Here is Richard Burnett’s 25th annual column of the past year’s heroes and zeros.
ZERO Chinese authorities for shutting down Shanghai Pride on Aug. 20.
HERO Taiwan, one of safest places in the world during COVID-19, whose 18th annual Pride parade on Oct. 31 drew 130,000 spectators, the world’s largest in-person Pride event since the pandemic began.
HEROES The 25 community members who took part in the first 2-spirit walk in the Cree community of Mistissini, Quebec, on Sept. 23; The Cook Islands which held their first-ever Pride Day on March 27; and the incredibly brave thousands of marchers who demonstrated against Poland’s virulent state-sanctioned homophobia at Pride protests in Warsaw (Aug. 8) and Krakow (Aug. 19).
HEROES InterPride and the European Pride Organisers Association for organizing the 24-hour live-streamed Global Pride on June 27.
HERO Fierté Montréal which successfully weathered the departures of VP Jean-Sebastien Boudreault, who joined the YUL Immigration Lawyers/ Avocats firm, and founding president Eric Pineault, indefinitely suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct.
HERO Montreal-based Zambian-Canadian rapper Ashanti Mutinta, known professionally as Backxwash, the first transgender female artist to win the Polaris Music Prize, in October 2020, for the album God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It.
HERO Hitesh Kewalya, writer and director of Bollywood’s first gay male romantic comedy, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (Beware of Marriage), which in February was banned in conservative United Arab Emirates, home to a large South Asian community.
HERO Canadian trans author Ivan Coyote who on June 9 was named the Alice Munro Chair in Creativity in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Western University.
HERO Black gay writers Jericho Brown and Michael R. Jackson who on May 4 received Pulitzer Prize awards for, respectively, Poetry and Drama. Brown won for his poetry collection The Tradition, while Jackson won for his acclaimed play A Strange Loop.
HERO Montreal author Antoine Charbonneau-Demers who won the French 2020 Prix du Roman Gay for his novel Good Boy.
HEROES The Village People whose disco anthem YMCA was inducted into the U.S. National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress on March 25.
HEROES The record number of LGBTQ lawmakers – at least 117 – elected to U.S. Congress on Nov. 3. Other politicians elected include Delaware state senator Sarah McBride, the first out trans person ever elected to a state senate seat in the USA.
HERO U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg who changed what it means for LGBTQ candidates to run for office.
ZEROS The 28 per cent of American LGBTQs who voted for Donald Trump, according to exit polling by Edison Research.
HERO Merriam-Webster which updated its definition of “sexual preference” to say its use is “offensive” after the issue came up on Oct. 13 during the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
HERO Petra De Sutter, first openly transgender minister in Europe, appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium on Oct. 4.
ZERO An Algerian court for sentencing two men to three years in prison, and 42 others to suspended one-year sentences on Sept. 3 after police raided a “gay wedding” on July 24.
ZERO Egyptian authorities for arresting and torturing LGBTQ Egyptians, as reported by Human Rights Watch on Oct. 1.
HERO Gabon whose senate voted on June 29 to decriminalize homosexuality.
HERO Norway which announced July 5 it will prioritize LGBTQ refugees, then on Nov. 10 outlawed hate speech against transgender and bisexual people, expanding its penal code which has protected gays and lesbians since 1981.
ZEROS Jakarta police for arresting 56 males at a private gay party on Aug. 29. The nine organizers were charged under an Indonesian criminal code provision used to charge pimps and face 15 years in prison.
ZERO Turkey for ordering schools in May to stop kids from drawing rainbows because it is a “ploy to turn children gay.”
ZERO The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, whose tour guides were told to censor LGBTQ content on school tours of the museum.
ZEROS Russian voters who on July 1 approved a constitutional change banning same-sex marriage.
HERO Costa Rica which on May 26 became the first Central American country to legalize same-sex marriage.
HERO Health Canada for approving the country’s first HIV self-test on Nov. 2, manufactured by BC-based bioLytical Laboratories.
HEROES US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases researchers who reported at the 23rd International AIDS Conference that long-acting injections of cabotegravir administered every two months are more effective at preventing HIV than daily Truvada. Their large clinical trial tracked some 4,600 HIV-negative gay and bisexual men and transgender women in several countries.
HERO YouPorn for offering British Columbia $100,000 on July 22 to build glory holes across the province after the BC Centre for Disease Control recommended the use of “barriers, like walls (e.g., glory holes), that allow for sexual contact but prevent close face-to-face contact” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
HERO L.A.’s legendary Circus of Books bookstore – once the largest distributor of gay porn in America – closed in February 2020.
HEROES Mexico City’s regional congress and Calgary City Council which both banned conversion therapy; and Queensland which became the first state in Australia to criminalize conversion therapy.
HERO Canada for reintroducing federal legislation on Oct. 1 to criminalize conversion therapy. On Oct. 22, Quebec tabled Bill 70 to ban conversion therapy.
HERO Montreal doctor Pierre-Paul Tellier who was named 2020 Family Physician of the Year by both the Quebec College of Family Physicians and the College of Family Physicians of Canada. Dr. Tellier was also 2020 recipient of the Faculty of Medicine’s Haile T. Debas Prize (which recognizes faculty members who promote diversity and create an environment of inclusivity) at McGill University, and received a $144,000 grant from the COVID-19 Pandemic Response & Impact Grant Program (Co-RIG) for the project “LGBTQ migrant health clinic and outreach program in Montreal.” Dr. Tellier and Dr. Edward Ou Jin Lee are the two medical co-leads on the project, while Dr. Vania Jimenez is the Principal Investigator.
HERO Quebec which granted $328,000 to fund 11 projects in the Programme Lutte contre l’homophobie et la transphobie.
ZERO Lachine native Andre Faivre who was sentenced by Quebec Court Judge Yvan Poulin on Feb. 5 to 12 years in prison for operating what prosecutors described as a “pedophile social club.”
ZERO Brian Boucher who was stripped of his priesthood by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Montréal on Oct. 23 after Boucher was sentenced in March 2019 to eight years in prison for abusing two boys.
HERO Openly-gay Rev. Arlen John Bonnar who on Oct. 4 celebrated 20 years as Minister of St. James United Church, a pillar of Montreal’s queer community. Meanwhile, on Nov. 1, the United Church of Canada appointed openly-gay Rev. Michael Blair as their new General Secretary.
HERO LGBTQ civil rights icon Bayard Rustin who on Feb. 5 was granted a posthumous pardon by California governor Gavin Newsom. Rustin, who taught Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. non-violent protest and was the primary organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, served 50 days in jail and was registered as a sex offender after he was arrested in January 1953 in Pasadena, California, for having consensual gay sex.
HEROES Reem Shariff who on May 11 became the first trans police officer in Pakistan; Marie Cau who on May 23 became the first trans mayor elected in France; Valentina Sampaio who became the first trans model to appear in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue; and Leonie Dorado who became the first trans news anchor in Bolivia when they began co-hosting Aby Ayala TV at the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
HEROES Former Essence magazine executive editor Linda Villarosa and Outsports co-founders Jim Buzinski and Cyd Zeigler, all inducted into the (formerly NLGJA) LGBTQ Journalists Hall of Fame.
HERO Montreal-based Lez Spread the Word which won the Grand prix de la direction artistique at the 2020 National Magazine Awards.
HERO Vancouver-based Arsenal Pulp Press publisher and president Brian Lam who received Lambda Literary’s 2020 Publishing Professional Award.
ZERO Adam Levin, owner of LGBTQ legacy publications The Advocate and Out, for donating money to anti-LGBTQ Republicans.
HERO Vogue Brazil who put drag queens Pabllo Vittar and Gloria Groove on the cover of its October issue, the first drag cover in Vogue Magazine herstory.
HERO Priyanka, winner of the first season of Canada’s Drag Race. Montreal drag legend Rita Baga was runner-up.
HEROES Lucas Silveira and Richie Shazam, hosts of the new makeover TV series Clothes Minded for transgender and gender non-conforming young adults, which will premiere globally on OUTtv and Fuse in 2021.
HERO Bisexual Canadian pop star Jann Arden whose hit CTV sitcom Jann has been picked up by Hulu in the U.S.
HERO Lyric Theatre Singers founder and artistic director Bob bachelor, awarded the prestigious Jean-Pierre-Guindon Prize from the Quebec Choral Alliance.
HERO The ITF for renaming the Fed Cup women’s tennis tournament the Billie Jean Cup. It is the first time a major global team competition has been named after a woman.
HERO San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant coach Katie Sowers who on Feb. 2 made twin Super Bowl history as the first openly gay and female coach.
HEROES The San Diego Loyal SC professional soccer team who walked off the field during a Sept. 30 match against the Phoenix Rising FC after Phoenix midfielder Junior Flemings called opposing out gay player Collin Martin a homophobic slur. On Oct. 6, the United Soccer League suspended Flemmings for six games.
ZERO Greg Clarke who resigned as chairman of the English Football Association on Nov. 10, then as a VP of Fifa on Nov. 12, after a British parliamentary hearing in which he said being gay was a “life choice.”
ZERO Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman who resigned after using an anti-gay slur on-air during a Fox Sports broadcast on Aug. 19.
HERO Two-time Olympic champion Caster Semenya whose legal battle against regulations requiring women with high testosterone to take medication to compete internationally between 400m and a mile, was dismissed by Switzerland’s Supreme Court on Sept. 8.
ZERO Tennis icon Martina Navratilova who was one of some 300 athletes who signed a letter from a group called Save Women’s Sports supporting Idaho’s law barring trans females from competing in women’s and girls’ interscholastic sports.
ZERO Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling whose transphobia made headlines all year long.
HEROES The LGBTQ establishments that were the bedrock of the community for generations. The advent of dating apps and the COVID-19 pandemic have forced many to close, including The Stud, the oldest gay bar in San Francisco; The Beaver in Toronto; and Menz and Mollyz in Halifax. NBC News estimated in May 2020 that there were just 16 lesbian bars left in America. In New York, that city’s oldest gay bar, Julius’ launched a GoFundme campaign to avoid closure, and the Gill Foundation donated $250,000 to save the Stonewall Inn.
HEROES For coming out in 2020: Australian-Canadian Paralympian Ness Murby came out as trans; Canadian Olympic swimmer Markus Thormeyer, Swiss wrestler Curdun Orlik, Irish national track champion Denis Finnegan, Argentinian star basketball player Sebastian Vega, Puerto Rican volleyball player Dennis Del Valle, former Australian rugby player Dan Palmer, French Olympic skater Guillaume Cizeron (who lives in Montreal), retired British soccer player Thomas Beattie, American snowboarder Tanner Pendleton, former NFL player and recently-appointed California Supreme Court justice Martin Jenkins, as well as 17-year-old Quebec Major Junior Hockey League player Yanic Duplessis all came out as gay.
Actress Rosario Dawson came out as LGBTQ; Riverdale star Lili Reinhart, singer Avery Wilson of The Voice, Love Simon author Becky Albertalli, Dutch Olympic rower Maarten Hurkmans, Schitt’s Creekactor Francois Arnaud and Walk The Moon lead singer Nicholas Petricca all came out as bisexual; retired Canadian Olympic swimmer Martha McCabe, beloved children’s author Jacqueline Wilson and Hairspray star Nikki Blonsky came out as lesbian; Star Trek: Discovery actor Blue del Barrio came out as non-binary; Teen Wolf actor Tyler Posey came out as pansexual; and British actor Ben Aldridge of the hit BBC series Fleabag, Swedish pop singer Darin and K-pop star Kwon Do Woon of South Korea came out as gay, as did British TV legend Stanley Baxter who came out at the age of 94. Bravo!
HEROES Au Garage nightclub founder Martin Farmer, Bar Rocky bartender and manager Raymond “Cocole” Piché, former Campus barman and manager Patrick Graveline, Gotha Lounge co-owner Langis Cyr, and beloved drag queen bartender Tante Gaby (a.k.a. Pierre Lauzon) all passed away in 2020. Each made their mark on queer nightlife in Montreal. RIP.
HEROES Little Sisters bookstore co-founder Bruce Smyth, Parisian cabaret director Michou, playwrights Mart Crowley and Terrence McNally, Canadian writer and artist RM Vaughan, Haworth Press co-founder Bill Cohen, San Francisco trans performer and former Cockette Bambi Lake, Stonewall historian David Carter, Rock n Roll pioneer Little Richard, Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy, author and AIDS activist Larry Kramer, RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Chi Chi Devayne, “Berlin Patient” Timothy Ray Brown, Canadian hardcore punk idol and SNFU frontman Ken Chinn, Hollywood film director Joel Schumacher, genderfluid American Horror Story actor Harry Hains, Harry Britt who succeeded Harvey Milk on San Francisco city council, LGBTQ civil rights crusader Mary Griffith who was portrayed by Sigourney Weaver in the 2009 film Prayers for Bobby, pioneering Black trans journalist Monica Roberts, Gay Times Magazine founder Chris Graham-Bell, Glee star Naya Rivera, Canadian Broadway star Brent Carver and legndary Hollywood Reporter gossip columnist George Christy all passed away in 2020. RIP.