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    Ann Rostow: Dog Days

    By Ann Rostow–

    Dog Days

    Apropos of nothing, are we headed for successive generations named for letters of the alphabet? The “Greatest Generation” fought a world war to earn their moniker. Then came the “Silent Generation,” not a name I’d like for my cohort, and the “Baby Boomers,” of course, long the power players and now the senior set. Then, “GenX,” which had a certain ambiguous je ne said quoi. “Millennials” sounded cool, but then, mysteriously, we skipped right over to “GenZ,” and now it appears that we are moving on to “Gen Alpha,” to be followed by “Gen Beta,” “Gen Gamma,” and on through the list. I don’t know about you, but I’d be annoyed if I grew up to learn that I was part of some nondescript “Gen Beta.” Who decides these things? 

    The Canicula is upon us, when the heat index soars and the news streams run dry. It’s not as if we have nothing to discuss, but must we delve into the grotesque policies out of Italy, where lesbian wives are being stripped off their non-biological children’s birth certificates? Do we have to report on the latest anti-GLBT law out of Russia that, according to the Associated Press, bans “medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person,” as well as changing one’s gender in official documents and public records, transgender marriages, transgender foster parents, and transgender adoptive parents?

    We have seen draconian laws out of Russia eventually make their way over to the post-Trump United States, so when once I would have shrugged this off as an isolated Putin-esque outrage, now I see it as a precursor to something dreamed up by the Florida legislature. But it’s August. Can’t we talk about something else?

    Did you read about “Toco,” the guy from Tokyo who spent the yen equivalent of $14,000 to obtain a realistic custom-made costume that allows him to pretend to be a collie? He’s on YouTube, where lots of people can watch him waddle down the street on all fours, or eat from his kibble bowl. The man claims he has always wanted to be a dog, and now his dream has come true.

    He seems to operate in anonymity, telling The Mirror that he doesn’t tell friends about this project “because I am afraid they will think I am weird.” Speaking to The Daily Mail, he said his work colleagues are also in the dark. “I don’t want my hobbies to be known, especially by the people I work with. They think it’s weird that I want to be a dog. For the same reason why I can’t show my real face.”

    Um, yeah, buddy. I hate to say it, but you are a little weird. Sadly, I imagine it’s just a matter of time before some rightwing state rep brings this man up as an exemplar of our inclusive and multi-lettered community, perhaps insinuating that many of the rest of us also indulge in jarring peculiarities on the down low. I know. He’s not harming anyone. But there’s nothing gay or trans about him and I don’t want distractions like collie guy upending our fraught politics.  

    And Another Thing

    I also have a New York Post article, headlined: “Man electrocuted with ping pong ball up butt during botched masturbation,” but I’m not sure I have the energy to dig into this rabbit hole. He was from the Czech Republic, and since his elaborate death was described in a medical journal, I’m assuming this is not breaking news. According to the Post, the 30-year-old’s “unorthodox self-stimulation methods involved body wrapping, cross-dressing, anal masochism, self-fetishism, and lower abdomen stimulation with an electric mechanical massage device.” Talk about the kitchen sink! Are a few orgasms really worth that kind of effort? And the ping pong ball? It’s not as if I deliberately look up stories like this. It’s just that when I see them, I can’t resist clicking further.

    Oh, but while we’re on bizarre anecdotes, there was a really good one from a few weeks ago, when South Carolina Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace told an audience at Tim Scott’s prayer breakfast that she had to skip having sex with her fiancé in order to make the event on time. 

    “When I woke up this morning at seven,” she explained from the podium, “Patrick, my fiancé, tried to pull me by my waist over this morning in bed and I was like ‘no, baby, we don’t got time for that this morning, I’ve gotta get to the prayer breakfast.’” Nancy? TMI, girl! None of us can get that image out of our heads now, and I’m speaking not just for myself, but for the conservative crowd at the prayer breakfast. What possessed her to describe such an intimate moment in a public setting? She might as well have brought Patrick to the stage for an impromptu make-out session.

    House Opens Floodgates in Must-Pass Spending Bills

    Moving right along, the Human Rights Campaign has identified 45 anti-LGBT provisions embedded in all twelve of the appropriations bills that combine to fund the government. The House is supposed to pass final versions of these bills and send them to the Senate in the next several months in order to avoid a government shutdown. HRC’s July 26 report says our community has never been the target of so many legislative attacks in the history of the appropriations process. This combines with a number of stand-alone anti-GLBT proposals coming out of the House, and the record volume of anti-gay and anti-trans bills enacted in state legislatures, where some 575 attack bills were proposed and an astonishing 80 became law. 

    As an aside, I confess that I started to ignore state legislature news about a decade or so ago, simply because the states frequently tossed up some insane anti-gay proposals that were eventually shelved in committee or quietly scuttled by centrist leaders. Scare headlines would announce something like: “SB 67 passes house committee in Alabama. Will outlaw gay and lesbian public school teachers!” But nothing would come of it, or any of the other outrageous notions circulating around the country. 

    That was then and this is now, however. Measures that would have had no chance, or would have drawn national boycotts back in the day, are reaching the governors’ desks with ease. Even when a Democratic governor vetoes a bill, it is often overridden by GOP majorities in the legislatures. You know this, of course. 

    Now we are faced with these spending bills—omnibus authorizations that must pass Congress. All 12 are tied to different areas of government; agriculture, military, transportation, and so forth. And every one of them has two or more anti-GLBT riders, banning everything from drag shows on military bases, to transgender health care or raising a rainbow flag on a public pole.

    You may remember a few weeks back that several GLBT community centers were defunded under one of these measures, an attack that seemed to epitomize the pettiness of the anti-woke brigade. Apparently, however, those were just the tip of the iceberg. Seven of the bills include bans on money associated with transgender health care, some youth-based but others with no age limitation. All but one of the bills purports to “protect” those who disapprove of same-sex marriage against anti-discrimination laws that might stand in the way of their hostility. Two of them would bar colleges from taking action against religious clubs that might want to exclude GLBT members. Two spending bills include bans on drag shows, while seven restrict military and others from flying anything but the American flag, along with several exceptions that do not include rainbows. A couple of others block funding that would implement the enforcement of GLBT-friendly policies, and all but the transportation bill cut funds for advancing diversity and inclusion.

    HRC’s 25-page report goes on to include the language of each these provisions, but I didn’t have the stomach for that level of detail. I’m no expert, but I do remember “I’m Just a Bill” from Schoolhouse Rock, so I suppose some of these can be excised in the Senate, and better versions of these bills will be returned to the crazy House members who have pledged intransigence at every turn. 

    Our national credit rating was just downgraded as a result of the games played over the debt limit. What will happen if we can’t keep the government running for weeks or months this fall or winter? And how many of these anti-GLBT measures will survive the messy process and become entrenched in American law?

    Oklahoma, Not Okay!

    That rundown of Bad Things in The Appropriations Bills was just the sort of news I was hoping to sidestep this week, but in the end, it was unavoidable. Sorry I had to put you through it. 

    I was reading a number of other story possibilities and stumbled onto one heartwarming tale of a small town in Oklahoma that held a successful Pride festival with the help of a group called Rural Oklahoma Pride. The local press put the event in context, noting that the Oklahoma legislature filed at least 40 anti-GLBT bills in the last session. I then noticed some of the other news links at the bottom of the page; “Nearly half of Oklahoma’s rural hospitals are at risk of closing down,” and, “Experts say money alone can’t solve mental health access issues in Oklahoma’s rural jails.” Another story discussed a shortage of rural doctors, reporting that “the majority of counties are designated as Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.”  

    I had to wonder how much time the Sooner lawmakers spent deliberating on some of these statewide issues, and what they did about any of it while they were busy passing a law against transgender youth health care (which they did last April) or while the Governor was composing an executive order mandating two genders. A good newshound might find the record of the previous session to get a sense of the answer. But I wouldn’t put myself in that category. Remember, it’s August.

    Non Sequiturs

    Finally, a professional gay dancer was brutally murdered on July 29 while dancing to Beyoncé at a gas station in the Bronx. O’Shae Sibley, 28, was voguing with his friends after a day at the beach, and drew the attention of some violent young men, who told the group to stop dancing and called them homophobic names. One of the men, a 17-year-old who is now in custody, then stabbed Sibley to death. According to The New York Times, some 80 people joined a vigil at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village on August 3, while a memorial was planned for August 5.

    In Texas, the ACLU has filed suit on behalf of several GLBT groups and businesses, as well as a drag performer, in a challenge to an anti-drag law set to go into effect September 1. The bill, like many others, does not mention “drag,” but nonetheless bans the “exhibition or representation, actual or simulated, of male or female genitals in a lewd state” as well as “the exhibition of sexual gesticulations using accessories or prosthetics that exaggerate male or female sexual characteristics” on public property or in front of anyone under 18. It effectively outlaws cross dressing and drag performances in most venues. We’ll see. So far, our court cases against these sorts of cleverly worded drag bans have been successful.

    And sadly, a manatee has died after having rough sex with his brother at an aquarium in Sarasota. I know. I too thought the gentle sea cow had little to fear beyond speedboat propellors, but it appears that kinky antics are not limited to Czech men with ping pong balls. Hugh, the 38-year-old manatee, suffered a fatal 14-centimeter tear in his colon after his incestuous tryst with brother Buffett. His keepers attempted to separate the pair with “high value treats,” but it seems the damage was done. 

    Like you, I also thought 38 was kind of old for a manatee, but I see that the creatures live up to 60 years in captivity. Still, I think Hugh and Buffett were too old for these shenanigans and should have known better. Personally, I would have taken the high value treats.

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on August 11, 2023