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Here are the 23 top LGBTQ news stories of 2023

From a record number of anti-LGBTQ state bills and book challenges to a renaissance in gay literature and lesbian bars, this year was a roller coaster ride for queer news.
Images from LGBTQ related news stories this year are covered by a rainbow paper with cutouts
The year has been marked by a historic level of protest — both in support of and in opposition to LGBTQ rights. Kelsea Petersen / NBC News

For those covering the LGBTQ beat, one thing is certain: There’s never a slow news day. 

The year has been marked by a historic level of protest — both in support of and in opposition to LGBTQ rights.

State legislators filed more than 500 bills targeting LGBTQ people, Dylan Mulvaney’s partnership with Bud Light led to mass boycotts of the brand, and arrests were made following mysterious druggings that stalked patrons of New York City’s gay bars for years. 

But despite the political division, more LGBTQ people are coming out than ever before, particularly among Generation Z, and lesbian bars, which were in decline before the pandemic, have had a resurgence. We’ve also seen a wave of queer-inclusive movies and books this year that have dazzled filmgoers and bibliophiles.

Without further ado, here are 23 of our top LGBTQ news stories of 2023.


Lesbian mom loses parental rights, and wife, to child’s sperm donor

Kris Williams, right, and Rebekah Wilson with their son.
Kris Williams, right, and Rebekah Wilson with their son.Courtesy Kris Williams

The boy’s biological mother and his sperm donor, who are now dating, are the child’s “legal parents,” an Oklahoma district judge ruled. (Feb. 15)

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Gallup Poll finds 7.2% in U.S. identify as LGBTQ 

a Pride flag
A person waves a Pride flag in Boston in March 2022.Jessica Rinaldi / Boston Globe via Getty Images file

Nearly 20% of Generation Z, or those ages 19 to 26, identify as something other than heterosexual, the latest Gallup Poll finds. (Feb. 22)

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Bud Light partnership with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney prompts right-wing backlash

Dylan Mulvaney shared a video promoting Bud Light's March Madness contest.
Dylan Mulvaney shared a video promoting Bud Light's March Madness contest.@dylanmulvaney via Instagram

The beer brand teamed up with “Days of Girlhood” TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney during the NCAA’s March Madness college basketball tournament. (April 5)

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Raising a trans kid in Missouri has become a ‘dystopian nightmare’ for families

Kyle and Rene Freels moved to St. Louis 17 years ago, just before the birth of their daughter, Chelsea.
Kyle and Rene Freels moved to St. Louis 17 years ago, just before the birth of their daughter, Chelsea.Kyle Freels

State leaders are attempting to restrict access to transition-related care in a variety of ways, forcing families to come up with backup plans. (April 27)

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Pride Month boycotts: How major brands were roped into targeting LGBTQ people

Pride month merchandise is displayed at the front of a Target store in Hackensack, N.J.
Pride month merchandise is displayed at the front of a Target store in Hackensack, N.J., on May 24.Seth Wenig / AP

Target, Bud Light, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Disney have all been backed into corners over their support of the LGBTQ community. The strategy has conservative activists celebrating. (May 25)

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Anti-drag protests, threats and violence ramp up across the U.S., report finds

Pro- and anti-drag queen protestors gather outside of Sidetrack Bookshop in Royal Oak, Mich.
Pro- and anti-drag queen protesters gather outside Sidetrack Bookshop in Royal Oak, Mich., on March 11.Jeff Kowalsky / AFP via Getty Images file

The U.S. has exported anti-drag sentiment abroad, including to the U.K., which has also seen an uptick in anti-drag actions, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue says. (June 23)

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Supreme Court rules for web designer who refused to work on same-sex weddings 

Christian graphic artist and website designer Lorie Smith speaks to supporters outside the Supreme Court
Christian graphic artist and website designer Lorie Smith speaks to supporters outside the Supreme Court in December 2022.Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In a blow to LGBTQ rights, the court said creative businesses can refuse to sell certain products and services if they disagree with the messages customers wish to convey. (June 30)

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Trans men enter Miss Italy pageant in droves after trans women are told they can’t compete

Federico Barbarossa.
Federico Barbarossa.Courtesy Federico Barbarossa

Trans activist Federico Barbarossa entered the Miss Italy pageant after its organizer said trans women weren’t allowed. His protest went viral, and more than 100 trans men signed up, he said. (July 27)

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Fatal stabbing of NYC gay man is being investigated as a possible hate crime

O'Shae Sibley.
O'Shae Sibley.Kemar Jewel

O’Shae Sibley, 28, was dancing to music by Beyoncé at a Brooklyn gas station before the fatal incident. (Aug. 1)

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FDA policy allowing more gay and bisexual men to donate blood goes into effect

Image: Inside A Blood Drive At Chargers Stadium
A blood drive in San Diego in 2020. Bing Guan / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

However, some heterosexuals who aren’t in monogamous long-term relationships are newly ineligible to donate blood. (Aug. 7)

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California store owner, mother of 9, fatally shot over a Pride flag displayed in her shop 

Laura Ann Carleton.
Laura Ann Carleton.via Mountain Provisions Cooperative

The suspect made “several disparaging remarks” about the rainbow flag before shooting the store owner, Laura Ann Carleton, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department said. (Aug. 20)

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After decades of declines, lesbian bars are having a renaissance 

Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle pose for a photo behind the bar.
Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle, co-owners of Nobody's Darling in Chicago.Akilah Townsend for NBC News

From Brooklyn to Oklahoma City, a dozen new venues owned by queer women have opened their doors since 2020. (Aug. 28)

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How Zooey Zephyr, Montana’s first trans legislator, became a national celebrity 

Rep. Zooey Zephyr walks out of Gild in downtown Missoula, Mont., on Aug. 9, 2023.
Rep. Zooey Zephyr walks out of Gild in downtown Missoula, Mont., on Aug. 9.Rebecca Stumpf for NBC News

Zephyr’s Republican colleagues silenced her in the state, but they inadvertently amplified her message across the country. (Sept. 3)

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Book challenges reach historic highs, American Library Association reports 

The wave of attempted book banning and restrictions continues to intensify, the American Library Association reported Friday. Numbers for 2022 already approach last year's totals, which were the highest in decades.
Amanda Darrow, a director at the Utah Pride Center, in Salt Lake City in 2021.Rick Bowmer / AP file

Most of the challenged titles were written by or about people of color or members of the LGBTQ community, the ALA found. (Sept. 20)

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Transgender adults in red states fear for the next generation as political attacks accelerate

A side-by-side image of Ashley Swartz and Eli Rigatuso.
Ashley Swartz and Eli Rigatuso.Madeline Cass for NBC News

As conservative lawmakers and activists set their sights on transgender inclusion and health care, trans adults are fearful about what the future holds for their younger counterparts. (Oct. 7)

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New House speaker’s views on LGBTQ issues come under fresh scrutiny 

U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA)  in Washington, DC. on Nov. 7, 2023.
House Speaker Mike Johnson.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., has called same-sex marriage a “dark harbinger of chaos” and suggested it could lead to people wedding their pets. (Oct. 26)

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A year after Elon Musk bought Twitter, LGBTQ people say it has become toxic

Elon Musk, CEO of Twitter,  during a conference in Paris on June 16, 2023.
Elon Musk at a conference in Paris on June 16.Jeanne Accorsini / Sipa via AP Images file

On Musk’s X, users are allowed to deadname and misgender transgender people and make money off of anti-LGBTQ content. (Oct. 27)

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Meet the 13-year-old West Virginian suing to join her school’s track team

Becky Pepper-Jackson, 13, a transgender teen at the center of a legal battle over transgender participation in West Virginia sports and her mother Heather Jackson after a hearing in Richmond, Va. on Oct. 27, 2023.
Becky Pepper-Jackson, 13, and her mother, Heather Jackson, after a hearing in Richmond, Va., on Oct. 27.Shuran Huang for NBC News

Becky Pepper-Jackson’s case is one of two against restrictions on transgender students’ playing school sports that could end up before the Supreme Court. (Oct. 28)

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Victims of the deadly druggings that terrorized NYC’s gay bars are haunted by unknowns

Julio Ramirez and John Umberger.
Julio Ramirez and John Umberger.Ramirez family photo; Linda Clary

One of the six defendants was sentenced to nine years in prison. Authorities say the yearslong crime ring victimized 16 people and led to two deaths. (Nov. 20)

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George Santos is expelled from the House

Activists hold a large inflatable balloon of Rep. George Santos as they advocate for his expulsion.
A 15-foot-tall inflatable balloon of Rep. George Santos is flown on Capitol Hill on Nov. 28 ahead of a vote to expel him from Congress.Paul Morigi / Getty Images

Santos, R-N.Y., who made history in 2022 by becoming the first openly LGBTQ nonincumbent Republican elected to Congress, was expelled from the House of Representatives, making him just the sixth member of the House ever to be expelled and the first in more than 20 years. (Dec. 1)

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A ‘renaissance of gay literature’ marks a turning point for publishing 

The Ripped Bodice romance bookstore in Los Angeles.
The Ripped Bodice romance bookstore in Los Angeles.Madeline Derujinsky

Exclusive data and industry experts — including publishers, booksellers and BookTok influencers — shed light on the yearslong surge in LGBTQ fiction sales. (Dec. 9)

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From drag bans to sports restrictions, 75 anti-LGBTQ bills have become law in 2023

Trans rights activists march past the state Capitol during a protest of anti-drag laws in Nashville, Tenn.
Trans rights activists march past the state Capitol during a protest against anti-drag laws in Nashville, Tenn., on Feb. 14.John Amis / AP Images for Human Rights Campaign file

Restrictions on gender-affirming care for transgender youths were the most common, with 21 such laws passed this year. (Dec. 17)

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Pope says priests can bless same-sex couples, a radical change in Vatican policy 

Pope Francis appears at the balcony to deliver his Christmas blessing in 2022.
Pope Francis before delivering his Christmas blessing in 2022. Andreas Solaro / AFP - Getty Images file

The announcement about same-sex blessings triggered both healing and pain for LGBTQ Catholics, and it came just six weeks after Vatican officials said transgender people can be baptized in the Catholic Church. (Dec. 18)

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