Recent Comments

    Ann Rostow: Younger Than Midwinter

    By Ann Rostow–

    Younger Than Midwinter

    Good for Cynthia Nixon for calling out Joe Biden after he said Mike Pence was a “decent guy.” To be fair, Biden wasn’t focused on Pence when he used the adjective. He was talking about the recent speech in Munich: “ … by a guy who’s a decent guy, our Vice President, who stood before this group of allies and leaders and said, ‘I’m here on behalf of President Trump,’ and there was dead silence. Dead silence.”

    So, it’s seemingly innocuous, but as Nixon wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, “ … when [Biden] talks about Pence being ‘a decent guy,’ he is putting politeness over policy. In effect, he is saying that Pence’s record doesn’t matter.” The activist actress and former gubernatorial candidate then rehashed the Vice President’s atrocious anti-gay history, which combined with his deeply unattractive persona makes it difficult to root for Trump’s premature ouster without a few shivers of misgiving. (Difficult, but not impossible.)

    Biden is also a candidate who defies the age barrier without chagrin. At least Reagan joked about his age and at least the media discussed the subject even though he was 69 when he first took office. That’s younger than Elizabeth Warren, soon to be 70, not to mention Sanders at 77, Biden at 76, Trump at 72. I understand that 70 is the new 50 or whatever, but this is ridiculous. That said, I just saw a poll that ranked Biden as the candidate most likely to beat Trump in 2020. If such a poll were to be repeated in June of next year, I’d throw my irritation out the window and back good old Joe with enthusiasm. 

    Oh, Y’awl of Little Faith

    I know the Methodists should be the top story of the week, but I find it difficult to drum up enthusiasm for their plight. Most mainstream American churches have somewhat come to terms with their GLBT conundrums over the last decade or so, but not the Methodists, who have a large contingent based in Africa and other far flung conservative locales. As you have no doubt already read, the church Mandarins recently got together in St. Louis to vote on gay stuff, and managed to carve out a 53–47 majority in favor of keeping a ban on gay clergy, gay marriage and whatever else they had tossed into the ballot bin. 

    So, my sad Methodist friends, join the Presbyterians or the Lutherans or the Episcopalians! Are they really that different? Honestly. Prayers, hymns, sermons, Sunday suppers, Jesus. If you like that sort of thing, you have plenty of options. Alternatively, you can join the Church of Nothing in Particular, where you spend Sundays watching sports on TV and drinking, try to be a good person in general, don’t judge others, count your blessings and live by the Golden Rule. Not such a bad denomination when all is said and done. 

    And yes, we have a vague deity as well. It’s the cosmic mystery of the universe and it provokes a sense of humility. It also responds haphazardly to prayers when your team is poised on the edge of victory and defeat, just like the God of organized religion. It’s also called “God,” but that is only because, as Paul Tillich noted, “God” is a symbol for God. Did I mention that it’s vague?

    On this subject, my wife showed me a cartoon the other day that had a football player scoring a touchdown and pointing one finger in the air in thanks to the Lord. Meanwhile in Heaven, Jesus is avidly watching a hockey game. 

    Trust, but Verify

    Walmart is under fire from our adversaries for a gay male episode of its “Love is in the Aisle” promotional ads that show couples on a blind date at Walmart, and makes the point that you can discover a lot about a person by the way he or she shops. It’s cute. One of the guys suggests that the other get an all-in-one shampoo, conditioner and body soap, but the other one points out that you can never really know whether or not all three elements are provided in the single substance. What’s to stop them from leaving out the shampoo? Can you tell by the ingredients? 

    He makes an excellent point. I’ve never trusted these multi-purpose products myself. Too convenient by half.

    Meanwhile, Cottonelle is running a gay male commercial, and I think you know how I feel about graphic toilet paper ads. This one uses a ripe peach reminiscent of the scene in Call Me by Your Name, and makes not so veiled reference to gross bathroom goings on. 

    Speaking of such unpleasantness, I was a little unnerved the other day to read that conservatives are far more sensitive to repugnant images than are liberals. A recent piece in the Atlantic presents evidence that, in their words: “To a surprising degree, a recent strand of experimental psychology suggests, our political beliefs may have something to do with a specific aspect of our biological makeup: our propensity to feel physical disgust.”

    After some introspection, I concluded that my own reactions (mostly against the Charmin bears) are based on a generational sense of propriety, not an instinctive disgust. But it’s also possible that some of us are the exception that proves the rule. For example, I recently rejected an invitation (at the bottom of a Washington Post article) to view a dinner plate-sized tarantula kill and eat a small possum. If feeling repelled is a sign of conservatism, I maxed out on the edge of Neo-Nazi at that.

    Here’s Cheese in Your Eye

    Before we go on, can I just ask why an exception to a rule would ever prove the rule? I’ve never quite understood that axiom, because I would think the exceptions would disprove the rules, particularly if you can amass more than a few. Just saying.

    Oh, and since I was procrastinating for a few minutes, I just saw several videos of the “sliced cheese challenge,” a new internet game where people throw slices of American cheese at babies or dogs. The cheese sticks to the babies’ faces, and they acquire a perplexed expression. One guy threw cheese at his dog who caught it and ate it in one bite, of course. Who thinks of things like this? In this case, it was a “Michigan Dad.” 

    Not too long ago, people were frightening their pets by seeming to vanish. They would stand there, get the pet’s attention, hold up a sheet and then duck into a hallway and let the sheet drop to the floor. The pets, mostly dogs, were all worried and upset, which seemed a little cruel. 

    Speaking of pets, and since I’ve started a “news” section that’s heading nowhere, let me mention that an elementary school teacher in Pinecrest, Florida, is in trouble for reading a book about a gay bunny to his class (one grandfather called it “pornographic”). The school district has opened an investigation, and yes, it’s John Oliver’s satiric alternative to Mike Pence’s book about his rabbit, Marlon Bundo. In Oliver’s book, the Pence family pet is gay and marries another gay male bunny.

    Let’s Get Serious

    In the no-news department, we continue to ignore the dozens of antigay bills floating around the various state legislatures, and will do so unless and until any one of them makes significant progress. In the past, most of these proposals either die on the vine or rot in abandoned crates of the unpalatable fruits of hatred raised by our worst country’s most obnoxious lawmakers. I say “in the past,” but I understand that what’s past may not necessarily be prologue in this increasingly hostile day and age.

    Second, the High Court continues to list various GLBT-related petitions on its conference agenda, but has yet to take action. Again, the three or four cases we’re watching have been re-listed for the March 15 conference, which is basically good news, I guess. We don’t really want them to see the light of day unless John Roberts comes to his senses on gay issues. 

    This brings us to the actual-news department, where the Supreme Court of Missouri has issued two opinions in our favor (sort of), one in the workplace discrimination case of a gay man and another in the case of a transgender high school student denied use of the boys’ facilities. Both rulings merely allowed the cases to proceed, so it’s not as if Missouri has come down in favor of our civil rights. It’s only that the court acknowledges there’s a legitimate argument in play in both instances.

    Finally, the ACLU of Southern California has settled a long running suit against San Bernardino County, where GLBT inmates at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga were kept in an “Alternative Lifestyle Tank” where they stayed in their cells for 23 hours a day and were denied access to the various prison programs available to everyone else. The 600 or so inmates who shared this fate at various points from 2012 to 2018 will split a million dollars, while the lawyers will be paid about the same. The sheriff’s department will train their personnel in the rules of decency, and the federal court will monitor the operation for the next three years.

    Twin Perks

    Let’s see what else is going on.

    There are a lot of foreign datelines in the news; Kenyan High Court mulling sex laws, Taiwan still wrestling over marriage equality, ditto Japan, and Katmandu has opened a gay bar and restaurant. 

    Have any of you ever read Annapurna, Maurice Herzog’s harrowing 1951 account of climbing the 8,000-meter summit? For some reason I just imagined the frostbitten survivors of the expedition clambering through the doors of Pink Tiffany, shaking the ice off their boots, leaning, exhausted, against the bar and ordering a pitcher of Singapore slings. Want to run a tab? They nod wearily. With difficulty, Herzog removes a glove and extracts a Visa card from his inner pocket. His fingers are black.

    Then we finally won citizenship for the son of an American man who married an Israeli man. The couple had twins through a Canadian surrogate, but when they applied for citizenship, the State Department forced an unwanted DNA test, and discovered that one son had American blood, while the other had Israeli blood. Even though the men were married, only the genetically correct twin was considered American, while his brother was allowed to stay with the L.A.-based family on a tourist visa. It took a federal judge to rectify the situation in a mid-February ruling.

    And I should have mentioned earlier that a weird case out of Texas has been dismissed by a state court judge, who ruled that the city of Houston must indeed recognize legal same-sex marriages. To be clear, Houston itself was on our side and had no desire to discriminate, but the city was sued by a nutty resident who complained all the way to the state supreme court. In a decision that made headlines last year, the Texas Supreme Court ruled inexplicably that the question of marriage equality remained unresolved despite the High Court’s ruling in our favor back in 2015. The Texas supremes sent the case back to the lower court, and now the lower court has rightly tossed the nonsensical litigation, while the crazy kook who filed suit to begin with has promised to appeal again.

    Last but not least, the Mormon college student who starred as Brigham Young University’s Cosmo the Cougar mascot from 2015 to 2018 came out of the closet in a touching op-ed in the Deseret News late February. 

    “As Cosmo the Cougar at Brigham Young University, I kept the best part of my life a secret from everyone around me by wearing a mask. I traveled the country, performed for millions of people, took pictures with screaming fans, signed autographs and danced like no one was watching—even though everyone was,” wrote Charlie Bird. “There are many people like me who suffer in silence, struggling to reconcile complicated ideas with thoughts, feelings and religious beliefs,” he continued. “There are many who feel misunderstood and heartbroken. We never know who around us might be wearing a mask.” 

    arostow@aol.com