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    Ann Rostow: Plus How Many?

    By Ann Rostow–

    Plus How Many?

    Andrew Sullivan just wrote an essay headlined “The Meaningless Incoherence of LGBTQ+,” a sentiment with which I somewhat agree. I wasn’t on board with his entire polemic, but that makes sense considering he’s a conservative libertarian and I’m a center left Democrat. For example, Sullivan notes that the individual components of LGBTQ+ have different characteristics and goals, if you will. That’s true, but the entire array also has a commonality that Sullivan ignores; we are all gender minorities, with the possible exception of “+” that is, indeed, totally meaningless. I’m not sure I’d call the rest of it “incoherent,” but it’s awkward and pompous. 

    The “Q” is already an all-encompassing term for, I don’t know, “gender non-conformist of undetermined nature,” or “non-straight person who doesn’t want to be labeled.” Fine, I guess. 

    The “B” is not necessary from a legal or political standpoint, because bisexual discrimination is only litigated or legislated in the case of a same-sex attraction or relationship, ergo a bisexual person is covered by “G” or “L” in these contexts. But what about other contexts, you ask? True, we can find people who are biased against bisexual people even when they are in opposite-sex pairings, but, well, we are all subject to social judgments, aren’t we? LGBTQ+, however, is a movement affiliation, theoretically designed to help us fight for civil rights as a coalition. That said, it feels like nitpicking to disparage the “Bs.” Many are in long-term same-sex marriages and don’t feel like calling themselves G, L, or Q. So, B joins the gang.

    As for T, here’s where Sullivan and I really diverge, because I believe our entire future as a group depends on fighting for the transgender community and waging a war on many fronts as stalwart allies. Sullivan seems to fear, among other things, that children who are destined to be gay or lesbian are instead misidentifying as transgender and receiving dangerous interventions. I guess you might find an example or two of this phenomenon, much as you can find an example or two of almost anything. But this is simply not a thing. How do I know? I don’t. All I can say is I have covered GLBT news at least twice a month for well over a quarter of a century and I think I’m in a position to notice trends and oddities in our community. I also try to keep my mind open to a lot of information that I may not like. But hey, I could be wrong. (My housemaid, Myrtille, just said that this is pas possible!) 

    Finally, Sullivan also notes that over half of LGBTQ+ people are bisexual, but that is to a large extent because kids these days like to identify as something other than straight. Also, it has become okay, or even chic, to be part of a minority group like ours. And finally, if anything this phenomenon cuts against the theory that all the gay kids are turning trans. Take out the Bs and Qs and the percentage of kids and/or adults identifying as L, G, or T remains fairly low.

    I wrote “finally” before that last paragraph because I could go on and on about this subject, but I think we’ve had enough. One last thing: I use “GLBT” because several years ago I just picked it. People were using this, that, and the other thing, adding letters and symbols right and left, so I made a command decision to use “GLBT.” 

    Now that it’s fallen into disuse, I feel a strange fondness for it. 

    T and Company

    Part of the reason I could have gone on and on about our first topic is that I did not enlarge on one of the main points. Why are transgender rights so central to the GLBT community, or why should they be? 

    Some of us remember the political debates of 20 years ago when “pragmatic” activists wanted to leave gender identity off our legislative agenda, figuring it would be easier to pass some useless piece of crap bill (description mine) if it only covered gay people or same-sex relationships. Update: it wasn’t easier, and we lost some integrity in the process.

    Then, gradually, transgender men and women were included in our civil rights battles and given more visibility and hope. It’s not surprising that their numbers increased and the issues of bathroom use, pronouns, and trans bias rose to the political surface. Then, as same-sex couples won the right to marry and seemed to settle into a victory formation, our adversaries began to target our transgender brothers and sisters.

    At first, we were reliable teammates. But when the going started getting tough, some of these gay and lesbian allies began drifting off to the sidelines. Oh, some transgender people aren’t gay! (So what? Some gay people go straight. Many bisexuals date the opposite sex.) And the questions are so complicated! Do pre-op transgender women belong on naked women’s beaches? (Not in my book.) What about bathrooms? (Of course, there are stalls.) What about locker rooms? (Yes. Stalls and private showers.) Do they belong at women’s festivals and events? (Of course.) Should trans women compete against cis women? (In major competitions? Only if they have had hormone replacement therapy.) But what about trans girls in middle school? (They should always be allowed to play games and sports at school for fun.)

    When should transgender kids get medical treatment? What kinds? Should the state dictate how parents make these decisions? Should the state dictate what doctors should believe, recommend, or offer? After all, the state can pass a law against conversion therapy, right? Nothing is clear cut.

    Why should gays and lesbians care about these questions? Because for decades we were despised for our gender presentations and for flouting the most important gender stereotype of all—the romantic and/or sexual attraction between the opposite sexes. Vive la difference still applied, but the difference was always in our separate natures, not our genders. 

    We were condemned to charades of “normal” behavior: Fake marriages, fake boyfriends, and fake girlfriends, living in the closet, sneaking around in parks and underground bars. Our relationships were against the law. We were called perverts, degenerates, fired at will, hated. So now, when the full force of society’s rage against gender bending is focused on transgender men and women instead of us, is this really a good time to turn our backs and make superficial distinctions between trans people and gay people? The arc of history is long, and it’s not bending for the transgender community right now, but it will bend faster if we help, along with our straight allies. 

    Waiting for Myrtille

    I’m not sure how I got going on these serious topics. I’m not stoned, and it’s not late at night. In fact, it’s midday and Myrtille has just gone to fetch me a salade folle and a glass of Pouilly-Fumé.

    Meanwhile, I just checked and I have a lot of important stories on my list. The Ninth Circuit has shut down yet another one of Idaho’s anti-trans laws as litigation continues. Russia has charged one woman with violating the new ban on GLBT “extremism” by posting a rainbow on social media. She possibly faces a couple of weeks behind bars for this, while some other people have also been nailed for this type of offense. 

    Florida’s DMV has unilaterally barred revised gender markers on drivers’ licenses, which means that a trans-man could have a full beard on his ID photo, and an “F” under gender. Which serves what purpose exactly? Just a little gratuitous humiliation, thank you very much. And the Ohio state legislature has overridden the governor’s veto and restored a ban on hormone treatment and other therapies for transgender youth.

    Instead of developing these stories, I bring you the birth of a new gay men’s yodeling club, the Jodlerklub Mannertreu, founded by Franz Markus Stadelmann, whom I read is “well known in the yodeling scene.” I’ve also learned that the yodeling scene is conservative, so a gay men’s group is a daring step forward. All men are welcome, gay or straight, but Stadelmann predicts that the closeted guys will avoid the club. Stadelmann and the handful of men who have joined him in this venture have designed a rainbow coaster that reads, “Where Gays Jodeln,” with the last word in rainbow colors. Just don’t try using that in Russia, guys!

    Bless Your Heart

    I was checking out some of the latest words of warning from Million Moms, one of my favorite sources of information, as you all know. I was going to skip the diatribe against the Pandora jewelry company that “blatantly throws homosexuality in the viewer’s face with the lesbian couple’s intimate embrace.” I also had planned to ignore a rant about TurboTax, which “should be ashamed of attempting to normalize sin in their 2024 commercial ‘Boater Home,’ which features a gay couple buying a houseboat.”

    But I was so intrigued by the Moms’ abject fear of a new Amazon Prime adult cartoon called Hazbin Hotel, a show about a rehab center in hell that aims to fix up souls and get them accepted into heaven, that I put them back on my list. The star of the show, which includes musical numbers, is Satan’s daughter, Charlie Morningstar, who has come up with the idea for the hotel after watching angels from heaven regularly descend and destroy souls in hell, or something like that.

    “Urgent warning for parents,” the Moms begin! “Amazon Prime has taken a dangerous step into the darkness with its new animated series Hazbin Hotel … . This wicked cartoon portrays Lucifer (Satan) and demons as the ‘heroes’ and angels (elders) in heaven as the ‘bad guys.’”

    I immediately turned it on and got pretty bored within five minutes. I was unhappy because it didn’t seem to provide much fodder for an amusing write-up. In fact, I was ready to point out that no one is forcing anyone to watch a subscription-only streaming service and then trash the show for being tiresome. But before I started, however, I did some further research and learned that all kinds of people, including a New York Times reviewer, consider this show a big deal, full of flair and creativity. New York Times! Well, that clarifies things!

    Am I really the sort of person who changes their mind about a presentation based entirely on critical reviews from others? The question is unavoidable, and it appears the answer is yes. Well, I haven’t changed exactly. I’ve just recognized that my verdict of “tiresome” might have been a little hasty, and that other viewers who have put some effort into their analysis might be better positioned to opine on the value of this show.

    And meanwhile, there are the Moms!

    “We must put a stop to this series because Amazon Prime is introducing viewers—especially children who might stumble across this series—to a world of demonic content and imagery.” How exactly are kids going to stumble upon Amazon Prime shows? If indeed they are allowed to watch whatever they like on streaming services, they are going to find far more alarming viewing choices than Hazbin Hotel.

    “The show makes light of Satan, hell, and the dangers of the demonic realm,” Moms continue. “2 Corinthians 11:14 (ESV) tells us that Satan ‘disguises himself as an angel of light,’ but remember the apostle’s instruction in 1 Peter 5:8— “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Ruh roh!

    Before I go, did you see The Washington Post article about the little mouse in Wales that comes out every night and tidies up the area on his friend’s worktable? And there was another mouse story I saw—a mouse that lived in someone’s car and was caught on camera after the car’s owner set up a surveillance system to check it out. Personally, I think mice are adorable. 

    I’m just killing time now because it’s been nearly an hour and there’s no sign of my lunch. Oh, my wife just said Myrtille isn’t around and suggested leftover Thai food and iced coffee. How very disappointing.

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on February 8, 2024