2015 the year of... lgbt rights
2015 has done pretty well when it comes to tackling LGBT rights. In June, same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states of the USA, Caitlyn Jenner used her international celebrity status to raise awareness of transgender topics, and Olly Alexander of Years & Years brought gay pronouns into pop music. The world's only openly gay Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg, married his partner - a stance of strength and unity for the entire world to catch up with. Yet, as the year came to a close, a dark cloud still hung over LGBT acceptance when boxer Tyson Fury's homophobic comments were brought to the fore. With public figures spouting hatred like this and still getting a nomination for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, clearly we still have a long way to go. As we head into 2016, here's how we might be able to tackle some of those stigmas that stick around like a bad smell.
New Year's Day will see a progressive start at the cinema, with the release of the film The Danish Girl, set in 1920s Copenhagen, telling the true story of Einar Wegener who transitions into Lili Elbe, played by Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne. The film comes at a time when - thanks to the likes of Jenner and Orange is the New Black's Laverne Cox - transgender acceptance is part of the zeitgeist. It's something that's also being brilliantly explored by Jill Soloway's Emmy-winning Transparent.
Our arts and media are precious in tackling LGBT topics. They amount to a vital and powerful tool, which can change people's lives for the better by decoding confusion and exploring injustice. HBO's San Francisco-set gay show, Looking, has been a huge hit in the community, although sadly it wasn't renewed for a full third season. Instead though, Russell Tovey, Frankie J. Alvarez and Raúl Castillo will return in early 2016 with a one-off extended show to round out the character's stories. The show itself has been pivotal in shedding light on the often misconstrued habits of gay men - just as Cucumber, Banana, Tofu did earlier in the year on Channel 4. It's so crucially important that shows of this calibre continue to be part of our daily TV scheduling in order to bring greater variety of representation of the LGBT world.
Perhaps taking a step back for 2016, is the hotly anticipated Zoolander 2. There's been a notable buzz surrounding the film ever since Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson took to the runway for Valentino fall/winter 15. Humorous yes, but the film has taken a recent sour turn after the release of its first trailer, which sees Benedict Cumberbatch take the role of a transgender model named All. The character is a flagrant example of stereotype - portrayed as "an over-the-top, cartoonish mockery of androgyne/trans/non-binary individuals," according to an online petition to boycott the film, which has amassed almost 23,000 signatures. "By hiring a cis actor to play a non-binary individual in a clearly negative way, they endorse harmful and dangerous perceptions of the queer community at large," say the protestors.
The film is also a wildly inaccurate representation of the fashion industry and its roundly progressive approach to LGBT issues. GoGo Graham recently debuted her spring/summer 16 collection at The Ace Hotel in New York, modeled entirely on a cast of transgender models and presenting clothes that celebrated the individual as opposed to conventional forms of gender and dress. That was a stance embedded in the launch of Agender at London's Selfridges - a concept floor which sold clothes outside the traditional male/female binaries. It's provoked the launch of platforms such as You Do You, "an inclusive online base" that champions genderless fashion. And we're seeing that approach to dressing more and more, in highly sought-after brands such as Vêtements, Hood By Air and Telfar. It's important for 2016 that fashion continues to advance those ideas to counter the unnecessary input from Derek Zoolander and co.
There will be a strong voice heard at 2016's Pride and during LGBT History Month, which next year places religion, belief and philosophy at the forefront of discussion. Following a year where atrocious murders of gay men by ISIS have been so frequently seen in our news, this focus feels apt. Samantha Power, has stated that for the first time, the UN Security Council have discussed LGBT issues. "It is impossible not to take up the struggle for their rights as our own as we have other great human rights struggles," she was reported as saying in The Independent. "Today, we take a small but important step in assuming that work. It must not be our last step."
2015 has certainly continued to advance LGBT issues and we should continue to feel proud of our steadfast stance in defeating such struggles through arts, fashion and politics. Here's to more of the same in 2016.
Text Greg French