By: Mikey Rox/Special for TRT–
This year the LGBT community laughed together, cried together, and celebrated together as news broke on issues important to us all. To refresh your memory on the year that almost was, here are our picks for the top stories that had us talking in 2012.
1. Atlantis Cruise couple caught in the act on dockside balcony
After a cruise ship operated by Atlantis Events ported on the Caribbean island of Dominica, hot-blooded lovers John Robert Hart, 41, and Dennis Jay Mayer, 53, of Palm Springs, stepped out onto their Sky Suite balcony to take in the view – and each other. The amorous vacationers were quickly spotted by local bystanders, prompting military police to board the ship and arrest the diddling duo on charges of “buggery,” the local equivalent of sodomy. Hart and Mayer vehemently denied having intercourse on the balcony and subsequently protested the “inhumane” treatment to which they were subjected while in custody. After the charges were dropped and they returned home, however, the couple finally admitted to doing the vertical mambo out in the open, but not without throwing shade at Atlantis Events for taking them to a country where public poking between consenting gay men is outlawed. Since, ya know, it’s legal nowhere else either.
2. John Travolta gets down and dirty with multiple masseurs (allegedly)
Three weeks after a tell-all book detailing John Travolta’s penchant for naked time on massage tables, two masseurs (whose identities were kept secret) came forward claiming that the veteran actor touched them inappropriately. Johnny boy was almost out the woods when the anonymous litigators both dropped their suits less than a month later, but then two more suits surfaced: The first was filed by cruise-ship employee Fabian Zanzi, who claimed that the Grease star made unwanted sexual advances toward him; the second suit was from Robert Randolph, author of the aforementioned tell-all who said that Travolta and his lawyer, Marty Singer, spread vicious rumors about the state of his mental health. Randolph’s suit was dismissed in court, but Zanzi’s suit still stands despite being called “ludicrous” and “inane” by Singer. It remains to be seen who’ll come out on top in this Face/Off.
3. President Obama announces that he supports same-sex marriage
When President Obama took office for his first term, he was opposed to same-sex marriage because, in his words, he was sensitive to the traditions that the word “marriage” represented to certain people and because he thought “civil unions would be sufficient.” But in May, a day after North Carolinians passed a vote on an amendment that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, the now-two-term prez did an about-face, officially affirming his support for same-sex marriage in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts. President Obama, who has “always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally,” called his thought process on the issue an “evolution,” a statement that gave renewed hope to the marriage-minded LGBT community. All hail the chief.
4. ‘Non-coming-outs’ increasingly becoming the norm
Celebrity coming-outs have always made news, but this year their declarations were more likely to be buried within an article or treated as an aside instead of the long-standing tradition of making headlines. “White Collar” star and all-around über-cutie Matt Bomer acknowledged his sexual orientation during an acceptance speech for a humanitarian award when he thanked his family, which includes his partner, publicist Simon Halls, and their children, Kit, Walker, and Henry. Actor Jim Parsons, star of the top-rated “The Big Bang Theory,” quietly came out in a profile in the New York Times. And the Silver Fox himself, Anderson Copper, put years of gay rumors to rest in an e-mail to blogger Andrew Sullivan who published Coop’s admission in his Daily Beast column The Dish. Coincidentally, the catalyst for Cooper’s matter-of-fact coming out was a story in a June issue of Entertainment Weekly titled “The New Art of Coming Out in Hollywood,” all about how today’s stars are more frequently letting the well-groomed exotic cat out of the fabulous leather man-bag by treating with whom they share their lives and their beds as a non-issue. Just as it should be.
5. Chick-Fil-A COO ignites firestorm with controversial anti-equality comments
Corporate bigwigs rarely make polarizing statements in the press for fear of biting the proverbial hand that feeds its business, but Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy took off a few fingers when he told the Baptist Press back in July that his family-owned fast-food chain was “guilty as charged” in its unwavering support of the “biblical definition of the family unit.” In response to the Cluck You Heard ‘round the World, the LGBT community and its allies – including celebrities Ed Helms, Andy Richter, and The Muppets – called for a boycott of the restaurant while supporters (like the Palin family and Mike Huckabee) rallied to celebrate an impromptu Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. Despite the franchise’s dip in public approval, however, it seems the deep-friend dissidence wasn’t enough to cause permanent damage to Chick-fil-A’s rancid reputation: It came out on top of Market Force’s recent survey of America’s favorite chicken chains, and the 45th Chick-fil-A Bowl, to take place on New Year’s Eve, was nearly sold out for the 16th year in a row as of press time.
6. Collective gay hearts skip a beat with the release of nude pics of Prince Harry
Despite what the adage promises, what happens in Vegas never stays in Vegas, and scarlet-haired hottie Prince Harry learned that the hard way when, after a night of Sin City-style partying, scandalous photos of the undressed British blue blood leaked and spread like wildfire across the Interwebs – thanks to perennial celeb whistleblower TMZ. The images – snapped by a cell phone from within a private suite at Wynn Last Vegas – feature the ginger Royal Army lieutenant cupping his junk in one photo and baring all in the back while pressed against an equally naked lady in another. Gay tails everywhere wagged for the salacious snapshots that sent the son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana into hiding for days, presumably while Queen Liz gave her grandson, who’s third in line for the throne, a tongue lashing for the ages… while you fantasized about giving him one of your own.
7. Straight sports stars stand up for equality
There are still no out-and-proud active athletes in any of the four major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL), but this year some of the (assumed) straight players helped pick up the slack by speaking out in favor of marriage equality. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who has promoted LGBT equality for several years, stood firm on his stance despite a nasty letter to Ravens owner Steven Biscotti from Maryland legislator Emmett C. Burns Jr. calling on Biscotti to silence the player regarding his public advocacy of gay marriage, a request that Biscotti refused. In the midst of the uproar, Ayanbadejo and the LGBT community gained another ally in Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who shot back at Burns for his insensitive rhetoric then solidified his commitment to equality and human rights by posing sweaty and shirtless in the November issue of OUT magazine. Even though professional sports still isn’t exactly an arena of acceptance, progress is being made – and that’s something we can all cheer for.
8. More LGBT characters represented on TV than ever before
After last year’s drop in LGBT characters on the big five networks – ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and The CW – GLAAD’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report found that there are more of us represented on television than ever before. Out of 97 scripted shows and 701 total regular characters, 31 identify as LGBT, as do an additional 19 recurring characters. Cable’s scripted shows upped their antes as well, raising their number from 29 LGBT characters last season to 35 this year. As individual networks go, ABC has the most LGBT regulars – 10 in total – with CBS coming in last place with only four. That number was recently cut in half, however, by the abrupt-but-warranted canceling of freshman series “Partners,” starring Michael Urie and Brandon Routh as a committed gay couple. Sad, but maybe the Eye Network will repent and make Two and a Half Men’s Walden Schmidtthe hot gay nerd we all wish his alter ego, Ashton Kutcher, was in real life. Time for a letter-writing campaign.
9. First openly gay senator elected to Congress
At least 118 gay and lesbian candidates won local and state races during the 2012 election cycle, but perhaps the most notable is Tammy Baldwin: the seven-term Democratic congresswoman became the first openly gay politician and first Wisconsin woman elected to the U.S. Senate. Baldwin beat out former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson for the position, making her one of only four openly gay members of Congress that also includes Barney Frank (D-Mass.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). Speaking about Baldwin’s history-making win, political commentator Sally Kohn said, “This is a big day for gay women in America, and really, for all communities who aren’t the typical, straight, white, wealthy men elected to Congress.” Hear, hear! Many congrats to you, Ms. Baldwin.
10. Marriage made legal in Maine, Maryland, and Washington
As a result of the recent election, Maine, Maryland, and Washington bring the total number of states that legally recognize same-sex marriage to nine (plus D.C.), but these latest three additions have the tide-turning distinction of being the first to gain such status via popular vote. This historic showing of support for equal rights is a promising sign of changing times, for sure, but our fight is still an uphill climb; 36 states have banned same-sex marriage, either by statute or constitutional amendment. Until the next battle at the ballots, however, let’s celebrate and rejoice with our friends who’ll get hitched soon: Washington may begin certifying same-sex marriages as early as Dec.9, followed by Maryland on Jan. 1, 2013, and Maine on Jan. 5, 2013.
*Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist whose works has been published by The Advocate, Out.com, CNN.com, Instinct magazine, and The Huffington Post, among many others. Follow his commentary on all things LGBT and pop culture on Twitter @mikeyrox.