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3 min

World heroes: Newsmakers 2014

The people who shaped our year for the better

Corporations backing gay rights

Starbucks has drag queens, Burger King celebrates gay families, and Kellogg’s makes Tony the Tiger wear rainbow-coloured stripes. 2014 was the year of corporations going to bat for the LGBT community, ignoring various calls for boycotts and religious backlash, and bravely marketing to our demographic. Congrats, everyone! Our copious disposable incomes are finally being acknowledged by capitalism. Freedom comes with a gift card — and a delicious Mushroom Swiss Bacon Whopper.

BioWare and Dragon Age: Inquisition

Videogame developer BioWare is used to courting controversy, and company spokespeople have given countless interviews describing their commitment to creating rich, entertaining games populated by diverse casts of straight, gay and bisexual characters. And with Dragon Age: Inquisition, the company went even further, creating its first trans character, a second-in-command named Krem who has been heralded as a huge step forward in gaming representation.

Laverne Cox

2014 was the Year of Laverne Cox. From her Emmy-nominated performance on the Netflix hit Orange Is the New Black to her history-making Time magazine cover, Cox has made a name for herself as an outspoken advocate for trans issues, correcting hosts like Katie Couric and Gayle King on language etiquette in interviews, speaking up for trans woman CeCe McDonald’s need to use deadly force against her vicious attackers and being heralded as Glamour’s 2014 Woman of the Year.

Michael Sam and the NFL

The NFL’s decision to draft Michael Sam — an openly gay football player — took many by surprise. For a sport that has a bunch of burly men in spandex shorts aggressively rubbing against each other, the idea of a gay football player seemed to make subtext a bit too textual for some in the industry. Still, the NFL went ahead with its decision, and Sam has since revealed himself to be a charming role model and capable athlete — when he’s allowed to play, that is.

Conchita Wurst 

A rundown of 2014 wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the fabulous Conchita Wurst. The Austrian winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014, Thomas Neuwirth’s bearded drag persona was a controversial hit — celebrated by LGBT groups worldwide while simultaneously being condemned by conservative and religious groups.

Jill Soloway’s Transparent

Amazon.com entered the streaming game with this touching and subversive series about a father (played with grace by Jeffrey Tambor) who comes out to his grown children as a transgender woman. Exploring sexuality, identity and familial dysfunction with intelligence and humour, the show is easily the year’s best and represents a clear turning point in queer televised storytelling.

Stories of Our Lives and filmmaker Jim Chuchu

Banned by the Kenyan Film Classification Board, Stories of Our Lives offers up five vignettes about the extreme difficulties of queer life in the African country, where homosexuality is illegal. The cast and crew remained anonymous during the making of the film out of fear of repercussions and revealed their identities only at the TIFF world premiere.

International Pride celebrations under siege

2014 was a big year for Pride celebrations in traditionally homophobic countries, with brave protesters hosting demonstrations in India, Serbia, Russia and Uganda, to name just a few.

PrEP

Approved as an HIV-prevention method in the United States in 2012 by the Food and Drug Administration, PrEP (or Truvada) is still not officially licensed for use in HIV prevention in Canada. Still, countless sexual health organizations have come out in support of the drug, and many within the community see it as a valuable tool for lowering the risk of infection.

Reluctant hero: IOC

The International Olympic Committee didn’t exactly make lots of gay friends with its decision to stay quiet on Russia’s numerous human rights violations in the lead-up to the Sochi Games. But by the end of 2014, the committee had shifted its position, announcing that it will be adding sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination language in host-city contracts — a move that some hope will see significant changes to LGBT rights in the countries where the games are held. 

Plaintiffs who have pushed forward gay marriage wave in US

When historians look back on the fight for marriage equality in America, they will see a battle that was won slowly, on a case-by-case and state-by-state basis. Still, a critical turning point occurred in October of this year, when the Supreme Court chose not to hear appeals against lower court rulings that had overturned gay-marriage bans in five states. As a result, gay marriage is now legal in 35 states, accounting for more than half the country’s population.