Here in Ireland, 2023 marked the 50-year anniversary of the country’s first Sexual Liberation Movement, founded by iconic Irish LGBTQ+ rights advocates like Ruth Riddick, Edmund Lynch, and David Norris, and the 40-year anniversary of the Fairview March, a protest held in honour of Declan Flynn, a young Irish man who was tragically murdered in a homophobic attack in Fairview Park in 1983.
Similarly, 2023 marked the 35th anniversary of the first GCN publication in February of 1988, and the 30th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the Republic of Ireland.
As well as celebrating how far we’ve come as a community, 2023 marked a number of significant cultural and political milestones for LGBTQ+ people across the globe. From the recognition of same-sex marriages in countries like Estonia and Nepal, to the first trans and non-binary performers to win Grammy and Tony awards, here are some of the most significant LGBTQ+ news stories from the last year.
At the start of this year, Irish queer icon and drag queen extraordinaire Panti Bliss (Rory O’Neill) made history when she joined the cast of the Irish TV show, Dancing With the Stars. Paired with professional Ukrainian dancer Denys Samson, the two became the first-ever same-sex pairing to join the Irish version of the reality dance competition. While Bliss and Samson later became the sixth pair of dancers eliminated from the series, the duo wowed judges with powerful performances to the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘It’s A Sin’ and Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’.
This month similarly marked a milestone for LGBTQ+ Holocaust victims as the German parliament, for the first time in its history, dedicated their annual Holocaust memorial ceremony - an event recognising the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in January of 1945 - to the LGBTQ+ people who were persecuted for their sexuality and gender identity during this dark time in history.
Before the first month of the year drew to a close, former New Zealand rugby player Campbell Johnstone made history when he became the first member of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby squad, to come out as gay. Johnstone, then 43, reported that he hoped his decision to come out would help to take the pressure and stigma off upand-coming players who might be LGBTQ+ identified also.
The shortest month of the year saw plenty of positive advancements for the LGBTQ+ community, including the breaking news that Slovenia would become the first eastern European country to recognise same-sex marriages.
In sports, Timo Cavelius made history as the firstever openly gay man to win the German National Judo Championship after competing for three consecutive years. Similarly, Czech Republic native Jakub Jankto became the highest-profile active footballer to come out as gay. The 27 year-old midfielder, currently on loan to Sparta Prague FC, said in an emotional coming-out video: “I want to live my life in freedom without fear”.
Trans icon and chart-topping recording artist Kim Petras also made history this month when she became the second-ever trans person to win a Grammy Award for her track ‘Unholy’, created alongside non-binary vocalist, Sam Smith.
Despite the country’s ongoing conflict with Russia, Ukraine also celebrated the debut of its first-ever Sunny Bunny LGBTQ+ film festival, showcasing films that go beyond the “queer tragedy” narrative.
In the same month that we celebrated Ireland’s 120th St Patrick’s Day Parade, SLM co-founder David Norris made history when he became the longest-serving Senator the country has ever seen, with 36 years of service under his belt. Norris was fundamental in orchestrating the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland, a feat that similarly celebrated its 30th anniversary this year.
In April, two Irish LGBTQ+ rugby clubs, the Emerald Warriors and the Cork Hellhounds, made history when they attended the 2023 IGR Union Cup for the first time. Held in Birmingham in 2023, the IGR Union Cup is Europe’s largest LGBTQ+ rugby tournament. This year’s tournament marked the first Union Cup to be held since Dublin hosted the tournament in 2019, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This month saw the launch of the UK’s first-ever gaydating reality television series, I Kissed A Boy, which debuted on the BBC to great acclaim.
In Ireland, Aileen Donnelly made history as the first openly LGBTQ+ judge to be nominated to a seat on the Irish Supreme Court. In June, the nomination became a reality when Donnelly was sworn in by Irish President, Michael D Higgins.
Internationally, Mexico marked a historic LGBTQ+ milestone when they issued the country’s first-ever nonbinary passport. Issued to Mexican citizen Ociel Baena on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, the decision was praised as “a great leap forward for the freedom and dignity of people” by Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.
In addition to marking the official start of Pride month here in Ireland, June saw a series of historic LGBTQ+ milestones throughout the country, including the firstever Navan Pride festival and the overturning of historic convictions for gay and bisexual men.
Here at GCN, we celebrated Pride month by launching the GCN Archive, a project created to “digitally preserve the pages of Ireland’s national LGBTQ+ press, forming an invaluable resource to explore our community’s history.” Internationally we saw the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Estonia, making it the first-ever Baltic nation to do so. Similarly, Latvia’s Edgars Rinkēvičs made history when he was elected as the President of the parliamentary republic, making him the first openly gay president in European history.
Culturally, June marked the first time in history that a non-binary actor won a Tony Award, with actors Alex Newell and J Harrison Ghee both taking home the prize. Newell was awarded the Tony for ‘Best Featured Actor’ for their role in Shucked, while Ghee won the ‘Best Lead Actor in a Musical’ Tony award for their role in Some Like It Hot.
We wrapped up the month with the news that eFootballers Emma ‘Emzi’ Rose, a trans woman, and Nollaig ‘Glitch8d’ O’Donnell, a member of Cork’s LGBTQ+ community, would represent Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland respectively at the upcoming European Esports Games.
While Pride month might have ‘officially’ ended in June, July marked Dublin’s first-ever Disability Pride and Power parade. Hosted by Disability Power Ireland, the landmark event welcomed members of Ireland’s disabled community to “come out of the shadows and make [themselves] visible on the streets of Dublin”.
In sporting news this month, Katie McCabe, an Irish LGBTQ+ footballer, made history when she scored an impressive goal for Ireland at this year’s Women’s World Cup just four minutes into their match-up with Canada. While Ireland eventually lost the match and were eliminated from the tournament, the goal resulted in McCabe’s nomination for the prestigious Women’s World Cup award.
In similar news, Kevin Maxen became the first openly gay coach in men’s US sports when the Jacksonville Jaguars coach came out as gay.
Meanwhile, Olympic gold medalist and intersex advocate Caster Semenya made history when she emerged victorious from a long-standing legal battle with the European Court of Human Rights over imposed hormone treatments for intersex athletes.
Last, but certainly not least, Nepal made history when they became the first-ever South Asian country to recognise same-sex marriage. Openly-gay Nepalese legislator Sunil Pant, who has been the driving force behind the campaign for marriage equality in Nepal, reported that over 200 queer couples were “rushing back to their villages to collect documents for their marriages” upon hearing the news about the landmark Supreme Court decision.
In addition to seeing the first Pride celebrations in Irish towns like Inishowen and Letterkenny, August also marked the first time that a trans non-binary contestant, Sil, won a major title at an Irish dancing competition when they became the O19 Traditional Set champion at this year’s All Ireland Dancing Championship.
Also in Ireland, this month marked the launch of the Donegal LGBTQ+ Heritage Project, an effort dedicated to seeking out previously untold and/or hidden histories within Donegal’s LGBTQ+ community. The project, completed with the help of the Heritage Council of Ireland and with contributions from the GCN Archive, aims to promote an “increased sense of social connectivity” that will positively impact the county’s LGBTQ+ community and its allies.
Looking abroad, Spain made history by electing its firstever trans Senator in the form of Carla Antonelli. Prior to the appointment, Antonelli served as the country’s first trans regional MP, a seat that she was elected to in 2011.
September was a quiet month for LGBTQ+ milestones in 2023. That being said, this month did see the decriminalisation of abortion in Mexico, a historic ruling that is bound to change the lives of countless LGBTQ+ people in the country. Similarly, this month also saw Carl Nassib, the first-ever openly gay football player in the NFL, announce his impending retirement.
More Irish towns celebrated their first-ever Pride parades this month with celebrations kicking off in locales such as Athlone and Clare.
Meanwhile, California legislator Laphonza Butler made history when she was elected as the country’s first-ever openly LGBTQ+ Senator of colour.
In other news, Che Flored became the first-ever openly trans/non-binary referee for the NBA (National Basketball Association), while Marina Machete became the first trans woman to win the Miss Portugal pageant, a preliminary contest ahead of the 2024 Miss Universe competition.
In 2023’s penultimate month, LGBTQ+ communities around the globe continued to make marked strides towards equality and inclusion in sports, culture, and politics. Notably, November saw the election of American legislator Danica Roem, Virginia’s first transgender Senator to be elected in a Southern state. Roem’s election makes her the second-ever trans senator in the US after Sarah McBride, who was elected to the Delaware State Senate in 2021.
In a year where Pope Francis continued to expand the Catholic Church’s stance on LGBTQ+ inclusion, including the denouncing of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, the pontiff also provided religious guidance on the blessing of same-sex couples as well as approving the ability of trans members of the Church to be baptised and act as godparents. Similarly, the Church of England announced that they would begin rolling out guidance for blessing the unions of same-sex couples following a historic General Synod vote.
November then saw the start of Hong Kong’s first-ever Gay Games. Held in both Hong Kong and Guadalajara, Mexico, the event is known as the largest sports and cultural event that “promotes acceptance of sexual diversity, featuring lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender athletes, artists, and other individuals.”
We cannot yet be sure what kinds of LGBTQ+ milestones our society will reach before 2023 comes to an end. That being said, if the last 11 months are indicative of the month ahead, we are sure to see more advancements in LGBTQ+ sports, politics, and culture in the coming weeks.