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    Ann Rostow: Pet Peeve

    By Ann Rostow–

    Pet Peeve

    Before we start, may I just say that I object to advertisers who manufacture an imaginary dilemma for them to solve and then pat themselves on the back as if they’re special. The credit card that never makes you pay for unauthorized charges. The insurance company that lets you choose your level of coverage. And the latest, the vacation rental business that guarantees you won’t have the owner staying in the rental during your holiday. 

    Let’s be clear. All credit cards protect you against unauthorized use. Every insurance company lets you decide how much coverage you want subject to state minimums. And the owners of vacation rentals never join you while you’re renting their place. 

    What next? Grocery stores bragging that they let you select the items you want to buy? Banks that let you make withdrawals? Soft drink companies that feature easy-to-open cans and bottles? I’ve had it, I tell you! But I digress.

    We have much to discuss this week, but let’s start with Matt Heinz, a gay councilman on the Pima County (Arizona) Board of Supervisors. Heinz was on a Zoom call the other day, and a friend appeared in the background wearing a teeny Speedo and awkwardly putting on a tank top. They were on a cruise.

    After a bit of a flap about this in the press, our hero told The Advocate: “ … Leave my friend alone. He was in a swimsuit. He accidentally walked into the frame for like not even three seconds, was not naked, is clearly an adult, and is not a sex worker—not that there’s anything wrong with that—but it’s just been a really strange reaction.” 

    Hey, I saw the video. It was pretty funny. And yes, Matt, a straight councilman, would have gotten the exact same reaction if a woman appeared in a bikini “for three seconds” in the middle of a work Zoom call. It’s no big deal. But the hoopla would be expected for any public servant, gay or straight. And it still doesn’t hold a candle to the befuddled, tech-challenged senior citizen lawyer who appeared in court via Zoom looking like a kitty cat after his granddaughter reset the graphics on his laptop. 

    Georgia on My Mind

    Over in Port Wentworth, Georgia, which I think is near Savanah, a 19-year-old police officer has resigned after he was scolded for condemning same-sex marriage on Facebook. Readers, I’ll tell you what I thought of this story. Quite aside from whatever he posted on Facebook, how the hell does a teenager get to carry a gun and a badge and swagger around town in uniform? I guess I don’t know that he swaggered, but come on! The kid is nineteen. Oh, and he’s been a cop for a year, so you do the math.

    According to press reports, a few weeks ago Jacob Kersey told his Facebook friends: “Marriage refers to Christ and the church. That’s why there’s no such thing as homosexual marriage.” He was put on administrative leave, and told that his post suggested he might have problems dealing with the public in an unbiased manner. The guy quit and it sounds as if he’s considering a lawsuit.

    Meanwhile, the Chief of Police, Matthew Libby, retired after three decades of service in a two-sentence letter dated January 31, effective February 1. It’s not clear that his abrupt departure was related to the Kersey incident, which I read had drawn “national news coverage.” But a) it seems likely that there’s a connection, and b) I did see the story, but I didn’t notice massive press coverage, and after all, I was searching for stories just like this one. It’s a mystery!

    Since we’re in Georgia, I stumbled over a horrifying piece in The New York Post about two gay Georgia “fathers” who used their young sons for sex and farmed them out to depraved friends. William Dale Zulock, 33, and Zachary Jacoby Zulock, 35, have been charged with molestation, and I include this news because my first instinct was to skip right on to the next article, where I would hopefully encounter brave gay teachers, hapless victims of discrimination, and valiant activists. 

    I’m not sure I have a duty to my readership to include the bad actors in our recap of community news, but it was such a grotesque example of the worst and most false stereotypes that the far right can imagine, and when such behavior actually occurs, it makes our lives that much harder to defend in the conservative arena. Never mind the fact that, for every gay pedophile, we can find a dozen straight ones; it still must be witnessed.

    Adding insult to this profound and permanent injury, these guys had also paraded themselves in the gay press with photos of their adorable sons, all wearing pride gear and presenting themselves as paragons of queer parenthood. Throw away the key.

    It Was the Worst of Times, Period

    I have a lot of state legislative news as usual these days. And you can guess the general direction of our coverage. Don’t Say Gay bills looming in Wyoming, Iowa, and Missouri, to name three; bans on drag shows in Arkansas and Oklahoma; no gender treatment in Utah under a bill that has just been signed by the governor. While similar laws have been passed in Florida and Oklahoma, the same bills are in pending court challenges in Alabama and Arkansas and 20 other states are considering their own attacks on transgender health care.

    Gone are the days when I could overlook the vast number of anti-GLBT state legislative proposals on the grounds that these fringe bills never got out of committee, or if they did, they’d be killed or shelved. Gone are the days when it seemed states feared retaliation from corporations or voters for their harshest policies. 

    Remember Indiana? Mike Pence saw his star (temporarily) fade in 2015 after signing a controversial bill that would have allowed Christian businesses to reject GLBT clients. That bill was modified after a massive reaction by the press, the business community, and citizens. 

    Then there was the boycott of North Carolina after the Tobacco State passed a bill denying transgender citizens the right to use bathroom facilities. Other states took a hard look and shied away from similar measures, and indeed, North Carolina was eventually forced to revise its stance. But these days, it feels as if both these bills would sail into law without controversy or boycotts.

    In California, of course, lawmakers decided to ban state-sponsored travel to places where anti-GLBT discrimination was threatened or enshrined. But now, after six years, the state has been forced to place almost half the states on its No-Go list. State funded colleges have raised other funds in order to participate in sports, while academics have looked for grants or private cash to finance their various conferences and meetings. 

    To be honest, I’m not sure that the law, AB 1887, doesn’t do more harm than good. In principle, unwelcoming states would think twice about trashing GLBT citizens thanks to the policy. But does anyone really care whether or not a bunch of water treatment experts from Sacramento attend the national conference of water treatment experts in New Orleans? I kind of doubt it. Meanwhile, it’s creating a headache for teams and others on the public payroll who need to travel. 

    Do you know what really made a difference in the aforementioned North Carolina boycott? It was the NCAA prohibiting the state from hosting championship games. After that, the legislature repealed the bathroom bill, and the college sports authorities dropped that ban. You can bet the NCAA’s move did not go unnoticed either by the legislature or the voters. 

    And, of course, here’s the main thing. Most voters do not care about drag shows, transgender kids, whether or not a teacher mentions a same-sex relationship, or even what bathrooms are used by which students. Some do, and they are not only the most vocal, but also the ones most likely to participate and fund GOP primary elections. These political maneuvers are all for their benefit, and for the national press attention that rewards their champions.

    But just as the majority doesn’t particularly want to punish our community, nor do they have the energy to go to bat for us. Yet we can no longer drum up the corporate will or the power of the NCAA to hammer a bad red state, because dozens of states are simultaneously on the attack. We must fight our own battles, in courts and in the press, until perhaps the far right goes too far and the nation’s indifference cracks. 

    I think I’ll stop there, because I could go on and on and I know you don’t want that. 

    You Go, Girl!

    Here’s a thing. Psychologists at the University of Sydney have published a paper showing that both gay and straight men think straight-acting men are better suited to leadership roles. The boffins showed the group of 256 men a bunch of potential spokesmen for tourism in Sydney, and asked them to pick the most convincing candidates. Most of the guys picked the most masculine prospects, indicating to researcher Ben Gerard that feminine mannerisms are “considered too soft or not authoritative enough.” 

    The strongest preferences were shown by straight men with “homonegativity” and gay men with misogynistic tendencies. 

    Gerard was “disappointed” in the implications of his study. “Gay men are potentially blocking each other from positions of power and leadership due to this implicit bias,” he was quoted on some medical news website. “Men are still expected to conform to more traditional masculine styles of leadership, and if they fail to sufficiently project masculine traits, they are at risk of status penalties. This is an example of internalized homophobia among the gay community and it impacts opportunities for these gay men.”

    Please spare us, Ben. There are some of us out here, we’re called “women,” who don’t need a study to recognize that feminine and female qualities are undervalued by those who would select future leaders. This is not a case of “internalized homophobia among the gay community.” It’s a pervasive social phenomenon, applied to effeminate men as well as women of all stripes. 

    As for the discovery that anti-gay straight men don’t like feminine gays … really? Oh, now that’s interesting. What else have you deduced recently? Gay men who smoke are less likely to win the Tour de France? Straight men are more likely to forget their wives’ birthdays? That Ph.D. won’t be long in coming.

    Florida Man

    I was going to tell you about the gay woman, Gigi Sohn, who has been long blocked by Republicans from being confirmed as the fifth member of the FCC commission. This is one of those commissions that is split between Republicans and Democrats with the deciding fifth vote nominated by whomever is in office. Trump enjoyed a 3–2 GOP majority, but Biden has been stuck at 2–2 as various people have complained about the well-qualified candidate, Sohn. 

    I say I was going to tell you about this struggle because I don’t feel like reviewing the pros and cons of internet censorship and regulation that underpin the Sohn debate. I often find myself short of a certain type of concentrated mental energy at the end of my column, and today is no exception.

    But here’s a final tidbit that is about my speed. Ron DeSanctimonious (thanks Trump!) has filed an administrative complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation for hosting a “Drag Queen Christmas” performance last December in violation of some law that prohibits allowing minors in the audience of a sexually explicit show. The raunchy musical revue served alcohol, although presumably not to kids, and did not have a minimum age limit, based on the notion that parents can decide what their kids can experience.

    According to the complaint, the show displayed prosthetic breasts and genitalia, running afoul of regulations, which reminded me of the time my parents took me to a performance of Lysistrata, Aristophanes’ comedy about women who held a sex boycott to keep their men from war. All the men had ludicrous erections, or “prosthetic genitalia,” which I suppose would be against the law in Florida at present. I think I was 12 or 13 at the time, and although the hard-ons didn’t bother me, I recall being pretty annoyed at having to spend several hours watching a boring Greek play. 

    I don’t think it did me any harm, but you never know. Maybe I would have become an evangelical Christian homemaker had my parents not been so irresponsible.

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on February 9, 2023