In a year when the events of one day changed the tone for the entire year, leaving our country and the world understandably preoccupied with reevaluating priorities, it is important to take a look back at some of the other important milestones that defined 2001 for the gay and lesbian community.
On the same-sex marriage front, six couples in Amsterdam — three lesbian and three gay — became the first same-sex couples in the world to be legally married when they wed in a communal ceremony just minutes after the Dutch law granting same-sex marriage took effect.
Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, best known for championing the state's civil union law, announced he will not seek reelection.
Congress allowed Washington, D.C. to offer domestic-partner benefits to some city workers. Massachusetts-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven gay and lesbian couples seeking to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
The battle of public opinion raged over the Boy Scouts of America's decision to ban gay scouts. The Greater New York Councils of the Boy Scouts of American announced its active work to persuade the national group to change its decision. Leaders of Scout councils from seven of the country's largest cities petitioned the organization to drop its policy banning gay scouts and leaders.
Steven Spielberg resigned from the Boy Scouts' advisory council because of the group's anti-gay policies.
One month after a Boston Boy Scouts council announced it would not discriminate based on sexual orientation, the group rejected an application for membership from a troop leader who had been fired by a New Hampshire troop for being gay.
Pro-gay politicians and gay rights legislation won big at the polls. Four local gay-rights ballot initiatives were victorious, three in Michigan and one in Miami Beach.
Local gay rights advocates continued to fight Issue 3, but suffered a major setback when Downtown Cincinnati Inc. dropped its support for an independent study of the city's controversial ban on gay-rights laws after being questioned by Cincinnati City Council members.
Stonewall Cincinnati, one of the city's most vocal human rights organizations, struggled through a tough period of decreasing financial support, the elimination of the executive director position and decreasing membership.
The world observed the 20th anniversary of the release of a report on five cases of what would later become known as AIDS. Ongoing coverage in the national press and media attempted to refocus attention on the state of HIV and AIDS at the dawn of a new millennium.
The Human Rights Campaign released its analysis of the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau figures, which among other things showed that gay and lesbian families live in 99.3 percent of all counties in the nation.
Laura Schlessinger's television show was cancelled.
Conservative gay writer Andrew Sullivan was embroiled in a scandal brought on by some online postings that many felt contradicted his repeated public condemnations of the evils of the "gay lifestyle."
Berlin elected an openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit.
The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation ended their association with the California AIDS Ride and announced the launch of their own fundraising event, the AIDS/LifeCycle. Pallotta TeamWorks, producer of the California AIDS Ride, announced a new partnership with AIDS Project Los Angeles.
While this list goes on and on, the extremes of this year have also shown me the importance of taking more time out to enjoy life and spend time with the most important people in my life. With that said, this is also a great time to look back at some of the best films, movies, plays and music that came out of 2001. Hopefully you caught at least some of these. But if not, you have some great times ahead of you.
John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask brought their ambisexual rocker Hedwig to the big screen with the film adaptation of their stage show Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The stage show also enjoyed successful runs in cities around the country, including a critically acclaimed run at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati.
Other gay and lesbian films from 2001 not to miss include The Deep End, The Fluffer, Punks and Big Eden.
While we're on the topic of theater, no self respecting gay man's trip to New York City would be complete without a stop at the American Airlines Theater to catch the revival of the camp classic The Women, starring a bevy of stars of both screens including Kristin Johnson (3rd Rock from the Sun), Jennifer Tilly and Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City fame, among others.
I know your CD shelves are overflowing, but you have to make room for at least a few of these amazing CDs that hit the market this year: Poses from Rufus Wainright; Skin, the latest from Melissa Etheridge; Pet Shop Boys (reissues); and Madonna's Greatest Hits Volume 2.
If you don't have cable, you have to get it. Otherwise you are going to miss possibly the best four shows on television. In 2001 we got to know the unapologetically gay boys of Queer as Folk, who will be back for a second season in January. The glamour gals of Sex and the City kept up their sexcapades and shopping. OZ continued to show us the buff bodies and gripping realities of life in a maximum-security prison.
But without a doubt my favorite new show of 2001 is Six Feet Under, HBO's smart new drama about a dysfunctional Los Angeles family that runs an independent funeral home.
2001 was a tough year. But if the challenges we have faced as a community and a nation have taught me anything, I've learned that we can and we must go on.