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    Ann Rostow: Is He Gay, or European?

    By Ann Rostow–

    Is He Gay, or European?

    Since we can travel again, let me tell you about the 2021 Rainbow Europe survey, which shows civil rights progress has stagnated this year. I found this somewhat alarming until I saw that GLBT progress in Europe has been deemed insufficient for the three years prior to 2020 as well, so maybe we’re just experiencing the charming on s’en fout attitude we all appreciate so much when we encounter it abroad. 

    Once again, Malta is the number one gay friendly European country, while Azerbaijan is the worst at number 49, preceded by Turkey and Armenia. Belgium, Luxembourg, and Portugal are ranked two, three, and four, followed by the four Scandinavian countries with Spain somewhere in their midst. Other former Soviet bloc countries populate the bottom of the barrel, with the bizarre exception of Monaco, which comes in at number 45, sandwiched between Belarus and Russia. Really?

    It turns out that Monaco doesn’t have any laws against GLBT discrimination, nor does it recognize marriage equality. What’s up with that, Tax Evaders with Dangerous Roads? Looks like you and your fancy yachts are no longer part of our vacation plans. We’ll be staying at the backpacking hostel in central Nice, thank you very much! 

    Speaking of Europe, the latest issue of Instinct magazine asks an “age old question,” to wit: “Is he gay or European?” When directed towards Sherlock Holmes 3 with Robert Downey, Jr., and Jude Law, the answer is yes and yes. The producers of this upcoming film say Holmes and Watson are indeed an item. The other famous recent Holmes, played by Benedict Cumberbatch for BBC, is asexual and quirky like that. And I guess a third Sherlock Holmes, found in the Netflix show Enola Holmes, is due to be outed in the next season. Or the next movie or whatever. I haven’t seen it but I see here that Enola is Holmes’s sister and that the first Enola movie takes place before her brother has met Watson. 

    Brave Chicago Cat Still Missing!

    Did you all see that a woman from the L.A. area sent a $26 million lottery ticket through the washing machine and destroyed it? The details are fuzzy, but we do know that the winning Super Lotto Plus ticket was sold at an Arco gas station in Norwalk just before the November 14 drawing. Recently, a woman came into the station and explained that she was the one who had bought the ticket, but that the ticket had gone into the laundry and she was looking for proof of her transaction. Unfortunately, she did not manage to produce anything before the six-month deadline to claim the prize expired. Oops! The money reverts to the California department of education.

    I know it’s not a GLBT story, but we can all relate to the horror of such an incident. It’s much worse than, let’s say, picking four out of six, or even seeing your favorite numbers come up on a week you didn’t buy a ticket. That’s bad luck. But in this case, you had it! You had $26 million in your hot little hand and you effectively flushed it down the drain. Imagine trying to fall asleep at one in the morning after such carelessness. Imagine trying to focus on work. Imagine calculating your household budget. That car payment! You’re still stuck with it and the car’s in the shop every other week. 

    Moving on, the Department of Health and Human Services is the latest cabinet office to reaffirm a commitment to GLBT protections, announcing earlier this month that the department’s Office of Civil Rights will enforce all rules prohibiting sex discrimination to include gay and trans bias, just as the Supreme Court insisted in their June 2020 Bostock ruling. 

    No, I’m not going to rehash that ruling, but it’s noteworthy that, again, even though Bostock involved sex discrimination in the workplace, the High Court’s reasoning applies throughout federal law wherever sex discrimination is outlawed, be it housing, health care, or education.

    Did you notice that I’m trying to provide important Biden administration policy updates without boring you or leading you to skip a whole section? It’s like hiding vegetables under a three-year-old’s macaroni and cheese. And wait! Don’t leave. Keep reading for news about a cat!

    Did you see that a cat jumped out of a window on the fifth floor of a Chicago apartment building to escape a fire? The cat seemed fine. He kind of bounced and ran off. According to the Chicago Tribune, the cat’s name is Hennessy and he is an indoor house cat. He is still missing, which is a little worrisome under the circumstances. Just google “Chicago cat fifth floor” for the video.

    Step Away from the Screen

    So, I see that our media watchdogs at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) have determined that Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube have all failed to deliver a safe user experience to their LGBTQ clients. The five outlets are all guilty of hosting “hate speech and harassment,” which is like giving the clouds a failing grade for not maintaining nice weather. Social media is toxic. Not just for us, but for every type of demographic you can imagine. Short of treading on the First Amendment, the solution is to raise your own voice and to avoid the seedy side of social media as you would avoid the bad side of town. 

    One of the main international stories this week is the chilling description of some Iranian men, who discovered a male relative was gay, tricked him into getting into a car, slit his throat, and told his mother where to find his body. It’s hard to worry about homophobic TikTok videos when there are places in the world that look the other way as GLBT men and women are killed or beaten. Think this is limited to faraway lands? In 2020, over three dozen transgender and/or non-conforming men and women were killed in the United States, a record number. I don’t have the numbers for regular old gays and lesbians.

    And yes, of course, dehumanizing speech if allowed to proliferate without pushback will become a contributing factor to violence and hate. So perhaps I’m arguing against my own point. (Forgive me.)

    Grow Up, New York!

    I’m not sure what I think about New York’s decision to ban police from marching in the Pride Parade until 2025. Well, actually I am sure what I think. I think it’s insane. The core value of our community, assuming we still have one, is the rejection of stereotypes; the rejection of generalizations, of homophobia, race bias, pigeonholing, immigrant bashing, enforced gender norms. 

    But somehow, all police are violent racist misanthropes? Or what? Make no mistake, New York will no longer allow the frigging GLBT policemen and women to march in their parade. That’s us. Or perhaps you would like to expel everyone in law enforcement from our community. Many of the institutions in our country are systemically racist. Shall we excise their GLBT employees and ban them from our special parades as well? 

    How about the corporations who sponsor Pride, many of whom have lobbied on our behalf at state legislatures, or boycotted antigay policies such as the North Carolina bathroom bill? They’re corporations! Let’s ban their contingents and their employees from the parade as well. Because, um, we don’t like big companies. 

    Are we children? We never used to be, but we seem to be losing our capacity for nuanced thought, complexity, holding two ideas in our heads at the same time, condemning police violence against Black men while recognizing the value of a modern, multi-dimensional community police force. 

    And speaking of boycotts, I think I mentioned that the NCAA announced it would not hold championship games in states that do not protect citizens against discrimination. I forget exactly how they phrased it. 

    Okay. This is what they said: “When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination should be selected … . We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.”

    At any rate, they recently announced that this year’s softball postseason games will be played in three of the anti-transgender states, Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee. All three of these states enacted bans on female transgender athletes, who may not compete against cisgender women and girls in high school or college sports. Keep in mind that the NCAA itself, which governs college sports, allows transgender women to play college sports after one year of hormone therapy. 

    It’s true that, technically, these are regional postseason games, not “championships,” which in softball’s case is always played in Oklahoma City. And no, Oklahoma has not passed a transgender sports ban, so again, technically, the NCAA is not going to go back on its word. Nonetheless, everyone is annoyed.

    But I Digress

    For some reason, I have taken note of a lobster named Freckles, who was released to a zoo after the staff at a Manassas, Virginia, Red Lobster recognized that the rare calico crustacean deserved rescue. According to whoever I was reading online, the odds of catching a calico lobster are one in thirty million. I also read that another Red Lobster in Ohio donated a blue lobster named Clawdia to another zoo. That lobster was a one in two million rarity, although I’m not convinced these analysts can really figure out how many lobsters of what colors are out there and how unlikely it would be to catch them.

    Also, do the staff at Red Lobster name all their lobsters? I hope not. I’m assuming they only name the unusual ones, and I also wonder exactly how these lobsters escape the pot. Do several people take the manager aside and plead the case for Clawdia or Freckles? What if someone orders a two-pounder and Clawdia’s the only big lobster still in the tank? For some reason, I imagine the evening shift coming to work at, say three pm. Julie checks out the tank on her way in, and notices Big Ben isn’t at his usual spot in the corner. Uh oh. Back at the bar, her fears are confirmed. A hungry customer ordered the Seafood Palooza Plate and that was that. Steve sees that she’s upset and sneaks her a tequila shot. 

    According to the Washington Post, Freckles now lives at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, which has a science center, zoo, and aquarium. “We see this as an opportunity to share nature’s anomaly with guests, as well as continue important education about sustainable seafood practices and significant conservation efforts of the American lobster fishery,” said Chris Crippen, the museum’s senior director of animal welfare and conservation. His name sounds like a 19th century serial killer. 

    I’m not sure why I drifted into that extended lobster story, but as loyal readers recall, I have my motto: “The moving finger writes and having writ, moves on. Nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line.” We’re not revisiting the Freckles piece, period.  

    I take note of the fact that Ellen is giving up her talk show after 19 years, which makes perfect sense to me. I like her, even now that her reputation has taken a bit of a hit, and think there are things that she could do with her time and money that would be a lot more fun than hosting a show. I’ve watched it a handful of times if that, because although I can glue myself to MSNBC and listen to the exact same “breaking news” story over and over and over again with interest, I am instantly bored by chatting celebrities. 

    That said, have you seen Ellen and Michelle Obama at CVS? It’s hysterical. 

    And finally, a whole bunch of German priests defied the Pope by blessing same-sex marriages on Monday, May 10, in over 100 Catholic Churches in the nation, so good for them. 

    I now find myself hungering for a lobster roll and a margarita. Roughly chopped lobster meat with salt and pepper, a glop of mayonnaise, and a teaspoon or two of finely diced celery, served in a hotdog bun that’s been buttered and grilled. Maybe just a cold bottle of Bandol instead of the cocktail. And pick me up a pack of smokes for afterwards. 

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on May 20, 2021