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    Ann Rostow: Hallelujah

    By Ann Rostow–

    Hallelujah

    Oh my God, you guys! We made it! 

    I was one of those saps crying during the inauguration, gasping during the amazing poem, glued to the screen during the evening virtual concert even though this is just the sort of program I would usually distain. My favorite moment was during the fireworks—that split second when Second Gent Doug Emhoff turned towards his wife and gleefully threw his head back in astonishment at the moment he and the rest of us were experiencing. 

    And the best video this week was The West Wing credits take off that showed the Biden crew as cast members of the iconic TV show. Did you see it? The video was created by Breeana Flannery. I’m sure I’m not the only one who could not bear to watch a rerun of this great series over the last four years, knowing that the arcane political strategies, the 15-hour days, the intensity of high office and the integrity of public service represented a long-gone fantasy—knowing that these quaint notions had been replaced by sycophantic incompetence, by indifference to history, by devotion to an egomaniac cult leader.

    Do you remember when Josh had to stand in the cold outside the White House gates in order to talk to a New Hampshire voter in the middle of January, for fear of violating the Hatch Act? And then we saw Trump and company conducting huge campaign events in the Rose Garden. 

    And that was the least of it. These Trumpanzees were despicable. They turned The West Wing TV show into a pie in the sky fiction of some heroic moment in the past that never existed and never could exist. Except now it’s back! That’s why all of you who have ever watched the show must pause and watch the above Breeana Flannery video, and relish what it signifies. Do it now.

    Joy Cometh in the Morning

    I think I mentioned that I wasn’t going to bother recounting all the negative antigay things emerging from the last months of the Trump administration, because why bother? Biden would take care of it all. 

    Well, I was right!

    On day one, Biden signed an executive order that instructed every branch of government to implement the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v Clayton County, which dictated that sexual orientation and gender identity bias were both a form of sex discrimination and therefore illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

    That ruling clearly implicated any and all laws that banned sex discrimination, not just the Title VII workplace law, but also Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Fair Housing Act, and any other statute that referenced sex bias. Biden’s order made this explicit, not just banning GLBT discrimination throughout his administration, but setting the stage for every agency and cabinet department to embed gay and trans rights into public policy.  

    Just the previous Sunday, one of Trump’s minions in the Justice Division issued a 22-page anti-GLBT memo that I won’t get into, because I don’t have to! A Biden man, Greg Friel, who was temporarily named to run the Civil Rights department of the Justice Department, promptly withdrew that memo as inconsistent with Biden’s executive order. Thanks, Joe. Thanks, Greg. 

    I guess it took a couple more days before Biden’s Defense Secretary was confirmed by the Senate. Bang. One day later, the transgender ban on military service was history as General Austin watched the President toss it into the dustbin of history with a stroke of the pen.

    There could not have been a more emphatic series of statements and actions in support of our community, and perhaps you noticed as well that none of this has provoked a big media hoo haw. The media is focused on impeachment, on COVID-19 legislation, on the Senate process going forward, on the First Dogs. It’s raining progressive executive orders, and just because there hasn’t been a big focus on LGBT issues doesn’t mean we haven’t been at the forefront of this seismic upheaval.

    We have. And more is yet to come.

    Phew!

    I feel as if we’re saved. And we’re just starting to learn how close we came to disaster. I watched those bozos in the Capitol on January 6, assuming (correctly) that some military or police authority would eventually sweep them away. But I had no idea how near they came to encountering members of Congress or the Vice President. I had no idea that some of them were not just milling about, but were also organized and looking to kill. 

    I watched Trump and his bumbling lawyers contest the election for two months, but I had no idea how close they came to influencing state leaders or triggering civil violence. I recently learned (The New York Times) that some 200 progressive activist groups actually banded together in a post-election strategy of non-confrontation that, looking back, avoided a war in the streets of right versus left, and created instead a national acknowledgement of Biden’s victory. 

    We’ve learned that the Fox News decision to call Arizona for Biden fairly early on the evening of November 3 actually seems to have made a huge difference in how America viewed the election results. Given that the other networks spent days counting votes in this state, and given that it turned out to be a very narrow Biden win, this decision seems like a bit of a fluke. Yet, they called it and they stuck to it, making clear on the night of the 3rd that Trump’s window to victory was essentially closed. 

    Check out Jonathan Swan’s Axios podcast about the last days of the Trump administration to learn how Trump intended to make a triumphant announcement based on early election returns, and how the Fox News call for Arizona undercut those plans from the start.

    We didn’t just dodge a bullet. We dodged a barrage, just like those cop shows where the heroes run safely through machine gun fire, shoot a few bullets from their hand guns, and kill the bad guys without even aiming. That was us! 

    And Georgia. Not only did we win those critical electoral college votes, but through some miracle we won those Senate seats, and with them, we won—not just a slim majority, but the power to decide what bills will be put up for a vote. Thanks, Stacey. And thanks to Trump for screwing with the GOP electorate. And while we’re at it, thanks to those election officials for not caving to the pressure.

    No Time to Rest

    Hey. It’s not as if our troubles are over. I’m reading that Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota are all considering a range of anti-trans bills, transgender citizens being the target du jour for rightwing hostility. God knows how many other state legislatures are scheming against us.

    And, of course, there’s the elephant in the living room: the fight over religious freedom and discrimination in public accommodation. No law prohibits sex discrimination in public accommodation, and since sex discrimination is the vehicle we are now using to protect ourselves, we are up a creek without a paddle. It’s widely accepted that businesses cannot use religion as an excuse to flout race-based civil rights laws. But the question of whether “faith” can allow proprietors or other groups to reject gay or trans customers remains open.

    We are waiting for the High Court’s ruling in the case that pits Philadelphia’s foster care program against the antigay Catholic Social Services organization, which argues that it should not be held to the city’s gay friendly policies. Given the make up of the Court, including seven Catholics and a strong bias in favor of religious actors, our prospects seem dim. That said, this may be a generational fight. 

    Freaky Friday

    Let’s stop being so serious. I received an email from the PR department at Stripchat informing me that America’s kinkiest states are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina, and Georgia. Stripchat is a service that allows people to switch on their webcams and make money by performing live sex acts. The five states listed above contained the highest percentage of voyeurs by population. What did our new favorite poet call them? “The lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states … the sunbaked South.”

    I guess business was booming during the pandemic year. Favorite fetishes included: “Pregnant, BDSM, Foot-fetish, Mistresses, and Smoking.” What the hell is a “smoking” fetish? And how did I get on their press list to begin with?

    Oh, don’t answer that. If you have written for the GLBT press for as long as I have, you have automatically attracted a dubious crowd along with the activists and civil rights lawyers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

    Loon Companion

    In sports news, I learned that Australia is about to give yet another national award to the odious Margaret Court, this time it’s the country’s highest honor, Companion of the Order of Australia. Court, 78, followed her tennis career by becoming a Pentecostal minister and bloviating about horrible gays and lesbians. 

    “All my life I’ve had those views and I was just saying what the Bible says,” she explained to the local press. “I should always be able to say my views biblically, being a pastor and helping people with marriages and family. And I’ll never change those views.”

    “I have nothing against people—I love the people,” she went on moronically. “We have them come into our community services, all kinds—whether they’re gay, transgender, whatever they are. We never turn a person away and I think it’s been tried to be made out that I’m somebody that I’m not really. And I think that is very sad.”

    In a separate interview, Court complained that she’s been “bullied” in recent years. “I don’t mind, that’s alright,” she continued, “but if I say anything, I am a bigot, and I don’t like that,” Did I mention that during apartheid, she said South Africa “has the racial situation rather better organized than anyone else, certainly much better than the United States”? That’s our Margaret. 

    Look. I’m not even going to bother rehashing the relentless homophobia she’s displayed since we’ve started paying attention, because the subject comes up every year around this time when the Australian Open is played on courts that bear her name. My favorite comment came from John McEnroe, who begged Serena Williams to please win two more Grand Slam tournaments “so we can leave Margaret Court and her offensive views in the past where she belongs.” Court holds the record for winning 24 Grand Slam tournaments to Serena’s 23, but that’s only because she played during an era when no one else signed up for the Australian Open so she picked up 11 Aussie titles with scant competition. 

    Oh, and do you remember that golfer Justin Thomas called himself a “faggot” under his breath for missing a putt the other day? He quickly apologized, but Citicorp, a major sponsor, considered dropping him. In the end, they decided that he could maintain the relationship as long as he donated a sizable chunk of change to GLBT causes. I love it. Justin, have you heard of the GLBT Amusing Freelance Journalists Fund (GLBTAFJF)? Call me and I’ll hook you up.

    The Smell Test

    Lastly, because I have a brief final window here, my cousin sent me news of a Gwyneth Paltrow “This Smells Like My Vagina” candle that exploded in the living room of a British woman who won the item in a contest. This is the same cousin who just explained to me why Michael Barr is a better fit to run the Office of Comptroller of the Currency than Mehrsa Baradaran, so you can tell that her taste in email subjects is eclectic.

    “I’ve never seen anything like it. The whole thing was ablaze and it was too hot to touch. There was an inferno in the room,” said Jody Thompson, 50. Thompson and her partner had to frantically throw the fiery prize out the front door, The Sun reported.

    Paltrow’s website, where the candle sells for $75, explains that the name was derived from a joke of some sort. Gwyneth was taken aback when she first sniffed the product, noting that it smelled at first like a vagina but then “evolved into a funny, gorgeous, sexy, and beautifully unexpected scent.” 

    I think I’ll pass. 

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on January 28, 2021