Year in review: Culture club

Chaz Bono danced with the stars, Lady Gaga spoke out after a “Little Monster” committed suicide, a gay teen’s video went viral when he defended his two moms to the Iowa legislature, and gay characters went all the way on “Glee.”

LGBT individuals and issues were everywhere in the media this year. Here are some of the biggest moments from social media, television, music, movies and theater.

Social Media

Son of lesbian moms speaks out to Iowa legislature

Uploaded to YouTube on Feb. 3, 2011, a video of 19-year-old Zach Wahls telling Iowa legislators why same-sex marriage should not be rescinded in the state has been viewed 18 million times — surpassing even President Obama to be the most watched political video of the year on YouTube.

The Eagle Scout and University of Iowa student was raised by lesbian moms, and his inspiring comments were shared multiple times via Facebook and Twitter. Thanks to the uncanny ability of Facebook to make everything old new again, the video circulated again in December, garnering more views and more supportive comments for a young man who is proud of his two moms.

Kardashian divorce fuels gay marriage supporters

Kim Kardashian announced at the end of October that she planned to divorce NBA player Kris Humphries, who she had married only 72 days before in a lavish, much-hyped ceremony.

Besides the expected sniping about “reality” TV, the Kardashian divorce fueled a deluge of Facebook comments and shares pointing out that it is stunts like hers that devalue marriage, not loving gay couples who want to say “I Do.”

Cher takes political fight to Twitter

Cher, the singer and actress beloved by legions of gay fans, took to Twitter this year to declare her support for transgender son Chaz, who faced negative backlash when he appeared as a contestant on “Dancing for the Stars,” becoming the most visible transman in TV history.

Cher also tweeted her disdain for anti-gay politicians, especially GOP presidential hopeful Michelle Bachman, about whom Cher declared this summer, “if I was on my deathbed & your best friend was JESUS!!! I WOULDN’T VOTE 4 YOUR GAY HATING, BULLY LOVING, POSER CHRISTIAN ASS!”

Atlanta gay veteran celebrates end of DADT

Jack Strouss, a gay World War II veteran, spoke out at an Atlanta ceremony on Sept. 19 to mark the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Strouss charmed the crowd, and video of his comments was the most viewed GA Voice video of the year — linked on websites ranging from Time to BuzzFeed, it recieved more than 17,000 views.

Prop 8 is overturned! Oh, wait, oops…

Sometimes, Facebook’s ability to quickly share and react to news links can be as much of a curse as a blessing.
The social networking hub lit up in December with joyful comments as pro-LGBT members shared a story about Proposition 8, the ballot measure that ended gay marriage in California, being overturned in court.

The problem? The Huffington Post story, headlined “Prop 8 OVERTURNED: Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down in California,” was actually from back in August 2010, when a district judge ruled the ban unconstitutional. Supporters appealed to the federal appeals court, and the ban remains in place as the case winds its way through the legal system, where it is likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read before you share, friends. Read before you share.


Chaz debuts on “Dancing With the Stars”

Besides “Queer Eye For the Straight Guy” alum Carson Kressley, the last season of the reality show featured transgendered Chaz Bono, the child of Cher and Sonny Bono, as one of the contestants. The show treated Chaz as one of the guys, but some fans criticized his inclusion, which made him the most visible female-to-male transgender person in the history of mainstream television. A few of the other prominent contestants had people wondering around their sexuality as well over the water cooler.

“Glee” goes all the way

The second season of the musical comedy had some reviled moments, but at times “Glee” was the gayest thing on TV, from the appreciative homages to pop divas to the infamous episode where Kurt (Chris Colfer) and his boyfriend finally had sex.  Lesbian Jane Lynch still growls like no other as Sue Sylvester, and Lynch cemented her television comedy success as host of the 2011 Emmys.

Talk show hosts help gay rights

Talk show host Conan O’Brien officiated the televised Nov. 3 wedding of Scott Cronick, who is O’Brien’s costume designer, and David Gorshein, declaring “I now pronounce you husband and husband. You can kiss the groom.”

Faux newscasters Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert could also be counted on to hilariously skewer the most ridiculous of right-wing anti-gay claims.

Callie and Arizona say “I Do” on “Grey’s Anatomy”

Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins finally said “I Do” in May on this long-running medical drama.

“Obviously the visibility is incredible,” actress Sara Ramirez, who plays Callie, told “You can’t make everybody happy and I’m aware of that. But if people are passionate and [the episode] triggers civic dialogue and communication and compassion for one another, I’m thrilled.”

New shows “Revenge” and ”American Horror Story” include gays

ABC’s new trashy delight “Revenge” finds Emily Thorne as Emily VanCamp, facing off again the woman who helped bring down her   father – Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe).  Besides icy stares, bitchy dialogue, and twists and turns there are two male supporting characters who’ve wound up in bed together a few times.

Elsewhere, from Ryan Murphy of “Glee” fame comes the creepy thriller “American Horror Story” with gay subplots and characters, as well as openly gay actor Zachary Quinto, who came out this year.


Lady Gaga vs. anti-gay bullying

The performer started off the year debuting her “Born this Way” single on the Grammy Awards and the world has been humming it ever since. The anthem celebrates diversity, with lyrics such as “no matter gay, straight, or bi.”

Speaking up and fighting for equality almost weekly, Gaga has replaced Madonna as the LGBT-friendly pop diva/icon of the moment.

Jamey Rodemeyer, a bisexual 14-year-old who had recorded an “It’s Get Better” video, took his own life in September. Prior to his death, he sent his last message in the form of a tweet to Lady Gaga, which read, “Bye Mother Monster. Thank you for all you have done. Paws up forever.”

Lady Gaga told her fans via Twitter she spent the days after his suicide “reflecting, crying and yelling.” She later met with President Obama over the issue of bullying.

“This means more to me than any Grammy I could ever win … It will take a village and an army, [some] countries and continents to make bullying a hate crime,” Gaga said in December, accepting the Hero Award from the Trevor Project, which fights suicide among LGBT youth. It was presented by Rodemeyer’s family.
Speaking up and fighting for equality almost weekly, Gaga has replaced Madonna as the LGBT-friendly pop diva/icon of the moment.

Chely Wright gets married

Country singer Chely Wright – who came out very publicly last year – married her girlfriend this year while her documentary “Wish Me Away” toured the festival route, including winning the jury award for Best Documentary and audience award for Best Women’s Feature at Atlanta’s Out on Film. Look for it in theaters in the spring.

Big year for Georgia’s Indigo Girls, REM

The Indigo Girls released their new album, “Beauty Queen Sister,” in the fall, and the local team of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers performed in Atlanta and Athens to rapturous crowds.

Georgia-based band REM, with openly queer frontman Michael Stipe, shocked the world earlier this fall when they announced they were separating after three decades of performing, telling fans they had decided to “call it a day as a band.”  Say it ain’t so!


“Beginners” highlights gay aging

From director Mike Mills came this semi-autobiographical film about a man (Ewan McGregor) who finds out his elderly father (Christopher Plummer, Oscar bound) has decided to come out as gay late in life. Sweet without being sentimental, and with a rich ensemble cast, “Beginners” was an art-house success earlier this summer.
Plummer is nominated for a Golden Globe for his role, usually indicator for Oscar buzz.

“J. Edgar” explores Hoover’s history

Leonardo DiCaprio starred in this Clint Eastwood drama about the secretive J. Edgar Hoover, who climbed the ropes to become the first director of the FBI. There wasn’t much ambiguity in the film about the relationship he had with colleague Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), with whom he spends almost all his time. It’s an emotional relationship, though, not a physical one.  The movie didn’t click critically or commercially – but it could very well score Oscar nominations for both DiCaprio and Hammer. DiCaprio was also nominated for a Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a motion picture.

“We Were Here” chronicles HIV

Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the AIDS crisis, this devastating documentary looked at a handful of the people – gay men and a lesbian – in San Francisco when the disease began. David Weissman’s film hit theaters this fall and has been shortlisted for Best Documentary at next year’s Academy Awards.

“Circumstance” rises above

Two young women in Tehran begin a relationship in this Sundance hit (directed by Maryam Keshavarz). It was one of a number of smaller films (“Gun Hill Road,” “Making the Boys”) that broke through to theatrical runs.


“Bring It On” brings out crowds

The cheerleading comedy became a must-see world premiere musical at the Alliance Theatre, written by “Avenue Q’s” Jeff Whitty. One of the memorable characters is a transgender character named La Cienega. Bouncy and inventive, “Bring It On” has already started touring; look for it on Broadway in the not so distant future.

Actor’s Express stays afloat

Actor’s Express appeared to be ready to shut their doors this year before they publicly asked for financial help and got it.  No other theater in town produces as many gay-themed plays, from the spring’s Oscar Wilde drama “Judas Kiss” to the fall’s sold-out “Spring Awakening,” so let’s be glad the troupe survived the storm.

“Mr. Universe” returns to Atlanta stage

Jim Grimsley’s 1987 play about a hooker and two drag queens who find a near-naked man in the streets of New Orleans returned to 7 Stages  with a gay ole cast – Doyle Reynolds, Don Finney and Brian Kirchner.  It was the first version of the drama since its original staging.

Local take on “Avenue Q”

Horizon Theatre had a big hit with the first local version of this musical. Director Heidi Cline breathed new life into a show many have seen and wisely picked a game cast. If you missed it, it’s coming back for an encore in January.

Less lesbian visibility?

Lesbians weren’t as prominent onstage this year but did appear in Theater of the Star’s “The Color Purple,” “Walk Like a Man,” Synchronicity’s “The Vibrator Play” and Process Theatre’s “Lakebottom Proper.”

— Laura Douglas-Brown contributed


Top photo: From left: World War II veteran Jack Strouss spoke at the Atlanta ceremony to mark the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” Lady Gaga created an anthem for all of us who were ‘Born This Way.’ ‘We Were Here,’ an AIDS documentary, hit theaters this fall. (Publicity photos, Strouss by Laura Douglas-Brown)