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    Ann Rostow: Look Away

    By Ann Rostow–

    Look Away

    I felt like one of the proverbial “good Germans” last night when I insisted that we turn off an MSNBC special on hate violence in favor of a Downton Abbey rerun. After days of news and commentary, I couldn’t take it anymore. 

    James Baldwin wrote: 

    “White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this—which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never—the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.” 

    For “white people,” you can substitute “Anglo people,” “straight people,” and, ironically, even “people of color,” or “LGBT people.” We all differentiate ourselves from The Other, and project our insecurities outward; we just do it to a greater or lesser degree, with more or less self-awareness.  I do it to Republicans, to Trump supporters, to the deplorables, to people who overcook steaks or go to church more than once a week or build McMansions. I have many such lists. It is human nature, which is part of the problem. 

    New subject. Have any of you noticed that the Trivago spokesman looks just like Jeffery Epstein? I can barely stand to watch those commercials now. I have Jeffery Epstein on one of my lists all by himself.

    Sophomoric

    Speaking of hatred and insecurity, there’s a 14-year-old girl from Tiburon called “Soph,” who has been producing repellent antigay and anti-Muslim YouTube videos. She was finally kicked off the site the other day after airing a piece called “Pride and Prejudice,” in which she called Pride month: “30 days of AIDS-carrying pedophile victims patting themselves on the back for their lifestyle,” and said gays were “hedonists, utterly unable to achieve the love that a married heterosexual couple can.”

    Who wrote this script? It sure doesn’t sound like a 14-year-old who has zero experience of adult love and/or adult sentence structure. And what’s with her parents? According to press reports, they bought her the necessary technical equipment, although they didn’t appear to have monitored her little screeds. Before she was removed from YouTube, Soph had collected a million followers. 

    Oh, and she also threatened to murder YouTube CEO, Susan Wojcicki, claiming that she had Wojcicki’s home address and was about to get into an Uber with a handgun and go take her out. This announcement was reportedly protected by her constitutional right to free speech, although I thought direct threats were exceptions to the First Amendment. 

    Soph is noteworthy for her age and gender. We’re much more accustomed to toxicity from 20 or 30-something white men, depressed by their inability to earn a living or connect with women. How does a 14-year-old girl from an affluent Bay Area neighborhood reach this point? A desperate need for attention? Inner voices? 

    I know. Let’s check in with the British aristocracy of the early 20th Century.

    Once More into the Breach

    As our last issue went to press came word that a new petition has been filed with the Supreme Court, giving us one more thing to worry about once the High Court returns to work in late September. You may recall that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently ruled that the city of Philadelphia was within its rights to ban Catholic Social Services from placing foster children, given that group’s policy of discriminating against same-sex parents. That discrimination violates the city’s civil rights ordinances and, as the court said, religious sentiments are not enough to warrant a free pass.

    This is the same issue that animates our antigay Christian friends at the bakeries and florist shops who would like to be able to skirt local and state gay rights laws in their quest for religious purity. It’s an issue that we have been able to avoid so far, as the High Court has sent two such cases back to lower courts for further review with virtually no comment. Will we avoid it again? 

    Meanwhile, another one of these cases has been pending before the Arizona Supreme Court for over six months, for reasons unclear. Back in January, the justices considered whether or not a Christian-owned stationery store, Brush and Nib, would be obliged to provide wedding invitations for same-sex couples, and yet no decision has been forthcoming. What’s the hold up? The store is in Phoenix, where antigay discrimination in public accommodations is banned.

    Coming to Modesto: Pathetic Sad Bored America

    I was sort of amused by the Straight Pride parade planned for Boston later this month, not because there’s anything funny about prejudice, but because it is being organized by a group calling itself “Super Happy Fun America,” and because it is theoretically open to everyone from all sexual orientations, as long as they are “happy and fun” people. Hey, I qualify! 

    In truth, I didn’t pay much attention to the story; I just approved of the organizational name that they picked for their possibly unpleasant event. That said, there’s another Straight Pride fest of some sort going on in Modesto on August 24 that is run by some really nasty types from the “National Straight Pride Coalition,” a four-month-old group started by the same guy who once operated something called “Citizens Against Perversion.” I can’t find any active website for the latter, but the National Straight Pride Coalition, which links to the “California” Straight Pride Coalition, is designed to prevent “the current and future generations of all races and colors from being destroyed by the inherent malevolence of the Homosexual Movement.”

    Its founding principles revolve around homophobia and white supremacy, and indeed, the racist “Proud Boys” are scheduled to join the fun at the Mancini Bowl in Graceada Park when the time comes. 

    I guess someone has written a blank check to support a rival GLBT picnic or something in the same park on the same day, and other protests are planned. Last month, Don Grundmann, the 67-year-old nut job behind this “coalition,” protested a Drag Queen Story Time in Vallejo, managing to attract four people and 140 counter-protestors to the local library. I’m guessing his coming effort might produce a similar ratio.

    Whatever happens, be careful out there.

    Super Happy Fun Longyearben

    Coca-Cola has triggered a hoohaw in Budapest, where the company has posted billboard ads featuring gay couples kissing and drinking Coke, under slogans (and I translate) like “Zero Sugar, Zero Prejudice” and “Love is Love.” The campaign is timed with the Sziget Festival, not a gay thing as far as I can tell, but a progressive music event that sounds like a Hungarian version of South by Southwest.

    As conservatives called for a boycott, Coke said the company “strives for diversity, inclusion and equality in our business, and we support these rights in society as well.”

    “As a long-standing supporter of the LGBTQI community, we believe everyone has the right to love the person they choose. The campaign currently running in Hungary reflects these values.”

    And speaking of festivals, I was astonished to read that a Pride parade is planned for Longyearben, the northernmost inhabited town in the world (I think), just down from the North Pole on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. I encountered Longyearben last year at some point, and for some reason decided to put it on my weather app, along with the hometowns of various friends and family members. It’s always fun to see that the weather in (Your Town Here) is vastly superior to (Your Friend’s Town Here). And you can follow up on your meteorological advantage with a gloating message. Alternatively, you can play the reverse angle and issue a self-pitying mewl about the heat or the rain.

    At any rate, Longyearben has served as a fascinating outlier on this list. Cold, always dark or always light. I can tell you that sunrise has lately been around one am, just an hour or so after sunset. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the temperature higher than the 40s and my wife can attest that whatever the situation is at home, the weather is usually worse in Longyearben, as I like to observe out loud for her edification.

    Who lives there? It reportedly has some coal mines. And I guess some GLBT people who are ready to party. Also, cats are not allowed on the island due to the protected bird population, and you are not allowed to be buried there, since it’s too cold for bodies to decompose. In the winter, the area remains dark for four months and everyone has a celebration at the “old hospital” on March 8 of every year when the sun returns.

    Mommy Dearest

    Listen to this one. Arthur Leonard of the New York School of Law recently described a lawsuit out of Minnesota, where a woman named Anmarie Calgaro has been trying to convince a series of courts that she should have had control over her transgender daughter’s transition—or non-transition, as Calgaro would have preferred. Having failed to get her way at the district court level and at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the woman is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review her case, even as the young woman, known as EJK, has now turned 20. 

    Five years ago, EJK went to live with her father and later stayed with friends rather than return to her uncompromising mother. Presenting herself as emancipated, EJK arranged treatment, signed up for government services and convinced her school to respect her gender identity. Her mother, who refers to her as her “son” and uses her male birth name, has sued everyone and anyone (including her daughter), insisting that EJK’s actions violated her rights as a parent under the Due Process Clause. Her lawsuit was dismissed by the trial court in May of 2017, in a decision that was upheld at the appellate level two years later.

    It’s unclear why or how Calgaro can continue this litigation, let alone bring it to the High Court’s attention. One clue lies in the fact that she is represented by the far-right Thomas More Society, which is presumably trying to establish the primacy of religious parents versus schools, clinics and government agencies. EJK, in turn, is represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

    It Follows

    What else is new? How about the 62-year-old Florida “minister,” Frederic Sterry Smith, who left nothing for his waiter at a St. Augustine restaurant, writing “if he wasn’t gay” on the slip. The restaurant manager followed Smith out into the parking lot and confronted him, at which point he jammed the receipt down the front of her shirt, touching her breast in the process. This little gesture earned him a trip to jail and a $500 fine for battery. 

    Smith claims to run the “Servant’s Heart Disaster Relief Fund,” an “evangelical hands-on ministry devoted to helping hurricane victims in North America and the Caribbean.” The nonprofit has assets of just over $2,000 so I’m guessing that word “fund” in its name is aspirational. 

    Finally, I know you’ve probably already read about Candice Keller, the Ohio State Representative who blamed the mass shootings on the breakdown of the American family, which in turn was thanks to transgender people, drag queen advocates and same-sex marriage. She had many other culprits, from video games to absent fathers, from marijuana to the Democratic Congress. Basically, she unleashed an absurd rant that was picked up by many in the press and presented as a senseless attack on the GLBT community. 

    I meant to write about her outburst, but I feel as if it already received more attention than it really deserved. 

    And before I go, listen to this. I was on Nextdoor the other day, listlessly reading about lost pets and people stealing packages and wondering how someone decides to sell used clothes hangers. (They were wooden and in good condition, but still!) All of a sudden, I read that one of my neighbors, two doors down, had seen a man in a clown mask walking down our street at eight pm, carrying a baseball bat. Another neighbor on my street replied that she too had seen the same clown, and that police were in the area, but said that the clown wasn’t breaking any laws. 

    My respect for Nextdoor as a source of valuable information has risen significantly. But, oh my God!

    arostow@aol.com