Qmmunity: Looking Back on 2021 Through a Queer Lens

This year's biggest LGBTQIA stories

Trans rights activists rally outside the Texas Capitol (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Whew. Where do we begin? 2021 – much like last year – was a seemingly never-ending roller coaster ride of good, bad, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, and what-the-actual-f!ck (and sometimes all four swirled together at once). Austin's LGBTQIA community was no exception. Our wins, like the city's first-ever LGBTQIA Quality of Life Study, will make Austin a better and more inclusive space for queer and trans Austinites. But the year was marked by tragic milestones, too – particularly the statewide and national attacks on trans, nonbinary, and intersex people – which contributor James Scott and I believe can't go unacknowledged here. Below, in chronological order, you'll find the 10 biggest stories that made 2021 yet another unprecedented year for the LGBTQIA community.

2021's Biggest Queer and Trans Stories

1) Bye Bye Bye Days after his inauguration President Joe Biden struck down the two-year ban on trans service members in the U.S. military. Though progress for trans rights and protections remains far from over, the ban's demise signified the end of four long, awful years under an anti-LGBTQIA presidential administration.

City celebrates LGBTQIA QoL Study with Fourth Street rainbow crosswalks (Photo by John Anderson)

2) A Rainbow Portrait With its historic LGBTQIA Quality of Life Study, the city's LGBTQIA QoL Commission captured Austin's first "official" record of the priorities and needs of its diverse queer and trans community. Looking ahead, we're hopeful the study will guide City Hall as it works to improve the lives of LGBTQIA Austinites with equity at the forefront.

3) Pride Postponed, Again For the second year in a row Austin Pride was forced to cancel its annual festival and Downtown parade due to COVID-19. Its cancellation was a disappointment, no doubt, but also a reminder that the fate of future Prides depends on the actions we take today to keep ourselves – and the rest of the LGBTQmmunity – safe.

4) Back Onstage Like 2020, this year witnessed a bevy of local queer and trans performers push the bounds of creativity to bring their work and art to the virtual realm. As Austin's COVID situation improved amidst vaccination, much-loved drag troupes – Bizarre Stripper Burlesque, Boyz of Austin, Poo Poo Platter, and so many more – celebrated their first in-person shows since the beginning of the pandemic.

Chique Fil-Atio performs at Iron Bear (Photo by Jana Birchum)

5) Cheers for Cheer Ups Hear ye, hear ye! 'Twas the weekend of May 15-16 and all through Red River District was a sense of queer neon madness being reborn as Cheer Up Charlies' gates reopened. Hungry to groove and move outside their living rooms, the el gee bee tea mafia descended on the patios slick with rain – rejoicing in being, well, not home again, but someplace a little bit cooler. I [James] hopped into the fray a weekend after to dance with my friends as I hadn't in over a year. Cheer Ups reopening returned a little more joy in all our gay little lives.

6) Pride at the Polls State Rep. Celia Israel, co-founder of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus, made headlines when the Austin Democrat announced she wouldn't be seeking reelection. Instead, Israel's emerged as a likely candidate for Austin's next mayor; if elected, Israel would be the first openly gay mayor in the city's history.

7) Queers Gone Country It was only a matter of time before the Live Music Capital of the World had its very own queer country music festival, and boy howdy, our wish finally came true this year. The brainchild of Julie Nolen, Austin OUTlaw Pride Fest was a memorable celebration of queer country musicians from around the country, including the world's first openly gay country band, Lavender Country.

8) The Matrix – Whoa! There's going to be a new Matrix movie in – *runs to check our calendar where we've circled Dec. 22 with a big green heart and kissy emojis* – six whole days. Short time to prepare yourself to download back into the mainframe or secure a sick-nasty black leather coat and tiny sunglasses, but honestly, Reader, haven't all of us trans QTs been readying for Lana Wachowski's revisiting of her and her sister's transformative trans myth of what's real and what's just society's code for years now? The Matrix is back, dude.

9) WTF, LISD? In recent reading news, Leander Independent School District has removed 11 titles from their student book clubs, an English-class exercise where students choose to read from a list of various nonrequired reading books and, with others who chose the same book, discuss the material together. Of course, the idea of high schoolers being exposed to such mature ideas as intersex, queer, and non-white folks proved just too wild a thought for many parents, who complained long and hard enough to get the curriculum re-reviewed by LISD's Community Curriculum Advisory Committee. From the 11 books being removed from both book clubs and classroom libraries, at least 5 contain LGBTQIA content.

10) A Dangerous Year When it came to LGBTQIA rights – especially for trans and intersex folks – 2021 was historic for all the wrong reasons. During a year in which the most anti-LGBTQIA bills were filed in recent history, Texas led the pack – making it the sixth state this year to pass legislation targeting trans youth when lawmakers passed an anti-trans student-athlete bill, House Bill 25. 2021 was also the deadliest year on record for trans and gender-nonconforming people.

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Austin LGBTQIA, Austin LGBTQIA, Top 10s 2021, Qmmunity Top 10s 2021, Joe Biden, LGBTQIA Quality of Life Study, Austin Pride 2021, Cheer Up Charlies, Texas House LGBTQ Caucus, Celia Israel, OUTlaw Pride Fest, The Matrix, Leander Independent School District, House Bill 25

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