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    Ann Rostow Life Is Short

    By Ann Rostow–

    Life Is Short

    I just re-read my previous column, which I always do before I get started in order to make sure that I don’t repeat myself, but now I’m depressed and not in the mood to think about GLBT news, let alone write about it. Oh my God, what a dismal series of stories. And you can add my latest news gathering to the list: Court cases lost. Books banned. Progressive teachers fired. Lawmakers targeting us. Make it stop!

    I also checked out a different recent column I wrote, which ended with a discussion of how fruit flies who have encountered a dead fruit fly don’t live as long as their non-traumatized peers. I found that strangely sad, mainly because it implies that fruit flies have some kind of sensibility

    I mean, if mindless instinct were at work, why wouldn’t the ones who met dead flies be extra cautious in the future and live longer? It’s as if they lose their positive energy; they get a little depressed; they can’t cope with life as well as they did before. I recall with chagrin that I have deliberately killed large numbers of them at times by trapping them in a little orange juice and pouring them down the sink although at least other flies will likely have avoided those corpses. The whole thing reminds me of a Star Trek episode where the crew discovers that the strange particles in the nebula are actually sentient beings after one of the particles takes over Counselor Troi’s body and tells them to “stop killing us” in a low baritone. Maybe I made that one up.

    Also, how would the researchers have come up with this hypothesis, and how did they test it? Did they stack up some dead fruit flies and monitor the cohort that came across their remains? Those boffins! What will they come up with next? I am struck as I write about this, by the thought of my favorite New Yorker cartoon that I may have told you about at some point. I have it taped to the inside of my pantry door.

    It shows two mayflies flying away while two other mayflies wave goodbye to them from a rock in the distance. The caption reads: 

    “We’re only alive for one day, and you had to schedule dinner with the Hamiltons.”

    Keep Going

    So, continuing the fun mood, I was driving down the street yesterday and went right past a sweet looking tabby cat in the middle of the road, looking as if it had died in pain. I returned home via a lengthy detour in order to avoid the scene and frankly, I feel as if my life has been slightly shortened by this grim experience. When I’m in a pessimistic mood, I have yet another favorite New Yorker cartoon that springs to mind. It shows a car driving on a long empty road that seems never ending. A single sign on the side of the road reads: “Go.” 

    We don’t really have a choice, do we?

    I suppose that I have a few upbeat episodes to tell you about this week. Over in San Diego, two conservative citizens checked out all the GLBT books in a local library branch and sent an email to the librarian announcing that the books would not be returned until the facility removed its June gay pride display, calling the books “inappropriate content.” 

    After The Union Tribune wrote an article about the incident, librarian Adrianne Peterson started receiving Amazon boxes filled with GLBT books, financed by over 180 local readers. The readers contributed about $15,000 towards replacements, a sum which was matched by another $15,000 in city funds, all of which will go towards GLBT materials and events, including drag queen story hours. 

    According to The New York Times, the two antigay residents, Amy M. Vance and Martha Martin, have not responded to any of the hoopla. Interestingly, the Times reports that Vance and Martin appear to have copied their email from a template provided by an Indiana-based group called CatholicVote that is running a campaign against gay visibility called “Hide the Pride.” Even more interestingly, it seems as if Vance and Martin recently returned the books, perhaps in fear that their mean-spirited antics might come back to bite them.

    Foreign Affairs

    I should be covering the same-sex kiss by members of The 1975, a British band I’ve never heard of who performed at a music festival in Malaysia and got kicked out of the country in punishment for the public display. The Good Vibes festival was canceled, as was The 1975’s tour of Indonesia and Taiwan. I guess I just did cover the story, but I’m always embarrassed by never having heard of apparently famous musicians and actors. That said, many people under 40 have never heard of historical figures and politicians who are household names to their elders, so it all evens out.

    Over in Jamaica, the right-wing country is refusing to grant accreditation to the husband of an unnamed American diplomat who is about to be posted to the island. I’m a bit mystified by the secrecy here. Who is this diplomat? Is it a would-be ambassador? What exactly does “accreditation” mean? Will the husband get a residency permit for his time in the embassy? Why is this in the news when we don’t even know if the two men have been given the job and who they might be? 

    I guess the U.S. has twice asked Jamaica to confirm that the men will be well-treated, given that the country outlaws gay sex and, of course, does not recognize gay marriages. At first, Jamaica didn’t reply, but after the second letter, they reportedly said no. After that, it seems in retaliation for the snub, the State Department declined to renew the visas for three Jamaican diplomats, including Jamaica’s ambassador to the US, Audrey Marks, and Consul General Oliver Mair, who is based in Miami. All three will have to return to Jamaica shortly. 

    If I were more professional, I’d give you citations for the above information, but I’ve run though a dozen articles looking for details and I don’t want to backtrack in order to tell you the names of these news sites. All in all, I’m pleased that Biden and company didn’t let this slide. 

    Finally, my eyes glazed over a report out of Botswana until I realized that the African nation had actually done something positive (sort of) striking down jail sentences for gay sex in a bill that was mandated by a 2019 high court ruling. I say sort of because, yes, it’s a positive step, but it’s also a positive step to stop beating your wife. At any rate, I was surprised because most, if not all, of the African news that comes across my proverbial desk is negative, including the antigay bills out of Ghana and Uganda. The conservative populace rose up against the bill, with one protestor calling it an “abomination” and “a sin.” Botswana, this person added, “is a Christian country.” I’m sure.

    Alito Is the Worst

    I missed a noteworthy Supreme Court story last week, to wit the decision to let stand a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in favor a transgender prisoner, Keesha Williams. Williams was housed for six months at a D.C.-area facility where she was initially placed with women, but quickly sent over to the men’s side. Although she had been on hormone therapy for 15 years, she had never had surgery, and the prison authorities based their decision on that fact. Further, her medications were withheld for a week.

    Williams sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which excludes “gender identity disorder” but makes no mention of “gender dysphoria,” a term that was not in use when the ADA was enacted in 1990. The split Fourth Circuit panel ruled that, unlike gender identity disorder, gender dysphoria describes a physical and/or emotional disability that falls under the ADA. Williams’ case was sent back to the lower court for continuing litigation, and the prison asked the High Court to intervene. On June 30, the justices declined to take the case, triggering a nine-page dissent from Sam Alito, joined by his likeminded buddy Clarence Thomas.

    And here’s what struck me about Alito’s objection. The decision to let the Williams decision stand, he wrote, “will raise a host of important and sensitive questions regarding such matters as participation in women’s and girls’ sports, access to single-sex restrooms and housing, the use of traditional pronouns, and the administration of sex reassignment therapy (both the performance of surgery and the administration of hormones) by physicians and at hospitals that object to such treatment on religious or moral grounds.” 

    Let’s pause and think about that. I just reread the Fourth Circuit’s opinion (okay, I re-skimmed the 35-page majority) and can confirm that the legal rationale consisted of page after page considering the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the distinctions between gender identity disorder and gender dysphoria. By contrast, the “sensitive questions” that Alito mentions have nothing to do with the ADA. Women’s sports raises questions about Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination in public education; same with single sex bathrooms, which might also give rise to Equal Protection claims. Hospital care might, let’s say, involve analysis of Obama care’s rules against trans discrimination. The use of pronouns might raise Free Speech issues. 

    Basically, Alito reveals that, in his view, all transgender cases rely, not on any serious legal analysis, but on the answer to a simple question: is it okay to be transgender? 

    “In short,” he continues, “the Fourth Circuit’s ruling leaves a great many people and institutions under the looming threat of liability, forcing them to change their behavior—behavior that may be deeply rooted in moral or religious principles—or face an unending stream of lawsuits. If it is at least possible that the ADA does not require these results, we should be willing to resolve the question now rather than later.” 

    Again, the ADA is a feature of the Williams lawsuit, but it’s not the main legal thrust of the challenges facing the trans community. Nor would it have an impact on “a great many people and institutions,” nor as we said does it have anything to do with sports, bathrooms, or pronouns. But Alito is reaching out to a subset of citizens like himself who dislike transgendered people based not on “deeply rooted … moral or religious principles” but based on “deeply rooted” old fashioned hostility towards people they don’t like or understand. It’s the same hostility that served as the foundation for Jim Crow and segregation, and it doesn’t deserve to be championed by justices of the Supreme Court or anyone else.

    For the record, Williams was convicted of scamming investors out of $4.5 million and using the money for extravagant vacations, so she did benefit from a couple of years of the high life before her consignment to the unpleasant slammer. Not that this has anything to do with the groundbreaking ADA ruling from the Fourth Circuit. 

    Save the Gay Bunnies!

    I managed to descend into the bleak world of Sam Alito and company despite myself, and I am almost at the end of my column. The Seventh Circuit issued another irritating ruling, opining that a lesbian guidance counselor at a Catholic school could be legally fired under the “ministerial exception” that allows churchy groups to avoid the requirements of Title VII’s ban on workplace discrimination. They are two for two on this issue.

    On the other hand, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that an unmarried partner can continue her legal fight for custody of the son she helped raise with her ex. The court ruled that the two women would have married, but for the unconstitutional restrictions on same-sex marriage during their relationship. As such, the partner has the right to pursue a relationship with the boy regardless of the fact that the other partner gave birth. We used to see tons of these cases back in the day, remember?

    And the powers that be in Wilton Manors, Florida, have threatened to exterminate about a hundred domestic bunnies, now wild and causing havoc in gardens throughout the gay township. Wilton Manors is super gay, or at least it used to be, which is why we like to cover all the Wilton Manors news that’s fit to print. But really, guys? 

    The bunnies, which sound like a designer breed of some sort, came from someone who had some and I don’t know, let some escape? I didn’t follow the details. I just know that we can’t allow these village elders to dull our joyful community spirit through soulless bureaucratic pragmatism.

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on July 27, 2023