1. Sister Roma
Sister Roma was instrumental this year in the fight to restore performers’ names on Facebook, after a witch-hunt of profile-removal that largely targeted drag queens and other performers who use stage names in the LGBT community. His contributions to gay rights and activism have been prolific for many, many years, but this particular endeavor earns him a nomination in this category for 2014. Bravo, Sister!
2. Laverne Cox
Shooting to stardom in the hit series Orange is the New Black, Laverne Cox has become a stellar advocate for the trans community; so much so that – on June 9, 2014 – she became the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine. That’s big, Pop Tarts. She was also the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy for Orange. Outspoken and inspirational, 2014 was just the beginning of what I think will be a wonderful legacy of advocacy and recognition for Ms. Cox.
3. RuPaul Charles
Come on…how can you have a category like this and not name RuPaul Charles? He has put drag into the homes of millions of Americans (for better or worse) and therefore has raised awareness, acceptance (hopefully), and challenged our thinking with regard to how we communicate with each other as members of the LGBT community. Love him or hate him, he’s a pioneer – and well worth a nod here.
4. Leslie Feinberg
Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues (1993) won the Lambda Literary Award, among others, and remains a seminal work on the topics of sexuality, gender, and society’s perception of each. A self-described “white, working class, secular Jewish, transgender lesbian,” Leslie would go on to write four more books concerning gay/transgender issues and activism. Feinberg died on November 15, 2014 at the age of 65, from complications brought on by Lyme disease.
5. Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman
These two gentlemen share the nomination for being the first country-and-western music stars to come out of the closet. Ty Herndon came out in an interview with People magazine in November, and soon thereafter Billy Gilman – inspired by Ty – followed suit in a video posted to the web. In a music genre mostly composed of Christian conservatives and with a firm red-state advantage, these two men are true trailblazers (and Ty Herndon is from my home state of Alabama, so woo-hoo!)
6. Michael Sam
Even though his story is nominated for “Moment of the Year,” Michael Sam gets a nod here as well. He was the eye of the hurricane, and for all the reasons mentioned above, he’s a contender for this category as well.
7. Tim Cook
He’s the CEO of Apple. He’s gay. He’s out. To have that kind of status and visibility – and the respect with which it comes – and to be confident in being openly gay is a great testament to how far we have come as a community. Yes, we have a long way to go still, but people like Mr. Cook are continuing to break down the walls – one bite at a time. (See what I did there…bite…Apple logo…oh, never mind.)
8. Lily Tomlin
After a long career of awards and accolades, perennial favorite Lily Tomlin became the first “out” lesbian to be a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors for excellence in the arts. Numerous gay or bisexual men have been awarded the honors, but Tomlin is the first gay woman to be given such distinction. Ernestine would be proud! One ringy-dingy!
9. Conchita Wurst
Austrian recording artist and drag queen Conchita Wurst (Tom Neuwirth) rocked the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 with the song “Rise Like a Phoenix.” The Eurovision Contest is a huge deal internationally; think of it as an international American Idol – only much, much better – where the songs compete as well as the singers. She won, representing Austria, and set the world on fire – a bearded drag queen winning Eurovision! She was immediately denounced by conservatives all across Europe, but the success brought her immediate notoriety as a LGBT advocate and icon – she was invited to perform in numerous Pride festivals, the European Parliament, and the United Nations Office in Vienna.
10. Neil Patrick Harris
Is there anything that Neil Patrick Harris can’t do? Actor, writer, producer, director, magician, singer, dancer, father, husband, drag queen – the list gets longer each year. This year the triple-triple threat won the Tony award for Best Actor in a Musical for his gut-wrenching, raw, and wonderful turn in the title role of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He was also named as the future host of the 2015 Academy Awards – after hosting numerous Emmy and Tony awards broadcasts. From his chilling role in Gone Girl to his slapstick role in A Million Ways to Die in the West, Harris continually proves that gay people can play all kinds of roles, portray all kinds of sexualities, and be brilliant while doing so; shattering Hollywood’s stereotypical idea of how gay people can and should be cast.
YOU MAY VOTE ONCE A DAY IN EACH CATEGORY! VOTING RUNS THROUGH DECEMBER 24TH!