What a Year: GLAAD Recaps The Top LGBTQ Milestones of 2020

Credit: Sarah McBride Instagram

2020 was a year like no other. It challenged us in ways that we’ve never had to deal with before thanks to the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic which has presented us with many new normals over the past several months.

We were also at the edge of our seats for almost a week after Election Day which resulted in a blissful victory for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over incumbent Donald Trump.


The fight for equality became headline news all over again after the controversial deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and others who were unjustly killed in the eyes of many. 

There were still many incredible moments that happened amid the craziness that was this year, in particular for the LGBTQ community. The feelings we had ranged from proud to happy and everything in between as so much good happened for us which makes us think 2020 wasn’t so bad after all.

Credit: GLAAD

Barbara Simon, Head of News and Campaigns for GLAAD, chatted with Instinct about the top LGBTQ milestones this year. Take a look at the impressive list below.


Record LGBTQ voter turnout: LGBTQ voters were the deciding difference tipping the general election for pro-equality candidates and away from the years of attacks from the Trump Administration, compiled by GLAAD’s Trump Accountability Project; LGBTQ voters stand to make history again in Georgia in the Senate runoff races in January.

Historic show of support for Black trans lives at Brooklyn Liberation – led by activists like Raquel Willis, Eliel Cruz and others; “Let today be the last day that you ever doubt Black trans power.” – Raquel Willis to the estimated 15,000 gathered.

Historic election of the first female, first Black, first Indian-American vice president, Kamala Harris, who as Attorney General of California fought against Prop 8 and married the first same-sex couples when the discriminatory proposal was overturned.


After GLAAD loudly and insistently demands LGBTQ issues to be included in nationally-televised debates and town halls, President-elect Biden speaks about Black transgender lives in a town hall and, in a first for a president-elect, includes trans lives in his victory speech.

Rainbow wave: record number of out candidates elected, including many openly-LGBTQ people of color, and firsts like Sarah McBride in Delaware.


First openly-gay presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg, wins Iowa caucuses. Joe Biden later chooses him to be his Transportation Secretary. “Mayor Pete Buttigieg would be the first Senate-confirmed LGBTQ Cabinet secretary should his nomination make it through the chamber. This will be a historic milestone for LGBTQ visibility,” GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis tweeted.

Record representation of LGBTQ people in Super Bowl commercials and at the Democratic National Convention, which featured the first openly-LGBTQ keynote speakers and the highest number of LGBTQ delegates in DNC history.

As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the country and millions of Americans isolate, GLAAD creates “Together in Pride: You are not alone” livestream event raising much-needed funds for LGBTQ centers and non-profits nationwide serving vulnerable LGBTQ people and youth


GLAAD reimagines Pride as marches and commemorations go virtual and to address the reckoning for social justice after the violent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many others. “This Pride Month, we’ll be centering and lifting up the voices of Black LGBTQ people. There can be no Pride if it is not intersectional. We are Together in Pride. Black Lives Matter.” – Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO, June 1, 2020.

Dr. Rachel Levine takes on high profile fight to control the coronavirus while battling transphobic attacks against her, as Pennsylvania’s Health Secretary.


GLAAD successfully presses FDA to revise discriminatory screening protocol and deferral period imposed on gay and bi men who want to donate blood and plasma; will continue to push until deferral period is lifted entirely as was just announced in the UK.

GLAAD announces initiative to address the stigma fueling the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic across the U.S. South; survey shows only half of Americans feel knowledgeable about HIV, and nearly 90 percent believe that stigma still exists around it

Landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling expands civil rights law to include LGBTQ workers.



First GLAAD Media Awards to go virtual includes powerful viral moments of LGBTQ acceptance, including Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade, who presented the GLAAD award for Best Drama to “Pose,” and celebrated their trans daughter Zaya. “I want to thank Zaya for teaching me and GLAAD for elevating the images and messages that accelerate acceptance in every family,” Wade said. Union added, “That mission means even more to us now as we raise all of our Black children. Black lives matter and Black trans lives matter. We are calling on all of our racial justice warriors out there to open your hearts and your minds to the LGBTQ+ community so that we can work together and empower each other and save lives.”

As pandemic forces theaters to close and reconfigures studio distribution plans, LGBTQ film festivals like Outfest reintroduce drive-in movies as a safe way to gather and celebrate queer content.


“Netflix’s Disclosure, co-produced and co-starring Alex Schmider and Nick Adams, members of GLAAD’s transgender media representation team, breaks ground as first documentary to explore trans characters and themes in Hollywood. Disclosure has been cited as a contender on many of the Oscar prediction lists and will continue to make history.

GLAAD and Getty images announce partnership and first-ever photographer guidelines to ensure accurate and authentic visual representation of transgender community

Historic LGBTQ representation and inclusion in children’s books and programming, including collaboration of GLAAD and publisher Little Bee for books Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, Prince & Knight, Jack (Not Jackie), Maiden & Princess; and Disney/Disney+/Pixar’s first LGBTQ-centered animated work, “Out”.


LGBTQ-inclusive comedy Schitt’s Creek sweeps the Emmy awards, the first show to win all seven major categories. Star and co-creator Eugene Levy praises co-star and showrunner son Dan, “who took our fish out of water story about the Rose family and transformed it into a celebration of inclusivity, a castigation of homophobia and a declaration of the power of love.” GLAAD’s entertainment team consulted early on with the show and honored it with a GLAAD Media Award for Best Comedy Series in July.

Star Trek: Discovery becomes first in the storied franchise to include openly-LGBTQ characters and out actors to play them, including the first openly non-binary and transgender characters starring non-binary and trans actors. GLAAD’s transgender media representation director Nick Adams consulted with the actors and producers to “bring their stories to life with empathy, understanding, empowerment and joy” – showrunner Michelle Paradise.

Harry Potter film stars condemn transphobic attacks by JK Rowling; GLAAD works with largest Harry Potter fan sites to support LGBTQ youth and call out Rowling’s inaccurate views and abuse of her platform to promote them.

Elliot Page becomes first Oscar-nominated actor to come out as transgender and nonbinary; GLAAD establishes guidelines for journalists to accurately and respectfully cover the announcement.


A year after GLAAD led a fight to reinstate commercials removed on the Hallmark Channel featuring a same-sex wedding, SIX holiday films centering LGBTQ stories and characters debut on Hallmark, Lifetime, Hulu, Paramount and Netflix. “The Happiest Season,” featuring a lesbian couple coming home for the holidays, scored the biggest audience for any Hulu original film in its opening weekend. Two million viewers tuned in for Hallmark’s “The Christmas House” in its premiere weekend.

2020 was also tragically full of loss, with the deaths of more than 300,000 Americans and counting to COVID-19, including an untold number of LGBTQ people who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. GLAAD will advocate throughout 2021 and beyond for LGBTQ people to be counted in surveys on the coronavirus to ensure appropriate resources, including plans to distribute vaccines and treatments.

We will also continue the work of LGBTQ rights heroes we lost this year: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Congressman John Lewis, journalist Monica Roberts, whose Transgriot blog led the way for us all to cover transgender lives and deaths with the dignity and accuracy they deserve; writer and AIDS activist Larry Kramer; and Aimee Stephens, who brought her fight for LGBTQ equality to the Supreme Court.

2020 will be remembered for the record number of trans lives lost to violence, and for the Black Americans killed by police violence and prejudice. GLAAD will continue to fight in their memories to create a safer, more just, more equal world where Black Lives Matter, in the new year and years to come.

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