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    Ann Rostow: Nordic Grey

    By Ann Rostow–

    Nordic Grey

    So, Norway is doing something with its policy on transgender youth, maybe. I don’t know. I read a translation of an article in Verdens Gang that seemed to say that four main regional health authorities urged the national health mucky mucks to reserve youth trans treatments, including puberty blockers and hormones, for experimental clinic-based services. It doesn’t seem like a major shift in national policy, but it does seem like a continuation of a relatively new Western European-wide caution towards transgender health for kids 18 and under.

    My best assessment is that, over the last year or so, the western bloc of Scandinavia, France, U.K., etc. has become less convinced that hormones and blockers are risk-free enough for widespread use or that medical experts can establish a clear-cut benefit. The growing consensus over there is that health professionals need to take a step back and proceed slowly enough to let the research catch up. Western Europe, in general, is not against trans treatment, and the issue is not politically charged in the same way as it is in our country. The discussion over there also seems much more based on scientific findings.

    Here, by contrast, we are living in a black and white country. Our adversaries on the far right believe transgender kids (and adults) are freaks. They are legislating bans on changing one’s driver’s license and birth certificates. They are trying to exclude transgender men and women from public restrooms. As for health care, they are enacting flat out laws against treating transgender minors, who are at their most vulnerable as they enter puberty. 

    Naturally, our side argues the exact opposite policies with matching ferocity. It’s easy to justify the civil rights case for respecting identity and use of the public square with full voice. However, we wind up defending transgender youth health care with the same passion, because it’s almost impossible not to do so in this political context. Imagine if we, the GLBT community and our allies, told lawmakers that, um, well, we probably need better research. Hmm, we might muse in public, maybe there are still unanswered questions—after all, transgender youth is a relatively new phenomenon. Let’s keep studying the issues while we maintain healthcare within sensible guidelines.

    Can you see our dilemma? There are no grey areas in their rhetoric. If we start shading our positions, the anti-trans and anti-gay and anti-immigrant and anti-female forces will grab the undefended territory and push us back from hard-earned ground. Europe has the luxury of nuance. We don’t. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to start a dialogue on youth health that transcends the political divide. How about a federal statute that sets interim standards, preempts state laws, and creates a bi-partisan trans youth health initiative to consolidate worldwide medical findings within two years? Not sure that’s constitutional, let alone doable.

    Sooner or Later

    The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights has opened an investigation into the death of a non-binary student in Oklahoma’s Owasso Public School District. The 16-year-old student, Nex Benedict, died the day after a fight in the bathroom. Nex was briefly knocked unconscious after the fight on February 7 and went to the hospital that day. They were rushed back to the hospital after collapsing on February 8, and died there. 

    The investigation was opened after a complaint from the Human Rights Campaign. Although the details of the fight were unclear, it looks as if Nex was on the receiving end of taunts and bullying throughout the school year. A preliminary autopsy released February 21 said Nex “did not die as a result of trauma,” which frankly sounds pretty suspicious considering they blacked out during the original incident. Sudden death a day or so following a head injury is not uncommon. Actually, I don’t know how common it is, but it’s not unheard of. One of my friends died that way, having brunch a week or so after an accident.

    The school district issued a statement on February 20, warning of “misinformation” in the press, which by then was awash with outrage from the GLBT community and allies. “We are reaching out to you today to address some of that misinformation,” the school wrote, “particularly statements that call into question the district’s commitment to student safety and security.” The letter, however, added nothing much to our understanding of what happened, telling us only that there was a brief fight, that everyone was checked by the medical staff, and that one student (presumably Nex) was advised to go get “further evaluation.” 

    According to The New York Times write up, Oklahoma bans students from using bathrooms or facilities that don’t match their birth gender, the state bans gender neutral markers on birth certificates, and, of course, Oklahoma allows no transition treatment for minors. Lawmakers are currently working on prohibiting changing gender on birth certificates or drivers’ licenses, and another measure to outlaw the use of names or pronouns that vary from whatever is actually printed on a person’s birth certificate. 

    Moby Dick

    And what else is new, you ask? Well, we are seeing some images of gay whales having sex off the coast of Maui, or as The New York Post headline put it: “Humpback whales caught enjoying gay sex romp in first documented photos of whale humping.” The frisky sea mammals “put the ‘hump’ in ‘humpback,” the Post quipped, before warning us that the less dominant whale appeared to be injured. It wasn’t clear whether this was an aggressive act by the stronger whale, or if the other one had perhaps been hurt in an earlier engagement. According to the Post, there was one previous report of gay whale sex that also involved an injured party, and that whale died shortly afterwards.

    A study about this was just released, which explains why the cetacean tryst (or sexual assault) from January 2022 has just now hit the press. But honestly, are you really surprised? We have already noticed gay and lesbian shenanigans among dolphins and between orcas. And who could forget the sad tale of the brother manatees in Sarasota, only one of whom survived their incestuous escapades? We won’t even start on penguins. 

    Maybe some of the red state legislatures should consider enacting some statutes to outlaw same-sex activity in the animal world. Why not?

    I Am Sam I Am

    I’d like to ignore the Supreme Court for one issue, if that’s possible. Um, it’s not! Why? Because Sam Alito once again trumpeted his hostility towards GLBT Americans in a gratuitous five-page comment after the Court declined to review a gay-related case. The case involved a lesbian workplace discrimination complaint out of the Missouri prison system, in which two prospective jurors were excused for cause during the voir dire (preliminary) questioning when they told lawyers they held conservative Christian beliefs. Although both individuals said their religious sentiments would not interfere with their judgment, the trial court judge allowed them to be removed over the objections of the state defendants. 

    If you watch as many crime shows as some of us do, you’ll know that both sides of a trial are allowed to strike a certain number of jurors for no reason at all. In this situation, the lawyers for the lesbian employee did not have to use their “free” quota, but argued successfully that the religious convictions of these individuals were automatically disqualifying. The state of Missouri appealed, insisting that the trial judge was mistaken and that barring the religious jurors constituted viewpoint discrimination.

    The High Court decided not to hear the case based on some technicality that I have not bothered to pin down. But Justice Alito could not help himself, remarking that the (pro-lesbian) lower court ruling “exemplifies the danger that I anticipated in Obergefell v. Hodges, namely, that Americans who do not hide their adherence to traditional religious beliefs about homosexual conduct will be ‘labeled as bigots and treated as such’ by the government.” 

    It’s infuriating. What if Americans “who do not hide their adherence to traditional religious views about patriarchy” were “labeled as sexist and treated as such by the government?” Newsflash. They are and rightly so. Sex discrimination in the workplace, in education, and elsewhere is against the law. A man who is asked his opinions for a sexual harassment jury and tells the court that his religion teaches him that women are subservient to men would be excused without question. What Alito is actually saying is that, unlike racism or sexism, disdain for gays and lesbians is an understandable and respected religious position, because he himself holds this view

    While we’re on the subject of Alito, it fell to Sam to block the horrendous U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which recently ruled that Texas could control troops along its Mexican border regardless of federal authority. A lower court had blocked Greg Abbot from his insane attempts to militarize Eagle Pass, Texas, on his own initiative, but the Fifth Circuit had unblocked that block, forcing the Biden Administration to ask the Supreme Court to intervene. Alito had little choice but to put an emergency stop to the Texas publicity stunt while the full Court decides what to do. One hopes they will put a permanent hold in place while ludicrous litigation ensues. You don’t need a law degree to recognize that the U.S. Government controls border policy and cannot be ordered about at gunpoint by state troopers. 

    Isn’t That Special?

    Here’s a familiar scenario, but one that we never tire of: the arch conservative “Christian” anti-gay nutcase who turns out—surprise!—to be sending shirtless photos of himself at the gym to numerous other guys. I thought, at first, I could lay this one at the door of the Catholic Church, but Michael Voris, who has been running a YouTube show and organization called Church Militant sounds like a lapsed Catholic. When I say “lapsed,” I don’t mean that he no longer adheres to church teaching; I mean that he thinks the Catholic Church is run by a secret cabal of gay men and that Pope Francis is, I don’t know, at the very least a major ally of the GLBT community. His website used to be called “Real Catholic TV,” but the Archdiocese of Detroit made him take the name of the church out of his production.

    Voris has been a MAGA supporter, winning praise from the likes of Steve Bannon, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Matt Schlapp (the head of the American Conservative Union who has been accused of hitting on a young man). Back in 2016, Voris admitted he had strayed on the wild side and had affairs with men, but not only did he renounce his sordid past, he also evolved into a super-homophobe, railing against gays and accusing everyone and his brother of various evildoings. 

    Then, last year, something happened. In November, Voris was forced to resign his post at Church Militant for a vague breach of the organization’s morality code. Church Militantwas forced to sell two buildings in December, and seems to be in financial hot water. The operation is also facing a defamation lawsuit from a priest in New Hampshire.

    Now, The Washington Post reports, we are learning that the aforementioned shirtless photos were accidentally scattered in with Church Militant records on its cloud storage account. Oops! 

    “On a Dropbox account typically reserved for matters such as the syllabus for an online class about the book of Ephesians,” the Post reports, “these new images stood out. Employees speculated that they had been uploaded unintentionally from Voris’ phone along with business documents meant for staff viewing.”

    It’s not clear what else may have been inadvertently Dropbox-ed into public view, but, suffice it to say, Mr. Voris’ colleagues and fellow board members were not amused. The company, which as recently as 2022 had 300,000 subscribers and $3.6 million in revenue, is now pressing its base for donations.

    “In its December fundraising email,” the Post tells us, “the board said that ‘the Evil One’ had taken a ‘huge bite’ out of the company.”

    “We would hate to lose this place to the Devil,” the fundraising email read. 

    I think that ship has sailed, don’t you?

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on March 7, 2024