Looking Back 2016

2016 was a disaster for equality. But three big trends bode well for the future.

As the year ends, we don’t exactly find ourselves in the same place that we thought we’d be when we we woke up the morning of November 8, visions of a liberal Supreme Court, another Clinton White House, and sugar plum fairies dancing in our heads.

Still, 2016 wasn’t entirely a bust.

There were some noticeable victories despite the electoral rubble. In fact, three trends in particular promise to have a long-term impact on the community, While the incoming Trump administration promises to make life hellacious for a lot of us not named Thiel, the fact remains that our progress can’t be stopped. It may slow, to be sure, but the march of progress continues…

1. Transgender rights went mainstream

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California September 30, 2014. The University of California will designate gender-neutral restrooms at its 10 campuses to accommodate transgender students, in a move that may be the first of its kind for a system of colleges in the United States. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION SOCIETY POLITICS) - RTR48EXT

Transgender rights has emerged as the next frontier of the civil rights movement. It is gathering energy and attention. One of the biggest political fights this year involved North Carolina’s transphobic bathroom law. The victory that conservatives celebrated was short lived, as company after company basically told the state that they planned to take their business elsewhere. (The bill also effectively repealed municipal anti-discrimination ordinances). Ultimately, the backlash against the law claimed the scalp of Gov. Pat McCrory, one of the few Republicans to lose his race this cycle.

Transgender equality is facing multiple setbacks as the Trump administration will likely undo the advances of the Obama administration, but most Americans seem open to legal protections for transgender people. With a smart strategy, there’s no reason to doubt that transgender rights will eventually see the same path to success that marriage equality did.

2. Marriage becomes ho-hum


That was fast. It was just last year that the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, Kim Davis became the religious right’s favorite spokes-martyr, and the throng of Republican presidential candidates promised to make marriage a core campaign issue. But a year and a half after the Supreme Court decision, marriage equality has become just a fact of everyday life with even a majority of Trump voting Republicans favoring it. Of course, there’s still the occasional homophobic baker, but for the most part marriage is now woven into the fabric of society. There are still battles on the horizon, particularly for evangelicals seeking special rights. Yet the dire predictions of the anti-marriage cabal have yet to come true (as if they ever would), and most people seemed to have shrugged and moved on. Considering the magnitude of the victory and the decades dedicated to achieving it, the widespread acceptance is a bit of an anticlimax, albeit a very welcome one. Even if Trump is able to recreate a conservative Supreme Court majority, which he most likely will, equality is likely to remain the law for the land.

3. The Republican presidential candidate had kind words to say about us

trump-holding-rainbow-flagOf course, they were totally undercut by all this other actions, culminating in his Cabinet selections. But it is a milestone that as the party standard bearer, Donald Trump said in accepting the nomination that he would “do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” Yes, he said LGBTQ out loud. Granted, the promise was as much a part of Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric as it was outreach to us. It does us no good to be treated decently by Trump as long as every other minority groups does not get equal respect. Yet try to imagine Mitt Romney or George Bush saying anything like that in their acceptance speeches. In fact, try to picture a  Republican presidential candidate using “LGBTQ” instead of something more along the lines of “the greatest threat to religion in American history.” 

Trump rallies were also marked by signs passed out by the campaign reading “LGBT for Trump.” And at one event, Trump himself even displayed a rainbow flag. In fact, if Trump has one redeeming aspect it is that he does not seem to be personally homophobic (because it takes some men out of competition for women?). That factor is totally obliterated by the fact that he’s surround himself with world-class homophobes. Still, even the lip service is a step forward. Perhaps in future years with other candidates, it might actually translate into something more tangible.

Trump picture credit: Chris Barron’s Twitter feed