Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012's Ten Most Interesting People

 The year 2012 has had its share of ups and downs. It was an Olympic year. It was the year we witnessed the re-election of our first African-American president. It was the year we lost a pop diva and two disco legends. And for the LGBT community it was a year that we claimed many victories and suffered some interesting challenges. As the year draws towards its end, I wanted to reflect on some individuals that seemed to truly shine this year. This is my list of the 10 most interesting/ intriguing individuals of 2012. Again, this is MY list so there may be some people that you disagree with that I included, and there may be someone that you think I’ve omitted. I welcome and encourage your feedback .

10. At the 2012 Olympics there were only 23 out gay athletes. Seimone Augustus was one of the individuals on this list. As a member of the U.S. Women’s basketball team, Augustus helped lead the women’s team to bringing home the gold. How did she arrive on the team? She is one of the most recognizable faces in the WNBA, earning herself an MVP honor while leading the Minnesota Lynx to seizing their WNBA Championship in 2011.  This was not Seimone's first appearance in the Olympics.  She also earned herself a gold in the 2008 Olympics of Beijing.  She is currently engaged to her longtime girlfriend LaTaya Varner.  Perhaps we are seeing a change happening in the world.   Competitive, professional sports may be evolving as there are two out athletes that are on my list. 

9. Shangela LaQuifa Wadley may not have won RuPaul’s drag race, but she is definitely making a name for herself as one of the most recognized alumni to come off the show. She’s an activist. I personally met Shangela when she came to Casa Grande, Arizona to lend her name in support of C.A.R.E. (Central Arizona Rainbow Equality). While here she made a point to visit the 1in10 LGBT youth group because “you know Shangela loves the kids.” She is a singer. Her first single Call Me LaQuifa was released in August of 2011 and she recently completed production of the video for her second single Werqin Girl. Both are available on iTunes. And she also lists actor to her list of accomplishments having landed roles in Community, 2 Broke Girls, GLEE and several other television shows. She also launched a YouTube series this year with her roommate/ landlord, the one and only fabulous Jennifer Lewis.  Watch one episode and you'll be laughing uncontrollably.  She is a comidenne.  She is a drag performer.  She just maybe the hardest working man in drag business.  Her positive energy is contagious and I've loved her since I first saw her on RuPaul's drag race.

8. The world of boxing was taken aback when Orlando Cruz made his big announcement. He sat down with USA Today for an interview and stated, "I've been fighting for more than 24 years and as I continue my ascendant career, I want to be true to myself. I want to try to be the best role model I can be for kids who might look into boxing as a sport and a professional career."He then went on to note, "I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man.” Cruz at that moment made history as the first professional boxer to come out while he still has an active boxing career. We've witnessed many professional athletes come out after they've retired from the sport including John Ameachi, Don Simmons and Emile Griffin.  I'm amazed by these individuals as well.  But I do believe you earn a few extra kudos for doing this while still active in your profession.  Cruz stands as an example to many young athletes that they can be out and enter the world of sports.

7. My favorite film released to dvd this year was hands down Pariah. This was a product of the interesting and dynamic Dee Rees. A protogee of Spike Lee, Rees first feature lenth film was bold and unconventional and it was story that needed to be told.  Pariah tells the story of a young high school girl, comfortable with her lesbian identity as she visits gay bars and hangs with her best friend who is a stud. However, she is not out to her family. This coming of age drama is a remarkable project with spectacular performances by its lead Adepero Oduye and by supporting actress Kim Wayans. Though the coming out story has been told repeatedly in film, it has never been told through though the lens of a young black urban female. This unique perspective gave the story that little something extra that allowed it sound fresh and new. 

6. It’s interesting that we call ourselves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, when many within the community want nothing to do with those individuals that identify as trans. However, Janet Mock is one of those extraordinary individuals that is giving powerful voice and stylish visibility to a community far too long silent, misunderstood and victimized. Former editor for People magazine’s website, Mock now gives her talents to the Hetrick-Martin Institute which operates Harvey Milk High. This allows her to create transgender specific programs and education for LGBT youth.

5. Though I’ve never actually met him, Keith Boykin has been a role model of mine for many years. The work he has done in giving a face and voice to African-American same-gender loving individuals has been nothing less than remarkable. His blog (keithboykin.com) was the site that made me want to be a blogger. His books (One More River to Cross: Black and Gay in America and The Truth About the Down Low) gave insight to others about a demographic of people that many consider invisible and inaccessible. And this year, after witnessing the many young people of color that took their lives because of their sexuality (or their perceived sexuality), Keith decided to create his latest book, For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Isn’t Enough.. With contributions from many different writers, this project allowed many influential black gay men to tell their stories depression, coming out, rejection and self-acceptance.

4. You would have had to be living under rock to not hear her name this year. The death of my all-time favorite legend Whitney Houston was probably the biggest news of the year. After years struggling with addiction and attempting to revive her recording career, we lost her sadly when she died in the bathtub just days before the Academy Awards. The news came as a shock to everyone in the music world and to her millions of fans around the world. Love her or hate her, you cannot deny that she was a tremendously talented woman. I was a fan early on and I would love her until the end. All of her films are terrific. The Bodyguard, the movie that gave us a wonderful love story and gave us one of the greatest songs ever recorded. Her version of Dollly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, would go on the set the record for the longest time at number one for any single. Waiting to Exhale, this movie paired with some of my acting favorites including Angela Bassett, Loretta Divine, and Wesley Snipes. I remember watching this film with some buddies while in college. We laughed, cried, and then laughed again. The soundtrack to The Preacher’s Wife was the greatest selling gospel album of all time. And finally, following her death this year, Whitney gave us another film, Sparkle, which I’m sure will also become a favorite to many. Ms. Houston, I will always love you. Rest in peace.

3. The Hip Hop community has not historically been known for embracing the LGBT community. When Frank Ocean came out earlier this year just prior to the release of his first solo project, everyone was paying attention. Many wondered if his confession of loving another man would help or hinder CD sales. While all eyes were on Frank, many within the rap world stepped up and expressed their support. Hip Hop and R&B artists took to Facebook, Twitter, and even YouTube saying they Ocean’s confession was a good thing. Beyonce even wrote a poem dedicated him. The formerly homophobic realm of rap maybe trending toward a world of acceptance for LGBT individuals. Two hip hop artist (Macklemore and Murs) released videos this year bringing more awareness to the LGBT issues. Earlier in the year Jay Z came out in support of same-sex marriage. Kanye West has stood up for gay and lesbian rights for a couple of years now. In the midst of all the controversy his CD upon its release to iTunes immediately went to the top of the chart. While Frank Ocean is by no means the first out Hip Hop, I still have to admire the courage it took for him to come out within a genre of music where he had to question whether or not he would have allies and at a time when he was getting ready to release a CD. Hopefully the trend of approval and acceptance within the Hip Hop world will continue.

2. The results of the presidential election are over and Barack Obama is once again the President of the United States. Anyone aware of how politics works knows that during an election year candidates have to be as strategic as possible, not alienate any group of people and try to secure as many votes and they can. Earlier in the year when he faced with the question as to whether or not he supported same-sex marriage many people thought the safe thing to do would be to give a “I support equality but marriage should be between a man and a woman” answer. Some thought he should totally steer away from topic. Instead the President answered with "At a certain point I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. I had hesitated on gay marriage, in part, because I thought civil unions would be sufficient. I was sensitive to the fact that -- for a lot of people -- that the word marriage is something that provokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs." The President’s announcement sparked a nationwide dialogue about the topic and forced many within the African-American community to join in on the debate. Many black leaders, political and spiritual, stood behind the president and also expressed their interest in seeing marriage equality for the LGBT community. It was a bold step for the President in my opinion (I sincerely believe that John Kerry lost the election in 2004 specifically because of his support for marriage equality). For his support of marriage quality and LGBT rights, President Barack Obama earns this spot on my list.

1.The country of Uganda is considered one of the most homophobic in the world right now. There is currently legislation pending that would make “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by death. Homosexual acts can already land a person in jail for life. If an individual has knowledge of a person’s homosexuality and does not report this to the police, that individual is too in violation of the law and can also be imprisoned. This climate of condemnation and hatred has led many same-gender loving individuals to flee the country or to become extremely reclusive. However, in an environment like this, a group of people got together to host the countries first gay pride celebration. The Uganda gay pride organizers make my list of the most inspiring group of individuals of 2012. The courage it took to host an event like this when they were literally putting their lives in jeopardy is unprecedented. I’m a very out and proud individual but I don’t live in a land where I could be put to death for who I love. If I lived in Uganda I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do what these people did. In spite of the hostile environment they live in, Uganda’s pride was held without much incident or backlash. Following the celebration there some individuals detained by the police they were eventually released without harm. The pride organizers have expressed their pleased sentiment in having their first, successful event behind them and stated that they are looking forward to doing this again next year.

So there you have it, my list of the most interesting and intriguing individuals of 2012. All are inspirational and awesome in my opinion. But I’d love to hear your opinion. Who did overlook? Who should be removed from the list? Looking forward to hearing back from you.

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