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    Ann Rostow: Count Me In

    By Ann Rostow–

    Count Me In

    FiveThirtyEight has a column called “Political Outliers” that explores contrarian voters who defy the expectations of their particular cohort. Recently, the analysts took a gander at GLB Republicans; outliers, yes, but still a disturbingly large percentage of our community. Transgender voters were not a part of this study.

    I always harken back petulantly to the fact that some 25 percent of GLBT voters backed Bush in 2000, a number that determined his victory at a time when Republicans were adamantly antigay and Bush himself favored an amendment to preemptively outlaw marriage equality. A modest shift in our voices would have elected Al Gore, possibly given us a head start on climate change, certainly avoided the war in Iraq, and maybe gotten ahead of the mortgage-backed securities collapse. Of course, that razor-thin election also meant that any group could have made a definitive impact; red-haired forty-two-year-olds in Broward County could have changed history. 

    With that in mind, according to the boffins at FiveThirtyEight who cite Pew Research exit polling: “22 percent of LGB voters backed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, while 24 percent backed Republican candidates during the 2014 midterm elections. Some estimates also suggest that Trump won as much as 27 percent of the LGBT vote in 2020—which, if true, would be the highest share of support any Republican presidential nominee has ever received from this group.”

    Gay Republicans, I extrapolate from the piece, are a mix of conservative baby boomers who think their sexual orientation is one of many apolitical characteristics (nobody’s business, thank you very much!) and weird Gen Z kids too young to recall a time when antigay discrimination was commonplace.

    From the article: “‘I feel like gay rights isn’t an issue now since it’s pretty much settled,’ said Nestor Moto, Jr., a 26-year-old gay Republican living in California. ‘The court has already decided.’” Oh, Nestor honey. Come here and sit down with me for a minute. Bring that vape pen.

    Let’s admit that the GLBTQ community is solidly democratic. But still, we are not a monolithic voting bloc. For every two or three voters who support progressive judges and a strong safety net, there’s an old curmudgeon who thinks he shouldn’t have to pay property taxes because he has no kids in public school. (See what I did there? I stereotyped conservatives, senior citizens, and men all in one sentence. Sorry, fellas.) 

    I know that GLBT voters were four or five percent of the national electorate at one point, which would make GLBT Republicans one percent of the total—not a huge group, but not chopped liver either. Guys, it’s not just the civil rights part of the package. But this is our country. We’re supposed to be a big D Democracy, operating under the rule of law, respectful of differences. The current Republican Party has mutated beyond recognition, except for those of us who recognize the Terran Empire from the Mirror Universe on Star Trek

    Let’s get them back in their own sick dimension and close whatever rift in space they used to get here in the first place. Then you can vote republican again. Although I hope you don’t.

    On the Brink

    I was just reading a legal article on Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe’s immense contribution to GLBT rights in constitutional law, and it took me back to the mid-1990s, when our very own arc of history arguably began to bend towards justice. Justice Kennedy’s four opinions in Romer, Lawrence, Windsor, and Obergefell, along with Justice Gorsuch’s decision in Bostock—they all combine for an amazing quarter-century trajectory, bringing us from a despised minority to a respected and protected part of the Great Society.  

    But have you ever thought about the “arc of history” metaphor, and how it “bends?” Doesn’t that make you worry that when you get tired or when you stop pushing on the arc for any reason, the arc’s going to snap back? Or at least relax a bit? Or a lot? For the record, it’s not even the “arc of history.” It’s the arc of the “moral universe,” whatever that is. Sounds like the Federation of Planets to me. 

    Let’s just say that the arc doesn’t bend by itself. And this brings us to veteran High Court journalist Linda Greenhouse’s recent book Justice on the Brink, which looks at the Court’s machinations from July 2020 to June of this year. I haven’t read it, but I have read reviews that suggest Greenhouse thinks a) the Court might be at the start of an epochal period characterized by a profound conservatism, or b) who knows?  

    Much will depend on Justice Barrett, who has played her cards close to her vest during her first months on the Court. Will she remain cautious, an epitome of judicial modesty? Or will she gradually break into a trot, a jog, a marathon runner’s stride, gaining confidence as the years go by and as American constitutional caselaw pushes history away from justice? 

    It’s disturbing to think about. We’ve dodged bullets lately. I just wrote and deleted two lengthy paragraphs revisiting our recent legal battles, so just trust me. Will we be dodging in the future? Will we make progress and cement our recent gains? Or will we slide backwards? I don’t think the Court can or will undo marriage equality. But the justices could easily give religious actors the freedom they seek to ignore our civil rights on many fronts. In that event, wedding cakes and flowers would be just the start.

    As Greenhouse says, we’re on “the brink” of something. We’re in liminal space. Here, we might ask: Does history or the moral universe even have an “arc?” 

    “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe,” said the Unitarian preacher Theodore Parker a decade before the Civil War. “The arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”

    Once we investigate closely, our sure-thing future justice becomes merely the wishful thinking of an obscure 19th Century abolitionist. But repeated and polished through the years, particularly by Martin Luther King, Jr., it picks up a weight and a patina of truth and it means what we mean by it (if you’ll allow me to be a little Rumsfeldian). 

    Wherever we go from here, I still believe we are headed towards an inevitable justice. Although, like Rev. Parker’s, my eye reaches but a little ways.

    Can You Please Be Quiet?

    Have I mentioned that Kristen Stewart is one of my favorite actresses? She would be, even if she wasn’t gay. I loved Personal Shopper and Clouds of Sils Maria. I’m pleased for her that she’s getting married. She can do no wrong in my book, except, um, I guess she can—specifically, the God-awful Spencer

    Mel and I gave it a good 45 minutes before we started giving each other side glances that asked: “Am I the only one who is bored stiff by morose Diana wandering or driving aimlessly around the English countryside?” Back came the tacit answer: “No, you are not alone,” followed by whispers, giggles, and actually being told by another movie watcher to keep it down. 

    True, it was one of those fancy places where you could bring your whole bottle of rosé de Provence and your bespoke basil pizza into the theater with you. So, we may have been a little lit. But still, it’s been a long time since I had to be shushed during a movie.

    I loved The Crown. And we even watched some other Diana-related thing not so long ago, so it’s not as if the subject matter is intrinsically dull to us. And yes, we found it tedious, but it wasn’t so much Stewart’s acting. It was the movie. There was no real character development beyond sad Diana. We had a touch of mean Charles, indifferent Queen, and cute little Harry. But that’s about it. We left after the ghost of Anne Boleyn appeared for the second time. 

    I bring this up because, according to Buzzfeed, Stewart has announced plans for a “gay ghost-hunting reality show,” which reminds me again why I like her so much. Remember last year when she did a Hallmark-style lesbian Christmas movie? That was a beautifully sympathetic piece of kitsch. And now this new fun sounding thing.

    “Calling the show ‘a paranormal romp in a queer space,’ Kristen went on to describe how the show will have (in The New Yorker‘s words) ‘elevated aesthetics,’” Buzzfeed writes. The star, who is in line to win an Oscar nomination for the aforementioned Spencer that everyone but Mel and I loved, is pursuing the ghost-hunting show with her fiancée, screen writer Dylan Meyer. More seriously, she is writing and directing The Chronology of Water, based on the memoire of writer Lidia Yuknavitch.

    Down Under

    I was looking to transition to a lighter tone, maybe with a dismal TV commercial, a gay penguin, a right-wing politician found in a compromising situation, an insane lesbian cutting up her ex-girlfriend’s underthings with a pair of garden shears. You know the tropes.

    But instead of frivolity, I’m feeling burdened. More books being removed from school libraries. More bad things happening in Eastern Europe and other far-flung locales. More frustration from Democrats. More sniping from Republicans. 

    There’s a promising federal lawsuit filed against the state of Tennessee by a 14-year-old transgender teen who is suing to be allowed on the boys’ golf team. Tennessee is one of those states that enacted a statute this year forcing transgender high school athletes to play for the team that matches their gender at birth. Now, the ACLU and Lambda Legal have challenged that law, which is one of several antigay measures approved by the Volunteer State. The ACLU tells NBC News that this is the fifth lawsuit they’ve filed against an anti-trans sports law. Ten states have passed such laws this session. And, as I said, Tennessee has passed so much nasty business that someone is calling it the “Hate State.” I’m too lazy to figure out who exactly came up with that moniker, but I’m passing it on anyway.

    I see that the Michigan Supreme Court has refused to reinstate a petition that was (rightly or wrongly) deigned insufficient by the powers that make such determinations. The petitioners were trying to put a gay rights measure before lawmakers, or if that failed, before the voters. The Mitten State’s top court is in the middle of a related piece of litigation, answering the question of whether or not the state’s ban on sex discrimination automatically includes gay and trans bias (as the High Court ruled was the case in Bostock). 

    You can see that I basically have no time or space left for casual commentary or off-topic mental wanderings. That said, I did just notice a news piece on a “mega spider” in Australia, where someone has captured and “turned in” a very, very large exemplar of some horrible-sounding venomous creature that can kill a child in a few minutes. Authorities were very pleased because they planned to extract a lot of venom and convert it to antidotes. (I am screaming soundlessly with my mouth open.)

    You know, I’d visit antigay Poland before I’d hike around the countryside in Eastern Australia. 

    And don’t tell me about the “death stalker” scorpions in Egypt that can take down an adult human in less than an hour. These are the ones that are running around the streets after storms flooded the southern Aswan province. Oh, my God. I guess three people are dead from the storm, but hundreds have been treated for scorpion bites. The press notes that the scorpions have not killed anyone, because the victims have been able to get treatment. 

    As BBC explains: “Anti-venom is used as a preventative measure before symptoms arise, but can also work once symptoms start to worsen. Extra doses of anti-venom were provided to medical centres (sic) in villages near mountains and deserts in Aswan after the scorpion swarm was reported. People were also urged to stay at home and avoid places with many trees.”

    Listen. I am happy that everyone else is able to survive these encounters with spiders and scorpions, but since I would faint from horror and be unconscious, I would not make it to the medical centre to begin with. You would only find my corpse, riddled with hives and punctures, maybe an old death stalker slowly sidling out of my shirt pocket.

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on November 18, 2021