LGBT+ People Who Made 2016 A Year To Remember


This year has earned a reputation for being a bit, well, shit.

But as life is about light and darkness, we wanted to shine a light on some individuals who have made 2016 a year to remember.

From the late greats David Bowie and George Michael whose deaths prompted an outpouring of fond memories, to the likes of Nicola Adams and Justine Greening who are trailblazers in their fields, here are a selection of British LGBT+ people who shone brightly.

There are far too many individuals in the community to mention, both UK-based and beyond, but we’ve selected 14 people from the LGBT+ community who have helped make the world more inclusive, fair and a whole lot more fun, too.

Olly Alexander
Ian Gavan via Getty Images
Years and Years’ Olly Alexander gave an impassioned speech to empower members of the LGBT+ during the band’s 2016 Glastonbury set.

“As queer people, we know what it’s like to be scared and we know what it’s like to live with fear as part of our every day,” he said.

“But tonight, Glastonbury, I’d like you to join me and say ‘no thank you, fear’. To say ‘fear, bye’. To literally shove a rainbow in fear’s face.

“And all I have to say to finish, is I’m here, I’m queer, and yes, sometimes I’m afraid, but I am never ashamed because I am proud of who I am.”
Nicola Adams
YURI CORTEZ via Getty Images
Olympic champion and bisexual boxer Nicola Adams had a fantastic year at Rio 2016, which was swiftly followed by her winning the ‘Paving The Way’ award at the MOBOs.

She said she hopes to use her celebrity status to inspire others and “do more for the LGBT community”.

Adams, who is bisexual, was named the most influential LGBT individual in Britain by The Independent in 2012.

She said that she never tried to hide her sexuality.

Speaking to Vogue about coming out, she said: “No one’s ever really cared about me being bisexual and I only came out because I had always been out, it’s just the general public didn’t know. I’m quite fearless. I’m like, ‘Let’s just go out there and do this and see what happens.’"
David Bowie
Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images
In January the world was left bereft by the death of music legend David Bowie.

Speculation around his sexuality continued throughout his career and after his death, but one thing is for sure: he was a fearless, pioneering, queer icon.

The star’s death prompted many from the LGBT+ community to pay respects.

The NY Times described BOWIE as a “lifeline” to many, who learned to follow in his footsteps and be themselves.
Ben Smith
Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Ben Smith received a special recognition at BBC’s Sports Personality Of the Year Awards running 401 marathons in as many days.

The 34-year-old took on the challenge to raise funds and awareness for LGBT youth, who are bullied and targeted for their identity.

The equality campaigner, who was raising money for Stonewall and Kidscape, was bullied growing up.

He said: “I knew I was gay but I wasn’t ready to accept it. After five more years of the bullying more directed towards the sexuality side of things, that’s when it really took its toll on me.

“That’s when I tried to take my own life. I slipped into a state of depression, I didn’t even know who I was, and that’s what made me sit up and think ‘I can’t do this anymore and my life needs to change’.”
Jack Monroe
Jack Monroe
The food blogger and poverty campaigner came out as non-binary transgender in 2015.

Monroe is the first public figure to do so, according to The Guardian, and ever since has has been tirelessly educating people about what it means to be trans and identify outside the binary construct of gender.

Monroe, who prefers the gender-neutral pronoun ‘they’ and title ‘Mx’, told HuffPost UK earlier this year about life as a non-binary parent.

“My son knows that mum is like a girl sometimes and like a boy sometimes,” Monroe explains. “I mean, if kids can pretend to be unicorns and astronauts, it’s surely not beyond their remit that a girl can be a boy and a boy can be a girl.”
Charlie Craggs
Joanna Kiely
The 24-year-old transgender nail artist fighting transphobia one manicure at at time. Craggs, the founder of Nail Transphobia, travels the country doing people’s nails for free and talking to them about her experience of being transgender.

“This gives me the chance to sit down with someone who has usually never met a trans person before but probably has a lot of misconceptions about us. I get the chance to bond with them while I paint their nails - they can ask me questions and I can teach them how to be an ally,” she wrote in a blog for HuffPost UK.

Craggs came out three years ago. She said: “I soon realised that just because I was ready to accept myself, that didn’t mean the rest of the world was, and as expected my life became a lot harder with verbal, sexual and physical assault becoming a normal part of my everyday life as a trans person.”
Mhairi Black
Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
The youngest MP to be elected in 300 years, Mhairi Black provides a voice for many often left unheard.

In an interview with Owen Jones for Attitude Magazine, she spoke about how Westminster is a boys’ club and how she is committed to breaking down barriers.

“I’m young, female, gay, I’m SNP. We’re hardly the most popular down in Westminster. But even when I’m there, I’m taken aback by – in the first instance, how patronising some folk were, and in the second instance how sexist people were.”

Earlier this year, the SNP MP also boldly took on Twitter trolls by turning a homophobic insult into a call for better LGBT rights.
George Michael
The superstar tragically passed away on Christmas Day, aged 53, to the disbelief and dismay of his global fan base.

Since his death, many stories of his kindness and philanthropic nature have surfaced, as well as his fearlessness in being loud and proud about his sexuality.

In an interview with Oprah, when asked whether he was concerned about losing fans after coming out, he said: “I have to be honest here, I’m not really interested in selling records to people who are homophobic."

He added: “I don’t need the approval of people who don’t approve of me.”

Since his death, many have taken to social media to explain how Michael helped them come out and accept themselves for who they truly are.
Justine Greening
Toby Melville / Reuters
Greening came out as being in a same-sex relationship, making her the first female cabinet minister to do so.

She tweeted her announcement to coincide with London Pride festival, a celebration of the LGBT+ community. She even managed to get a sneaky EU Referendum joke in there saying: “Today’s a good day to say I’m in a happy same sex relationship, I campaigned for Stronger In but sometimes you’re better off out! #Pride2016”

In July, she became the UK’s first ever LGBT Minister for Equalities, taking over from Nicky Morgan. She also became Education Secretary.
Saara Aalto
David M. Benett via Getty Images
The X Factor finalist was the most successful LGBT female finalist on the show.

The show was widely criticised by fans who claim producers were “hiding” Aalto’s engagement to Meri Sopanen and Aalto’s attraction to women.

Aalto, who left her long-term boyfriend for her fiancee, told Diva Magazine: "I've always known gender doesn't matter for me. But now, being with a woman, it's hard to imagine going back to men.”
Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah
Southbank Centre
Earlier this year Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah turned down an MBE from the 2016 New Year’s Honours List in protest of the persecution of LGBTQI people in the Commonwealth.

Lady Phyll, who is the founder of UK Black Pride, is one of the foremost queer, black activists in the UK.

She told DIVA magazine: “As a trade unionist, a working class girl, and an out black African lesbian, I want to stand by my principles and values.

“If you’re a member of a minority - or multiple minorities - it’s important to be visible as a role model for others [and] for your successes to be seen.”
Alan Turing
Another posthumous entry is for Alan Turing, the Second World War computer scientist who cracked the Enigma Code. He was convicted for homosexuality in 1952 and died two years later in an apparent suicide. Turing received a pardon in 2013.

In October 2016, it was announced that tens of thousands of men will also be pardoned after being convicted of offences before homosexual acts were decriminalised in 1967.

The move has been dubbed the “Alan Turing Law”. Although many convicted are refusing to accept the controversial pardoning.
Amy Lamé (pictured with Sadiq Khan)
Victoria Jones/PA Wire
In November, Lamé became London’s first Night Tzar, with the task of transforming the city's nightlife.

Appointed by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the DJ and entertainer will help London become a bustling 24-hour city following the opening of the night tube service on weekends.

She said: "For too long, the capital's night-time industry has been under pressure - music venues and nightclubs in particular are closing at an alarming rate."

Lamé is best known as a comedian, with one-woman shows such as Gay Man Trapped in a Lesbian’s Body. She co-founded the Duckie arts collective which performs at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, south London, and claims to have written the first gay history book for children.
David Mundell
Roberto Ricciuti via Getty Images
Scottish secretary David Mundell came out in January 2016, making him the first openly gay Conservative cabinet minister.

In a very personal announcement made on his website, Mundell wrote about the difficulties he faced coming out in public.

“Over time, I came to understand that, for me, the only way to be truly happy on a personal level is to acknowledge in public as well as in private, who I am,” he wrote.

“Other than the intensely personal and positive difference it makes to me, and the way I can live my life, my hope is that my coming out doesn’t change anything else about how I go about my work or how people treat me. Gender and sexuality should make no difference whether you are a Cabinet Minister or in any other walk of life and I hope that I can, in my own way, reinforce that message.”