From the elated highs to the depths of despair, you brought us all the feels. Through it all, the Hampton Roads LGBTQ community took many tremendous steps forward. Here’s our look back at ten events that shaped, shocked and celebrated us in 2016, the queerest year yet.
10. The First Same-Sex Wedding Showcase Celebrates Marriage Equality.
Six months after the nationwide legalization of marriage equality, Norfolk-based Weddings with Pride produced Coastal Virginia’s first same-sex wedding showcase in January. The event attracted 40 gay, lesbian, and transgender couples from Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina. The event in response to a months-long survey of LGBTQ couples’ attitudes towards marriage. Producer Eric Hause, said, “The survey told us that couples want know they are contacting vendors who will treat them with respect and professionalism.” The second annual showcase will take place in February. READ MORE
9. Our Own Community Press Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary.
In September, the Tidewater Queer History Project (TQHP) hosted a spaghetti dinner in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the organization and publication of Our Own Community Press. The LGBTQ newspaper was published in Norfolk from 1976 to 1998 and was one of the most successful and widely read queer publications in the country at the time. “Our Own sparked many other groups and activist events in Hampton Roads for more than two decades,” said TQHP Coordinator, Cathleen Rhodes, “and it all started with a spaghetti dinner in 1976.” READ MORE
8. New Life MCC Moves to a New Location.
After 39 years of service to the Hampton Roads community–and almost as many physical locations–the New Life Metropolitan Community Church moved to its new (and hopefully last) home in Norfolk on October 30. The move was commemorated with a celebration of the church’s role as an advocate for LGBTQ issues. Said Pastor Mark Byrd, “The Church has been so vital to the community because it believes every segment of the community is vital. READ MORE
7. TranSPOKEN Offers Intimate Look at Transgender Lives.
The LGBT Center of Hampton Roads and the Virginia Stage Company produced a unique story slam titled “TRANSpoken – True Stories by Trans Persons of Hampton Roads” in May at Work|Release. In an evening characterized by courage, honesty, tears, and laughter, a packed room of 150 people heard the true stories of trans men and women who live and work in Hampton Roads. “There’s enough love out there for everybody,” said speaker Toya Love. READ MORE
6. Nicole Carry Is Appointed First LGBTQ City Council Member.
In July, an historic first for the City of Norfolk occurred when Nicole Carry was sworn in as a temporary City Council person representing Ward 1. Carry, a Navy veteran, lesbian, and local activist, replaced Andy Protogyrou who served on the council for six years but had to step down in the middle of a term because he ran, unsuccessfully, for mayor. Said fellow council member Andria McLellean, “Nicole was definitely the best choice on many levels, and I’m proud of my fellow Council members for selecting our first Navy veteran and openly gay member of Council.” READ MORE
5. Transgender Day of Remembrance Features Gavin Grimm and Kristen Beck.
In November, about 140 people from the trans and allied communities gathered at the Hampton Roads Convention Center for the International Transgender Day of Remembrance produced by Access AIDS Care and the LGBT Center of Hampton Roads. The event featured inspiring speeches from transgender former Navy Seal Kristen Beck, Gloucester teenager Gavin Grimm and Atlanta-based activist Toni-Michelle Williams, as well as a candlelight memorial service for the 26 American transgender people murdered in 2016. Said Beck, “We all must be activists.” READ MORE
4. PULSE Nightclub Shooting Horrifies and Rallies the Local Community.
As it did in all LGBTQ communities worldwide, the PULSE Nightclub shooting in June left us shaken and horrified. And yet in the face of tragedy the local community rallied to memorialize the dead the next evening at a candlelight service sponsored by Hampton Roads Pride and WHRO, then moved forward with one of the most fearless and uplifting Pride weekends ever held in Hampton Roads.
3. Gavin Grimm’s Case Goes to SCOTUS.
The Gloucester County transgender student who sued his school over the transgender bathroom use policy will likely have his case heard by the United Sates Supreme Court. He repeatedly made headlines in 2015 and 2016 as his case has worked its way up the legal ladder, from local to State to Fourth Circuit. In October, he was named one of Time’s Most Influential, Teens. “I did not choose to announce to the news media that I am transgender,” he said. “My school board made that decision for me. READ MORE
2. Virginia Beach GSA Assembly Cancelled.
In December a much-anticipated student assembly produced by Cox High School’s Gay Student Alliance was suddenly canceled by the Virginia Beach School Board the day before the event. The move followed a letter from one board member expressing concern over the appropriateness of event. The move prompted accusations of homophobia and ultimately resulted in the event being rescheduled after school hours in January. The move has prompted the Virginia ACLU to examine the Virginia Public Schools’ policies for assemblies for discriminatory practices. READ MORE
1. Trump Elected and the Community Responds with Trepidation.
On November 10, a diverse cross section of the Hampton Roads queer community and their allies packed the room at the LGBT Center of Hampton Roads for an emotional and uplifting discussion about the possible impacts of the 2016 Election on the LGBTQ community. With tears and laughter, fear and hope, the open forum touched on concerns over the future of transgender military benefits to legal recourse in cases of workplace discrimination to fears for living as a queer person under the new administration. Said Jessica Scheck, a participant; “This event really gave me strength after a few days of depression.” READ MORE