Recently, a friend of mine and I were having a conversation about how 2016 and 2017 were just bad years through and through, like if they were people I would be convinced that they were out to get us. But, 2018, on the other hand, has been kind to us. Of course, it has had its share of ups and downs, but looking back I have to say, it has been a GOOD GOOD year. I may be personally partial because I just can’t seem to remember a year in the recent past where it just felt like life is going alright or that the odds aren’t stacked against me. Of course, it could just be that I decided to have an attitude check in place early on this year or that I have made a conscious effort to not let the little things kick me down.
December is my favourite month for many reasons. The obvious one being that it is holiday season and it is just impossible to be unhappy with all that joy and mirth all around you. There is also the fact that there is the excitement and all the possibilities that the new year being brings with it. For me, December is also a month of retrospection. I think that is also why I love writing up these round-ups. Life can be really overwhelming and sometimes we get caught up in the details and the bad moments to appreciate that life has been good.
My latest binge has been The Cable Girls, a Netflix Original about a few girls who work as telephone operators in Madrid during the late 1920s. This was a time when women, while allowed to work, struggled for liberation. The law was on the man’s side even if he was an abuser. A woman couldn’t withdraw cash from the bank without her husband’s permission, and women could be arrested for attending feminist meetings. Somewhere in the second season of the show, the plotline puts focus on one of the characters who confronts her identity crisis. She realises that she always felt like she was a man trapped in a woman’s body. Her quest for answers takes her to a psychiatric facility. She is tricked into staying on and put into a “gallery for deviants”, and is subjected to torture. She is ultimately rescued from the facility by her friends. This show in many ways portrays the reality of what it meant to be someone who didn’t fit into the rigid brackets set by the society only 90 years ago. Yes, we have come a long way in such a short time. Spain, in fact, is considered to be one the most LGBTQ friendly countries in the world, today. But, another way to look at this is that only 90 years ago the world was a much harsher place for both, women and the LGBTQ community.
The fight for equality has been a strenuous battle. A few decades ago, people actually went to jail for choosing to be true to themselves, or for loving someone of their own choice. As the fight moves forward, and as the demands we place changes, it is important to remember the victories–big and small– so that we never for a second take the freedom we enjoy for granted. It is important to remember to never stop fighting, and to remember that there is a light at the end of every tunnel. 2018 has been a good year for the LGBTQ community worldwide and now that the year is coming to a close, let’s take a moment to revisit all the milestones we have made as a community:
January 11: Kashmir finally recognises its transgender community
When National Legal Services Authority vs Union of India, 2014, recognised transgender people as “third gender,” the conditions of transgender people in Kashmir did not change. However, earlier this year, on January 11, while presenting the annual Budget, Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu announced that welfare measures for transgender people would be viewed as a separate category. Unless they demanded otherwise, he said, transgender people would be treated as being below poverty line, which would grant them free life and medical insurance as well as a monthly sustenance pension for those aged 60 and above and registered with the Social Welfare Department. He also suggested that the government would bear the cost of gender reassignment surgeries for those who wanted them and proposed “an initial provision of Rs one crore for their welfare.” While there are provisions of the policy that is problematic, considering it asks medical boards to determine a person’s gender and issue a “transgender certificate,” it still needs to be applauded for being a step in the right direction.
February 23: Winter Olympics sees gay athletes make strides
In the 2014 Winter Games, only seven openly gay athletes participated while the 2018 Winter Games saw 14 openly gay athletes. However, that’s not where the achievements end. Adam Rippon not only became the United States’ first openly gay athlete ever to qualify for any Winter Olympics, but also became the first openly gay U.S. athlete to win a medal at the Winter Olympics.
February 27: Hollywood gives us Love, Simon
Based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon is an American teen rom-com that follows the life of Simon Spier, a closeted gay high school boy. The movie was the first film ever released by a major studio to focus on a gay teenage romance.. While we do live in a world where there are so many gay role models to look up to, very of representations in pop culture often fail the community. The movie did successfully not only for its humor, plotline and most importantly for being a refreshing and accurate change in its representation of LGBTQ members.
17 April: Theresa May expresses “deep regret” for Britain’s role in imposing colonial laws that criminalize LGBT people across the Commonwealth
Colonialism may have ended on paper decades ago, but we are very much influenced by its effects in our daily lives. India was one of the 53 countries where the coloniser had imposed laws that criminalized homosexuality along with a legacy of violence and discrimination that continues to exist today. At the time of the apology, 36 of 53 Commonwealth countries still had colonial-era criminalization laws. May expressed her regret over the fact many of the current laws across Commonwealth countries that criminalised homosexuality were a direct legacy of British colonialism; and offered support to any government that wanted to reform its legislation.
1 May: A sitting judge in the United States identities himself as bisexual.
At a Stonewall Bar event speech, Judge Mike Jacobs, a Republican trial judge in the DeKalb County State Court in Georgia, decided to come out as bisexual. Until Judge Jacobs came out as bi, there were no out bi judges on the bench — presiding over either state or federal trials or appeals in any courts — in this country.
8 June: The Indian Psychiatric Society declares that homosexuality is not an illness
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association made history when it declared homosexuality was not a mental illness or sickness. In 1992, The World Health Organization (WHO) followed suit. While it took almost 26 years, the IPS, India’s largest body of mental health professionals with about 3,000 members, issued the new policy declaring that homosexuality should not be treated as an illness. “Certain people are not cut out to be heterosexual and we don’t need to castigate them, we don’t need to punish them, to ostracize them,” IPS’ president, Dr Ajit Bhide revealed in a video on social media.
29 June: Spain gets its first ever openly transgender Miss Spain
One of the greatest contentions that have existed about beauty pageants have been the fact that it is built upon the rigid and unforgiving ideas of what constitutes feminine beauty. History was made when Angela Ponce was crowned Miss. Spain becoming the first transgender woman to win the title. She went on to represent her country at Miss Universe 2018, as the first transgender contestant competing for the title. While she failed to make the top 20 no one can deny the fact that as a world we are bending down to the diversity of beauty.
13 July: Assam gets its first transgender judge
After Bengal and Maharashtra, Assam became home to its first transgender judge. 26-year-old Swati Bidhan Baruah, founder of the All Assam Transgender Association, was appointed to the Guwahati Lok Adalat. Last year Baruah had filed a PIL in Gauhati High Court prompting the state government to create a policy for welfare of the third gender. This was after her effort in 2012, when Baruah moved Bombay High Court in 2012 after her decision to undergo a sex reassignment surgery was opposed by her family. Baruah underwent the operation after it was cleared by the high court.
6 September: India partially decriminalizes section 377
The Indian Supreme Court handed down the 495-page judgment that finally struck down the archaic, colonial-era ban on consensual gay sex. While changing law and changing mindsets are completely different things, no one can deny the deep joy that resounded across the country the moment the verdict was given. The verdict has not only allowed people the freedom to love freely and be themselves without qualms but has also opened the door for legislations that would allow the LGBTQ community to truly enjoy the same rights accorded to all citizens.
22 September: The first royal same-sex wedding
The world had been so caught up in the Meghan Markle-Prince Harry royal wedding to pay attention to another monumental wedding that took place within the family. Lord Ivar Mountbatten married his same-sex partner, James Coyle, on the 22 of September 2018, becoming the first member of the British monarch’s extended family to have a same-sex wedding. Lord Ivar is a third cousin, once removed of Queen Elizabeth II.
20 November: The 2018 blue wave shows hues of rainbow
The 2018 elections showed a record number of LGBT candidates with over 400 candidates running for office—from city councils members to governor. The elections show high-profile personalities—such as infamous whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who will be contesting a Maryland Senate seat, and actor Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo to Lupe Valdez, the first Latina and lesbian to run for governor in the nation. The elections have resulted in the election of 134 openly LGBTQ state house members who will be taking office in January.