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    Ann Rostow: Mean Girl

    By Ann Rostow–

    Mean Girl

    Recently, I read an article wondering why conservative Christians believe in Hell, given that the concept is not a main driver of faith in scripture. Indeed, the new testament emphasizes love and heavenly salvation, and if I’m not mistaken, this paradise is available to the worst of sinners as long as we repent. Piece of cake! Who among us hasn’t repented our sins? I usually feel badly about them as soon as I wake up the next morning. 

    The upshot is that there’s something churlish about a belief in Hell. You recall the expression “success is not enough, others must fail?” That’s what Hell is designed for. The VIP pass to Heaven is only valuable if the rest of us can’t make it past the velvet ropes. It’s even more satisfying if some of us are subsequently relegated to the Satanic dive bar with watered down drinks made from cheap booze and a broken air conditioner. It’s mean-spirited.

    Readers, I am becoming one of these hostile people. Not only do I want Democrats to win the presidency and the Senate, along with everything else, but I want Trump types to suffer. I’ve always hated Trump. But now my animosity extends to a vast swath of my fellow countrymen and women. No longer am I content with rolling my eyes and moving on from disturbing political actors. Now I want to see them wracked with despair and frustration. 

    There was an op-ed in the Times the other day by a Black man who can no longer tolerate the micro racism he has accommodated in the past, and now finds himself possessed by anger at every turn. I don’t have to deal with racism, but I too am filled with caustic emotions. I can no longer watch Trump Republicans on TV or stomach their voices or absorb coverage of the administration’s latest cruelty. And if I, the easy going, laissez faire woman of the world whom I like to see in the mirror, has internalized such venom, what is happening to the rest of America? How will we heal ourselves? 

    Can we all adopt puppies?   

    Build The Wall

    Part of the reason I began this column in such a funk is because my news list includes a new Trump push for “religious freedom,” aka “GLBT discrimination,” along with anti-transgender legislative proposals from around the country. After marriage equality became law in 2015, we saw a bit of a backlash, but it wasn’t too bad. That “bit of a backlash” took hold once Trump and Pence won office, and with their encouragement it has grown into a steady beat down. Worse, our problems won’t end with Democratic victories now that our courts are infected with the many incompetent bigots who have slipped onto our federal courts through the Senate’s open floodgates.

    Let’s start with the separation of Church and State, once enforced by a metaphorical wall, but increasingly marked by a fuzzy limbo zone where almost anything goes. January 16 was apparently “religious freedom day” celebrated in Trumpville by new policies at nine federal agencies that allow church groups and religious actors to receive many grants on the same basis as secular organizations in stark violation of constitutional mandates. 

    Buzzfeed cited Trump’s head of domestic policy, Joe Grogan, who said the High Court’s ruling in a 2017 Missouri church and state case now means that laws prohibiting religious entities from receiving taxpayer monies are basically obsolete. But that case centered on the question of whether a church-sponsored preschool could participate in a public program that provided material from recycled tires for use in playgrounds. Not only did seven justices join the majority (indicating the case was not meant to undermine settled law), but Chief Justice Roberts also made clear in a footnote that the case “involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing” and was not addressing “religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.” 

    So, no, Mr. Grogan. The High Court has not opened the door to sending millions of public dollars to church groups. But what can we do about it? Next to nothing, given that the High Court has just heard oral arguments in a related appeal that could make the Missouri case irrelevant. Basically, the justices are about to decide whether public money can be allocated to religious schools through voucher programs, an opinion that could simultaneously turn the Constitution on its head and destroy public school funding in a single blow. 

    This is where we are. This is where the election of 2016 has taken us. 

    Porn Break

    I had to end that last section because my blood was boiling. Where’s my puppy? I can’t even move on to the anti-transgender lawmakers in various state legislatures because I need an attitude adjustment. 

    To our rescue comes my favorite cousins, who have suggested that we discuss a class action lawsuit filed against Pornhub by one Yaroslav Suris. Suris, who is deaf, insists that Pornhub is violating his rights under the Americans with Disability Act by neglecting to offer captions on its videos. According to TMZ, Suris bemoans the fact that he missed the dialogue on shows including Hot Step Aunt Babysits Disobedient Nephew, Sexy Cop Gets Witness to Talk, and Daddy 4K—Allison Comes to Talk About Money to Her Boys’ Naughty Father.

    I recognize that this is not a gay story. But I know that some members of my beloved gay male audience have a stake in this injustice. Suris is seeking an unspecified amount in damages, as well as an order to make Pornhub caption its shows. Pornhub, in turn, says it does have captions on at least some of its features. 

    In the interests of research, I just watched Hot Step Aunt Babysits Disobedient Nephew and I kind of see Yaroslov’s point. The 15-minute clip is almost all talk between the cute aunt and the nephew, whose face we never see. The sex is at the end, but before that, all they do is talk about what to have for lunch and whether he’s allowed to leave the house or watch TV. The guy is college age at least and the aunt is about the same age, so the babysitting premise is a stretch. That said, if you paid Yaroslav for the damage he incurred by missing the gist of their conversation, he’d have to give you change from a dollar. 

    I lack the patience to watch the other two offerings, but as I’ve said before, it’s a bit unnerving to realize that small children can watch porn all day if they’re clever about it. We had to read Candy aloud to each other in the attic. Also, since when can you just file a ridiculous class action lawsuit? What court would green light this kind of litigation? 

    Here’s Johnny!

    In tennis news (I know you’ve been waiting), it’s time for the Australian Open, one of the four grand slam tournaments that create a small lacuna in the deep connection that pervades my happy marriage. Mel gets bored by tennis, which I can watch with interest for long stretches of time. This year is the 50th anniversary of the legendary Australian champion Margaret Court’s grand slam sweep, so she was honored with a small ceremony.

    The problem is that Margaret Court is a Pentecostal nutcase who periodically rants against everyone from gays and Blacks. Australian tennis authorities have tried to separate her achievements from her politics, emphasizing that the recognition she just enjoyed was for her tennis alone and did not suggest anyone approved of her despicable opinions. Enter John McEnroe, a man I used to hate on court, whom I have grown to appreciate. 

    “There’s only one thing longer than the list of Margaret Court’s tennis achievements,” said McEnroe on some TV show. “It’s her list of offensive and homophobic statements.” He also dismissed the notion that Australians’ tennis could disassociate itself from Court’s bigotry. 

    “It doesn’t work that way,” he told the audience. “You can’t separate the person from her achievements. Look at me. If you recognize the fact that I won seven grand slams, guess what? Then you’ve gotta celebrate the fact that I had the loudest mouth in the history of the tennis tour.”

    Finally, McEnroe issued a plea to Serena Williams. “Serena, do me a favor,” he begged. “Get two more grand slams this year and get to 25, so we can leave Margaret Court and her offensive views in the past, where they both belong.” Court has the record for winning grand slams, but only because back in her day, no one traveled to Australia so she won a whole bunch of Australian Opens without much competition. 

    Coming of Age

    Among the anti-GLBT bills in this year’s legislative onslaught, at least six states are considering a ban on puberty blockers for transgender kids. This is the latest twist in the transgender wars, which have dominated the political attacks on our community since the bathroom campaign that killed Houston’s GLBT rights ordinance in 2015. 

    Just as it’s easy to imagine some lady musing, “Hmmm. I don’t want men in the ladies room!” so you can see the attraction of, “These children are too young to be taking life-changing drugs!” But puberty blockers have been used for years to delay development in kids who hit puberty too early for whatever reason. Stop the treatment and puberty will continue. Warnings of bone loss or sterility are exaggerated. And most importantly, puberty blockers can effectively save the lives of transgender kids. Transitioning after puberty, particularly for transgender women, is much much harder. And the idea that pre-pubescent kids are too young to make a gender determination is another fallacy. Yes, it’s too young for surgery. But it’s not too young for a treatment that amounts to hitting a pause button on sexual development. Plus, these decisions aren’t made by minor children. They are made by parents and doctors who are experts in their field.

    It’s a complicated subject and I’m sure there are some cases of kids who change their minds. But it’s surely not a matter to be dictated by a bunch of politicians. I guess South Dakota’s legislative rules are such that this bill has advanced in the Blizzard State, while it has yet to emerge from committee elsewhere. Still, it’s indicative of the type of attack that takes advantage of the tremendous national ignorance and prejudice and fear that surrounds transgender issues.

    Stay Safe Out There

    The hysteria over transgender kids reminds me of the time when someone was killed by a self-driving car and all hell broke loose in the media. Tens of thousands of people die every year in traffic accidents in this country, and you have to assume self-driving cars will cut that number significantly once the technology breaks through.

    Indeed, our grandchildren will no doubt be appalled when they learn that we all used to hurtle down the highways at 80 mph under our own flawed driving powers while eating, listening to music, talking on the phone, and entertaining ourselves in general. All this while other people were blithely speeding along within a few feet of our cars. Yet, listen to people today and you’d think that self-driving cars represent robotic killing machines poised to unleash their mindless fury on a nation of unsuspecting motorists.

    My point is that the world of our grandchildren will take transgender men and women for granted and wonder what drugs they were on in Pierre when they voted to deny routine treatment to trans kids, let alone what they were thinking in D.C. when they banned transgender troops or what they were imagining in North Carolina when they ordered everyone to use the bathroom of their birth gender. 

    And before I go, because I have a little space left, I was wondering about this dangerous virus that’s dominating the news, so I looked up the number of flu deaths per year in the United States. Do you know how many people died of the flu in this country in 2018? Eighty freaking thousand. That’s 80,000. Yes, it was a record. But flu usually kills about 50,000 more or less each year, and that’s just in this country. I know that’s a fraction of less than one percent of the people who get the flu, but still. I’m struck by the things we worry about versus the things we take for granted.

    Published on January 30, 2020