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    Ann Rostow: Real Irritating

    By Ann Rostow–

    Real Irritating

    I’ve never been a fan of Bill Maher. I suppose I generally agree with his politics, but he’s so smug, so full of himself, and so unnecessarily disdainful of other people. Now, I believe he’s in trouble with our side, not just for saying the rise in Americans identifying as GLBT in a recent Gallup poll is at least partly because it’s becoming cool, but mainly for implying that it’s reasonable to be alarmed at our increasing popularity. 

    “Yes, part of the rise in LGBT numbers is from people feeling free enough to tell it to a pollster and that’s all to the good, but some of it is—it’s trendy,” Maher said, adding: “If you attend a small dinner party of typically very liberal, upper-income (Los) Angelenos, it is not uncommon to hear parents who each have a trans kid having a conversation about that. What are the odds of that happening in Youngstown, Ohio?” 

    We get it, Mr. Obvious. Liberal, upper-class Californians are generally more GLBT friendly than red state rural types. I can even acknowledge that it will take many Americans some time to get used to an increase in GLBT visibility, particularly trans visibility. And older generations may fear a slippery slope. What if the rates of GLBT people never stop rising? We’ll soon be a nation of exclusively gay and trans people! 

    There’s no question that the younger generations are trying on identities at an earlier age, in many cases just because it’s cool or trendy. That’s what kids do. And I assume when all is said and done, we’ll find that more people also wind up GLBT once they reach adulthood, simply because there is more understanding and less discrimination throughout society than we’ve had in years past. But unless you dislike gay and trans people, this is not a problem. 

    “If this spike in trans children is all biological,” Maher asked pompously in a recent tweet, “why is it regional? Either Ohio is shaming them or California is creating them.” 

    No one said it was “all biological.” More importantly, what’s your point, Bill?  

    Brick Walls

    Maher’s self-satisfied contrarian observations are particularly annoying when delivered in the context of today’s relentless transgender bashing by red state legislatures and their conservative governors. Dozens of anti-trans laws are starting to come into effect, and while many are blocked by federal courts, others are not. 

    In late May, the Biden administration announced that the Department of Agriculture will now condition federal funds for numerous educational projects on non-discrimination policies that cover the GLBT community. Specifically, the Department will enforce the Biden administration’s interpretation that Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination encompasses gay and trans bias under the definition of “sex.” 

    It’s actually not just the Biden administration’s interpretation. It’s also the interpretation of Justice Gorsuch and the 6–3 Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v Clayton County two years ago. But here’s the thing. Last year, it was the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that both confirmed a pro-GLBT Title IX policy based on Bostock. No sooner were those guidances issued than Texas sued the Biden administration in a federal court that happens to be run by one of the most anti-GLBT Trump judges in the country. 

    Biden and company asked for the suit to be dismissed based, among other things, on the fact that the guidance was an interpretation of existing law rather than a new policy. Further, Biden noted, the state of Texas lacked standing because the state was not injured and was not contesting an actual case. 

    On May 26, however, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled that all but one count of the lawsuit could proceed. Judge Kacsmaryk’s 29-page opinion pooh-poohed Bostock v Clayton and gave extreme deference to Texas and its horrifically antigay MAGA Attorney General, Ken Paxton. You may recall that earlier this year, Paxton sent Governor Greg Abbot a bizarre “legal opinion,” suggesting that parents and doctors who opt for gender identity treatments for people under 21 are violating Texas laws against child abuse. This non-binding nonsense led Governor Abbot to launch quasi-criminal investigations into several Texas families before a court put a temporary end to the practice. In his opinion, Kracsmaryk indicated that Texas may be hampered from enforcing its child protection laws, seemingly giving credence to Paxton and Abbot’s Orwellian behavior.

    The bottom line is, that for every good court trying to block damaging state-spawned transphobic horror shows, there’s a Trump court trying to block Biden administration efforts to help our community through executive orders and agency actions. I know that Biden and Schumer are attempting to rebalance the federal bench with judicial nominations of their own, but Trump and McConnell did an amazing amount of damage. (Judge Kacsmaryk, for example, is the same guy who singlehandedly stopped Biden from revising Trump’s “remain in Mexico” asylum policy, in an opinion so drastic it was frowned upon by the conservative justices on the Supreme Court at oral arguments last month.) 

    Dad Joke

    So, how about the British man, now 37, who advertised privately that he would be willing to father children for lesbians with no strings attached? There was a reason this nutcase decided not to contribute to a sperm bank; he has an incurable genetic flaw called Fragile X that leads to low IQ. That hasn’t stopped him from fathering some 15 children, however. Considering he’s probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer, you have to wonder what the prospective mothers were thinking when they selected a stranger that they found on social media to donate half the genetic material for their future offspring. Hello, ladies? What’s next? Picking your neurosurgeon off Tinder? Asking Nextdoor if one of the neighbors can help you invest your multi-million-dollar lottery prize? 

    James McDougall recently asked a family court judge to give him access to four of his biological children, including one three-year-old who is described in The Daily Mail as “non-verbal” with “challenging” behavior. Hmmm. The judge has rejected McDougall’s request, and ordered him to stay out of the courts for three years and stop donating sperm. A previous court gave him visiting rights to one child who reportedly returned from one of those visits with bruises. Lovely.

    Murderer

    And while we’re looking at unpleasant people, I also just read about a guy who had oral sex with a gay man who was posing as a woman, brutally killed him, and got off by using the gay/trans panic defense at his trial. Maybe I’m missing something, but according to the Roanoke Times, former Virginia Tech football player Isimemen Etute, 18, hooked up with Jerry Paul Smith, 31, who identified as a gay man but who was posing as a 21-year-old woman on Tinder. Smith gave Etute a blow job in April of 2021, but Etute and two pals decided to go back to Smith’s apartment that May in order to figure out whether or not Smith was male or female. 

    Once there, Etute and Smith got into a fight while the friends waited outside. Etute later claimed Smith pulled a knife from under his mattress, although he never mentioned that to police when he was first questioned. He then beat Smith to death in an attack that the medical examiner described as brutal. As the Times reported, Dr. Amy Tharp testified that “most of the bones in Smith’s face were broken, he had bleeding and swelling inside his brain, and he had multiple teeth knocked out.” He also had shoe prints on his face.

    Etute’s defense attorney, Jimmy Turk, called Smith a “deceitful and dishonest man” who “defrauded young men for his own sexual gratification.”

    “Who is the real victim here?” a teary-eyed Turk asked the jury. “Who would be more likely to resort to violence? Who was more likely to be the aggressor? The man who hid the knife or this goofy, gullible kid?”

    Um, how about the “goofy” gullible guy who deliberately went back to the guy’s apartment a month after an encounter, knowing that “she” was most likely a gay man, clearly looking for a fight, and so full of rage that he smashed his face in and stomped on him until he was dead? 

    Ironically, Virginia has since passed a law against the gay/trans panic defense that was not in effect at the time of the murder. 

    Just A Little Good News

    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a nice piece of news from the courts, namely a victory by the American Civil Liberties Union in its suit against Tennessee’s anti-trans signage law. I’m sure I told you about this little gem from the Volunteer State that requires businesses to post a sign warning customers that the bathrooms are not restricted to customer’s sex at birth. 

    According to the law, which was halted pending the ACLU’s lawsuit, GLBT-friendly businesses must erect a large yellow and red sign that reads: “THIS FACILITY MAINTAINS A POLICY OF ALLOWING THE USE OF RESTROOMS BY EITHER BIOLOGICAL SEX REGARDLESS OF THE DESIGNATION ON THE RESTROOM” in bold capitals. Now, U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger, who shelved the law temporarily last year, has issued a 40-page summary judgment in favor of the ACLU and their transgender plaintiffs. Thank you, Judge Trauger (and Bill Clinton for appointing her), for ruling that the First Amendment forbids the state from forcing political speech on individuals and businesses.

    And in other interesting court news, the U.S. Justice Department has sued the state of Alabama for its anti-trans medical law, a particularly harsh version of the type of statute that outlaws or hampers medical treatment for transgender youth. Alabama’s version criminalizes things like prescribing puberty blockers and other solutions to the problems encountered by young people with gender issues, turning doctors and parents into felons in the process. The Justice Department has also written a friend of the court brief in a case against Arkansas’s anti-trans health law, and that case is on review at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. But this is the first time Merrick Garland and company have launched their own lawsuit—unless I’m mistaken, which is an unlikely but possible prospect, I guess. 

    Fly Me

    I’ve just wasted some time reading a story about the French Open Women’s champion and another one about what happens if you eat mold. As to the latter, nothing good! Personally, I cut off mold and eat stuff anyway. I also eat expired foods, and if a fly gets into my drink, I’ll just remove it and drink whatever the fly was drinking. Life is too short to be finicky. It may get shorter if you eat mold and expired foods, I read, but what the hell. Oh, and some tennis reporter asked Iga Swiatek at her post-match press conference whether or not she wore makeup.

    “Outside of the court, when you go to a party, do you use makeup?” the reporter asked.

    “Do you like to go elegant and smart and so on?

    “Because many players we have seen in the past, they were staying hours in front of the mirror before going on court and using the makeup and you seem very natural like this.”

    Swiatek replied, “OK, Thank you.” This, for the record, was just after she won the French Open for the second year in a row and broke records for consecutive match wins in the process. Really? No, it’s not technically a gay or lesbian item, but the undertone of gender stereotyping, sexualizing female athletes and effectively questioning their femininity, is jarring. 

    Speaking of flies in drinks, there’s a slightly sadistic magic trick that works with flies if you want to impress your friends at a bar.

    Step one is to bet some money on whether you can bring a fly back to life. (Hint: you can, so take the bets.) Step Two, submerge the fly in a drink until it is clearly lifeless. (Hint: it’s still alive, even after a long time in the drink.) Step Three, remove the fly and place it on a napkin. Step Four, wait a few minutes. The fly will regain consciousness and fly away. You win! 

    I was going to discuss the High Court, but the fly bar trick has taken up all my space. Sorry. Maybe next time.

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on June 9, 2022