Best news for gay New Yorkers: Marriage equality arrives
The timing was, to put it lightly, serendipitous. As New York City barreled into that annual bacchanal known as Pride Weekend, word came down from Albany that queer New Yorkers would be allowed to legally marry by the end of summer. Days later, Governor Cuomo walked in the Pride March to consistent thunderous applause, while longtime couples came down with wedding fever. The city had to create a lottery system to deal with the onslaught at marriage bureaus, joyous mass weddings popped up around town, and the local matrimony industry braced itself for a very busy (and lucrative) year.
Best divas: Amanda Lepore and Nomi Ruiz
A pair of local transwomen became the modern queer answer to Britney and Christina this year. Nightlife fixture Lepore (above, left) released a surprisingly decent album of frothy dance pop, I…Amanda Lepore, and erstwhile Hercules and Love Affair singer Ruiz inched toward the spotlight with her band, Jessica 6, thanks to dark disco anthems like “White Horse” and coheadlining a tour with dance-popsters Holy Ghost!
Best neighborhood revival: The West Village
Not long ago, the birthplace of Pride was a vaguely depressing relic when it came to gay nightlife—dominated by tourists and longtimers swilling beers at local “happy” hours. But 2011 saw an increase in the historic ’hood’s It factor: Serious dance-music parties (like Snaxx, pictured) set up shop in the basement of the Monster, and a plethora of outstanding events and performances filled Rockbar. Even stalwarts Stonewall and Julius’ hosted commuteworthy hipster soirees. Factor in the überpopular long-running lesbian fete girlNATIONnyc at RF Lounge and the always-hopping scenes at Cubbyhole, the Duplex and Henrietta Hudson, and it’s clear that Hell’s Kitchen better watch its back.
Best “new” museum: Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art
Thanks to a declaration by the New York State Board of Regents, the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation officially earned the title museum this year—thus becoming the first museum anywhere devoted to exhibiting and preserving work by LGBT artists. Learn all about it at the current show “Creating a Queer Museum,” featuring works by Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, Catherine Opie and many more.
Sexiest ally: Ben Cohen
Hunky English rugger Ben Cohen isn’t the first straight athlete to become a gay icon, but few have embraced their homo followers quite so thoroughly. Now retired from the scrum, Cohen focuses full time on his StandUp Foundation, an organization devoted to combating bullying and homophobia. That mission brought him to the city earlier this year, when he palled around with his adoring public at Boxers. Resolved to have more Ben in your life in 2012? Get yourself a copy of his beefcake calendar, available at standupfoundation.com.
Best celebrity: Justin Vivian Bond
Mx. Bond had been on the verge of roaring out of the downtown arts scene and into mainstream fame for years, and in 2011 the uncompromising artist did it in a big way—putting out an album (Dendrophile) and a memoir (Tango) and mounting a solo art show (“The Fall of the House of Whimsy”). Perhaps V’s most impressive achievement, though, was forcing the gay community (and the mainstream press) to confront its own casual transphobia. Catch V’s intimate holiday performances at the Abrons Art Center through Saturday 17.
Worst anniversary: AIDS turns 30
In June, one of the worst tragedies ever to affect the queer community quietly entered its fourth decade, a harsh reminder that an entire generation has come of age in the shadow of the epidemic. Today, more than 110,000 New Yorkers are living with the disease, and men who have sex with men remain the most at-risk group for new infections.
Worst wet blanket: The rest of the world
Queer New Yorkers had a pretty uplifting year with the passage of the Marriage Equality Act—even the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was a feel-good moment. But the year was bookended by horrifying stories of state-sanctioned homophobia in Uganda and Russia. And you didn’t need to look overseas for depressing news: A year-end report from the Movement Advance Project found that LGBT families in America are disproportionately living in poverty. It was a banner year for gay New Yorkers. Here’s hoping our community rallies next year to spread some of this good fortune outside of the five boroughs.