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    Ann Rostow: Small Favors

    By Ann Rostow–

    Small Favors

    The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of a transgender migrant woman from Guatemala who is seeking asylum in a 9–0 decision, reversing a panel from the highly conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. “Wow!” I hear you saying. “A decision in favor of a transwoman! A would-be immigrant! And it was unanimous?”

    Yes, yes, and yes, but before you get too excited, the opinion concerned one of those arcane matters of federal procedure and had nothing whatsoever to do with transgender rights, immigrant rights, religion, or any of the knotty constitutional issues we so love to untangle. It could have been about a rich cis-gender white supremacist from Switzerland and we would still have wound up with the same consensus—to wit, the asylum seeker was not obliged to seek review of her rejection by the Board of Immigration Appeals before turning to the Fifth Circuit for help. 

    Meanwhile, we are nearing the final weeks of the current High Court session, which means the opinion in the case of the Colorado web designer is drawing closer. This is Lorie Smith, the woman who is asking whether or not she can skirt Colorado’s LGBT-inclusive civil rights law by offering her wedding website services to heterosexual couples only. After releasing a muddled decision in the infamous Masterpiece Cakeshop case several years ago, the justices will have another chance to tell us that our civil rights laws are not worth the paper they’re printed on in the face of a religious challenge.

    Or not. Who knows? All opinions are due by the end of June. (Oh, we all know.)

    One Step Forward…

    Speaking of the Fifth Circuit, be ready for the appellate court we love to hate to issue a ruling on the merits of the dispute over mifepristone. Oral arguments are scheduled May 17, as we go to press, and the eventual outcome won’t be pretty. The three-judge panel scheduled to hear this abortion pill case is a trio of right-wingers, and you recall that this is the court that drastically restricted the drug before the Supreme Court put all lower court rulings on hold for the duration of the litigation. 

    Presumably, whatever the Fifth Circuit comes up with will go back up to the High Court, where one hopes legal sanity will prevail. The notion that a court can reach back decades, second-guess the scientific experts who advise the Food and Drug Administration, and reverse approval of a safe and critical drug is beyond bizarre. I know we have six conservatives on the Court, but we only have two complete lunatics.

    And no, it’s not a gay thing. But the attack on birth control and women’s reproductive health is a function of the same sanctimonious pandering to a narrow Christian viewpoint that is similarly applied to our community.  

    Finally, before we move on from legal news, there’s another technical ruling in our favor in a transgender rights case out of Iowa. Back in 2019, the Iowa legislature passed a measure designed to opt out of paying for gender transition care under the state Medicaid system. Two transwomen sued, and in 2021, a state court ruled that the measure violated the state constitution. The women were treated, but the state appealed this lower court ruling on principle. On Friday, May 12, the state supreme court ruled that the underlying case was moot, since the treatment had already been provided. 

    So that’s nice, sort of. On the other hand, the previous Wednesday, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed two anti-trans bills into law, one that ends transition care for minors, and another that forces public school students to use birth-gender bathrooms. 

    The whole school bathroom issue is a live debate in the federal appellate courts and likely headed to the High Court sooner rather than later. Two appellate courts have ruled in favor of trans students, while a third has ruled against our side. Usually, when any of the 12 federal appellate courts have a difference of opinion, the Supreme Court steps in to resolve the matter. Keep in mind as well that the federal appellate courts are also battling over the question of whether trans women and girls can play high school sports. That’s also on the High Court’s horizon.

    All Hail The Laundry Lesbian

    Oh my God, you guys! I just discovered the greatest lesbian ever, a Canadian woman with a wry sense of humor named Melissa Dilkes Pateras who lives in Massachusetts. Pateras, also known as ‘The Laundry Lesbian” offers household tips and accomplishes intricate do it yourself projects on Instagram and TikTok that you have to check out at once. She has some kids, including at least one 20-something daughter who is just as funny as her mother, judging from the quiz she took on laundry symbols. 

    I was drawn to a particular link where she taught viewers how to fold a fitted bottom sheet, and a hooded sweatshirt, and I don’t mind telling you she is a genius in the area of laundry folding. I gather she has over a million TikTok followers, a well-deserved audience. 

    She’s also so adept at fixing and patching and painting, she makes my own personal handywoman look like a Victorian-era aristocrat, and I’m speaking of my wife who recently fixed our overflowing kitchen sink, painted our entire house, and grew a massive vegetable garden from little seeds. Part of my admiration for both these women stems from my own inadequacies in these departments, sometimes mistaken for laziness. 

    While we’re on the subject of TikTok, I also encountered a lesbian of a different stripe, 52-year-old Carol Hatch, who is also described as a TikTok-er. Hatch is up in arms over the description of lesbians as “non-men who love non-men,” an awkward definition, I admit, but one that I’ve never heard of. 

    “I feel like we’re experiencing an entire new form of domestic abuse, not just against lesbians, but against women in general,” Hatch told Fox News. “We’ve been told that transwomen, which are biological men, are better than women, that we are now cisgender.” (Note: no one has “told” us any such thing.) 

    “And now we have young ladies who dislike themselves so much that they can’t even say the word ‘woman.’ They have to call themselves ‘non-men.’”

    Really, Carol? This is news to the rest of us, and even if there are such individuals, I would hesitate to project their motives, let alone assume that self-loathing is among them. Nor is anyone insisting that trans women are “better than women.” As for tossing around terms like “domestic abuse” in this context, it makes you look a little ridiculous. 

    The Carol Hatch example reminds me of one of my favorite jokes, which I may have told you a few times already:

    “How many lesbians does it take to change a lightbulb?”

    “That’s not funny.”

    Are you laughing? If not, you might personify the old stereotype that Melissa Pateras and I live to defy.

    Oh, and why was Hatch speaking to Fox News? Wasn’t Rachel Maddow interested in her observations?

    The Beat Goes On

    Perhaps you’re thinking that the flood of anti-trans state legislative bills has abated, since I guess I’ve only mentioned the ones in Iowa so far in this column. Well, it hasn’t. It’s just that I am exhausted by the prospect of name-checking every red state on the list. 

    For example, I just read an article about my beloved Kansas, where lawmakers have overridden the Democratic governor’s veto to enact a law against transgender women and girls in sports, bathrooms, and domestic violence centers. Happily, they lacked the votes to override Governor Kelly’s veto of a ban on transgender health care, but let’s just say that what happens in Iowa and Kansas is also happening throughout Trump country. 

    The Kansas school bill also provides for authorities to verify the gender of a student in the event of a dispute by “using current standard assessment protocols,” which I guess is legislative language for undressing kids and checking their genitals in order to “protect” female athletes. 

    In one state to the south, Oklahoma, the governor speculated that gay and trans issues are going to be decisive in the next election. “I believe it’s going to be more and more important in general in 2024 because the Left has gone too far. They have gone way too radical,” said Governor Kevin Stitt to Fox News Digital.

    “We have an obligation to protect our children and protect sports and protect free competition and fair competition in Oklahoma. And so, to us, it’s pretty common sense. And I hope it’s an issue in the general election in 2024, because I think we win on that with Americans. We believe in traditional family values. We’re not going to let biological males participate in girls’ sports.”

    I have been wrong in the past, notably when I thought Trump’s nomination in 2016 meant Democrats would easily win the presidency. Nonetheless, I can’t help thinking that a national campaign focused on bashing transgender girls and women would give Democrats an overwhelming advantage. 

    This Is Your Brain on Toads

    I’ve been diverted this morning by the back sections of The New York Times, along with various internet alleyways, arcane topics that I find particularly interesting when I face a deadline. I’ve learned that ancient Egyptians used to amputate the hands of their conquered rivals, and that many bits of human DNA float around in the environment and could someday be used in criminal investigations and research. I’ve read about sleep deprivation in teens as well as new developments in mapping the human genome and the number of moons orbiting Saturn. I’m a font of wisdom.

    I read about an excellent movie called Monica, starring transgender actress Trace Lysette, which not only sounds fascinating but would be a useful film to run at a private convention of Republican lawmakers.

    And in cyberspace, I’ve been learning about the Sonoran Desert toads that secrete a toxic hallucinogen, as well as about other toads and insects that can get you high. The National Park Service has issued a warning to visitors, advising them to “refrain from licking” the toad. It’s apparently ineffective for one thing, but it’s also bad for the toad and may kill you. 

    But we digress. 

    Candy Land

    Returning to our news mill, a gay tenured history professor at Madera Community College near Fresno has been put on paid leave after he brought politically incorrect candy bars to a campus open house. The candy came from Jeremy’s Chocolate, a company run by Jeremy Boreing, the CEO of The Daily Wire conservative news service. The chocolate bars containing nuts were designated “he/him.” The ones sans nuts were “she/her.” 

    Jeremy’s sophomoric stunt was meant as a dig at Hershey Canada, which recently released five special bars to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. The bars were marked “HER for SHE,” and one of the five featured Canadian transgender activist, Fae Johnstone. Much as Bud Light triggered a backlash after creating a special can for transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney during March Madness, Hershey Canada drew fire for including Johnstone in the group of women. 

    Quite honestly, my interest in these sideshows tends to wane quickly. Just when I decided to have a Bud Light in solidarity at some point down the road, I learned that some gay bars were going to boycott the brand, I think because Bud tried to deflect the Dylan Mulvaney spotlight instead of leaning in to its trans-friendly promotion. I didn’t really follow the whole thing, so I wound up back in neutral as far as Bud Light was concerned and stopped tracking further developments. As for the Hershey Canada campaign, I had somehow missed it at the time and I had to review the whole thing in order to explain the Madera College incident to you. 

    Do I hear a thank you?

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on May 18, 2023