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    Ann Rostow: Let’s Get Serious

    By Ann Rostow–

    Let’s Get Serious

    I found myself complaining the other day about The New York Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins, who frequently writes satiric and flip commentary at a time in our lives as Americans when we face serious and devastating threats to our national institutions. How can she joke around when we have a racist blimp in the oval office, I wondered aloud to my wife, who stared at me with an expression I eventually understood to suggest that I look in the mirror. I know I don’t write for The New York Times, but I suppose I am guilty of trivializing the world and our GLBT community in the pages of the San Francisco Bay Times.

    Sorry.

    My list for today, for example, begins with a plan to make fun of the Duluth underwear commercials. This at a time when the newly conservative High Court is poised to consider several Title VII petitions at their November 30 conference, and when antigay hostility is on the rise along with a general animus against minorities. 

    There’s an intensified crackdown on gays in Tanzania, where a task force has been created to hunt down homosexuals for prison sentences of 30 years to life. 

    The Episcopal Bishop of Albany has chosen to disregard newly established Church policy and deny marriages to gay men and lesbians.

    Another antigay cake case is possibly headed to the Supreme Court.

    A therapist who specializes in trying to convert gays to heterosexuality has been caught soliciting men online. 

    And in good news, we elected a gay governor in Colorado, a bisexual Senator in Arizona and a bunch of GLBT members of Congress. 

    But what’s at the top of my news list? The Duluth underwear cartoons with the sonorous baritone voice-over that promises “no sweat, no stink.” 

    Why would there ever be sweat or stink on a man or woman who bathes regularly? This is a repellent image and it goes hand in hand with the recent trend of bringing intimate matters to the public square via gross TV ads. I’m looking at you, fussy toilet paper Bears. However, in view of my recent revelation, I will avoid a lengthy discourse on the subject. Moving on.

    Midterm Pride

    So, Colorado’s Jared Polis, a member of Congress since 2009, has become the first openly gay man elected governor in our nation’s history. We don’t count James McGreevey, who came out of the closet and resigned as governor of New Jersey. In fact, the Polis campaign, where sexual orientation was not much of a factor, illustrates how far we’ve come since McGreevey sheepishly left office back in 2004. And it surely illustrates how far we’ve come since the state of Colorado amended its constitution to proactively ban gay civil rights laws. That 1992 public vote, ratifying Amendment 2, led to the 1996 Supreme Court ruling in Romer v Evans, confirming that the constitutional rights of gay men and women cannot be summarily ignored. 

    Keep in mind that we already have a bisexual governor in Oregon’s Kate Brown, and we already have a lesbian Senator in Tammy Baldwin, who was easily reelected to her seat from Wisconsin. Now, we have also gained a bisexual Senator, Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema, who narrowly edged Martha McSally in Arizona. 

    Meanwhile, we elected two new lesbian members of Congress: Sharice Davids in the Kansas City suburbs and Angie Craig out of Minnesota. California’s member-elect Katie Hill is bisexual, and New Hampshire’s Chris Pampas is a gay man. These four will join four currently serving GLBT members: Mark Takana, Mark Pocan, Sean Maloney and David Cicilline.

    On the state level, transwomen won two races in the New Hampshire House, while the voters of Massachusetts held back an attempt to repeal the Bay State’s transgender civil rights law. Dozens of gay men and lesbians won state legislative races, while a host of others in our community won local posts. 

    We did pretty well, rainbow people! And yet we still have you-know-who schlumping through the West Wing in a simmering rage.

    Gay CEO Comes to Streisand’s Aid

    As usual, I got distracted by seductive internet links as I was researching the latest GLBT news. This time, I sidestepped into a 12-minute carpool karaoke with Barbra Streisand where I learned that Streisand called Apple CEO Tim Cook because she was dissatisfied with the way Siri pronounced her name. I guess she also rang up Steve Jobs when she couldn’t figure out how to delete an address on her iPhone. Well, why not? She’s earned it. Oh, and of course Tim Cook fixed everything. Siri was saying “Streizand” with a z instead of an s sound.

    Perhaps I’m just having trouble orienting myself in this strange new world we live in, a world where the most despicable, cruel, ignorant and self-centered human being on the planet is sent out to represent us—our country, our history and our ideals. A world where some part of me wants to hide out for the next two years and binge watch Scandinavian TV. Not just the detective shows. I’d like to immerse myself in Slow TV on Netflix. This morning, for example, I am a couple of hours through a seven-hour train trip from Bergen to Oslo. Just pulling into the Urdland station now. Oh, we’re not stopping. We just slowed down and continued on. Okay then!

    We read a short story in grade school about a man who decided to stay in bed forever. I just found it, The Man Who Wouldn’t Get Up by David Lodge. As the narrator explains: “The fact was, he no longer had any love of life. The thought pierced him with a kind of thrill of despair. I no longer love life. There is nothing in life which gives me pleasure any more. Except this: lying in bed.”

    I remember being unconvinced at the time that anyone could feel this way, sane or insane. And yet now it has a certain appeal. With Slow TV and a bartender on call, I think I could handle this way of life. Ding ding ding. Service, please! But now I also wonder, why did our fifth-grade teacher assign this existential tale in the first place? 

    Speaking of Bears

    I know you want me to tell you more about the hypocritical therapist caught with his pants down after playing the antigay card all his professional life. I know my readers. You don’t care about Title VII or the Episcopalian Church. You want the dirt, the scuttlebutt, the color, the schadenfreude. 

    So, Norman Goldwasser, the clinical director of Horizon Psychologist Services in Miami Beach that offers conversion therapy, has reportedly been cruising for a bruising on Manhunt and Gay Bear Nation under the provocative screen names “hotnhairy” and “hotnhairy72.” Goldwasser was looking for bear-on-bear action, and into hairy guys only, according to his profiles, which were leaked to hypocrisy warrior Wayne Besen, of Truth Wins Out.

    Besen, who has made a career of exposing the many Jekyll and Hydes of conversion therapy, contacted Goldwasser and set up a date. Once confronted, Goldwasser begged for mercy and confessed his duplicity.

    Confronted by NBC News, Goldwasser said that the publicity was painful, but “will become a catalyst for me seeking the right help for myself.”

    “It is sad that despite the fact that I have been able to help many people over the years who have suffered from the effects of child sexual abuse and sexual addiction, I obviously was unable to help myself,” he added. “There is no justification for my personal behavior and I deeply regret the pain I have caused people in my personal life.”

    It’s not clear to me exactly what our ursine pal is saying, but I think we all agree that he needs help of some kind. Goldwasser, a co-author of a 2006 paper titled “Holistic Therapy: A Comprehensive, Clinical Approach to the Treatment of SSA,” was also involved in the God-awful Journey into Manhood conversion program, which according to one undercover reporter involved homoerotic hugging and manly role playing designed to restore a (cough) healthy attitude towards one’s father. SSA, by the way, stands for same-sex attraction, which I gather is often referred to in antigay circles through this contrived acronym. Whatever makes you happy, fellas.

    I love these stories, but are they really a surprise to us? Anyone who would spend their life trying to force gay people to be straight has a few screws loose. Because, why do that? Would any of us start a therapy practice designed to get straight people to turn gay? I don’t think so! My train, for the record, is now chugging through a snowscape. We must have gained altitude at some point. It’s very beautiful. The conductor just reminded us that there’s chocolate, snacks and drinks in the dining car.

    All Aboard!

    I should have mentioned that Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky who ostentatiously refused to sign the paperwork for same-sex marriages after the High Court ruling in 2015, lost her election to a Democrat and will now consider entering the “Christian ministry,” or wherever else “the Lord is leading her,” said her lawyer, Mat Staver of Liberty Whatever Sanctimonious Name Organization. Yes, I would usually look up the organization and fix the placeholder, but I don’t want to. 

    We are now approaching Haugastol Station. And now we’re off again, speeding down the narrow tracks through a snowy landscape mixed with brown hills and barren trees. Geilo Station is next.

    Gay Caravan Coming

    I was just reading about a gay Saudi Arabian man who has won asylum in the United States after a five year process. Now known by the assumed name of Wajeeh Lion, age 25, the man was a student at Kansas State when he came out to his conservative parents and was told to return immediately for conversion therapy. The man refused, and with the help of a K-State dean, he applied for asylum based on his sexual orientation, which can carry the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. Two Kansas City lawyers took his case pro bono, and he won the recognition he sought a couple of months ago.

    I bring it up, because as we all know, Trump is now trying, what? I’m not even sure. Banning all asylum requests? The man is so beyond insane and so oblivious to the rule of law that I can’t even follow his bluster. According to the San Diego press, a group of several dozen GLBT members of the famed migrant “caravan” have banded together and taken the road to Tijuana, where they will wait in line to present themselves for asylum, which let’s remind everyone, is a perfectly legal process.

    In some of the reports I’ve read, these relatively young aspirants are looking forward to the lives they might lead once they’ve reached our border, apparently unaware of the grotesque attitudes now pervading a large minority of the American populace and directing our government. Do they know that military forces have been deployed to help guard the border and newsmen have called them diseased terrorists? I doubt it, much as the parents who signed away their custody rights (or whatever it was) had no idea that their kids could now disappear into webs of Kafkaesque bureaucracies, never to be retrieved from the misbegotten institutions that ensnared them. 

    And what can we do but watch and complain and wish it would all end? 

    The Age of Reason

    Finally, the Washington Post has a story about a Dutch man who has petitioned a court in Arnhem to let him legally change his age from 69 to 49. Emile Ratelband claims that if gender is no longer immutable, neither is age, since he feels fine and looks younger than his birth certificate would indicate. Ratelband wants the advantages of a younger dating pool and better job prospects, and astonishingly, the court is considering his claims.

    I really hate these self-satisfied gadflies who believe they’re making a point by presenting absurd extensions of civil rights reasoning. Gender is not immutable. Age is. He reminds me as well of the conservative activists who ask bakers to make cakes that say all kinds of nasty things about gays in an effort to show that religious freedom cuts both ways even as no gay couple has ever asked a baker to put a disparaging message on a cake. 

    Indeed, I am exhausted by all the ill will I seem to be carting around, and the only thing that rejuvenates me is the lovely water on the right side of my train as we whistle around the bend towards Oslo.

    arostow@aol.com