To mark the 2015 Queerties Awards, we’ve compiled lists of outstanding LGBTQ folks and our allies (and yes, some of our foes) in a variety of categories. At the end of each list, we ask you, the reader, to cast your vote for who should come out on top.
There are a lot of heroes out there, more than we could ever list, but we had to narrow it down somehow. So this year, in addition to recognizing public figures, we thought we’d give attention to every day heroes, Joe Sixpacks so to speak. These are ordinary people who happened to do an extraordinary thing (or five), and who we feel deserve an extra shout out for their courage.
Scroll down for our list of Every Day Heroes who made a difference in their communities in 2015…
When this 21-year-old U.K. radio producer discovered his 11-year-old sister, Lola, had been told by a classmate that it was “disgusting” she had a gay brother, he posted an open letter on Facebook accusing the classmate of being an “odious little toad” who is “spreading hate to nobody that gives a toss.” The letter went viral and was shared by tens of thousands people, and even resulted in at least one guy asking Flinders to marry him.
This 25-year-old North Carolina elementary school teacher was forced out of his job for reading King & King, a picture book about two princes who fall in love and get married, to his class after a student came to him crying over being called “gay” by a peer during gym class. Afterwards, more than 200 parents came together to publicly condemn Currie, telling him he was going to spend eternity in hell for committing “psycho-emotional rape” against their children. “My reading of King & King,” he told Indy Week, “was the 100 percent right thing to do.”
When the Westboro Baptist Church showed up on their campus to protest the recent election of a trans girl as homecoming queen, students from the Oak Park High School chased after them while they chanting: “Long live the queen!” Vastly outnumbered, the hate group packed up their “God Hates Fags” signs and hightailed it to the safety of their minivan. As they peeled off down the street, the students cheered in victory.
After being fired from her job at Summerford Nursing Home in Vinemont, AL (pop. 9,008), simply for being trans, Jessi Dye refused to go quietly. Instead, she contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center who helped her file a workplace discrimination lawsuit. Rather than fight it out in federal court, the nursing home settled. Part of the settlement required the company to institute a policy banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and to conduct sensitivity training.
This adorable couple from New York made national headlines after they were physically attacked inside a SoHo grocery store by 57-year-old Thomas Clabough from Queens. Unbeknownst to Clabough, however, Mr. and Mr. Lennox-Choate were both West Point Military Academy alums. Clabough left the scene “covered in his own blood with his tail between his legs.” A week later, he was arrested and charged with assault and attempted assault as a hate crime.
Indian gay rights activist Harish Iyer’s mom, Padma, was concerned that her son still wasn’t married at 36, so she took matters into her own hands. Despite strong cultural opposition to homosexuality, she placed the nation’s first same-sex newspaper ad seeking potential husbands for Harish. The ad garnered several responses; however, still no word yet if a love connection was ultimately made. Perhaps she can arrange a date with Joseph Flinders?
When these two dads were told by leaders at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando that they would have to find a different church to have their son, Jack, baptized, they turned the other cheek. Instead, they sought a national conversation. Rich shared their story on Facebook, where it quickly went viral. As a result, he and Eric met with church officials to talk about how to remedy the situation. After listening to the dad’s story, the church apologized and agreed to baptize Jack after all. “We still have faith in the goodness of people,” Rich said afterwards, “and we trust people have good intent and ultimately will do the right thing. … There are moments when you must choose to rise above the fray and acknowledge you are part of something bigger.”
This 23-year-old U.S. airman received worldwide attention, the Purple Heart, and a promotion in August after dismantling a terrorist attack on a French train, only to be repeatedly stabbed in the back with a box-cutter outside a gay bar in Sacramento two months later. He suffered wounds to his heart and liver, as well as a collapsed lung that brought him very close to death. Luckily, he pulled through. Surveillance footage captured the attack and his assailant, 28-year-old James Tran, was arrested and charged with attempted murder. We don’t know Spencer’s sexual orientation–although a girl can certainly dream–but anyone who can fight off terrorists on a French train and then thugs on the street outside a gay bar, in the same year, deserves commendation.
The 2015 Queerties: