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    Ann Rostow: Top It, Nana

    By Ann Rostow

    Top It, Nana

    Happy holidays, everyone. Mel and I are in Connecticut with some family members, including a five-year-old granddaughter who sings “This is my Fight Song” over and over again in a tuneless shout. She also makes elaborate requests of us, begging with wide eyes. Will we peel an entire orange, but not cut it, and remove all the white stringy parts? Will we make tea, add sugar and honey and pour it through a funnel into a tiny plastic container? Of course, we agree to these favors only to find the uneaten orange in a corner on the kitchen floor, and the flask of tea in the kids’ bookcase. This child eats pickles and olives and likes to take sips of beer. What will become of her, we wonder?

    She has two brothers, an older Lego-obsessed charming bro type, and a little mystery man, age two, who amazingly has learned a series of polite responses. 

    “Shiloh, I just finished folding those clothes.” 

    “Thowwy.”

    “Here, Shiloh, have this.”

    “Tank you.”

    Where does that come from? Readers, do you all find it adorable? Is it just me? I should stop. Or as Shiloh would say: “Top it.”

    Oh listen, before we start, you may not recall that I mentioned this phenomenal movie Call Me by Your Name about six months or so ago, when people were saying it was going to be sensational. Now it’s been released in New York to rave reviews. The film is an absolutely beautiful gay love story set in northern Italy in the early 80s. I have seen a lot of overrated GLBT movies partly, in my opinion, because some straight reviewers feel uncomfortable telling gay readers that Gay Movie X sucks, ergo: a number of mediocre gay films get credibility. But this one sounds like a real winner. 

    The Last Bear

    So, the citizens of Australia decided in their wisdom to cast their non-binding postal votes in favor of marriage equality. Now, the parliament will have to pass a law to that effect, and they must do so without authorizing antigay amendments that could render the whole thing moot. At this point, it looks as if several political parties have agreed on a clean bill, so to speak, leaving conservatives without much of a say in the final legislation. 

    That’s great news, but we’ve heard optimistic-sounding news out of Australia before now, haven’t we? Knaves and scoundrels that they are.

    And speaking of Australia, I just stumbled on an amazing headline that reads: “Duplicitous Teddy Bear Shocks Amazon Shoppers with Grotesquely Long Legs.” Yes, I know. This actually has nothing to do with Australia. But you may recall how I feel about Australian news in general. I don’t trust it. Meanwhile, of course, I had to click on the story of the “duplicitous” teddy bear and his “grotesquely” long legs. I needed to make sense of it all.

    It turns out that some company elongated the legs of their stuffed animals so that they could charge extra for the six-foot bears. But because they put the added length all in the legs, their shocked customers were taken aback by the bears’ distorted appearance. Further, the sneaky Amazon presentation used clever camera angles to make the bear look normal. But it wasn’t normal. It had grotesquely long legs. 

    I’m thinking someone could shoot a horror film with this bear in action as the killer. Possibly, the bear could also have grotesque arms. It could be set in Australia, maybe featuring a group of aboriginal tribesmen who pray to the bear on moonless nights near the ocean. During the day, as the police struggle to understand the killer’s cruel psychology, we get to know a Labor Party representative who claims to support marriage equality while harboring a secret hostility towards gay couples. Could he be next on the long-legged bear’s list of victims?

    With Enemies Like These…

    I have two excellent transgender legal victories to report this week, but first, I have to exit the GLBT Legal Highway and meander down one more little side road. The road takes us to Massachusetts, to a recent meeting of MassResistance, the antigay group first formed during the marriage battles of the first decade.

    We are witness to the start of a conference called “Countering a LGBT Agenda.” The stage is empty, save for a podium and mike. A sixty-something white guy steps up to welcome everyone and introduces “Derek” who is going to kick off the conference with “a song thing,” (he says with a hesitant smile). 

    Derek proceeds to take the stage and performs an endless interpretive dance with two multi-colored ribbon/flags that he waves flamboyantly through the air, rhythmic gymnast-style, as he glides around to the tune of a song called “The List.” In the interests of full reporting, I checked the lyrics for the song. They describe the act of creating a list of your mistakes, but then tossing the list to the wind.

    “But love keeps no record of wrong, no, no,

    Love keeps no record of wrong, no, no,

    Love keeps no record of wrong, no, no,

    Listen to me, love keeps no record of wrong, no,

    So let it go.

    Let it go.

    Love tears the list in a million little pieces.

    Cast your sins as far as the East is from the West.

    Say goodbye to the list.” 

    I’m sorry, but WTF? 

    Derek, who appears to be one of these “recovered” gay men, ends his presentation after five very long minutes, to a light smattering of stunned applause. I highly recommend you watch it for yourself. 

    Another Judge Nixes the Trans Ban

    You surely remember that a federal judge in the D.C. area recently ruled in favor of several transgender service members who are contesting Donald Trump’s impetuous ban on transgender men and women in the military. Although the government intends to appeal that decision, they do not have much of a shot of convincing the left-leaning U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to reverse the ruling.

    Now, a second federal judge has turned thumbs down on Trump’s ill-considered trans tweet. Maryland-based Judge Marvin Garbis wrote what sounds like a blistering critique of the President’s head-turning maneuver. 

    No, I haven’t read the opinion, but legal eagle Art Leonard of New York Law School tells us it’s a good one, calling Trump’s decision a “capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified tweet of new policy,” which “does not trump the methodical and systematic review by military stakeholders qualified to understand the ramifications of policy changes.”

    I won’t completely rehash Trump’s impulsive move last July to ban transgender military personnel, an action that he took after zero consultation with military experts, and seemingly while under the impression that the U.S. had yet to put trans troops into uniform. In fact, there are thousands of transgender men and women in the armed forces, particularly since President Obama authorized open trans service in 2016. 

    After the tweet, the anti-trans rhetoric was somewhat soothed when Defense Secretary Mattis said the policy was under review and that no one would be discharged until next March at the earliest. Indeed, government lawyers have tried to convince the federal courts that transgender plaintiffs have no reason to complain since none of them have yet been discharged from the military! Judges like Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of D.C. and now Marvin Garbis have not been impressed with this reasoning, noting that the imminent threat of being fired is more than enough grounds to sue. 

    Nor does the fact that the government has yet to drop the hammer on trans troops suggest that there’s some doubt as to whether or not the ban will go into effect. The administration has made clear it intends to dismiss an entire category of military staff come hell or high water. Happily, it seems the federal courts are not going to make it easy. In addition to the aforementioned lawsuits, two others are pending in federal courts in Seattle and L.A.

    It’s Elementary

    In other great transgender legal news, a federal judge in Pennsylvania refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a transgender elementary school student (via her mother) against the school district that refuses to let the eight-year-old girl use the facilities. According to the court record, (via an account by Art Leonard of NYLS, comme d’habitude) the Supervisor was even heard to mutter, “Minersville isn’t ready for this.” Actually, I turned it from a simple quotation into a “mutter,” but it feels right.

    Here’s an interesting part. You may recall that the Obama Justice Department interpreted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to ban discrimination against transgender individuals in public schools and colleges. In fact, that’s why the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of transgender student, Gavin Grimm, in a case that made it to the Supreme Court’s 2016/17 docket.

    However, Trump, Sessions and the rest of the crew over at Justice withdrew the Obama interpretation, leading the Supremes to send Grimm’s case back to the Fourth Circuit for a re-hearing. It was not a positive development by any means, but then again, the Trump administration did not replace Obama’s legal views with the opposite positions. Instead, they left everything up in the air, subject to legal debate. While Minersville lawyers tried to argue that Trump had reversed Obama’s policies, Judge Robert Mariani pointed out that this is simply wrong. Citing a similar case out of Pennsylvania, Mariani said Trump’s withdrawal of Obama’s legal guidance “appears to have generated an interpretive vacuum pending further consideration by those federal agencies of the legal issues involved in such matters.”

    Legalese, yes. But I love the Trump justice department being accused of leaving us in “an interpretive vacuum.” I assume they were too confused to figure out that their conservative lawyer pals would be better served if they formulated some horrible rightwing anti-gay and anti-trans guidance of their own. Or maybe someone from the Deep State distracted them with a shiny object. Shiloh, my cordial two-year-old, has a colorful wooden toy called “Doodle.” I think it would work. 

    “Well, I think Title IX is limited to the traditional male and female … .”

    “Mr. Sessions. Over here! It’s Doodle!”

    “Well, looka here. It sure is! Doodle! Where’ve you been hiding? Get a load of this little fella, Mr. President.”

    The Silence of the Deer

    As I’m trying to focus on important GLBT news, my wife is telling me that over 100 reindeer have been hit and killed by trains in Norway over a three-day period. She left the room, but sure enough, a quick search confirms: “Reindeer massacre as herds hit by speeding freight trains… .” “Errant trains slaughter reindeer herds… .” And, “Reindeer bloodbath! Horror as 106 of the beasts are run down … .”

    Heavens!

    At first, I feared that ten thousand reindeer were killed each year in this fashion and that these articles were simply drawing attention to the problem. But, thankfully, the mishaps are not routine. In this case, I gather, the reindeer were hanging out on the rail beds. They were too remote to be corralled, but the train operators were warned to slow down and honk at the spot where they were grazing and wandering around. The message never got through, however, and the engineers ran their trains at top speed down the track, scattering dead reindeer in their wake.

    I’m not one for forced Christmas gaiety and crazy lights. But then again, Christmas is a sweet time of the year, and reindeer are an important Christmas symbol. I’m talking about happy, dancing and flying reindeer, not dead ones. Not reindeer cut down in the prime of their lives while frolicking with their friends and cavorting on the snow berms that elevate the Norwegian freight lines. 

    It’s bad Christmas mojo; that’s all I’m saying.

    arostow@aol.com