By Ashley Altadonna
From Supreme Court LGBTQ-discrimination cases to the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, 2019 has been full of historic events that have impacted trans and non-binary communities. While too often our news feeds are filled with horrific or depressing stories about trans and non-binary folks, we thought we’d look back on some of the more positive moments that stood out in 2019.
1. New York Will Honor Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson with New Monument
The Stonewall Riots that began in the early morning hours on June 28, 1969, have come to symbolize the start of the LGBTQ rights movement in America. Two of the movement’s most prominent figures were Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. Rivera and Johnson were passionate advocates for LGBTQ youth and those affected by the HIV and AIDS crisis. Both were members of the Gay Liberation Front and founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries). This past May, the City of New York announced it will honor the two transgender activists with a monument just blocks away from the Stonewall Inn. The new monument is part of six artworks commissioned by She Built NYC, which aims to increase the number of statues honoring women in NYC. Previously, just 5 out of 145 monuments in the city featured women. The work commemorating the lives and work of Rivera and Johnson will be the first public artwork recognizing transgender women in the world, according to New York City. The proposed monument is expected to be completed by 2021.
2. Janet Mock Signs Groundbreaking Deal with Netflix
According to GLAAD’s 2019 “Accelerating Acceptance Index” only 18% of those surveyed reported that they knew someone who was transgender. Numbers like this only emphasize why positive representation in media matters. This is why the deal that Janet Mock made earlier this year with Netflix is so groundbreaking. The Pose director/producer/writer’s agreement with the media company is the first time a transgender person has signed such a deal. The three-year multimillion-dollar contract gives Netflix the rights to Mock’s TV series and a first-look option at feature film projects, while allowing Mock creative control over content and the ability to make programs that highlight marginalized communities that have too often been ignored by Hollywood. Some of these projects will include a drama about a college-aged trans woman, a series about post-slavery New Orleans, and a reboot of a classic sitcom. As GLAAD director of transgender media representation Nick Adams said, “For stories about transgender people to be truly real and authentic, trans people need to be behind the camera as well as in front of it.”
3. They is Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Year”
They has been used as a singular gender-neutral pronoun for the last several centuries. Its recent notoriety as a means to refer to an individual whose gender identity is non-binary has been a cause of both celebration and consternation. They made several headlines in 2019, including singer Sam Smith coming out as genderqueer and using they/them as their personal pronouns, and the American Psychological Association recommending that they be used in professional writing over “he or she” when referring to a person whose gender is unknown. According to Merriam-Webster, the publishing company’s website saw searches for the personal pronoun increased 313% in the past year. So perhaps it’s not so surprising that Merriam-Webster chose they as their Word of the Year.
4. Angelica Ross Hosts LGBTQ Presidential Forum
With the 2020 elections well over a year away, Democratic candidates took to the stage in Cedar Rapids, Iowa this past September for a historic forum on LGBTQ issues. The debate, which was organized by GLAAD, The Advocate, and the Cedar Rapids Gazette, was hosted by Pose and AHS:1984 star Angelica Ross. The event was the first time a trans person has hosted a presidential forum. Democratic candidates, including Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and others, addressed their records on LGBTQ issues, the importance of transgender protections, and the epidemic of violence against trans women of color. Ross notably called out Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for missing the debate and encouraged the audience to vote.
5. Patricio Manuel Becomes the New Face of Everlast
For the first time ever, a transgender man will be the face for iconic boxing brand Everlast. The 34-year-old boxer already made history in 2018 when he became the first transgender boxer in the U.S. to fight in a professional bout. Manuel will now be part of Everlast’s “Be First” campaign which will also feature an immigrant family and an amputee fighter. Before he transitioned, Manuel was the USA National Amateur Boxing Champion when he was competing as a female. Everlast’s vice president of marketing and product development, Chris Zoller, stated that Manuel’s story and others, “not only humanize the world of fight-sports, but they also relate to many struggles people face around the world today.”
Everlast’s inclusiveness of the trans community follows on the heels of other companies like Gillette, who released an ad earlier this year featuring a father teaching his transgender son how to shave. Everlast says they hope their endorsement of Manuel will inspire others to “rise above and be first.”