1. Following several federal court decisions, as of Jan. 1, transgender Americans may openly enlist in the military, despite President Trump’s attempt to bar them from service by tweeting last July that he would “not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity.” Recruits must undergo physical and psychological tests to qualify to serve.
2. Comedian Dave Chappelle is being criticized over controversial jokes he made in his new Netflix comedy special, “The Bird Revelation.” Chappelle joked that Kevin Spacey’s alleged sexual assault of actor Anthony Rapp was okay because Rapp “grew up to be gay anyway.” Fellow comics Norm McDonald, Donnell Rawlings and Adam Devine have come to Chappelle’s defense.
3. On January 1, Illinois became the second state to formally ban the so-called “gay panic” or “trans panic” defense in murder trials. The rarely used defense claims a murder suspect killed in a rage-like response to learning of someone’s homosexuality or gender identity. California banned the defense in 2014.
4. Reason 2,017 we miss Barack Obama: The former POTUS issued his year-end roundup of his favorite books and music, and on the list were songs by lesbian singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile and bisexual R&B star Frank Ocean; as well as the feminist book “The Power” by Nadia Alderman, whose debut novel “Disobedience” told the story of a Jewish lesbian living with an Orthodox rabbi in New York.
5. VIDEO OF THE DAY: The film “Saturday Church,” opening in New York and L.A. Jan. 12, follows a young gay man who becomes “man of the house” when his father passes away. It was the closing film at last year’s Out On Film festival.