While we’ve had a great year as a community, yes, we still have miles to go before we’re all equal, especially when faced with bigotry, intolerance, homophobia, and just plain hatred.
But, over the last year many people have stepped up for the LGBT community and, courtesy of the Huffington Post, I’m here to say ‘Thanks’:
#1 Zea, The Ohio Girl Who Stood Up To A Homophobic Preacher
Following the Supreme Court's ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, supporters gathered in celebration all over the country — but, of course, so did some haters. Seven-year-old in Zea, however, stood firm in the face of hate by waving her rainbow flag at a homophobic street preacher ranting at her through a microphone.
Three cheers for Zea for never backing down.
#2 The Equality House
2015 proved to be another remarkable year for The Equality House — the rainbow structure that sits right across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church compound.
Throughout the past year, The Equality House held a virtual pizza fundraiser for homeless youth in response to an anti-gay pizza shop, staged a gay "Wizard Wedding" between Gandalf and Dumbledore and erected a billboard calling out the ignorance of Kim Davis in her own hometown — just to name a few.
#3 Omar Currie
Currie, a third grade teacher made a bold move last spring after he heard a number of his students calling another classmate "gay." He sat his kids down and read a book called King & King, a children's book that features a same-sex romance.
"One student said that it made them uncomfortable, saying, ‘Well, I’ve never seen two men marry each other.’ I said, 'Well, it’s normal to feel uncomfortable when you feel something new, but what is the moral? The moral is to treat people well, no matter who they are.'"
#4 Kelly Lauren
A transgender woman in Chicago made a bold and powerful statement in November in response to Houston, Texas, voters striking down HERO, that proposed legislation to extend nondiscrimination protections to the LGBT community, including enabling trans people to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
Kelly Lauren, a transgender woman and drag entertainer, posted the photo to her Facebook account as a tongue-in-cheek response asking:
"Houston, do you REALLY want me in the same restroom as your husband or boyfriend?"
#5 Paul Henson & Ashley Ramage
The parents of a three-year-old boy in Virginia gained viral fame this year when they posted a photo of their son, Caiden, wearing a princess Halloween costume from the popular movie "Frozen." The pair told Caiden that he could be whatever he wanted for Halloween—it didn't matter if the outfit was marketed for a boy or girl.
"As children get older, they distance themselves from their parents. Why start that split sooner than they need to? It's important for children to know that their parents will stand by them no matter what. Ashley and I will do whatever it takes to keep our son happy and not take his innocence and imagination from him." — Paul Henson
#6 Digital Activist Mike Melgaard
One of the breakout heroes of 2015 proved to be Mike Melgaard — an activist who brilliantly trolled anti-LGBT bigots on various businesses’ Facebook pages throughout the year.
Melgaard created fake support accounts for different businesses after they made pro-queer moves and experienced anti-LGBT backlash from the public.
#7 Carla Lewis
Carla Lewis, a transgender veteran, made waves across the Internet this year when she posted a photo of herself wearing a polarizing t-shirt:
"Transgender Veteran: I fought for your right to hate me."The shirt commented on an often-overlooked reality: a number of the men and women who have or are currently serving in the United States military identify as transgender.
#8 Russell Hughes
A hair salon owner made a public declaration against discrimination in June after a customer refused to let an employee cut his son's hair because he perceived the man to be gay.
#9 The Red Raven Espresso Parlor
The Red Raven Espresso Parlor in Fargo, North Dakota, took a stand against legislators in April who struck down a bill that would have provided discrimination protections for the queer community.
The owners posted a sign in the window banning the legislators who struck down the bill from the establishment, and claimed they could only enter the shop if accompanied by a member of the LGBT community. The owner later clarified in a Facebook post that the ban was meant to "satirize the environment that the legislators created for the LGBTQ+ community by voting against" the bill.
#10 'Willy Wonka' Subway Rider
An unidentified subway rider in New York City shut down a homophobic preacher in January by drowning out his hate with a beautiful rendition of "I've Got A Golden Ticket" from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."
The subway hero's actions were applauded by his fellow mass transit passengers.
#11 Jesse Mount
In June, Australian Nick Jensen wrote an op-ed for the Canberra City News in which he claimed that he and his wife Sarah would “as a matter of conscience, refuse to recognize the government’s regulation of marriage if its definition includes the solemnization of same-sex couples" — effectively saying they would divorce if Australia legalized same-sex marriage.
In response, Jesse Mount organized a Facebook group for people who agreed they would celebrate the couple's divorce if and when same-sex marriage came Down Under. The massive Facebook group became a place where same-sex couples shared photos and stories about their own lives and relationships in an effort to show the faces of healthy queer love.
So, we have our heroes and our allies, and they’re little girls, and stylists and veterans and baristas and Moms and Dads. With their help, the march goes on ….