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    Ann Rostow: Time Flies Away

    By Ann Rostow–

    Time Flies Away

    I love the cartoon of a clock face marked by days of the week instead of hours. That’s how it feels to me, although I am also able to differentiate “morning,” “afternoon,” and “evening.” Also, I get a little fuzzy when it comes to Tuesday through Thursday. 

    Monday is characterized by a return to the MSNBC schedule. We still avoid Mika and Joe, rejected after years of faithful viewing due to the insider jokes, deliberately arch riffs on European soccer, exaggerated sighs from Mika, wannabe-Capra diatribes by Joe, and simplistic analysis delivered with an unwarranted smug satisfaction. On the other hand, we love Stephanie Ruhle, and our absolute favorite is Nicole Wallace, with her team of Trump-bashing “reporters and friends,” who can always be counted on for the latest insider gossip. In between those two (morning and afternoon), and prior to Rachel (evening), we watch on an ad hoc basis. 

    Tuesday is trash day.

    Wednesday is marked by the food section of both newspapers.

    Thursday is, well, that’s when it gets fuzzy. Is it actually Thursday? How can we know? Could it be Tuesday? Did we remember the trash?

    Friday is the New Yorker crossword puzzle, which is also on Monday. But we already know when it’s Monday, so we don’t need the reminder. We feel Monday.

    Saturday and Sunday merge into one time period, which oddly still feels like a “break” from the rest of the week. We don’t have cable news, but we do have Joy Reid, whom we have long admired. We have Bloody Marys, and we have the Sunday New York Times

    Adding a little variety to the pattern is recycling every other Tuesday, and the Times acrostic puzzle every other Sunday. 

    So, this is how we mark our days while living through what now we know is a period that will be seen as a major turning point in world history; an event that will still be considered common knowledge a century from now. Our grandchildren will tell their wide-eyed grandchildren that they remember the coronavirus pandemic, ergo it seems as if I should be doing something a little more significant than solving puzzles and watching TV. 

    Maybe next week.

    SCOTUS Ho

    A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at the long table on our porch next to some recent newspapers that had piled up. The headlines were astounding. I can’t remember them exactly, but they were on the order of: “Unemployment Claims Top 12,000,000. Highest Rise in History,” “Stocks Lose 32% in Historic Plunge,” “Deaths Soar as Cities Around the World Lock Down.” You get the picture. At any rate, I stared at those headlines and imagined what I would have thought if someone showed them to me just a month earlier, and said: “Here’s what’s around the corner.” 

    And given the situation, that made me imagine what we might be reading in the middle of May. Who the hell knows? “Aliens from Nearby Planet Offer Coronavirus Cure,” “Pence and Task Force Members Quit After Trump Meltdown,” “Apple Introduces Groundbreaking Pet Translation System; device will allow users to converse with many domestic animals.” 

    My point is that anything can happen. And second, it’s a little difficult to focus on GLBT news under these transcendent conditions. You should know, by the way, that the Supreme Court will announce opinions on Thursday, April 23. We are still waiting for the two huge GLBT Title VII decisions, and since they were argued in October, very early in this term, they could be announced at any time. That said, it’s also possible that these workplace discrimination cases will become two of the last decisions announced in the session, which would put them at the end of June. Meanwhile, the Court releases opinions every week, so we’re all starting to hold our communal breath.

    I don’t have to remind you that the outcome of the Title VII cases could set the GLBT civil rights movement back on its heels for a generation. Oh? You had forgotten? The pandemic distracted you from our common fight for justice and equality? Wake up, people! (Snapping my fingers in your faces.)

    Our Greatest Generation

    Honestly, I am myself guilty of exactly this indifference. But I was given a little shot of gay adrenaline upon reading Karen Ocamb’s piece on the late great Phyllis Lyon in the LA Blade. As you know, the Bay Area lesbian icon died of natural causes on April 9 at 95, at home surrounded by friends and family. It’s not a bad way to go. But it is still the finality of death, and the city of San Francisco is diminished.

    Ocamb gave me a sense, not just of Lyon’s accomplishments in lesbian visibility and activism, but also of the world in which she came of age, fell in love, and battled overwhelming social disapprobation, a level of disgust so widespread it is unimaginable to most of us today. 

    The courage it took to be gay or lesbian in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s was immense, even if you stayed in the closet, which was basically what you had to do to survive. Del Martin (who died in 2008) and Phyllis Lyon found the courage to form an organization, to publish a magazine, to write a book, and to live openly together for half a century as the country’s revulsion turned slowly to tolerance, respect, and admiration. 

    I may have told you the story of finding Martin and Lyon’s book, Lesbian/Woman, on the shelves of my college library in the mid-1970s. Let’s just say that I was interested in the subject, so I furtively looked up the precise location of whatever books might be available. I then had the problem of having to walk down the “homosexual” aisle without being seen, but fortunately there were some other topics in the same area. I strolled through, trying to scan without looking directly at the titles, and continued randomly down another aisle. (Readers: There was no one in the vicinity and no one presumably would have had any idea that this or that aisle contained “homosexual” material.) 

    Finally, I came back for another pass, grabbed Lesbian/Woman and some other books, and scurried into a closed reading carrel. I also brought a few unrelated texts in case I had to cover up the gay ones. Years later, I had the pleasure of telling this story to Del and Phyllis, reminding them of the lifeline they cast out to so many young women of my generation. My generation, now maybe sixty-something, endured the tail end of those hard years. We had secret codes and secret bars and secret lives. But things were changing, and so we soon had parades and political organizations and a view of a future that was not so grim. 

    Like our current pandemic, AIDS took over our community and eclipsed other areas of activism for many years. But as the 20th gave way to the 21st century, the visibility that we gained in the run up to the millennium changed the way we were regarded by society. The humanity of people like Del and Phyllis, the humanity of dying men and the friends who cared for them, the humanity of couples and families who put the lie to stereotypes of gay people as deviants—this was the engine that drove the last 20 years of progress. 

    When I hear analysts speculate about the successful political activism that led to marriage equality, I almost have to laugh. Yes, we had good activists, and even better civil rights lawyers. But there was no special organizational talent in the GLBT community. We made progress because we came out of the closet, period. We did so thanks to Phyllis Lyon and the other mid-century heroes who paved the way. And once we were out, people recognized that we were just like them. (Only better, but we don’t want to sound boastful.)

    So, what will happen if the High Court rules against us? We’ll survive it. We might have to go back to square ten. But we won’t be going back to square one. No one is going to be skulking around the stacks, and if they do, they’ll find more than a handful of GLBT books. I’m not sure how we’ll battle back or how long it will take. But I know we will. Just as I know that someday, we’ll go out to dinner again, and someday, we’ll be able to talk to our pets.  

    Ellen, Ellen

    So, what else is new? You may have heard that Ellen got into trouble for a video in which she compared quarantine to being in jail:

    “It’s mostly because I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 10 days and everyone in here is gay.”

    Am I a horrible person for thinking this is pretty funny? I don’t think being in jail is funny in itself. Nor am I amused by the conditions that spread the virus in institutional settings. But I’m still laughing at Ellen’s one-liner. Newsflash: Humor is designed to twist dark and painful subjects into something we can see beyond. 

    For some reason, I’m reminded of my favorite lesbian joke. 

    “How many lesbians does it take to change a lightbulb?”

    “That’s not funny.”

    And guess who else is in trouble? Aaron Schock, the former Congressman who has just come out of the closer after presenting himself as an antigay conservative. Schock, who set off gaydar bleeps even as he proclaimed adherence to the Christian Right, was forced to resign from Congress after spending a ton of money redecorating his office, violating campaign finance rules in the process. He was subsequently spotted in various compromising situations before finally coming clean, much to the disgust of our community watchdogs. 

    Now, Schock is under fire for an Instagram that shows him posing on a beach in Cabo with five other men, all with their arms around each other. The post, sent by one of the other guys, is captioned: “Be My Quarantine.” 

    A hue and cry ensued, although the original poster said all six guys have been isolating themselves together in a beach resort of some sort where no one comes in and no one goes out. I agree that this is not much different from a large family on lockdown, and I think for many of us there’s just something irritating about people who have found themselves “stuck” on yachts or beaches during this time. 

    Speaking of quarantine, did you see the 93-year-old woman pictured holding a can of Coors at the window with a sign that said “Need More Beer!”? Coors sent her a case of 150 cans and promised to keep her in suds indefinitely. A nice gesture from our erstwhile foes. 

    Finally, there’s a bizarre and disturbing story out of Morocco, where a transgender Moroccan woman who is based in Turkey has been using her position as an Instagram influencer to endanger gay men in her home country. Naofal Moussa, aka Sofia Talouni, has something against the guys for reasons that I guess she’s keeping to herself. In a string of homophobic rants, she has repeatedly urged her followers in Morocco to go on Grindr, Planet Romeo, and other gay male dating apps, pose as men, and expose the guys on the app. Alternatively, just look them up and report their names.

    Same-sex activity is against the law in Morocco, and punishable by up to three years in jail. Morocco is also home to an extremely homophobic and patriarchal culture, leading some gay men caught in this sting to commit suicide according to vague reports. Still, vague as they might be, it seems clear that a lot of men have been targeted, some have vanished, and the underground community there is in terror. To make matters worse, the country is stuck at home until May 20.

    Instagram has removed Talouni’s account. 

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on April 23, 2020