By Ryan M. Leach
It was difficult coming up with this list of things to leave behind in 2016 because, frankly, there are so many terrible things that are coming with us into 2017, whether we like it or not. I would love to leave Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick in 2016, as well as the entire presidential cabinet of Donald Trump and every other antigay person in power who means to cause serious harm to the LGBTQ community.
However bleak the future may appear right now, there were some high points in 2016. Join me on my second annual list of Top Ten Things to Leave in 2016. #leaveeverything.
Let’s get started.
1. Elections – To be fair, the 2016 elections saw a wave of positive results locally, like the election of Kim Ogg as Harris County District Attorney over incumbent Devon Anderson. Ogg, an out lesbian, gives Houston and Harris County the opportunity to once again show the nation that in Houston, Texas, we choose leaders based on what they can do and not who they love. That’s pretty cool. Nevertheless, the 2016 election—one of the nastiest, most divisive campaigns in American history—ended with one of the most racist, sexist, misogynistic, and xenophobic president-elects in modern times. (Some would argue that Donald Trump himself is not entirely homophobic and/or transphobic. Even if that is true, the people he is delegating power to certainly are.)
2. Former Harris County Sherriff Ron Hickman – When Hickman was appointed to fill the role of sheriff after Adrian Garcia departed, he quickly dismantled Garcia’s progressive, LGBTQ-friendly policies. Hickman’s inability to recognize Houston’s diverse population (and the necessity for equally diverse policies) contributed to his loss. He is also credited as one of the first elected officials to use the phrase #AllLivesMatter, proving early on his inability to understand diversity issues beyond his own narrow point of view. Sheriff Ed Gonzalez will be a welcome return to sanity in that important office.
3. Former Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson – I liked Anderson. I thought she tried hard to be fair and nonpartisan. I appreciated her frank and honest messages to the public regarding the many controversies that plagued the district attorney’s sloppy handling of delicate issues. It is tough being a district attorney. What landed Anderson on my list was her October campaign fumble when she made an issue out of Kim Ogg’s sexual orientation during a radio interview. I truly believe that Anderson mistakenly put her foot in her mouth, and it made many of her supporters think twice about re-electing her. The district attorney has to protect all of the citizens of Harris County, and if Anderson didn’t have an issue with Ogg’s sexual orientation, then why did she make an issue of it? Houstonians don’t like discrimination (unless it’s an equal-rights ordinance—but that’s another story).
4. Former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory – North Carolina elected their former state attorney general Roy Cooper to replace Pat McCrory as governor. McCrory’s undoing is directly linked to his diehard support for House Bill 2, the law that eliminated local authority to create LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances. The bill also criminalized transgender people for using the appropriate restroom, among other things. The law was so blatantly discriminatory and offensive that the state lost hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs due to major sporting-event and concert cancellations, business relocations, and bad tourism PR. Texas leaders like Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who would like to implement similar laws in Texas, have been warned that it could cost Texas upwards of $8.5 billion in annual revenue and 185,000 new jobs. Perhaps he should take note of McCrory’s miscalculation regarding North Carolinians’ tolerance for discrimination.
5. Antonin Scalia – To paraphrase legendary actress (and gay icon) Bette Davis, “You should never say anything bad about the dead. You should only say good.” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is dead. Good. (Debbie Downer alert: Trump is likely to appoint someone even more homophobic than Scalia, and with a Republican-controlled senate there is probably no way to stop him. Elections matter, y’all!)
6. Fake News – Guys, we have got to get better at recognizing the difference between news and propaganda. We gotta stop reposting blogs more focused on becoming click-bait than on informing the public. (I’ve done it, too!) Also, check the dates on articles you post—if it happened months ago, then it isn’t news. And while we are talking about “Fake News” . . .
7. Fake-News Channels Masquerading as Real-News Channels – Here is a quick rundown of the news channels that aren’t really news channels: Fox, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, Fox Business, Info Wars, etc. For good measure, we should probably add NBC, CBS, and ABC. The 24-hour news channels aren’t interested in giving you a balanced, unbiased take on current events. Their job is to get ratings and keep you glued to the tube. Lazy and sensationalist reporting contributed to the 2016 results just as much as your crazy Uncle Larry and his constant sharing of Breitbart links. Watch PBS NewsHour if you want decent news. It is boring as hell, but it is reliable.
8. Lack of Empathy – I understand that it seems odd that I would bring up our lack of empathy, considering the salty nature of this article. (I am getting paid to be salty, but the rest of you are doing it for free.) There are some things we should not accept—racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny being chief among them. However, we must resist the urge to post a nasty comment or call someone a name, even if they do it first. One bad turn doesn’t deserve another. Also, those same smartphones that allow you to instantly post a reaction to someone’s rant will also allow you to call that person and talk to them. And if you don’t know that person well enough to have their phone number, then who gives a crap what they have to say? That person is a stranger.
9. Swastikas – I mean, come on! What the f–k is with all these swastikas! We left these back in 1945! And they are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s now 2017, so let’s also leave the KKK and all of that other racist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, anti-Semitic, sexist, rape-culture, misogynistic, alt-right, white nationalism bullshit. I am not naïve. I realize this stuff has always been there in some form or another, but why, in 2016, did so many people decide to unpack their white hoods and wear them proudly? That is some sick stuff, and it has to go. Like, seriously—stop that crap. And if you are hanging a Confederate flag in front of your house, please know that when people see it, they don’t think you’re “celebrating history.” They think you’re a racist. Stop kidding yourself.
10. Milo Yiannopoulos – I hope you are reading that name and are confused about who it is. If so, then great. Stop reading—this article is almost over anyway. If you do recognize this name, then I am certain you’ll agree that this gay Uncle Tom has gotta go. Milo himself is not unusual, but he personifies the members of the LGBTQ community who are willfully ignorant as it relates to their own best interests and civil rights. I know that these folks truly believe that they are putting the country before themselves, but what they miss is the fact that American ideals require us to recognize that all of us are created equal. That’s like the whole f–king point. Equality is the essence of America. So, if you need to cast yourself as some martyr who is putting other issues ahead of your own equal treatment in the country you claim to love, then go ahead. You enjoy sitting at the back of the bus while the rest of us do the heavy lifting up front.
In conclusion, y’all, we have our work cut out for us in 2017. While we have a lot of lessons to learn from the November elections, the LGBTQ community has been through worse years than what appears to be in store for 2017. I mean, it’s not like this conservative-led government would do something totally awful, like allow a virus to spread and kill thousands of us (and ultimately millions more worldwide) because they think gay people deserve it. Right?
Happy New Year!
Ryan M. Leach is a community activist, lawyer, professor, writer, and humorist. You can email him at [email protected].