THAT WAS 2018
Wedding bells, babies and a “rainbow wave” – that was the good news. But 2018 threw us some curve balls with Brazil, Indonesia and Egypt upping their antigay agendas.
Wedding bells, babies and a “rainbow wave” across the USA – that was the good news. Elsewhere, 2018 threw the LGBTIQ world some curve balls with Brazil, Indonesia and Egypt upping their anti-gay political agendas.
AMERICA UNDER TRUMP
During the 2016 presidential election campaign, Donald Trump claimed he would be a friend to the gay community, famously learning to spell out the letters “L.B.G.T.Q” at a Republican Convention and waving an “LGBTs for Trump” rainbow flag.
But since becoming president, Trump has elevated many people with long records of opposition to LGBT rights into high office, and has consistently attempted to target transgender people, trying to legally define them out of existence and end their open service in the military.
In May, tech billionaire and philanthropist, Bill Gates reveals that Trump did not know the difference between HIV and HPV when he lobbied him on AIDS prevention on behalf of The Gates Foundation. This is despite Trump’s own mentor, celebrity lawyer Roy Cohn, dying of AIDS in 1986.
In September, porn star Stormy Daniels reveals in her book Full Disclosure, that Trump has “yeti pubes and a dick like the mushroom character in Mario Kart”.
In June, in a backwards step for LGBT Americans, the US Supreme Court rules in favour of the right of a religious Colorado baker to refuse to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples.
However, by November, America has had enough, and over 150 openly LGBT people are elected to federal and state office during the midterm elections in a “rainbow wave”.
Among them is Jared Polis of Colorado, who becomes the first openly gay man elected state Governor. Other states elect their first openly LGBT people to Congress, and New Hampshire elects two trans women to its state House Of Representatives.
GLAAD president, Sarah Kate Ellis calls the election “truly historic” for LGBT people, adding that it shows “a rejection of the hatefuelled politics of the Trump Administration”.
This Rainbow Wave is a part of a greater “blue wave” that allows Democrats to retake control in the House Of Representatives, giving them a powerful check on the Trump Administration, including the power to launch investigations into his scandals and subpoena his tax returns.
On a local level, Kentucky County Clerk, Kim Davis, who famously went to jail in 2015 rather than do her job and marry same-sex couples, loses her midterm election to a Democrat clerk who, presumably, will do the job!
2018 is also a year in which gay American athletes shine on the international stage with a kiss between Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy and boyfriend Matthew Wilkas being broadcast around the world, and figure skater Adam Rippon becoming the first openly gay male athlete to win a medal at the Winter Olympics. Rippon goes on to win Dancing With The Stars: Athletes.
The US Supreme Court rules in favour of the right of a religious baker to refuse to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples.
AUSTRALIA’S MAD YEAR
2018 in Australia starts with a tragedy for the LGBT community when American gay rights activist and filmmaker Matt Palazzolo dies from exposure while hiking in the desert near Alice Springs.
On January 9, 2018 Australia’s new same-sex marriage law goes into effect and same-sex couples across the country start to marry. Over
5,000 couples take advantage of the reform to wed before year’s end.
In September, the Uniting Church Of Australia becomes the first major religious denomination in to allow its priests to marry gay couples – though they are free to refuse if they don’t want to.
Despite that progress, the Diversity Council Of Australia finds that in 2018 most LGBT Australians are still in the closet at work, and the Victorian police report that only 42 per cent of young LGBTs say they trust police.
In March, the Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras celebrates its 40th year with an appearance by Cher on the parade route and then a 20 minute live performance at the after party, wowing thousands of gay fans.
In May, DNA favourite and My Kitchen Rules contestant Jordan Bruno becomes the first Australian to win the Mr Gay World title. Then, in June, the Sydney Convicts win their 5th Bingham Cup, the gay rugby world championship in Amsterdam, for defeating New York’s Gotham Knights.
The May federal budget commits $180 million from the Australian Government to fund Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to protect HIV negative LGBT Australians from acquiring the virus as part of reaching Australia’s UNAIDS goal of ending new infections by 2020.
June sees the cast of Queer Eye fly Down Under, where they film an episode in the small country town of Yass. The town’s mayor crowns the Fab Five honorary Yass Queens!
After presiding over a divisive postal plebiscite on marriage equality, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sets in motion a review of religious freedom to appease conservatives. It is feared the review could potentially lead to new avenues of discrimination against LGBTs.
But in September, Turnbull is removed as PM by his own party and is replaced by Scott Morrison – a pentecostal Christian who
One activist warns of a ‘war on bottoms’ if the inhalant muscle relaxant poppers is banned.
supported the No campaign on marriage equality and abstained when the parliament voted on it, despite his own electorate voting Yes.
Turnbull resigns from parliament, triggering a by-election in the seat of Wentworth – considered the gayest electorate in Australia. During the Wentworth campaign, part of the government’s report into religious freedoms is leaked, forcing Morrison to clarify where he stands on religious schools being able to expel LGBT students and fire LGBT teachers. They currently can.
Morrison promises to put a stop to legal discrimination by religious schools against students – but not teachers.
The opposition Labor Party ups the ante, say they will protect gay teachers and ban gay conversion therapy in Australia if they win next year’s federal election. Morrison has previously refused to condemn the practice, saying it was up to people to make their own choices about it.
Morrison fails to deliver on protecting gay students before the election and his preferred candidate loses. Wentworth is won by highprofile lesbian doctor and local independent, Kerryn Phelps. Morrison’s government no longer has a majority in Australia’s House Of Representatives and a single major scandal could potentially bring it down.
In November, 34 Anglican institutions issue a joint letter in support of “religious freedoms”. But public outcry is such that in a headspinning backdown, Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies announces, “it is untenable that religious freedoms be expressed as exceptions in discrimination acts. Some exemptions, such as those relating to sexuality, we do not use and have no wish to preserve.”
In 2018 Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration announces it may ban poppers, provoking one activist to warn of a “war on bottoms” if the inhalant muscle relaxant is scheduled alongside drugs like heroin and cocaine.
New South Wales Police admit they “got it wrong” on dozens of historical gay murders in Sydney and beyond. In November, a parliamentary inquiry into homophobic hate crimes is launched in New South Wales.
2018 will also be remembered as a year in which religious sports stars were called out for making anti-gay public statements. Boxer and Islamic convert, Anthony Mundine suggests the death penalty for homosexuality after quitting I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Waratahs rugby player, Israel Folou says God’s plan for gay people is “Hell unless they repent of their sins,” angering his team’s sponsors.
In 2018, it seems, there are no votes to be won or popularity points to be scored by bashing the gays. The 62 per cent who voted in favour of marriage equality last year have set a new public benchmark on LGBT issues.
Kevin Spacey’s #metoo scandal continues through 2018 when further accusers come forward. Previously accused of molesting Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp when he was 14 and Spacey was 26, by the end of 2018 at least 15 people have come forward with stories about Spacey.
When a former male model accuses Star Trek original series actor George Takei of a historical sexual assault, LGBTs, Twitter and Trek fans collectively hold their breath. By May his accuser admits he made it all up and George forgives him for making the accusation before the month is even over.
In April, Ronan Farrow, the journalist closely associated with the #metoo movement, acknowledges his membership of the LGBT community publicly for the first time. Farrow’s investigations for The New Yorker magazine brought down Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and CBS CEO Leslie Moonves – all accused serial abusers.
Farrow nearly derails Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh when he reports more women had come forward with claims about his alleged sexual misconduct towards them. Despite the uproar and the shadow of doubt over Kavanaugh, the Republicans confirm him anyway.
As same-sex celebrity relationships and families continue to become more common, Dustin Lance Black and Tom Daley have a baby, Colton Hayes gets divorced, and porn stars Brent Corrigan and JJ Knight break up.
2018 also sees the death of one of the gay greats of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Tab Hunter had been the subject of gay rumours throughout his career but did not come out officially until 2005 when he published Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making Of A Movie Star.
Often paired up with studio starlets to maintain appearances for the public, behind the smokescreen Hunter had relationships with Psycho actor Anthony Perkins and figure skater Ronnie Robertson before settling into a 35-year relationship with film producer Allan Glaser. Tab dies aged 86 on July 11 in Manhattan after an unexpected heart attack.
By comparison, coming out as gay as a celebrity no longer seems as difficult in 2018. For some, it might even be a point of difference that boosts their career, though it’s probably less of an issue for music stars compared to actors who may still fear that they will become type cast or will no longer be a blank canvas for audiences.
69-year-old Daytona racing legend Hurley Haywood reveals he is gay in February when he releases an autobiography Hurley: From The Beginning. In the book he describes how he has been out for years among colleagues. “The racing community has been extremely supportive,” he says. “I’ve never not gotten a ride because I was gay.”
Then in April, African-American singer, songwriter and actress Janelle Monae confirms that she likes girls and boys and everything in between. “Being a queer, black woman in America, someone who has been in relationships with both men and women, I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker,” she tells Rolling Stone.
Glee alumni Kevin McHale also comes out in April after teasing fans about whether he’s in a relationship with fellow actor Austin McKenzie when he tweets about a new single by Ariana Grande: “#NoTearsLeftToCry is gayer than me and I ACCEPT. Ty.”
In March, the actor who plays the villain in the Batman prequel TV series Gotham comes out. Cory Michael Smith makes the revelation in an interview about an upcoming film role set during the height of the AIDS epidemic called 1985. “There’s something special about telling a story that feels closer to home. I’m not exactly like The Riddler in real life,” he says.
In June Minnesota United footballer Collin Martin comes out. He may be the only professional soccer player who is openly gay in the United States but he reveals, “I have been out as a gay man for many years to my family and friends, and this includes my teammates.” He decides to make it public when his team takes part in a pride game.
After playing Brent Corrigan alongside James Franco in King Cobra, actor Garrett Clayton comes out on Instagram in August. Like many celebrity comings out these days it’s because he’s started a serious relationship. He is dating screenwriter Blake Knight.
Unavision and Telefutura presenter Luis Sandoval comes out live on air following a
Coming out as gay is no longer difficult for celebrities. In fact, for some, it may even be a boost to their career.
segment about National Coming Out Day in October. He tells his Spanish speaking audience, “I am gay, I am happy, I am a full person, respected, I think respectable, and I do not live in the closet, my family knows, my friends know, and I have a partner with whom I am happy.”
Grey’s Anatomy actor Jake Borelli comes out in November after his character kisses another man on screen. He tells fans, “Tonight’s episode was so special to me,” after it screens. “This is exactly the kind of story I craved as a young gay kid growing up in Ohio, and it blows my mind that I’m able to bring life to Dr Levi Schmitt as he begins to grapple with his own sexuality this season on Grey’s Anatomy.”
Love, Simon actors Joey Pollari and Keiynan Lonsdale both come out after the movie’s release, telling interviewers how they related to the film’s ups and downs when it came to the journey of living openly as gay men. “You’ve been through those hardships, you’ve been through all that stuff. You can smile now. You can breathe,” Lonsdale tells one interviewer.
In November, Ezra Miller, who plays The Flash in the DC comics movie universe, who had previously come out as gay, announces that he is even queerer than that! Spectacularly, in the pages of Playboy magazine, Miller dresses as a bunny and reveals that he is not only queer and non-binary but in a polyamorous group relationship. “I feel like I’m married to them 25 lifetimes ago. And then they are in the squad – the polycule,” Miller says.
In other superhero news, out Australian model and actress Ruby Rose is cast as Batwoman on the small screen in a version of the character where she is both Jewish and openly gay.
In September there’s a Sesame Street sensation when former show writer Mark Saltzman confirms what many of us have felt for years – that he wrote Bert and Ernie as a gay couple, basing their dynamic on his own relationship with another man.
However, Bert and Ernie creator, Frank Oz pours cold water on that and the Sesame Workshop states, “they remain puppets and do not have a sexual orientation… Bert and Ernie are best friends”.
On the big screen in 2018, Lady Gaga wows in A Star Is Born, while Bohemian Rhapsody divides audiences. Some praising Rami Malek’s uncanny performance, while others feel the movie has blanded-out Freddie Mercury and taken too much creative licence with the events of his life.
Boy Erased and The Miseducation Of Cameron Post bring the issue of gay conversion therapy to a mainstream audience. Love, Simon wins praise for its depiction of the life of a gay teen, while Call Me By Your Name wins Best Adapted Script at the Oscars.
WHERE THINGS GOT WORSE
The year starts badly in January when a group of gay men are detained by authorities in Egypt. Police raid an apartment in Alexandria where they find nine men partying together. Homosexuality is not technically illegal in Egypt but authorities use a poorly defined “debauchery” law to crack down on suspected homosexual gatherings.
In March it is revealed that a drug resistant strain of HIV has been discovered in the Philippines, where it is spreading rapidly. Dubbed Subtype AE, it progresses faster to AIDS than the treatable Subtype B that is found in most other parts of the world.
LGBT Indonesians fear for their place in society throughout 2018, with gay men whipped under Sharia law in its autonomous province of Aceh. Lawmakers in the national assembly repeatedly threaten to criminalise sex outside of heterosexual marriage. Vigilante groups begin rounding up suspected LGBT people and delivering them to police who then subject the “suspects” to gay conversion-style therapy. This without trial.
In April, Grindr apologises for sharing the HIV statuses of its users with two third-party companies. The information was shared so that Grindr could personalise the app’s experience for individual users, but this will not be repeated, says the company.
In May, authorities forcibly cancel Beirut Pride, detaining organiser Hadi Damien on the orders of the General Prosecutor of Beirut. Plans to march the previous year had to be abandoned after threats were made against the event.
The Eurovision Song Contest cancels their contract with China’s Mango TV after they re-edit their broadcast of Eurovision to remove gay elements. Ireland’s entry included a same-sex couple dancing together – it was not screened in China.
Pope Francis disappoints the global LGBT community again in 2018 when he implies same-sex couples with children are not real families. “People speak of varied families, of various kinds of family,” but “the family [as] man and woman in the image of God is the only one,” he says in June according to news reports.
Also in June, Veteran British-Australian LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell is arrested in Moscow for displaying a sign calling on Vladimir Putin to “act against Chechnya torture of gay people.” Russian and Chechen authorities continue to dismiss reports of a state backed campaign of persecution against gay men in Chechnya throughout the previous year, which included kidnappings and killings.
That same month, a French gay couple are attacked in St Petersburg during the World Cup. One of the men is left brain damaged.
In September, Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad says his country will not expand any rights for LGBT people. “Some things are only meant for the West,” Mahathir says. “We cannot accept LGBT as well as the marriage of man and man or woman and woman.”
It seems lost on him that homosexuality is outlawed in Malaysia under colonial-era legislation that was introduced by the British and that Britain has since repealed those laws.
The government of Tanzania puts together an administrative taskforce to “crack-down” on LGBTIQ people. Hundreds flee the major city of Dar es Salaam, where activists report that homes are being raided and suspects arrested. A government spokesperson, Paul Makonda, says police are targeting gay people and lengthy prison sentences will be imposed.
Brazil elects “proud homophobe” Jair Bolsonaro as its new President. He wants to clear the rainforest and extinguish indigenous groups’ land rights, and he speaks favourably of Brazil’s past as a military dictatorship. He wants to ban what he sees as gay indoctrination in schools.
Brazil elects Jair Bolsonaro, a ‘proud homophobe’ as its new President.
WHERE THINGS HAVE IMPROVED
Despite some of the setbacks, there are significant gains for LGBT people around the world in 2018.
In April, activists across the Caribbean rejoice when the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago ruled against Sections 13 and
16 of its Sexual Offences Act, finding them unconstitutional and legalising homosexuality in the process.
The ruling may serve as a legal precedent for other former-British colonies in the Caribbean that still criminalise LGBT people including Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
That same month, New Zealand erases all past criminal convictions for adult same-sex activity. People who were prosecuted for being gay between 1965 and 1986 will be able to have their records cleared and, for those who have already passed on, relatives will also be able to apply to have convictions wiped.
Then in May, Chinese professional surfer, Xu Jingsen, also known as ASam, comes out: a bold move in China which has recently clamped down on expressions of homosexuality in film and literature and whose national broadcaster edited out a same-sex dance from its Eurovision broadcast.
ASam comes out on Chinese social media platform Weibo as part of announcing he will compete in the 2018 Paris Gay Games in August. Surfing was not an event in the Paris Gay Games but he competes in swimming and basketball. The 2020 Gay Games will be held in Hong Kong, so we may see ASam compete again.
In June, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier makes a formal apology for the suffering and injustice endured by the LGBT community in Germany under the Nazis regime and then after World War II. While Jews and others were set free from the Nazi death camps at the war’s end, gay prisoners were simply transferred to the regular German penal system and homosexuality continued to be criminalised in both East and West Germany into the late 1960s.
Scientists at Antarctic Research Centre McMurdo Station hold the world’s first Antarctic Pride on June 9. Of the research station’s 133 caretakers, 15 identify as LGBT. They hold the celebration in a bar in the station with a games night and a movie.
In July, American scientists announce they have completed the first human trials of a vaccine against the HIV virus. All of the 393 test subjects from across East and Southern Africa, the US and Thailand demonstrate some form of immune response to HIV. The vaccine will now proceed to a second round of human trials.
In September, India’s Supreme Court strikes down the country’s colonial-era Section 377 sodomy law after nine years of appeals and delays. More than 2.5 million gay Indians breathe a sigh of relief.
The world’s fifth smallest country, the Republic of San Marino, legalises civil unions in November, leaving Vatican City as the only jurisdiction inside Italy where same-sex relationships are not recognised. San Marino only legalised homosexuality in 2004.
India’s Supreme Court strikes down the country’s colonial-era Section 377 sodomy law.
Out: Chinese pro-surfer, ASam. First: Antarctic Pride.
India: decriminalisation at last.