2015 was a seismic year for equality, when many threshold moments were finally passed – but there’s still plenty for us to report on in 2016.
News is often unpredictable and unexpected – but here’s our annual predictions for some of the stories we might be reporting on in 2016.
Things will get painful as progress falters around the globe
While we can expect a few victories for LGBT rights next year, they won’t come at the speed we’ve expected – and we must also prepare for more painful defeats.
The rejection of same-sex marriage by popular vote in Slovenia this month may not have received the attention of Ireland’s landmark referendum, but it constitutes a political earthquake all the same.
The overwhelming public rejection, by a margin of nearly two-to-one, has potentially poisonous implications across the globe, setting the truly dangerous precedent of putting basic LGBT rights laws to a public vote.
While we have confidence that Australia will eventually end up on the right side of history… would anti-discrimination protections be backed in Poland? Would Ukraine vote to approve same-sex adoptions? Would the public in China, or Malaysia, or the Philippines embrace same-sex marriage?
The Slovenian defeat showed that an unholy cocktail of powerful religious groups, political opponents and fear is able to win out over equality when put to a simple vote – and we can expect this theme to be repeated next year.
Donald Trump’s selection will change politics forever… for better or for worse
The 2016 Presidential campaign isn’t even through to the primaries yet… but don’t hold out much hope for LGBT equality from the Republicans.
While a fresh, modernising candidate might have drawn a clear line under LGBT rights for battles new – as witnessed within the UK Conservatives – the remaining Republican field remains obsessed.
Six of the candidates have pledged to back a law that would allow religious people to discriminate against gay people. Others plan to re-ban same-sex marriage.
With even once-moderate candidates like Marco Rubio throwing their lot firmly against LGBT rights, this course seems set for 2016.
Donald Trump is, as usual, a wildcard – with his record on LGBT rights as confusing as his hair.
He speaks at rallies for Kim Davis but somehow doesn’t mention God or gays.
A Carson, Cruz or Rubio nomination would give obvious Democratic pick Hillary Clinton all the ammo she needs to portray herself as the pro-LGBT choice for President.
But if the Republicans go for Trump – as looks increasingly like a done deal – this narrative is thrown up in the air. It’s hard to win a chess match with a man who always thinks he’s playing Monopoly.
Northern Ireland’s stalemate on same-sex marriage will head to the courts
Don’t expect an end to Northern Ireland’s deadlock on same-sex marriage any time soon, as the issue churns through the courts.
Same-sex marriage is legal in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland – but Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party has used peace powers to veto the issue despite a majority in favour in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Two cases are already before the High Court, in a bid to break the political stalemate… but given the strength of opposition within the DUP, we’re not expecting the issue to be entirely resolved any time soon.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron will certainly be praying that the issue doesn’t reach the European Court of Human Rights for a while yet.
Already facing an uphill battle in his bid to rewrite the UK’s human rights laws and move away from Strasbourg, Mr Cameron’s mountain may grow higher with a popular pro-LGBT verdict undermining his narrative – particularly given the personal battle he undertook to get same-sex marriage on the statute book in England and Wales.
As Islamophobia spreads, the role of LGBT people will be crucial
As Daesh (ISIS) continue to commit atrocities and the world struggles under the strain of the refugee crisis, for 2016 we’re predicting an upswing in Islamophobia.
This has already been witnessed in France, with a swing to the far-right following the Paris attacks – and LGBT people are integral to what happens next.
By explicitly targeting gay men for executions, Daesh has unwittingly entangled LGBT rights with the conflict – with world leaders including UK Prime Minister David Cameron explicitly citing the “gay people thrown off buildings” while pressing the case for air strikes.
Whether they like it or not, LGBT people must consider how to respond.
On the left, meanwhile, the reaction can head to another extreme: failing to come to terms with the real threat that Daesh are, or neutering the ability to call out anti-LGBT Muslim hate preachers on the grounds of ‘unity’.
A third path must be forged in 2016, and there’s definitely no easy answer in a situation with no easy solutions.
The UK government will accept proposals to revolutionise gender recognition laws
Parliament’s Women and Equalities Select Committee is set to deliver landmark recommendations next year on trans issues – and a seismic change could be on the cards.
Events in recent months have underlined weaknesses in the convoluted, bureaucratic process currently required to gain legal gender recognition in the UK – with a number of female trans convicts sent to all-male prisons for not having cleared all the paperwork and legal hurdles.
Over in the Republic of Ireland, changing your legal gender is as simple as renewing a passport – and we predict a similar push for self-definition in the UK.
Though the government is yet to back a change, equalities minister Caroline Dinenage told the Select Committee: “The 2004 Gender Recognition Act was internationally head of the game – we had very little international basis for comparison when drawing this up.
“Countries like Ireland have come up with systems that are different to ours – you can self refer, you don’t have to wait two years. There are discussions around ages as well.
“I think that these are all really important experiences for us to learn from.”
As the Select Committee delivers its recommendations next year, we have our fingers crossed that Ms Dinenage and co. will indeed learn fast.
Adoption of a self-definition system in the UK will also lend authority to the practise – which could see it catch on around the world.
Opponents will keep talking about transgender people in bathrooms
The Slovenian referendum wasn’t the only painful public defeat of 2015, as a surreal alliance of church pastors in Houston, Texas managed to defeat equal rights law HERO in a public ballot.
But what’s concerning is that opponents of LGBT rights finally found a narrative that works: from the start of the campaign to the end, they talked about nothing but transgender people in bathrooms. This has implications far beyond simply one city in Texas.
Opponents hammered the line again and again, they ran scary ads, they convinced people to act out of fear… and the pro-LGBT groups could not come up with a strong enough counter-argument.
It’s the Kryptonite of LGBT rights laws, and now it’s worked once, opponents will bring it up again and again and again. In cities with anti-discrimination laws, in states battling over worker’s rights, in local council elections: it’s a multi-purpose argument and it’s incredibly dangerous.
Activist Barbra Casbar Siperstein, who sits on the Democrats national executive committee, explained: “If our advocates and the people pushing for full LGBT rights don’t get their act together, and don’t have trans people out there destroying the myth, it’s going to keep on happening.
“If you know it’s going to be brought up, you need to be proactive.
“You have a trans face. You have a poster child. When you are attacked, you can’t run away and hide.
“Sometimes you have to attack first, you have to be flexible, you have to have a plan A, a plan B, and a plan C. You have to adjust. This is a war.”
A footballer will finally come out
There’s no doubt that homophobia continues to exist in sport, but there are now visible role models across nearly every field with the exception of UK men’s football.
The ground has been readied and more than prepared: 2016 will be the year that a UK football player comes out, for the first time since Justin Fashanu.
There’s a few hesitant players in the Premiership considering the move, but no-one wants to be the first. We expect a smaller name in a lower league may be the player who sets the ball rolling.
Here’s to a happy, joyful and equal 2016 to all of our readers.
Feel free to check out our 2015 predictions and let us know how we did. We’re calling it a solid eight out of ten…