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    Ann Rostow: RIP, Monica Roberts

    By Ann Rostow–

    RIP, Monica Roberts

    Sadly, we have to start with the untimely death of the greatly admired transgender blogger and activist, Monica Roberts, who collapsed outside her Houston apartment building on October 5 at the age of 58. It sounds from her friends and family that her death may have been Covid-related. Roberts had been feeling ill and easily winded, but had not taken a Covid test. 

    “Monica was fearless, and she demanded respect for transgender people, no matter who it was,” said Lambda Legal’s Kevin Jennings. “Her love for and her commitment to her community saved lives. Monica Roberts never stopped talking about the violence against transgender women. Her mission to end the misgendering of transgender victims in media to ensure transgender women’s dignity in death was often the only final rites that they received. Monica’s care for those women is her legacy.”

    Roberts ran her blog, TransGriot, for over 10 years, advocating for civil rights and notably shining a light on murdered transgender women and men. It had never occurred to me to look up “griot” before, but now I see it is a West African storyteller, poet, or musician. A traveler offering an oral history. Like hers, a unique voice. It’s heartbreaking to check out the website in this context. Instead of a tribute to its founder, the October 1 post offers Monica’s Week 4 NFL picks, a 20-year obsession. By my count, she was 10–5. 

    There’s the Rub

    I’m sitting here watching Nicole Wallace with the sound off, blaring Bad Bunny out of the Alexa machine, drinking white wine, and wondering what to write about next. I feel out of time, encouraged by the polls but haunted by the memory of our last election night. I want to know the outcome right this second. Two weeks is an abyss. 

    My cousin just sent me a link to the story about Jeffrey Toobin, the CNN legal analyst and New Yorker columnist who exposed his dick while masturbating during a work-related Zoom call. Meanwhile, Don Junior sent out an odd post complaining about Instagram censorship while lying in bed under the covers. Readers, am I dreaming?

    Four years ago, Mel and I were headed out to an election party. But we kept waiting. We waited to make sure, to hit the next poll closing, to reassure ourselves before throwing our high spirits into the festivities ahead. A seriousness descended. A worry. A dread. The New York Times needle kept shifting off Hillary’s margin of victory. And then the horror set in. Later, we learned that the party crowd devolved into stunned disbelief. We had stayed home, of course. The next mornings felt like the days after my father died. You knew your life had changed but for a minute you couldn’t remember why. And then it all came rushing back to you.

    We can’t go through that again.  

    Wellness Check

    You know who annoys me? Dianne Feinstein. And it’s not just her kind words for Lindsay Graham or her inappropriately pleasant demeanor at the Barrett hearing. It’s the selfishness of running for reelection at the age of 85. You know you’re in decline, physically and mentally, and yet you go ahead and leverage your (albeit well-earned) credentials to the detriment of your state and your country. She cannot be allowed to preside over what I hope will be Judiciary Committee hearings on Court reform once we win the Senate and the White House.

    I’m not sure what Feinstein or anyone else could have done to delay the Barrett confirmation, which looks inevitable. But there might have been something, right? Something other than, “How lovely to see you here,” and, “What a wonderful answer,” or whatever jarring platitudes came out of her mouth.

    You know who else I hate? The arrogant GEICO “motaur.” He’s rude. He hogs the gym equipment, he’s dismissive to his friend as they watch a herd of wild motaurs, and he’s just generally unpleasant. As I traverse the final weeks of Trump, I am like a live electric wire: testy, impatient, less tolerant than usual. Where once I would have been mildly irked by the motaur, these days he fuels a smoldering anger in my soul. Get off the treadmill, you obnoxious gas guzzling jerk. You’ve been spinning your wheels for nearly an hour and there’s another guy waiting for the machine!

    I shudder to think how I’d perform on the various medical apps that you can now download to your phone to let you check your own heart health or blood oxygen levels. At one point, Mel and I had a blood pressure monitor that never worked particularly well, producing a range of life-threatening readings that would have worried us had the device seemed more reliable. The last thing we need now is a random piece of software informing us that our cardiac rhythms are erratic or our oxygen saturation rates are dropping into the low 90s. Assuming we feel fine, what can we do with these amateur medical observations besides stew over the anomalies and compulsively retake the tests every hour or so? 

    Oh, and now I see from the Times science section that even the healthy sounding blood pressure level of 120 over 80 is dangerously high, and that we should all be down to 100 or something. Paging Medical Experts: Is this really the right moment in history to change these guidelines? Don’t we have enough to worry about?

    The Nineties Are Calling…

    I read with some astonishment that the police in Hillsborough County, Florida (think Tampa area), have been running around targeting men in parks and arresting them for simply agreeing to sexual activity. Nothing actually happened, and presumably, the 11 hapless victims of this old-fashioned sting operation thought the cops who approached them on the trail or in the parking lot were legitimately interested in a little harmless fun. But when they whipped out their badges instead of something else, the men found themselves under misdemeanor arrest and their mugshots were handed over to the press.

    Quite frankly, I thought the age of outdoor cruising was a pre-Grindr thing of the past, but then again, many of the men in my GLBT circle of friends like to take advantage of any opportunity that may arise. The press reaction has been a collective eye roll, on the order of, “Haven’t they got anything better to do,” and, “Are they going to arrest the teenagers on lovers’ lane?” 

    Someone wondered whether they’d arrest women who agreed to naughty business in the bushes, but the better question of course, is how many guys they’d nab if cute female officers propositioned straight men? Because this is not a gay thing, it’s a guy thing. And I guarantee you the Hillsborough police force could wrangle 11 happy husbands in no time with the right bait. Guys, I love you, but let’s just agree that we’re not going to catch Marcia Coyle or Nina Totenberg masturbating during their Zoom calls anytime soon. 

    My Least Favorite Things, Continued

    Just so you know, a day has gone by and I’m now watching Chuck Todd (with the sound off) and drinking grapefruit juice. Talk about a step down. Chuck Todd bothers me with his sing-song cadence and his inept use of the teleprompter, which leads him to emphasize the wrong syllables and mispronounce standard words. He reads the script without first allowing the text to enter his brain, which is extremely annoying. He also has a tendency at times to rush his speech into an incoherent jumble, and finally, he does not listen to his guests, so instead of following up or probing people who sidestep, he just moves on to the next question on his list.

    “So, Doctor Smith, can you explain exactly what herd immunity means to our audience and tell us why you think it’s poor public policy?”

    “Well, in simple terms, herd immunity would involve infecting or vaccinating at least 60 percent of Americans … ”

    “How about you, Doctor Jones. Are steroids safe?”

    “Um, steroids are not part of the standard protocols for Covid treatment … ”

    “And what do you say to those who suggest a vaccine will be ready by the end of this year? Doctor Smith?”

    “Well, developing any vaccine is a time-consuming process because you have to have trials at every stage and that’s not something you can rush.”

    “Gentlemen, we have to leave it there. And when we come back. The Senate Judiciary … Committee. Will be having a vote on Amy Coney Barrett next week. Don’t go away!” 

    Judicial Watch

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit just ruled in favor of one of those binational married gay families where one of the kids was biologically related to the non-American parent. There are several of these cases pitting the State Department against the Forces of Decency and Reason, and so far, they have all been resolved in favor of the married couple who seeks American citizenship for all their children, regardless of whose sperm or gene or egg was used in their conception. Straight married couples with one American partner do not have to jump through hoops in order to qualify all their offspring as natural born citizens, yet gay couples have been pursued through the courts by Pompeo and company. 

    I’m not going to look up the status of some of these other cases, but the Supreme Court would be the next step in this particular instance. It’s frightening to think that a Justice Barrett might countenance tagging a child of an American dad with a permanent immigrant status, but winning the White House will put an end to these, and many other, horrific administration policies, ergo the case will be closed.

    Still, I don’t like to think about the road ahead with Barrett on the High Court. As I’ve said, I can’t imagine them reversing marriage equality, although I wouldn’t put it past Thomas and Alito. But there are ways to turn our unions into second class versions of marriage, where county clerks can opt out of signing our papers, businesses can refuse to print our wedding invitations, and states might fiddle with our children’s birth certificates. 

    You know, of course, that Fulton v City of Philadelphia is due up for oral arguments November 4, because I have told you that a million times. I won’t get into it again now, but with Barrett on the Court, this major clash between gay rights and religion looks like dangerous territory indeed.  


    Finally, our friends at One Million Moms, an antigay offshoot of the American Family Association, have set their sights on a sweet Oreo ad that the Mondelez Group produced for Coming Out Day. The ad is three minutes long, so I can’t imagine the whole thing getting on the air. It starts with two twenty-something women in the car heading for the parents’ house around Christmas. Mom greets the two warmly, but Dad is gruff. He hugs everyone else, but speaks to the girls in monosyllables. 

    Later, he sees a neighbor giving the girls the side eye. The next morning, they wake up and find Dad painting rainbow colors on the white picket fence that encloses their front yard. Nice, right?

    “Mondelez International is attempting to normalize the LGBTQ lifestyle by using their commercials, such as the most recent Oreo ad featuring a lesbian couple, to brainwash children and adults alike by desensitizing audiences,” huffed the Moms. “It is obvious they are going after our children in a dangerous partnership with PFLAG.”

    These people would object to the animal shelter ads if the sad dogs were gay. This is the same group that complained about two women picking up their child from school in a scene from Toy Story II that literally lasted less than one second. And a glance at their website indicates that they’ve recently put their thumbs down for KitKat bars, Frank’s hot sauce, and the Muppets, among others.

    The Moms want us to boycott the full lineup of Mondelez products, including Triscuits, Ritz, Wheat Thins, Cadbury, Chips Ahoy, and more. 

    I’m not an Oreo fan, but I can load up on Triscuits. Anything for the Cause.

    Published on October 22, 2020