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    Ann Rostow: Notes from Underground

    By Ann Rostow–

    Notes from Underground

    I have a habit of putting vague column ideas into the “notes” area on my iPhone. I’m not talking about GLBT stories per se, but quirky items or notions. Invariably, these hilarious tidbits lose their charm by the time I get around to writing, and yet I rarely delete them because I imagine I’ll recapture whatever it was that prompted me to memorialize them to begin with. So now I have several lengthy lists of random “thoughts,” I suppose you could call them, some of which are years old and some of which are now unintelligible.

    What did I mean by “717!” exclamation mark included? I have no idea. I think “name the woman you wouldn’t go to bed with for a million pounds” was something I read or saw somewhere, and further, I don’t think I came up with any answers. Maybe Sarah Huckabee Sanders. As I recall, I put in “Keiko” after watching a Star Trek episode and realizing that I really can’t stand her. A few of you may know who I’m talking about, right? Chief O’Brien’s wife who constantly complains and whines about everything. As for the rest of you, I think you can understand why I never actually raised the topic of the obscure, albeit annoying, Keiko in an actual column (until now). 

    Then there are the heavier entries. “First amendment rights of NLF player.” I have no clue what I planned to say about that or what it had to do with our community affairs. I have isolated names, like “Rees Mogg,” the eccentric British politician who, as far as I know, has performed no newsworthy exploits of late. “Hey me insurance” rings no bells and makes no sense. And then there’s an entire page from April of last year with just one word: “Collateral.” I’m telling you this so I can delete these notes in good conscience and so you will recognize the lengths I go to leaven our serious civil rights struggles with a light-hearted dose of fun.  

    Nun the Wiser

    In actual news, it looks like the Equality Act will get a House vote as this issue hits the stands, although who knows what will happen in the Senate. Trump has recently come out in opposition to this, our signature civil rights bill, insisting that it will “undermine parental and conscience rights.” Some reporters have noted that Trump gave an interview to The Advocate back in 2004, when he called for adding sexual orientation to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and expressed unqualified support for gay rights across the board. Oddly, if you read that interview, he sounds articulate and well spoken. It’s jarring how profoundly he’s changed—not just in his political views, but through his sharp descent into mental illness and incoherence.

    By the way, why would the Equality Act undermine parental rights? The bill bans GLBT discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations, so it’s not clear to me why anyone’s parents would be affected by its provisions. As for “conscience rights,” that’s a new one. I suppose it’s meant to evoke the faith-based bias of those antigay butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, bless their tiny little hearts. 

    And speaking of faith, my dear cousin sent me an uplifting story out of D.C., where one of the nation’s oldest Catholic girls schools has taken a controversial stand in favor of gay inclusion. We have never hesitated to report on the nefarious policies of small-minded Catholic prep schools, so it’s nice to see the flip side of that bigotry.

    In this case, Sister Mary Berchmans, the principal emerita of Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, sent a letter to the school community after the alumni magazine declined to announce a same-sex marriage. After “much prayerful consideration and thoughtful reflection,” she wrote, the school determined that the policy would be changed to include lesbian marriages in the class notes.

    “I keep returning to this choice,” she wrote. “We can focus on Church teaching on gay marriage or we can focus on Church teaching on the Gospel commandment of love. We know from history—including very recent history—that the Church, in its humanity, makes mistakes. Yet, through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, it learns and grows. And so, we choose the Gospel commandment of love.”

    She’s Just Not into You

    So, I was watching Beto with increasing disdain the other day, and felt a little guilty about my feelings. Believe me, I loved this guy when he was running for Senate, and I was captivated by his eloquent defense of the NFL protests, his fluent recap of civil rights history, his clean articulation of our constitutional right to free speech and political discourse. He was marvelous. Off the cuff. Honest and original and genuine.

    But Beto is like a guy you were infatuated with until you realized that, let’s say, he didn’t read books or didn’t know any history or liked his steak well done. One thing after another made you think twice, and (perhaps since you are a lesbian in the first place), well, the relationship didn’t work out. 

    That Vanity Fair article. “Born to run?” The dentist selfie. Really?

    Then there’s the flimsy resume, the dilettante summers, that weird traffic accident, the failed newspaper, the rich wife and well-positioned political helping hands hiding behind the common man persona. The vague sense of self-absorption and ambition. Yes, every presidential candidate is ambitious, but there are those who want to change the world and control the levers of power, and there are those who want to be “President.” This guy has not accomplished much, and has not advanced any concrete ideas now has he? He always wears the same white button-down shirt. And for some reason, it really bugged me when he condescended to suggested he would pick Stacey Abrams as a vice president. 

    Like the ex-boyfriend, once you start picking away at his faults, it’s hard to stop. I find myself satisfied to see him falling in the polls. And yet, I loved him just a short time ago! I gave him money and volunteered for him, even accidentally getting plastered at a wine drinking postcard event that left both Mel and I incapable of driving for a couple of hours, which we spent staggering around in a street fair. We did this for Beto! But that was then and this is now.

    Winning Is Everything

    Speaking of the primary, I’m one of the many Democrats who is single-mindedly focused on getting rid of Trump in 2020, and honestly, I don’t care who does it or why. Medicare for all, or a few tweaks to Obamacare? Whatever. The new green deal, or just some carbon offsets? Don’t care. Free college, or simply a few more Pell grants? Either way. Should prisoners vote? My opinion (no) doesn’t matter as long we win a majority in Florida. Reparations for slavery? Check the national polls and support whatever they say. 

    Any Democrat is better than Trump, whether he or she is a card carrying socialist or a blue dog. I mean really! I’d vote for Mitt Romney if a higher power told me that was my only choice. I think I’ve mentioned several times that Joe Biden is too old to be president, but if he’s our best chance to beat Trump, he’s got my vote. 

    That said, I still love Mayor Pete and want him to have a big impact on the primary. I read that a sizable number of Americans don’t think a gay man can get elected president, and if that’s true (which is likely) I would not want to select such a risky nominee. But I do want him to continue to outshine the field and to help some of our dimmer compatriots realize that you can be gay and Christian, you can be gay and serve in the military, you can be gay and be thoughtful. Not that I would personally want to be any of those things, but still. 

    Penguins R Us

    I’m skipping legal news after devoting my entire column to the subject last time around. I’d like to skip gay news in general and blather on about nothing, but I know you’d be disappointed in me. And yet, I’m not up for the new brutality in Chechnya, where gay men are reportedly being tortured by electrocution. I want to ignore the latest from the kingdom of Brunei, where authorities have decided not to execute people for being gay after all. I don’t want to get into the brave protesters in Cuba, who went ahead with their pride demonstration after the government tried to shut it down. Nor do I want to discuss the efforts for and against marriage rights around the world. 

    But it’s all good, boys and girls, because we’ve got penguins! After many sad weeks with no penguin news, I was pleased to see that a zoo in Dingle, Ireland, announced that eight out of their 14 Gentoo penguins are gay, including two lesbian couples and two gay male pairs. As with other gay penguins we’ve highlighted in previous columns, these couples are now busy polishing stones for each other and hatching chicks to the best of their ability. The lesbians “do what needs to be done” in order to get their eggs going, zookeepers say. The males, if history is our guide, must hope that a kindly staff member places an extra fertilized egg in their care.

    Can we just agree by now that there’s something about penguins? Every now and again we stumble over a gay sheep or lesbian swan. But where the animal kingdom is concerned, the penguins win the rainbow prize. I wonder why? At any rate, I think we should make penguins our official community creature.

    I just googled penguins for fun facts and was presented with a list of five questions people ask about penguins, presumably the result of some crowd-based algorithm. Question four was whether or not penguins eat humans (they do not, but who would think to ask that?) And question five asked, “What do penguins taste like?” According to what sounds like an old explorer’s log, they taste like: “a piece of beef, odiferous cod fish and a canvas-backed duck roasted together in a pot, with blood and cod-liver oil for sauce.” Gross! 

    Nasty and Nastier

    Finally, I want to finish with what seems to be a small story, the ongoing fight by a married binational gay male couple to win American citizenship for both of their sons. The men, Andrew and Elad Dvash-Bands, married in 2010 and had fraternal twins, Ethan and Aiden, through a surrogate in Canada back in September of 2016. As an American, Andrew’s children would normally become U.S. citizens automatically, regardless of where they were born. But the Trump administration had different ideas. First, the four family members were forced to provide DNA samples, something the men had hoped to avoid. Second, when it turned out that Ethan was biologically related to Elad, but not to Andrew, the State Department rejected the baby’s application. 

    Ethan’s brother Aiden, by contrast, was biologically related to Andrew rather than Elad, and as such was given American citizenship. But there is no such genetic test required of heterosexual parents. All it takes is one American parent to earn citizenship, and an American father in a binational straight marriage would not be obliged to prove his paternity in this fashion. 

    It’s true that the foreign-born children of unmarried American men have to jump through some hoops, otherwise it would be too easy to claim a random soldier or traveling salesman as a father, and take a shortcut to citizenship. But as I just mentioned, the offspring of heterosexual married men face no such obstacles. In view of this inequity, the two men sued the government and won in federal court last February. Up until that victory, the men had been living in L.A. with poor little Ethan residing on a tourist visa.

    Now, unbelievably, the Trump administration has decided to appeal this decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Can you frigging believe that our State Department harbors this kind of pettiness? I know that this is the administration known for snatching children from their migrant parents. So, I’m under no illusion that they have a shred of compassion. But they are also incompetent and careless. That’s why I’m surprised by this appeal, which would have required some organization and effort.

    Some mean little busybody had to monitor the case and determine that keeping this child’s outsider status was a specific goal worth fighting for. For God’s sake, why? Red tape and the relics of an antigay bureaucracy might have caused the dilemma to begin with, but why on Earth take proactive steps to keep this family in harm’s way? 

    Readers, I just can’t stand these people!

    arostow@aol.com