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15th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards Looking Back, Moving Forward: The Winners and Iconic Leaders By Steven Foster

LGBT Equality Forum •   15th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards

Contrary to popular belief, hindsight is never 20/20. History is more like beauty—it’s in the eye of the beholder. Every generation colors the past differently, shading it in dark-age doom or coloring it more on the bright side, depending on whose glasses are used and how the view is illuminated. In this turbulent and trying time, more than ever, it might be wise to wonder how future generations will view our present one. If recent televised events are any indication, we won’t be lookin’ too good.

Just a few weeks ago, during yet another Republican presidential debate (favorite working title “The GOP Fox News Strap-on Death Match Debate #54,” courtesy of the political website Wonkette), the studio audience demonstrated embarrassing—make that terrifying—energy. There, we witnessed the right-leaning gallery of gorehounds gleefully cheer Texas’s double-digit capital punishment numbers. They whooped and hollered in favor of allowing the uninsured to wither and die. And when a serviceman dared to express his newly okayed right to be both a soldier and openly homosexual, the audience outright booed—a disgusting display that not one candidate even addressed, much less scolded the audience for. Later, GOP poster prick Rick Santorum claimed he couldn’t hear the boos. Apparently none of them could, as they were all laser-focused on remembering their next bullshit non-answers. But it’s hard to blame the audience, since they are simply sheep following the shepherds who, as we all know, have run amok.

Hoped-for financial reform is nothing but a dim memory as Wall Street déjà vu’s us into near-ruin almost weekly. Save for Warren Buffett, who treats his cash like confetti, every bazillionaire and record-profit-making corporation is holding on to their wealth so tightly that their knuckles bleed while the common man seeks a meager handout on bended, equally bloody knees. Even Obama’s most fervent supporters now regard our once-shining president as a Congress-whipped wimp. When he stands before us now, desperately trying to sound simultaneously outraged and in control, we stare at him blankly like a spurned spouse tired of hearing the same “I’ll change” and “This time I mean it” speeches over and over again. And the worst offenders, our “leaders” in Congress, despite soulless promises that sound more at home on Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab, are still acting like spoiled kindergartners—all whiny and pissed off and pouty that they have to get along and share, at the risk of getting a cootie infection from someone who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with their squinty, flinty gaze. When the shepherds are lost, it’s no wonder the sheep are not just confused, but surly. Don’t mean to dance with the devil here, but if terrorists attacked the capitol building, the focus of American outrage might not be the assault itself, but that someone else beat us to it.

What the hell has happened to this country? When did we get to be so myopic, so thin-skinned, so weasely, so selfish? Soon God is gonna reach down and take “In God We Trust” off of our money because (1) it’s worthless, and (2) what’s written on it is a lie. In God we trust? Bitch, please.

So how will this moment in time be viewed by the next generation? What tipping point will be the act that defines us? And how will we react to it? Will this be the moment America saw the precipice fast approaching and swerved toward a brave new course? Or will it be a Thelma & Louise canyon dive? At least their fall was romantic—our zoom to doom would not be the result of some brave defiance of any sane alternative, but simply because no one had the guts to grab the wheel. Which will it be? How’s this gonna shake down in the end?

Only time will tell.

But here’s the thing: while idiots and markets stumble all around us, the LGBT community continues to take amazing strides. Our visibility is greater than ever. Tolerance, despite the jeers during the televised Republican circle-jerk, is at an all-time high.

The gay gag order of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been ripped off and the soldiers are singing. No more fear of being blackmailed into sexual favors for silence. No more constant shame among gay soldiers yearning to follow their own soul-burned creed. And gay marriage is suddenly looking like an inevitable right—if not quite an inalienable one.

Looking at America’s classrooms, suddenly the LGBT kid seems like the honor student in a class of desk-beating zealots or pencil-chewing pinheads. But our accomplishments do not need to be illuminated in the light of others’ failings. We stand up remarkably well on our own. From the gay “Father of the U.S. Military” to a transgender basketball player, our accomplishments are important and unique. And that is something to celebrate, no matter how dire the situations around us may sometimes appear.

So this year, as we announce the winners of our annual Gayest & Greatest Readers’ Choice Survey, OutSmart has joined forces with The Gay History Project and the LGBT Equality Forum to highlight some members of our global community, both past and present, who are equally worthy of your respect and admiration. We believe you’ll find that no matter where you look—or when you look—you’ll see that members of the LGBT community have made a positive contribution to our cause and our country. And that kind of spirit will always be viewed in a favorable light, both now and in the future. Congratulations to all of our winners. And thanks to OutSmart readers for voting.

LGBT Equality Forum •   15th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards List

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Ste7en Foster

Steven Foster is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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