey player. — Michael Love Michael
More than 100 LGBTQ candidates become elected officials
During the 2018 midterms, though the Blue Wave didn't crash down as hard as many would have hoped, at least 100 LGBTQ candidates won races on the federal, state, and local levels, including Jared Polis, who became the first openly gay governor of Colorado in the history of the United States. While running his campaign, Polis often spoke about how proud he was to be a member of the LGBTQ community. Precedent-setting for all queer people who aspire to run for office: there is nothing to hide, and you can, against many odds, emerge the victor. — Michael Love Michael
Peppermint becomes the first trans woman in a lead role on Broadway
Trans drag superstar Peppermint made her historic Broadway debut this year in The Go-Go's-inspired musical Head Over Heels. She played the role of Pythio the oracle, who, in the show, is introduced by Peppermint's characterization as a "non-binary plural" using they/them pronouns. The musical, reworked from Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia by director Michael Mayer and incorporating The Go-Go's music, was a smart vehicle for mass audiences to come to understand the possibilities of what it means to be non-binary, gender nonconforming, or trans. Tha alone is iconic and important work, but to really sweeten the deal is the fact that by starring in Head Over Heels, Peppermint became the first trans woman to originate a principal role on Broadway, paving the way for trans actors with Broadway dreams to follow. — Michael Love Michael
Photography: Andrew Boyle for PAPER
Holland becomes the first openly gay K-pop star
Holland, the first openly gay K-pop singer, debuted his first single "Neverland" this year and quickly garnered a following over 600k. But stadium-smashing EDM track, "I'm Not Afraid," released this summer, was an appropriate coming-out party that celebrated his fearlessness as music's newest queer icon. He continues to explore autobiographical themes in his new music: "I'm So Afraid," Holland's third single explores fear of being othered, and fear of new romance, something every queer person can acutely relate to, telling the thoughtful stories only he can tell, in a perspective we hadn't heard before, until now. — Michael Love Michael
Laverne Cox become the first trans woman to cover 'Cosmo'
For Cosmopolitan South Africa's February 2018 issue, trailblazer Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to appear on the cover of any Cosmopolitan magazine, ever. The love-themed issue also featured accounts of LGBTQI+ activists and allies on, well, the subject of love. When Cox posted the cover shot to Instagram, which now has well over 150k likes, she wrote: "Ain't I a woman? Yes you are and we love you." Love you, too, Laverne. — Michael Love Michael
Ryan Murphy's 'Pose' becomes first show starring multiple trans women
It goes without saying that Ryan Murphy has been championing the marginalized in his shows as long as he's been making them. In 2018, however, the fairy godfather of queer media truly outdid himself with FX's Pose. Casting five transgender women of color actors as series regulars — MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Hailie Sahar, and Angelica Ross — recreating 1980's New York City, this one gets tens across the board. The smash hit affirms trans lives, offers Gen Z a crash course in LGBTQ history through ballroom and is one of the biggest acts of resistance this year. The next category? Red carpet eleganza, as the show is nominated in the Best Drama category at the Golden Globes. — Roytel Montero
Photography: Jasper Soloff for PAPER
Daniela Vega becomes first trans woman presenter at the Academy Awards
Daniela Vega, the radiant star of Oscar-winning foreign film A Fantastic Woman, became the first trans woman in history to be a presenter at the Academy Awards, when introducing a performance by queer musician Sufjan Stevens, who performed his Oscar-nominated song from the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack, which was based on the coming-of-age novel by André Aciman detailing the formative romance between teenage Elio and his 24-year-old first love, Oliver. It was all a lot of (long-overdue) cinematic history-making for the LGBTQI+ community in terms of visibility, all on one stage. — Michael Love Michael
'Love, Simon' becomes first film by a major studio to center gay romance
Like Call Me By Your Name, romantic coming-out dramedy Love, Simon found its fair share of critics not because of actor Nick Robinson's standout performance as the title character, but because it marked yet another movie in the filmmaking canon where straight actors played gay or queer characters. That might be worth its own debate, to be sure, but don't sleep on the fact that Love, Simon, in the fight for greater inclusion and visibility still made its mark: when it premiered this spring, it was the first film ever released by a major studio (Fox) to focus on an explicitly gay teenage romance, gaining fans in people who love John Hughes films and millions of Americans who still need to see honest, nuanced portrayals of gay people on screens big and small. For a movie that was the first of its kind, all things considered, Love, Simon was a success, netting over $66 million at the box office. — Michael Love Michael
'Drag Race' becomes first series to win Emmys for its realness.
When it comes to RuPaul's Drag Race, there are few things that have had as widespread an impact on the LGBTQ community in the last decade. For one, it's created an entire industry out of drag, launched the careers of over 140 drag queens from the franchise and inspired a boom of enthusiasm surrounding the art form worldwide. In a year that's pushed the series and its many stars — including Miss Fame, Aja, Peppermint, Shangela, Sasha Velour, and of course, the now-ubiquitous season 10 winner, Aquaria — into the mainstream, the show won six Emmy awards and set records, becoming the first series to win Best Host for a reality competition program and Best Reality Competition program at once. This makes it clear that the show resonates with fans and critics alike for its realness, and of course, for possessing no shortage of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. — Roytel Montero
Photography: Oscar Ouk for PAPER
Angela Ponce becomes first trans woman to compete in Miss Universe
Even though Angela Ponce came just shy of placing in the top 20 of the Miss Universe pageant this year, the reigning Miss Spain snatched another new crown as a hero in the LGBTQ community. In a welcome disruption to the sometimes antiquated tradition of beauty pageants, Ponce brought a full fantasy to the Bangkok runway, winning our hearts and the chance to make history as the first transgender contestant to ever compete. This is no small feat, as the pageant's shady history includes banning trans contestants until 2012 and formerly being owned by Donald Trump. — Roytel Montero
Kim Petras breaks into the Top 40
If there was a 20 Gay Teen compilation video of all the sweetest moments in LGBTQ resistance, it would most definitely be set to a Kim Petras soundtrack. The ascending pop queen (who happens to be trans) doled out a series of singles this year that blew wigs into the stratosphere and cemented her as a breakout star in music. She accompanied Troye Sivan on his Bloom tour, was awarded Paris Hilton's credit card in the "I Don't Want it At All" music video and was generally iconic (see also: her Halloween mixtape, Turn Out the Light, Vol. 1). Petras' arguably biggest single, "Heart to Break" even broke into the Top 40 pop charts, marking great things to come for the saccharine sweetheart and a collective, "woo ah!" — Roytel Montero
Photography: Diego Villareal for PAPER
West Hollywood becomes the first city to host a Bisexual Pride event
When it comes to pride, the community can agree that LGBTQ folks are only as strong as their weakest letter. Take the underrepresented "B," for example. It was just this year that America's first city-wide Bisexual Pride event was held on September 22 in West Hollywood, organized by the Los Angeles chapter of community group, amBi. Mayor John Duran declared the occasion "Bisexual Celebration Day," making for a teachable moment and validating the very real population of bisexual-identifying people. — Roytel Montero
Teddy Geiger and SOPHIE become nominated for the Grammys
In a year that's been groundbreaking for trans artists in all mediums, electronic powerhouse SOPHIE alongside singer-songwriter, Teddy Geiger, were nominated for Grammys. In this historic tag-team, the transgender artists were recognized for their contributions, with Geiger's co-written Shawn Mendes hit "In My Blood" up for Song of The Year and SOPHIE's Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides being nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album. — Roytel Montero
Photography: Jason Altaan for PAPER
Dee Rees becomes first queer woman of color to receive Best Adapted Screenplay nomination
In a historic year for queer storytellers of color, the director and screenwriter, Dee Rees, enjoyed a distinct honor and became another first alongside Virgil Williams. Their film, Mudbound was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and made Rees— who also made the riveting coming-out 2011 drama Pariah—the first queer woman of color to receive a nomination in the category. The film's resonant storyline was also an opportunity for R&B legend, Mary J. Blige, to shine. She shared some of the movie's success and earned two Oscar nominations in the Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song categories. — Roytel Montero
'Queer Eye' reboot takes flight on Netflix
Since going off the air a decade ago, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy made its return on Netflix with a new cast of gays to school a new generation, with more emotional resonance and realness from its cast, than ever before. Dropping the second end of its original title, the new Queer Eye isn't for the straight guy, but rather it's for anyone who wants to self-improve with the help of Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, and Jonathan Van Ness. — Roytel Montero
Photography: Katie Levine for PAPER
Lena Waithe turns out the Met Gala in rainbow glory
For as long as Lena Waithe has been a part of public discourse, she's been breaking barriers and embodying pride. In 2017, she made history by becoming the first black woman to win an Emmy for outstanding writing in a comedy series. In 2018, The Chi creator, absolutely brought it when she wore a decadent rainbow cape on the Met Gala's Catholic-themed "Heavenly Bodies" red carpet. In a bold and fashionable statement of LGBTQ pride, Waithe's graphic display affirmed the entire community like never before. This goes down as a sartorial moment that transcends style and is so #20GayTeen. — Roytel Montero
Janelle Monáe and Brendon Urie give voice to pansexuality
When superstar Janelle Monáe, came out to Rolling Stone in April, she said, "I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker." In a bold proclamation of her pansexuality, Monáe was just one of a handful of celebrities to come out, in a banner year for increased LGBTQ visibility. Followed by other celebs, Monáe was part of the much-needed deepening of often stiff, binaried conversations around sexual orientation. Brendon Urie followed suit in July, confirming his own identity as pansexual to PAPER. Other notable names to come out this year include Broad City's Abbi Jacobson, Cardi B's sister Hennessy Carolina, and actors Amandla Stenberg, and Jaden Smith. — Roytel Montero