Qmmunity: 2020's Biggest Queer and Trans Stories

Looking back on a rollercoaster of a year

Looking back on a rollercoaster of a year

Historically, Qmmunity's Top 10s have served as a space to celebrate the wins that made that year a better, queerer place: more inclusive, more radical, and sometimes, more fabulous. In a year like 2020, however, I and my Chron-patriot James Scott couldn't ignore that some of the biggest stories in the LGBTQmmunity – locally, across the state, and nationwide – were either outright losses or wins punctuated with asterisks. Don't get us wrong: There were some major wins, of course (hello, workplace protections), but in rounding up Q's Top 10s, we wanted to represent the spectrum that is 2020. So below, in chronological order (mostly), you'll find what we think are this year's 10 biggest celebrations, mournings, and moments that made us go "WTF?" mixed with some "(ಥ ﹏ ಥ)" – because as James reminded me, sometimes "some sugar with the medicine is the right way to go." – Beth Sullivan

2020's Biggest Queer and Trans Stories

Project Transitions breaks ground on new Roosevelt Gardens (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

1) HOMETOWN HEALTH 2020 was a year of new beginnings and big visions for many of Austin's HIV/AIDS and sexual health services orgs. AIDS Services of Austin kicked off the year by announcing a merger with Vivent Health, while Texas Health Action not only opened new Kind Clinic locations in San Antonio and South Austin but also revealed that it's merging with Waterloo Counseling. Project Transitions broke ground on its new Roosevelt Gardens housing project.

BT2 (in pre-COVID times) (Courtesy of BT2)

2) GAY BARS LOVED AND LOST At a time when gay bars were already disappearing, the pandemic sadly compounded that precarity. North Austin's BT2 shuttered in May, bookmarking the end of 'Bout Time and BT2's combined 36-year legacy. In early December, Sellers Underground closed just several days shy of its fourth anniversary on Fourth Street.

LGBTQ Solidarity March for Black Lives in June (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

3) BLACK QUEER AND TRANS LIVES MATTER Organizers united in June to form Black Queer Lives Matter ATX to amplify the voices of Austin's Black LGBTQIA community in protests against racism and police brutality. In November, nonprofit Black Trans Leadership of Austin – whose mission is to connect Austin's trans and GNC community to social services and support – officially launched.

4) A LANDMARK VICTORY The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects queer and trans employees from workplace discrimination. Though the fight continues for broader NDO protections at the state level here in Texas, June's victory was a much-needed win in a year that saw unprecedented attacks on LGBTQIA rights nationwide.

5) REST IN POWER, MONICA ROBERTS In October we lost a titan in journalism and trans rights advocacy when Monica Roberts died outside her Houston home. The founding editor of the award-winning blog TransGriot, Roberts – the first journalist to document the murders of trans people, particularly trans women of color – left behind an unparalleled legacy that lives on in several ATX qmmunity advocates who called her a friend, mentor, and family.

6) ALLGO'S 35TH ANNIVERSARY Austin's much-loved allgo's milestone gave us a moment to reflect on its history serving QTPOC Texans, from its origins in HIV/AIDS outreach and care to today's programming around cultural arts, health and wellness, and social justice.

7) HISTORY AT THE POLLS Queer and trans candidates scored historic wins in the November election. Selena Alvarenga will be Travis County's first openly gay immigrant Latina judge, and Delaware's Sarah McBride became the first openly trans state senator in the country – making her the highest-ranking out trans legislator in the nation – to name a few.

8) LONE STAR SEX ED The State Board of Education approved new standards for more comprehensive, "abstinence-plus" sex ed – that part being a win in our books. But in the end, it voted against teaching kids about sexuality, gender identity and expression, and consent. Still, the hundreds who testified reminded us that the fight to protect LGBTQIA students is backed by a mighty force.

9) CREATING A SAFER FUTURE 2020 witnessed many celebrities coming out – including Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union's daughter Zaya and professional Canadian soccer player Quinn – but also trans media stars facing hateful violence. In the same week The Umbrella Academy's Elliot Page came out (renewing discussion on how to respectfully avoid deadnames in reporting transition news), actress Laverne Cox revealed that she and a friend suffered a transphobic attack. "It's not safe in the world [for trans people] and I don't like to think about that a lot, but it's the truth," said Cox. Going into 2021, making a safer world for all trans people – celebrity or not – must become a qmmunity goal.

10) BAD BILLS, GOOD BILLS Trans kids were the unfortunate target of more than one bill to undermine their rights. Texas' House Bill 68, prefiled for the 87th Texas Legislature, would charge parents with child abuse for letting their trans kids receive medical gender affirmation care. Just last week 2020 Dem presidential dropout Rep. Tulsi Gabbard unveiled a bill targeting trans athletes. Neither bill has been solidified, so 2021 will be a year to fight these creeping injustices lurking in the upcoming legislative sessions. Of course, there are some good bills to support, too, like Texas' HB 73 banning "gay and trans panic" legal defenses.

2 to Do

Frida Friday Holiday Market Check off your last-minute holigay shopping between an outdoor IRL (Dec. 19-20, noon-4pm) or online market (Dec. 18-21), featuring 24 vendors rotating daily while Revival Coffee serves up conchas and cafecito. Music by Chorizo Funk, Kay Cali, Zetroc, and KickIt. Fri.-Mon., Dec. 18-21. Online; Revival Coffee, 1405 E. Seventh. www.fridafridayatx.org.

Mama Duke & Friends Mama Duke celebrates her debut album with a nonstop livestream with her fave artists, Nayome, Daddy Nat, and others. And closing out the night is the premiere of her new vid "Get Off My Dick." Sat., Dec. 19, 6-11pm. Donations suggested. www.purplebee.org.

Want more queer? Visit austinchronicle.com/qmmunity

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Austin LGBTQ
Qmmunity: Queer Texan Pride Rides Again
Qmmunity: Queer Texan Pride Rides Again
Qmmunity rustles up queer events all over Central Texas

James Scott, June 3, 2022

Qmmunity: Cher-ing Is Caring
Qmmunity: Cher-ing Is Caring
The Goddess of Pop’s birthday begets cool queer ATX parties

James Scott, May 20, 2022

More Qmmunity
Qmmunity: Serving Real Realness
Qmmunity: Serving Real Realness
AI art has no place in the queer community, plus queer Austin updates

James Scott, March 1, 2024

Qmmunity: Peace, Love, and the House of Juicy
Qmmunity: Peace, Love, and the House of Juicy
Legendary Father Akasha and princess BabiBoi talk the new Central Texas chapter of Juicy Couture

James Scott, Feb. 23, 2024


Austin LGBTQ, Austin LGBTQ, Queer Black Lives Matter ATX, Black Trans Leadership of Austin, AIDS Services of Austin, Vivent Health, Kind Clinic, Waterloo Counseling, Project Transitions, BT2, Sellers Underground, U.S. Supreme Court, Monica Roberts, allgo, Selena Alvarenga, Sarah McBride, State Board of Education, 87th Texas Legislature

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle