Wisconsin Gazette - - Flashback: The Year’s Top Stories - JAMAKAYA

The year 2015 will al­ways stand out for me as the year Amer­i­can gays and les­bians won the right to marry. Here are some other peo­ple and events worth re­mem­ber­ing.

Les­ley Gore, who recorded pop hits like “It’s My Party” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry” in the 1960s, died at age 68. All her angstrid­den songs about boyfriends were quite an act be­cause Gore was a les­bian who is sur­vived by a fe­male part­ner of 33 years.

Af­ter her suc­cess as a teen, Gore went on to a song­writ­ing ca­reer and per­formed in night­clubs. “Out Here on My Own,” a song writ­ten with her brother Michael for the movie Fame, was nom­i­nated for an Os­car. Ten years ago she hosted In the Life, the PBS show about LGBT is­sues. In 2012, Gore par­tic­i­pated in a pub­lic ser­vice video of her hit “You Don’t Own Me” — now rec­og­nized as a fem­i­nist an­them — urg­ing women to vote against Mitt Rom­ney and anti-abor­tion can­di­dates.

Also pass­ing this year was Ron­nie Gil­bert, a mem­ber of The Weavers folk-singing quar­tet founded with Pete Seeger in 1948. The Weavers had sev­eral hit records be­fore the so­cially con­scious singers were black­listed dur­ing the anti-com­mu­nist witch­hunts of the 1950s.

Gil­bert worked as an ac­tress and toured the women’s mu­sic cir­cuit in the 1980s and ‘90s. She recorded two al­bums with Holly Near and of­ten per­formed with her. Gil­bert mar­ried her part­ner of 20 years, Donna Korones, in 2004. She died at age 88.

In June, the Tony Award for Best Mu­si­cal went to Fun Home, based on the graphic mem­oir by les­bian car­toon­ist Ali­son Bechdel. The show fol­lows Bechdel as she grows up and dis­cov­ers she’s a les­bian in the con­fines of a dys­func­tional fam­ily whose fa­ther is a clos­eted gay man.

Al­though gay-themed plays and mu­si­cals have suc­ceeded on Broad­way for decades, Fun Home is the first mu­si­cal with a les­bian pro­tag­o­nist and les­bian love songs. Be­fore an au­di­ence of mil­lions on the Tony Award tele­cast, Sid­ney Lu­cas sang “Ring of Keys,” which ex­presses young Bechdel’s won­der at iden­ti­fy­ing with an older les­bian. Later in the show, af­ter mak­ing love with a woman for the first time, col­lege-age Bechdel sings the hi­lar­i­ous “I’m Chang­ing My Ma­jor to Joan.”

Trans­gen­der lives came into greater promi­nence this year with the highly pub­li­cized com­ing out of Cait­lyn Jen­ner and the suc­cess of the Ama­zon TV se­ries Trans­par­ent.

Vet­eran TV and film star Jef­frey Tam­bor, who won an Emmy and Golden Globe as lead ac­tor in a com­edy for his por­trayal of the tran­si­tion­ing Maura, honed his craft with the Mil­wau­kee Reper­tory Theater in the 1970s. Tam­bor’s co-star in Trans­par­ent, Judith Light, who has won two Tony Awards for her work on Broad­way, also acted with the Mil­wau­kee Rep early in her ca­reer. Les­son: Buy some tick­ets to the Rep and watch new stars emerge!

Un­for­tu­nately, greater aware­ness of trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als in­duced Toi­let Panic, with GOP leg­is­la­tors here in Wis­con­sin and else­where try­ing to re­strict gen­der non-con­form­ists or peo­ple in tran­si­tion from their choice of re­strooms. It would all be a sick joke ex­cept for this: the threat of uni­sex bath­rooms hyped by anti-fem­i­nist zealots con­trib­uted to the de­feat of the Equal Rights Amend­ment to our Con­sti­tu­tion in 1982.

I’m not of­fer­ing “toasts and roasts” this year be­cause far too many vil­lains dom­i­nated the news. My great­est hope is that rea­son tri­umphs over all forms of ex­trem­ism in 2016.

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