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Transgender Rights Lead NPR's Top LGBTQ Stories of 2017

Danica Roem of Virginia became the <a href="https://www.npr.org/2017/11/07/562679573/election-of-transgender-lawmaker-in-virginia-makes-history" data-key="31">first out trans person</a> to be elected to a state legislature.

Danny Nett, NPR Digital Media

As gay, lesbian and transgender activists around the United States felt a renewed sense of urgency under a new administration, 2017 cast a definitive spotlight on transgender rights.

Earlier this year, President Trump proposed a ban of trans service members in the military, and his administration rescinded Obama-era guidelines on the rights of transgender students under Title IX. But on Friday, the administration said it decided not to appeal court rulings, paving the way for transgender people to enter the military on Jan. 1.

Sixteen states considered versions of so-called "bathroom bills," requiring individuals to use restrooms and locker rooms that align with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Around the world, LGBTQ communities were targeted by crackdowns in Chechnya, Tanzania, Indonesia and Azerbaijan.

But LGBTQ communities also scored some victories and increased visibility in the U.S. and across the globe. Australia and Germany legalized same-sex marriage, and Taiwan's high court ruled in favor of it. Kiev ushered in what organizers said was the largest pride event in Ukraine's history.

In the U.S., Danica Roem of Virginia became the first out trans person to be elected to a state legislature.

And Americans had a swell of queer cinema and television — including RuPaul's Drag Race's jump to VH1, the return of Will & Grace and three Golden Globe nominations for Call Me By Your Name.

Here are NPR.org's most read LGBTQ stories of the year — as well as a handful of pieces that may have flown under your radar.

1. Q&A With The 'Sassy' Teacher Of The Year About That Fan And Going Viral

Special education teacher Nikos Giannopoulos chatted with NPR about what it was like growing up visibly femme, being named Rhode Island's Teacher of the Year, and going viral after a visit to the White House.

2. Trump Says Transgender People Can't Serve In Military

In a move that seemed to catch Pentagon leaders off guard, President Trump tweeted in July that the government would not allow trans people to serve in the U.S. military.

Since then, two federal judges have blocked the ban's implementation. The Pentagon also confirmed earlier this month that it will allow trans people to enlist beginning Jan. 1.

3. 17-Year-Old Transgender Boy Wins Texas Girls' Wrestling Championship

In February, 17-year-old Mack Beggs' big win at the Texas state wrestling championships made national headlines. That's because the 17-year-old, barred from competing in the boys' league by state law, won his weight class against girls.

"He wants to compete against boys," local reporter Asa Merritt told NPR at the time. But Texas state law dictates that students have to compete as the sex on their birth certificate.

4. Asked About Discrimination, Betsy DeVos Said This 14 Times

When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared before Congress in June, lawmakers repeatedly asked whether, under a federal voucher program, she would prohibit private schools from discriminating against children with disabilities and LGBTQ students.

And 14 times, DeVos provided the same answer: "Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law."

5. Kim Davis Once Denied Him A Marriage License. Now Kentucky Man Seeks Her Job

David Ermold is an English professor at the University of Pikeville. He has lived in Rowan County, Ky., for more than a decade. And, several weeks ago, he announced he's running for the job of county clerk against Kim Davis — the woman who denied marriage licenses to him and his husband in 2015.

An aside: Davis had also made national headlines this year when she took the fight against same-sex marriage overseas, pushing for a change in the Romanian constitution.

Under the radar stories

1. 'They Told Me I Wasn't A Human Being': Gay Men Speak Of Brutal Treatment In Chechnya

More than 100 gay men in Chechnya have reportedly been rounded up in what Human Rights Watch has called an "anti-gay purge." In June, NPR spoke with two Russian men about the brutal treatment they endured while they were detained.

An 18-year-old told NPR that he was beaten and left unconscious in a burlap bag on the doorstep of his family — who, when he woke up weeks later, disowned him.

2. Poll: Majority of LGBTQ Americans Report Harassment, Violence Based On Identity

With the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, NPR conducted a national poll, which included how queer Americans say they experience discrimination. "More than half of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans say they have experienced violence, threats or harassment because of their sexuality or gender identity," the poll found. More on the findings, and the stories behind them:

For LGBTQ People Of Color, Discrimination Compounds

New Generation of Transgender Americans Wants To Change Laws, Not Just Minds

Health Care System Fails Many Transgender Americans

3. Transgender Women Of Indonesia Have A Champion In A 26-year-old Doctor

The waria are a third gender in Indonesian culture, and many survive by doing sex work or singing for tips on the street. Sandeep Nanwani, a 26-year-old doctor, is working to provide them much-needed medical care in the Yogyakarta community.

One person he works with is Vinolia Wakijo, the effective matriarch of the local waria community, whose group home is now raising a baby girl orphaned by Indonesia's AIDS epidemic.

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