2019 was a rough year politically for queer people on a number of fronts, with the Trump administration continuing its attacks on LGBTQ rights at home, and places like Chechnya, Azerbaijan, and Uganda ramping up persecution of the community.
While it would be easy to write the year off as one of doom-and-gloom, there were a number of bright spots, both in the United States and abroad. As we close out the year, here are some of the news events from 2019 that are worth celebrating.
Marriage Equality GainsRODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP via Getty Images
Brunei and Uganda Abandon Plans to Introduce “Kill the Gays” BillsGuy Smallman/Getty Images
In May, following international backlash, Brunei backed away from a proposed change to the legal code that would have penalized homosexuality with whippings and stonings.
In Uganda, in October, President Yoweri Museveni said the country did not plan to resurrect its “Kill the Gays” bill—which was nullified five years ago amid pressure from the United States and other countries—after Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo had said the nation was bringing back the draconian law.
Botswana Legalizes Gay SexGuy Smallman/Getty Images
Botswana legalized gay sex this year, with the High Court ruling unanimously in June to drop a colonial-era law penalizing it. A month later, the government announced it would appeal the ruling, unfortunately, but it still stands as a sign of progress in a nation that recently celebrated its first Pride parade.
U.S. Embassies Defy Trump’s Pride Flag BanJörg Carstensen/picture alliance via Getty Images
When the Trump administration told U.S. embassies they couldn’t fly the Pride flag, a number of them found ways to display the rainbow colors regardless. Some attached the flag to the building itself, as opposed to flying it on the flagpole, or, as in Berlin, wrapped it around a statue.
Alan Turing Announced as New Face of £50 NoteChristopher Furlong/Getty Images
Mathematician, codebreaker, computing pioneer, and WWII hero Alan Turing—who was chemically castrated under anti-gay laws—will be the new face of Britain’s £50 note, the Bank of England announced in July. The new bill will go into circulation in late 2021.
States Embrace Nonbinary IDsNed Frisk/Getty Images
A number of states joined a rapidly growing trend of offering a third gender option on licenses and other state IDs for nonbinary citizens. There are now 16 states that have decided to issue gender neutral IDs, with Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington joining the ranks this year.
Five States, and Puerto Rico, Ban Conversion TherapyAAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Another trend among the states is banning conversion therapy, which claims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. States banning the dangerous and debunked practice this year include Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Utah.
U.S. territory Puerto Rico also banned conversion therapy this year.
Courts Keeping Trump in CheckTOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images
There have been times in Trump’s presidency where it has felt like the checks and balances we were told in grade school would save the United States from utter destruction were failing faster than you could say “covfefe.” However, there have been some wins for the resistance in the courts this year, bringing hope.
Last month, two courts ruled against the Trump administration’s “denial of care” rule, which would allow health-care workers to cite a religious or moral objection to serving LGBTQ patients.
In February, a federal judge ordered an injunction instructing the administration to halt its discharge of two members of the U.S. Air Force simply because they are HIV-positive. That same month, a federal judge in California ruled in favor of a gay couple whose child, who was born of surrogacy, is being denied citizenship. The administration has appealed both decisions.
“They” Is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the YearRomy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Merriam Webster Dictionary named singular pronoun “they” 2019’s Word of the Year, reporting a whopping 313% year-to-year uptick in searches for the pronoun on its website.
Scientists Continue Making Progress in Battle Against HIV/AIDSTahreer Photography/Getty Images
There was also good news in the fight against HIV/AIDS this year. In March, we learned a third person is reportedly HIV-free after a bone marrow transplant. However, as that method carries with it serious potential side effects, and is only being used only cancer patients, the search for a true cure remains.
On that front, news came in November that researchers out of Maryland had submitted an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the FDA to begin gene therapy trials they believe could eliminate HIV in people living with the virus.
In July, scientists eliminated HIV in modified mice using both gene editing and sequential long-acting slow-effective release antiviral therapy (LASER ART). Clinical trials for the gene-editing component of the cure could begin next year.
And earlier this month, NewNowNext reported scientists were encouraged by ongoing trials to find a vaccine for HIV by as early as 2021.
Impeachment Proceedings Against Trump Move ForwardIra L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images
If that wasn’t enough, we moved one step closer to seeing President Trump become only the third U.S. president in history to be impeached. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The full House is expected to vote to impeach this week. While the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to remove him from office, impeachment day will be one many in the LGBTQ community—the majority of whom do not support his presidency—will be celebrating.
Our Readers Share Highlights From Their Year in Queer
NewNowNext asked our readers to share their own personal triumphs during 2019, and here are some of the uplifting responses we received.
— Lane Clemons (@laneclemons) December 5, 2019
My year as a queer artist has been phenomenal. I started @murdersadrag my podcast about queer true-crime, had the winning gown for Ms. Charlotte Newcomer, took home a few wins including the Chasers talent show, and made so many costumes! I’m one proud queen #myqueeryear
— Aura Van Dank (@auravandank) December 5, 2019
The Invisible Histories Project shared the following in response to our Facebook prompt:
“The Invisible Histories Project has collected nearly 50 new LGBTQ archives in Alabama and is now expanding into Mississippi and Georgia! Deep South Queer and Trans history is being saved for generations to come in ways it never has before.”