How Many LGBTQ People Are On The 'TIME' 100 List? Queer Representation Is Still Painfully Low
The TIME 100 Most Influential People list makes a pretty big splash every year, and for good reason: The coverage gives a huge amount of publicity to each person profiled. The list is also representative of our cultural values, as demonstrated by who in our society we celebrate. Which leads me to my next thought: How many LGBTQ people are on the TIME 100 list? Unfortunately, there are seemingly very, very few LGBTQ people represented this year. I counted three. Just three. And that speaks volumes.
Of course, it's important to keep in mind that people may certainly identify as LGBTQ, but not so do publicly. People have different reasons for coming out publicly (or coming out at all), so when looking for LGBTQ representation, it's good to keep in mind that not every LGBTQ identified person is publicly out. While people have a lot of opinions on whether public figures are obligated to come out, I think it's a personal decision; regardless to someone's relative fame or positionality in the public eye, coming out is a complex process with a lot of nuance to it, so I don't think anyone is obligated to rush that in order to appease the public.
Now, all of that said, I scoured the newest TIME 100 list for LGBTQ representation. Right away, I noticed Caitlyn Jenner. Jenner is a controversial figure; she is a prominent figure, which has done a lot for trans visibility, but at the same time, not everyone in the feels she's a strong representative. She often fails to recognize her positionally and the ways the privileges she has as a white person with a high socioeconomic status alleviate her from many issues and obstacles faced by much of the transgender community, such as access to fair housing or medical care. She's also made some controversial statements against same-sex marriage which felt out of touch for many members of the queer community.
Personally, I like Jenner well enough; I don't hold her personal views against her (though I do disagree with her on many issues), and I don't think she needs to be an expert on LGBTQ rights just because she's come out as transgender. In my experience, coming out was a learning process, and I didn't become more informed about the LGBTQ community through osmosis. For some people, it takes a lot of time, so I try to be as forgiving with Jenner as I would be anyone else.
So why are some people displeased with Jenner as the most prominent face of TIME 100's LGBTQ representation? When coverage is already minimal, it feels frustrating to have the highest profile LGBTQ person included be someone who is so controversial within the community. I sorely miss the inclusion of Laverne Cox, for example, who is a true pioneer and advocate for the transgender community. I also had my eye out for amazing transgender teen Jazz Jennings and am sad to see her excluded from the roundup.
What LGBTQ person was I really excited to see included on the list? Darren Walker! Walker is the president of the Ford Foundation, as well as a former lawyer and investment banker, who openly identifies as a gay man. He's made huge contributions to LGBTQ activism throughout his career as well. Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is "proud to be gay" also made the list as a tech Pioneer, which made me super happy.
Unfortunately, in spite of six different TIME 100 covers, none feature openly LGBTQ people; this, on top of the incredibly small number of openly LGBTQ people featured on the list, honestly feels like a disappointment. While LGBTQ rights have made a lot of progress in recent years, there's still loads to be done, and people are still fighting hard for rights and equality. Many LGBTQ activists, artists, and pioneers are making huge contributions to LGBTQ equality and justice, so it stings to see the community so little represented. While things are moving in the right direction overall for LGBTQ rights, it's important not to take progress for granted and allow LGBTQ issues to fall back into the shadows.
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