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    Ann Rostow: Breeana Flannery Is a Genius, Seriously!

    By Ann Rostow–

    Breeana Flannery Is a Genius, Seriously!

    Let’s start with videos. Last time I implored you all to check out The West Wing-style credits featuring Joe Biden and his new staff. However, I then directed you through cyberspace with the name of some guy who had nothing to do with the video, but who had simply forwarded it around the internet. The video was actually made by Breeana Flannery, who deserves high praise and credit for her tour de force. Check it out at once!

    I also just watched the Saturday Night Live satiric take on “It Gets Better,” the campaign to fight school bullying by reminding tortured gay and trans kids that life improves after school days are done. Did you see it? It’s worth checking out the SNL team performing as gay adults looking back on their teenage years and telling the audience that it really does “get better.” Um, sort of. 

    There’s no more high school trauma, but you will now have to deal with divorce, income tax, unruly pets, social media trolls, and all the pitfalls of the rat race down the time line. 

    Tell us about it! Paperwork, bills, mystery water leaks, phone calls to large bureaucracies, vet visits, lost things, broken things, medical emergencies, fires, floods, bad sports outcomes—I’m looking at you, Mahomes—lawsuits, death. It all kind of puts one’s childhood dilemmas in perspective, doesn’t it? 

    That said, adulthood has its charms, while middle school can be a period of unrelenting darkness. 

    Impeachment? Meh

    Ever since January 20, I have strangely lost my interest in all things Trump and found a new appreciation for press conferences and legislative updates. To be honest, I had feared that I might find the Biden administration a little boring. I thought that, in a way, I might miss the nonstop drama of the last four years, as horrifying as it may have been. I confessed this fear to no one since it would not have reflected well on me as a human being.

    But, happily, I turned out to be more civic minded than I thought. I don’t have the attention to spare for the impeachment hearings. I wish all manner of ill-fortune on Trump and company, and I agree that he should be held accountable in this manner, but still. Bring on the COVID-19 bill and the ones to follow. Bring on the $15 minimum wage, the immigration debate, and eventually, the Equality Act. Let’s put some new judges on the federal bench. Time’s a-wasting. Let’s flip the channel from MSNBC to CSpan.

    As I write, with MSNBC muted and the captions on (I haven’t flipped yet), the talking heads are repeating the same points about impeachment over and over again with a demeanor that suggests they are providing new and original comments. The same thing happens with COVID panels, who affect a serious air and remind us that the vaccine is not a guarantee against carrying the virus and we should all be sure to keep our masks on. Hello, TV doctors and scientists! You’ve said this before. We know all this. Tell us something new and take down those “Breaking News” chyrons. 

    Tulips, Anyone?

    Meanwhile, I was transfixed for a while with the GameStop saga, and found myself rooting against the Reddit investors who helped the stock bubble up from around $40 a share to over $400 in just a few days before dropping back into the $50 range. I assume that some of them laughed all the way to the bank, but many others refused to cash in, imagining that they were part of a valiant quest to damage a few hedge funds that had sold short in a bet against the stock. 

    (I loved the little boy who had been given ten GameStop shares as a birthday present back in 2019. His mother asked what he wanted to do and he sensibly sold them for a profit in the neighborhood of three grand.) 

    As for the other guys, I guess I did not quite get it. From whence their abject hatred for short sellers and hedge funds? These weren’t regular investors from what I understood. Some of them put their savings or stimulus checks into the market, certainly not money you’d want to lose, right? It would make sense if they were trying to ride the GameStop wave to a quick profit, but it seems their main goal was to hurt short sellers, and many of them refused to sell their stock on principle, patting themselves on the back as their nest eggs dwindled into fractions of their original stake. 

    What the hell, guys? (They were all guys.) If they had sold GameStop at $300 or $400 I would have tipped my hat to them. But they deliberately held on to “stick it” to the hedge funds that had already closed out their short positions, one assumes. I have no love lost for hedge funds, I suppose, but I really don’t care as Melania Trump might say. Why did these jokers give a damn? There’s something about them that reminds me, as well, of the Trumpsters in the Capitol. A boorish masculinity combined with a paucity of brain power.

    I’m also reminded of the research that clearly shows women are better individual investors than men. We don’t trade with testosterone and we don’t overreact to ups and downs in the market. Ka-ching.

    But She’s a Cheerleader!

    Forgive me for my lack of focus on GLBT news so far. Sometimes I’m just not inspired by the available material. I was going to look into Justice Barrett’s first comments on religious freedom, just expressed in the case that asked whether California could limit church attendance for public health reasons. (Bottom line answer, no.) But while I was checking my favorite appellate court website, I got lost in a story about lawyers suing food companies over false use of the term “vanilla.”

    Is “vanilla” an ingredient? Or is it a generic flavor? And is there a difference? Could I sell a strawberry soda that doesn’t have strawberries in it? Would I have to call it “strawberry flavored soda?” Would that protect me against liability, given the absence of strawberries? And who the heck is truly harmed by a soft-serve ice cream cone that does not use vanilla beans in the recipe, yet calls itself “vanilla?” Do people really go to law school in order to litigate such absurd objections? And yet, truth in advertising is an important issue. Ah, the complexity of it all. You can see why I was distracted.

    Even more interesting was an update on a case out of Pennsylvania, where a school district disciplined a junior varsity cheerleader who missed out on making varsity and released her frustration in a brief snapchat screed that read: “F–k school. F softball. F cheer. F everything.” The girl, BL in court documents, posed with her middle finger in the post, which she issued while shopping on a Saturday with a friend.

    Yes, the sentiment violated school policy, but does the school have jurisdiction off campus and outside of school hours? All the lower courts have said no, but the school has relentlessly appealed and the High Court will hear the case shortly.

    I guess there’s a vague connection to our topic, because freedom of speech in the high school context is one of our core GLBT issues. You may remember the many situations that arose during the annual Day of Silence, when GLBT kids went quiet for a day and passed out notes explaining they were drawing attention to discrimination and bullying. Every year, some kids wore gay shirts and others wore anti-gay shirts and every year some school district got in trouble for mishandling these conflicts. 

    In the words of the famous case, Tinker v Des Moines, students do not lose their First Amendment rights at the schoolyard gate. Schools cannot ban black armbands to protest a war (as was the case in Tinker), but they can protect the campus against disruption by, let’s say, forbidding gang attire or offensive language. 

    As for off-campus activity, normally the school has no power. However, in 2007, Chief Justice Roberts authored a 5–4 decision in favor of a school that punished a student at a school-supervised activity. That student held up a sign that read, “Bong Hits for Jesus” during an Olympic torch relay. The Court majority decided that the school had some authority during a school trip, that the sign encouraged drug use, and that the state had an important public interest in tamping down on such a message in a school setting.

    But surely there’s no public interest in cleaning up BL’s language, and surely the school cannot extend its reach into a shopping mall on a Saturday to impose some Puritanical viewpoints, right? I’m all in for BL. We’ll follow the case. 

    Damn, Girl!

    I see on my news list that Iceland and Norway are pissed off at Poland over something gay. I’ll look into that in a second. (Or not.) I was also going to tell you that we can now hire a live goat to pop in on our company Zoom meetings to lighten up the atmosphere. The goat story is another sideshow that does not appear to be related to GLBT news, but that’s wrong. Because we are the type of people that would enjoy having a live goat on our Zoom calls. I hate to stereotype our community, but, as a rule, we are fun-loving. The goat’s a gay thing. 

    And how about the latest cri de coeur from One Million Moms, who sent an alert to those of us on the mailing list: “Dear ANN,” they wrote, “Conservative parents are outraged! American Girl released its first doll with an accompanying book that has an LGBTQ storyline. This is unacceptable!” It turns out that a new Kira doll is a 10-year-old wildlife conservationist who visits her lesbian aunts in Australia. 

    Sweet. In my day, dolls did not have back stories, let alone complicated families and political views. They just had clothes and one of them had hair you could pull to make it longer or shorter. Anyone remember “Tressy?” My Tressy had permanent long hair after I fooled with it and could not get the hair to go back, but you know what? I didn’t care because, oddly, I was more into sports than dolls. 

    In another Million Mom meltdown, the group complained about a Super Bowl ad for General Motors, in which Will Ferrell “blurts out the d-word not once, but twice!” Million Moms found the ad “very offensive.” I’m sorry, but “the d-word?” I don’t even know what the d-word is, although I’m guessing it might be “damn.” 

    One Million Moms is an arm of the American Family Association, and I’m sure it does not represent a hundred Moms, let alone a million. Still, who writes these press releases, and what kind of a life does this person lead? Maybe it’s a college intern who regales his or her friends with the outrage of the day over shots and a few lines of coke. 

    Did You Get the Memo?

    Finally, on February 4, the Biden administration issued a 6-part “Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons Around the World,” which commits the United States to the fight against GLBT discrimination in foreign policy, immigration and diplomacy. I guess my favorite section is the last one, titled: “Rescinding Inconsistent Policies and Reporting on Progress,” which includes the following order: 

    “Within 100 days of the date of this memorandum or as soon as possible thereafter, all agencies engaged abroad shall review and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, take steps to rescind any directives, orders, regulations, policies, or guidance inconsistent with this memorandum, including those issued from January 20, 2017, to January 20, 2021, to the extent that they are inconsistent with this memorandum.” 

    There goes Mike Pompeo’s appalling revision of our country’s human rights policies, the product of a Draconian “Commission on Unalienable Rights” that met for a couple of years before producing a faith-based report last summer that was condemned by most of our allies. There is something supremely satisfying in seeing Pompeo and his twisted colleagues work for months and months to undermine our nation’s commitments to equality and justice, only to see Biden and company trash the whole effort in a single page. 

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on February 11, 2021