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    Ann Rostow: Hoosier Son?

    By Ann Rostow–

    Hoosier Son?

    I confess, dear Reader, that I have not been researching and preparing to write this column, and instead, I begin from a standing start. Eager for a juicy legal story to launch me into scintillating news-writing, I turned to one of my favorite sources, Art Leonard of the New York School of Law, and found his latest headline, which read: 

    “Indiana Court of Appeals Divides Three Ways on Gender Marker Change for Transgender Teen.” 

    I just couldn’t. Please forgive me. Just reading the headline exhausted me. The idea of Indiana itself is a tiring one. It’s somewhere up in the north in the middle of the country and I think it’s where The Music Man took place. The citizens call themselves “Hoosiers,” even though no one quite knows what that means, other than “person from Indiana.”

    Then there’s the state court of appeals. I have no idea how the Indiana judicial system is arranged, and it was only too recently I was compelled to research the ins and outs of the Virginia Supreme Court in order to understand something I was writing. Would I perhaps be obliged to figure out the status of this intermediate court as well?

    For example, how did they “divide three ways?” Was it a large panel? Was it three judges, each with their own viewpoint? A small spark of curiosity led me back to the actual discussion of the case, where I realized that I had already read about this matter and found it too convoluted for my limited capacities. It involves a young transgender boy who has transitioned, and whose mother asked the court to change his name and birth certificate. The court said yes to the name and no to the birth certificate. On appeal, well you know the story. They split three ways!

    There aren’t too many times when you are required to show your birth certificate, but they are important times. If you want a passport, you need your birth certificate, and this young man is going to have some explaining to do if he ever wants to travel outside the country. And why? Why would the court deliberately leave him with this dilemma, considering their legal standard was (in theory) the best interest of the child? 

    We could answer our question if we had the mental bandwidth to read through the various opinions and dig deeply into the backgrounds of these Hoosier appellate court judges. We don’t, so we won’t. We will just bemoan their callous snub of justice.

    Better Late Than Never

    Now, you will be happy to know that my second favorite legal website delivered a fairly significant transgender court victory, one that could have led this column had I been staying in closer touch with the world. On September 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reinstated a transgender woman who was fired a decade ago from her teaching post at Southeastern Oklahoma State in Durant, Oklahoma. 

    Rachel Tudor, who subsequently won damages capped at $300,000 for discrimination, has now been ordered reinstated with tenure, plus additional lost pay. Back in 2009, Tudor was denied tenure in the English department, even though her committee voted 4–1 in her favor. She had recently transitioned and heard that an administrator felt she violated his religious principles. The next year, she was fired for not gaining tenure, and in 2015, she filed a civil suit with the backing of the Obama Justice Department. That led to a late 2017 trial, where a jury found she was wrongfully terminated and awarded damages. This appellate victory confirms that win.

    In a statement, Tudor said she would like to thank her allies and colleagues for their support through 10 long years of fighting for justice. She is grateful and honored to be the recipient of their goodwill. She promises to repay their trust by being the best professor she can be. As for the University, they reacted with a bland word salad and a reference to “pending litigation.” I’m not sure what that means unless they want to appeal this to the Supreme Court. I guess we’ll see.

    Fancy Like That

    Before we go on, let’s pause briefly for a word from One Million Moms, who are currently shocked by a Gillette ad for a ladies’ razor designed for the bikini line. As the Moms tell us, the spot ends with a woman saying: “Fancy skin care for my pubic hair? Yes, please!”

    In a statement, the Moms warn: “This inappropriate commercial is airing during prime time when children are likely watching television so family viewing time is ruined. It is so suggestive it’s disgraceful. Can you imagine what goes through the mind of a child when he sees this ad?” 

    And that, I think, captures why the Moms are so risible. Yes, I can imagine what goes through the mind of a child during this razor commercial. Next to nothing. What do the Moms think is happening? Six-year-olds having fantasies of adult naked women, fully shaved and spreadeagled? 

    For that matter, the Million Moms’ idea of family viewing time, with all the kids sitting cross-legged on the floor and having to watch all the commercials is very mid-century. Haven’t they heard of streaming services or recorded TV or shows on demand? What parents want to watch the same stuff as the kids anyway? Frustrated with my parents’ news shows, I remember vowing to myself I would watch all the cartoons I wanted to when I grew up. They were so selfish! Always in charge of the TV. Never interested in my preferences.

    By the way, now that I think about it, when I’m with kids (my grandchildren) they’re the ones who are always deciding what everyone watches. It’s not an argument over whether we watch Rachel Maddow or some tomfoolery. It’s an argument over which child’s turn it is to select the mindless “entertainment” for the evening. Further, their parents have been known to impose additional parameters that limit the few options that might trigger a remote shred of interest. The last time I enjoyed family viewing time I fell asleep during Luca, and after another evening, I was repeatedly (days later!) accused of ruining the suspense of My Octopus Teacher, by blurting out in advance that the octopus was going to regrow its damaged arm. 

    (That was actually a good selection by a parent. But my overall point remains; I am still not in charge.)  

    Happy Endings

    There’s a wedding story out of Tennessee, where two men looking for a wedding venue made an appointment to visit “Barn in the Bend” outside of Nashville. The story is a familiar one. As TMZ reports it, the owner of the barn figured out the pronouns.

    “Did you mention that your partner was a ‘he’?” wrote Jackie Daniel in an email. “If I’m wrong, I’m sorry. However, I don’t want to waste your time since we do not offer same-sex marriages here. If I’m wrong, I apologize.” 

    What I love about this email is that Jackie signed off: “Best always, Jackie.” 

    Really? Best always? Was that just boilerplate language? Was it a joke? Was it guilt? Was it accidental? Was it some kind of religious outreach? Is she indifferent to the words she uses? I found it intriguing. As for the two men, they posted on social media, the Barn in the Bend got a ton of bad PR and the men received offers of help from far and wide. So, it’s all good.

    New topic! I was going to add something about religious freedom, but I just stumbled on the Patch headline “Naked Boston Woman Drove Golf Cart Through FL Crime Scene: Police,” followed by the subhead, “A Boston woman is under arrest after police say she drove a golf cart through the middle of a SWAT standoff with a gunman—completely nude.”

    According to the website, a SWAT team had been called to a house where an 18-year-old boy was on the roof with a gun. During their negotiations, the Boston woman, Jessica Elisabeth Smith, 28, drove through the scene reeking of alcohol in her birthday suit. Google her if you want to see the award for “reddest eyes in a mug shot.” For the record, the police got the guy on the roof after six hours.

    Girls Just Wanna Have …

    Speaking of headlines, I have my wife to thank for this one from the British press: “Sex Festival in Tunbridge Wells Sparks Concerns About Parking.” A quick Google tells us that this Guardian headline from 2017 was widely retweeted at the time, and deservedly so. But, more interestingly, we learn that a man was found dead the morning after the Flamefest festivities. According to the Flamefest website, the event offered a venue: “to explore pain, experience pleasure and fulfill your fantasies on this mystical site, where witches’ covens have met for centuries.”

    In a Daily Beast piece on the mystery, dominatrix Amethyst Hammerfist told the reporter that she thought the man died of natural causes. I added that piece of information, not only because we all need closure, but because I wanted to type: “dominatrix Amethyst Hammerfist.” Was anyone from Causton CID perhaps vacationing in Tunbridge Wells at the time? (Cue: Midsommer Murders theme song.)

    I should be writing about the big news that the Biden administration has moved to reexamine the discharge status of some 100,000 GLBT veterans who may have missed out on benefits after being tossed out of the military due solely for their sexual orientation. Actual gay and lesbian criminals will not be included in this review. But those who received less than honorable discharges for no good reason, particularly during the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell years, will now have a chance to be made whole. I gather that the Veterans Department has full authority over who gets benefits and who does not, ergo this major policy move can be achieved without Congressional action.

    It’s important, right? But it’s not really fun, so I’ve been avoiding it. Sorry.

    Let the Games Go On 

    And what else is new? Well, Carl Nassib, our favorite openly gay NFL football player, had a great defense play for the Las Vegas Raiders the other day, forcing a fumble in overtime to effectively beat the Ravens. 

    In other football-related news, Patriots owner Robert Kraft turned up out of the blue at a gay flag football game in Boston. Kraft helps fund the FLAG (Friends, Lesbians, and Gays) flag football team in the Bay State capital, and is generally considered a good friend and ally of our community. Go, Pats!

    Okay, now I’m for the Chiefs (wife and family from Kansas), the 49ers (of course), the Vikings (friend’s team), the Browns (friend’s team), the Washington team (from childhood), Green Bay (brother’s team), the Raiders (gay player), and the Patriots (gay friendly owner). That’s eight allegiances. Don’t ask why the Chiefs are number one here. They just are. 

    I remember years ago I was part of a large family group that was watching the University of Kansas play football at a bar in the middle of a larger event and everyone left our table except for me and my son-in-law. He and I both rooted loudly for the Jayhawks until we realized neither one of us had any personal tie to Kansas outside of marriage. We sort of paused our enthusiasm but then recognized that we had been left in charge of the cheering by our loved ones, and we resumed a sincere effort. 

    Finally, how about former Fox Sports baseball and football commentator Thom Brennaman, who was fired last year after getting caught using an anti-gay slur on an open microphone during a break? In the middle of a Cincinnati Reds game, Brennaman referred to some city, it’s not clear which one, as “one of the fag capitals of the world.” He was fired on the spot and now insists that “90 percent” of Cincinnati fans want him reinstated. Brennaman bases his analysis on the attitudes of people who approach him in the grocery store or elsewhere around town. They all say they miss him and his dismissal was unfair.

    That’s so strange! I guess the Fox Sports bosses were wrong about the Cincinnati audience, and they actually love homophobic bozos calling their games. Not. Please keep this guy off the air forever.

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on September 23, 2021