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    Ann Rostow: Anchor Away

    By Ann Rostow

    Anchor Away

    I know that by the time you read this, everything will, no doubt, be just fine. But as I write, I’m worried about Rachel Maddow. How can she be sick for ten days? Why haven’t we received a reassuring report? Anyone who watches regularly knows that Rachel is doggedly pursuing all sorts of Russian shenanigans, so we have to ask, has Putin gotten to our favorite muckraker? (Editor’s Note: Maddow returned to her program on June 6 after the two-week absence.)

    By the way, I googled “what’s wrong with Rachel” and the top entry was a headline that read: “What’s wrong with Rachel?” When I clicked on it, I got a screen that said something like, “What’s wrong with Rachel? She’s been sick for a week!” Well, thanks for nothing, Google. I wanted some information, not an Abbot and Costello routine. This is not the first time that Google has led me to two-sentence “articles” and the phenomenon annoys me.

    Happy GLBT pride month everyone. I note that Donald Trump has not issued a White House Pride Month declaration. But, then again, neither did George W. Bush, so it can be argued that issuing Pride declarations, as did Clinton and Obama, is a Democratic thing. That said, I’m not even sure I want a Pride month acknowledgement from Donald Trump. My disgust for this infantile pretender grows by the day. (That said, Kathy Griffin’s severed Trump head image was horrible and she deserved the opprobrium she received from all sides. I mean, really.)

    Harvard Schmarvard

    And speaking of GLBT pride, my cousin sent me a Harvard website that provides definitions for “BGLTQ terminology.” Since I am my extended family’s expert in all things gay and trans, she asked me to explain the latest letter sequence, and I was at a loss. Harvard’s version appears to be unique, and ironically, since it appears on a page dedicated to a display of community usage, there is zero explanation for this transposition, nor is it listed under “B.”

    Making matters worse, the section includes a definition of “LGBTQIA” under “L,” which the authors tell us is a “common abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual community.” A common abbreviation? Why then, pray tell, did you not use it in the heading of this dictionary? “The acronym,” they go on, “is used as an umbrella term when talking about non-heterosexual and non-cisgender identities, and does not always reflect members of the community. Sometimes the ‘A’ is used to reference Allies and the ‘Q’ is used to reference Questioning people.”

    Ladies and gentlemen, as I’ve said before, an “acronym,” by definition, must spell something you can pronounce. If you’re going to use the term in the context of a glossary, look it up first. Whether an acronym or an abbreviation, you can’t switch the letters around at will. It also helps not to have several meanings for the same letter. And finally, an abbreviation of this sort loses meaning when it does not always reflect what it claims to represent!

    Why do I care? Because there’s something alarming about our fixation on inconsequential distractions and it is personified by the person or persons who deliberated on whether or not “GLBT/LGBT” should be unilaterally changed to “BLGTQ,” and proceeded to do so without explanation.

    Tennis Anyone?

    It’s raining in the Bois de Boulogne. I can see it on my French Open TV coverage, which reminds me of a thing I want someone to install. Wouldn’t it be cool to have huge outdoor screens set up in parks in Paris, in New York, in San Francisco, in Tokyo, and let people wandering around wave to each other or write to each other in real time? I also want restaurants to set up Skype systems so that you can have breakfast on the Pacific coast with your friend who is having dinner at a bistro in Normandy. I know you could do that now, but it would be better with a big display.

    Speaking of tennis, it’s great to see the tennis community coming together to condemn Margaret Court and everything she represents. This Australian champion is virulently antigay, and she also praised South Africa in 1970, opining that, with apartheid, “South Africans have this thing better organized than any other country, particularly America.” (At the time, South Africa had refused to allow Arthur Ashe entry to play Davis Cup.)

    Court, who won a record 24 grand slam tournament singles championships back in the day, had some kind of religious conversion and became, well, crazy, if you will. A recent The New York Times article described Court leading the audience at her oddball church in speaking in tongues, i.e. making gibberish noises. “It is like picking up the phone to God,” she told the congregants at the Pentecostal church insanely. “The Devil doesn’t understand it, man doesn’t understand it, but God understands it.”

    Lately, Court penned a public letter promising never to fly Qantas because they favored marriage equality (which remains illegal Down Under). In the ensuing hoopla over that, she noted that women’s tennis is filled with lesbians who take “young ones to parties.”

    Speaking to an interviewer, Court went on incoherently: “You can think, ‘Oh, I’m a boy,’ and it will affect your emotions and feelings and everything else. So, that’s all the devil—that’s what Hitler did and that’s what communism did: got the mind of the children. It’s a whole plot in our nation, and in the nations of the world, to get the minds of the children.”

    Woah, Nelly!

    Normally, you’d just ignore someone like this, but unfortunately, as of 2003, her name is plastered all over the main court at the tennis center in Melbourne where the Australian Open is played. (For the record, the reason Court has so many grand slam titles is that she won 11 Australian Open singles championships at a time when no one else bothered to play there.) At any rate, Martina Navratilova and others are now calling for the powers that be to take her name off the court in question. Navratilova, who called Court “deluded,” said recently that she expects the Australian authorities to make some kind of decision soon. Meanwhile, John McEnroe pledged to team up with his good friend Elton John and stage a mass gay wedding on the court as soon as Australia changes its marriage laws.

    And no, I’m not wading back into the political morass that is Australia’s continuing inability to join the rest of the civilized world by legalizing same-sex unions. I’ve lost track and don’t want to check up on developments.

    Seventh Circuit Strikes Again

    In a huge development for transgender rights, a unanimous three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled that a school district in Wisconsin violated Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination when it refused to let a transgender male student use the boy’s restrooms on campus. The decision is the first to extend Title IX protections to transgender students using full legal analysis.

    I know I know I know! I can hear you shouting at me. Ann! What about Gavin Grimm? Didn’t you write ten columns about how high school student Gavin Grimm made legal history under identical circumstances?

    Well, it’s true that Grimm won a similar case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit last year, but that panel based its ruling on the Obama Education Department’s Title IX legal guidance. Grimm’s victory was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but by the time the justices had a chance to look at it, the Trump administration had pulled the pro-transgender legal policy for further review, so the Fourth Circuit’s entire rationale went up in smoke. At that point, the High Court sent the case back to the Fourth Circuit for reconsideration in light of the changed context.

    Essentially, the Fourth Circuit is only now considering the underlying merits of Gavin Grimm’s claim under Title IX. So, the Seventh Circuit has skipped ahead, providing a roadmap for the Fourth Circuit and a flashing red light to school districts and lawmakers who presume to relegate transgender kids to faraway single occupancy bathrooms, or force them to use the facilities of the opposite sex.

    It has only been a few weeks since the full bench of the Seventh Circuit set new precedent by ruling that a lesbian teacher could make an employment discrimination claim under Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination in the workplace. Courts tend to use similar logic and rationale when they examine cases of sex discrimination in public schools (under Title IX) and in the workplace (under Title VII). In the process of analyzing the Title VII case, the Seventh Circuit then effectively overturned one of the most pernicious anti-trans precedents on the books, and paved the way for this latest victory.

    The status of gay claimants and the status of transgender claimants under federal discrimination law are intertwined in numerous ways. But the main one is this: sex stereotyping has been ruled illegal many times. The question we are now facing in several cases is whether trans bias and gay bias are both variations on the same impermissible theme.

    We also learned recently that the full bench of the Second Circuit will hear a Title VII case of gay bias, and the court has asked the Employment Equal Opportunity Commission to file a brief on the matter. We know what the Obama administration’s GLBT-friendly Justice Department had to say about the scope of Title VII. What will we hear from Mr. Sessions and company?

    Transwoman Can Sue Under Disabilities Act

    In another major transgender case out of Pennsylvania, a federal judge has ruled that a transgender woman can sue her employer for violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This ruling, which was somehow carved off from her main Title VII discrimination claim, recognizes that gender dysphoria does not necessarily fall under the exceptions to the ADA, which include homosexuality, “transsexualism,” and vague “gender identity disorders.” In this case, the judge ruled that gender dysphoria could include specific disabilities that would qualify under the ADA. As New York Law professor Art Leonard explained, a transgender worker would be considered disabled if he or she were blind. Likewise, being transgender would not preclude falling under the ADA if the person had a disability, like clinically disabling stress, from gender dysphoria.

    As far as I understand it, a transgender worker can’t simply announce that he or she is disabled by virtue of being transgender. On the other hand, disabilities related to a transition cannot simply be dismissed as an incident of “transsexualism” or “gender identity disorder.” The implications are significant, since—unlike Title VII—the ADA obliges an employer to find a reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee.

    Get Political Animals Now

    Here’s something important. You can now buy “Political Animals,” the fantastic documentary about the wonder women who pioneered gay rights in the California legislature in the 1990s, through iTunes. Buy it and watch it. I would not have expected to cry at a political documentary, but this is so well done.

    I have a dozen items I could discuss in my last 200 words. A gay man, Leo Varadkar, is to be the next Prime Minister of Ireland. A nutcase who sued a Michigan health club because she met a transwoman in the locker room lost her lawsuit. (The health club revoked her membership after she made a scene.) The city of Madrid is celebrating International Gay Pride by switching its pedestrian stoplight images to show same-sex couples getting ready to cross the street.

    Finally, the Supreme Court is still sitting on the scary Masterpiece Cakeshop petition, declining to either accept or reject the case of a Denver baker who refused to make a wedding cake for two gay men. I swore to myself I would not ramble on and on about this non-story, even as I obsessively return to it, and even as I sit silently monitoring the live feed on Scotusblog a couple of times a week whenever conference results are announced. What are they doing? What are they thinking? And what’s wrong with Rachel?

    arostow@aol.com