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    Ann Rostow: Brrrrrr

    By Ann Rostow–


    In the last year or so, we’ve seen a drop in support for same-sex marriage and gay rights in general. But here’s a big addition to the poll pile. Each year, the Public Religion Research Institute interviews over 20,000 Americans around the country, from non-believers to Christian nationalists, for its annual American Values Vault. And again, for the first time in a long time, the 2023 survey shows lower support for our community. 

    With a survey this large, however, we can look below the surface for explanations. The key finding is that Democratic attitudes have remained stable, while Red State opinions have shifted against us. Considering the publicity surrounding multiple bills against transgender rights that pervade the airwaves in these areas, the decline is understandable. 

    What’s even more disturbing is the lower support among young Republicans. In 2020, roughly two thirds of Republicans aged 18–29 favored marriage equality. Now, it’s about half, despite the fact that this rising generation includes record numbers of non-heterosexuals. One would think that a higher percentage of GLBT people would lead to more familiarity and more allies, but the reverse seems to be true. According to Melissa Deckman, CEO of the Institute, many analysts assumed that young Republicans would moderate the party’s attitudes, but instead the data indicates that these twenty-somethings are very conservative indeed, particularly on social issues. That’s irritating. 

    Meanwhile, a glance at the other headlines on a gay news search gives us: “The Recent Rise of American Homophobia and Transphobia,” “Minister Fears (Northern Ireland) Police Force is Slipping Backwards on LGBT Issues,” and topping those, “Case Opened Against Nightclub in Russia for Extremist LGBT Activities.” Winter is coming, my friends.

    Small Ball

    Not only am I behind schedule this morning, but I just made my situation worse by taking an extended trip down the rabbit hole thanks to One Million Moms. The Moms have become one of my favorite topics, with their outraged reactions to innocuous TV ads and retail products. This week, they are appalled by another ad for women’s deodorants that target, um, the genital area. This is an unpleasantly vulgar selling point in my view, and I have agreed with One Million Moms when they objected to one of the similar “Lume” commercials. It’s gross. Stop with the pussy perfume and the “it’s fun to take a dump” ads!

    That said, the Moms and I part company on every other one of their peeves. Another problem piece was a commercial for a Manscape trimmer that features two tiny hairy men who represent the unkempt balls of our lead actor. The messy pair follow him around demanding scratches from time to time until he pulls out his trimmer as his wife or girlfriend looks on with a smile. A final shot reveals that they are shaved, bald, and neat. 

    “This commercial is entirely too specific and graphic for television,” the Moms insisted. 

    “Yet, Manscaped still chose to air these commercials despite their obviously controversial nature.”

    “Can you imagine what goes through a child’s mind when viewing this ad? 1MM has received many complaints from moms. Their children did, in fact, fully understand the commercial by the end of it, and these kids were shocked and disgusted. Manscaped should be ashamed!”

    I think I’ve mentioned that I have seven grandchildren, none of whom would be shocked or disgusted by an amusing personification of someone’s testicles. On the contrary, many of them would be delighted by the slightest graphic reference to any business involving someone’s private area. A couple are toddlers, but even these children will soon be including what they consider to be risqué terms to their growing vocabulary, beginning with “poop.”

    Who Gets You?

    In the course of “researching” the above story, however, I discovered an interesting older complaint on the Moms’ website. Do you remember those “He Gets Us” ads for Jesus? I was instantly suspicious of them, of course, because I assume that people with enough money to fund a television campaign about Jesus are Not My Friends. That said, I gradually came to think that the funders might be old school Christians, more into “love they neighbor” than “stop Manscaped from advertising its genital razor!” The group ran a Super Bowl ad featuring people washing each other’s feet, which I kind of liked (which made me suspicious again). And that seems to have sent the Moms over the edge.

    I was surprised to see One Million Moms, a branch of the (evangelical) American Family Association, upset with a series of ads exalting Jesus, supposedly one of their very very favorite people. 

    “The commercial was partially true, as it showed the love of Jesus and how we can serve and love one another even with our differences,” they acknowledged. “Unfortunately, the movement’s ‘Foot Washing’ ad missed the mark, because it never shared the Gospel so a person might put their faith in Jesus Christ in order to receive salvation.” It never did … what? “Sharing only part of the truth can be extremely misleading, especially to those who are unsaved,” they added.

    It’s a 30-second TV ad, not a Sunday sermon. As for those who are unsaved, surely a first step might be putting out some good publicity for JC. On the surface there seems to be nothing here to which One Million Moms or the American Family Association would object. That, in turn, suggests that they are opposed to, or threatened by, the shadowy backers behind the “He Gets Us” operation. We know that one of the big funders is David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby, who is not exactly a friend to our community. Others involved seem to have ties to the Alliance Defending Freedom, our adversaries in many civil rights court cases. These are not exactly GLBT-friendly folk, so I would have to explore more rabbit holes to speculate further. Unfortunately, I don’t have time for that now because I watched a lengthy video about a dog whose owners got a new puppy. At first the older dog was upset by the intrusion, but over the years the two dogs grew to become inseparable. It’s very sweet. I wonder if One Million Moms would find something objectionable about it? Maybe.

    Raunchy Girls for MAGA Guys

    My wife just told me that Edgar Allen Poe was an opium addict. Who knew? I have long wondered what it would be like to visit an opium den, sink into shared euphoria for a night or so. The darkness, the musky smell, dreams, oblivion. On the other hand, imagine when you have to exit into the sunshine. What day is it? What time is it? Where am I? What am I forgetting? 

    It’s Thursday, September 6, 1845, 11:50 am. You are in Chinatown and you’re due to give a lecture at noon on the Presidio. What were you thinking?!

    Mel also sent me two articles for this column, my favorite being a Washington Post article about a group of conservative Christian dads who have published a calendar featuring buxom young women in provocative poses on cars or with guns. The Conservative Dad’s Real Women of America calendar includes a woman in a bubble bath, another in her kitchen, one on the beach, and one lighting a copy of The New York Times on fire with a cigar. 

    Although the rise of Christian politics began with the Puritanical edge of James Dobson and Jimmy Falwell, the merger between evangelicals and MAGA means, as the Post puts it, that “a raunchy, outsider, boobs-and-booze ethos has elbowed its way into the conservative power class, accelerated by the rise of Donald J. Trump, the declining influence of traditional religious institutions and a shifting media landscape increasingly dominated by the looser standards of online culture.”

    What’s evident to me is less the “looser standards” of those who represent the Christian root, and more the pure misogyny of this male-dominated MAGA world. Did we not just see a female member of the U.S. Senate present herself to the American public as a housewife and mom who spends many hours at the kitchen table, no doubt asking her husband for a raise in the grocery budget thanks to the Democrats’ inept economic policies? 

    The MAGA Christians are filled with tough-talking Alpha men, and their women are happy to play the role of sexy gun-toting gal pals, equally ready for a shoot-out or a roll in the hay. The Conservative Dads calendar fits right in, just as Lara Trump seems to be the perfect pawn to “run” the Republican National Committee. Hello, State Party Chairs? Good luck getting those funds for that swing Congressional race or that must-hold Senate seat. Maybe you can call E. Jean Carroll. I hear we just wrote her a check. 

    England Blocks Blockers

    Mel also told me about a gynandromorphic rose breasted grosbeak, meaning an individual with both male and female qualities. This bird has golden yellow female feathers on one side, and male red plumage on the other. The scientists at the Pennsylvania Powdermill Nature Reserve where our rare bird was spotted were thrilled. Annie Lindsay, bird banding program manager at Powdermill, said one researcher referred to the experience as “seeing a unicorn,” while another described the discovery as an adrenaline rush, because it was “so remarkable.” Funny how an intersex bird is fascinating while a non-binary human is an abomination.

    Actually, I was trying to slow my coverage of transgender rights this week simply because the subject completely dominates my column, and quite frankly, my attention. Much as marriage equality became the only target for the gay movement a decade or so ago, we are now fighting for trans rights, with less momentum, I’d add. 

    But you should know that England’s National Health Service has just decided to halt new prescriptions for puberty blockers, determining that the scientific data is not conclusive and limiting blockers to exceptional cases. Anyone already taking puberty blockers is allowed to continue, and surprisingly, guess how many kids that includes? One hundred. I would have thought there were more, given the implication that blockers were being dispensed too casually. It also reminds us that, with all the craziness here and abroad, we’re talking about very small numbers of trans kids, and even fewer on medication.

    Meanwhile, The World Professional Association for Transgender Health, WPATH, is drawing fire from the right after some internal discussions between physicians and scientists and others were leaked to the press. In the leaked material, various transgender health practitioners express doubts and concerns about puberty blockers, although it’s not clear whether these concerns are widespread or specific to one or two patients. I haven’t read the report, but I note the usual suspects lining up to defend WPATH or pile on, depending on their side of the aisle. As far as I’m concerned, the whole affair adds another layer of gray haze to this complicated subject. Here, not even the transgender specialists are allowed to raise difficult issues surrounding trans youth treatment amongst themselves without being accused of hiding the risks and deliberately lying to parents, children, and the public. And again, everyone is forced into their tiny corners, when the solutions are to be found in the largest space. 

    To end on a sad note, Oklahoma transgender teenager Nix Benedict died by suicide, authorities announced. Nix had been in a fight in the school bathroom on February 7. He was treated at the ER, and seemed okay. But the next day he was found unresponsive in his room and he died at the hospital. The autopsy also showed significant injuries from the fight, which involved another transgender kid and some girls who had bullied both trans students. 

    It’s clear that whether or not the immediate cause of death was a fight or a lethal drug combination, the blame falls on the nasty anti-transgender rhetoric echoing throughout the Sooner State from the governor’s office to the mean girls in the hallways of Owasso High. Oklahoma, like its neighbor to the south, continues to lead the country in cruel politics.

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on March 21, 2024