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    Ann Rostow: That’s So Lesbian!

    By Ann Rostow–

    That’s So Lesbian!

    It’s been some time since we discussed actual news in these pages. The holidays have come and gone and a new year has commenced. The other day, I spent several hours reviewing the recent comings and goings of our fabulous GLBT community in preparation for a substantial review of important stories, and yet … and yet something is holding me back.

    Instead of starting off with, let’s say, the Biden administration’s commitment to ending GLBT bias in health care or a victory in a federal courtroom in New York, I am drawn instead to The Washington Post story about the Canadian lesbians whose cats won’t let them open their new Vitamix blender. Apparently, the blender arrived in mid-December, in what the Post describes as a “hefty” box about “knee-high.” As soon as it arrived, one of their three cats jumped on top of the box and refused to budge. Since then, the cats have taken turns sitting on the box. The other two cats will prowl around guarding the seated cat until it is their turn. By the time the article was published, the cats had been controlling the Vitamix box for three weeks.

    The women, married Vancouver Islanders Jessica and Nikii Gerson-Neeves, acknowledge that they could simply wrest the box away from the domineering cats and remove the blender by force. But they are reluctant to do so. The impasse has gone on for such a long time and there’s something about the box and the feline dynamics that gives them pause. As Nikii said, “They’re committed.”

    The Gerson-Neeves have been documenting the phenomenon on a Facebook group for overweight cats that has 900,000 members. Nikii tried checking on the box at night, but the cats were there. They never abandon their post. The women moved the box into a corner, but that made no difference. 

    Meanwhile, Vitamix agreed to send them three empty boxes as a potential diversion. When last I checked (having joined the aforementioned Facebook group), the boxes arrived but must be assembled and then weighted down in some way in order to serve as a stand-in for the solid blender box. The Gerson-Neeves have put one together, and posted a photo of two cats on the two Vitamix boxes with the third cat sulking in the foreground. 

    Watch this space!

    A World Full of Wonder

    Now, she’ll get to a serious topic, you think. But not quite yet. Because I just discovered a pornographic tape of a bunch of people having both gay and straight sex on the Acropolis in violation of several Greek laws under the guise of “making a film” called Departhenon. I watched half of this dismal cinematic effort, which was about as erotic as toast, and that’s fifteen minutes I’ll never get back. The Culture Ministry is conducting an investigation into the unauthorized production. 

    Oh, and I also read that dolphins have fully formed clitorises that scientists believe are designed to provide sexual pleasure. First of all, what else would they be designed to provide? Second, I had not thought about this before, but don’t all or most female mammals have clitorises? Why wouldn’t they? 

    Well, I did a little digging and indeed, most female animals are so equipped. After all, as I vaguely remembered, the clitoris and the penis both emerge from the same whatever you might call the developing fetal genital area. I also read that the plural of clitoris is “clitorides.” This despite the fact that I looked up the correct plural before embarking on this topic, and the search engine said “clitorises.” Before any of this confusion, I was hoping for “clitorae,” but it was not to be. 

    The bottom line of this story, for me, is why was this seemingly unremarkable feature of dolphin anatomy worthy of repeated headlines this week? It was “discovered” by a team from Mount Holyoke (cue gaydar: beep! beep! beep!) through autopsies of female dolphins who died of natural causes (phew!), and several of the excited news reports noted that female bottlenose dolphins have been known to cavort with one another—and now we know why. But again, didn’t we already know that?

    Finally, one story mentions that, over time, boffins have noted “a bizarre array of penis shapes found in mammals, from a four-headed penis in the echidna to two-headed penises in many marsupials.”

    “It remains to be seen what surprises the clitoris has in store for us,” the article concludes.

    Can’t wait for that. Oh, by the way, the echidna is a spiny anteater, so perhaps it needs four penises for logistical purposes. I’m tempted to check on the clitoral status of female echidnas, but I’m not sure I’d emerge from that rabbit hole before my deadline.

    Penguins Mark Third Anniversary

    So, I was just about to dive into the Biden health care anti-bias policy when I saw that gay penguins, Sphen and Magic, are celebrating their third anniversary at the Sea Life aquarium in Sydney. The loving pair marked the occasion with frozen fish cakes and a party with their neighbors in the penguin area. You may recall that Sphen and Magic have hatched two eggs together, Lara and Clancy. Lara is due to become a mother herself one of these days, which will make Sphen and Magic the first known gay grandparent penguins.

    Why did I think that one of their offspring was given the portmanteau “Sphengic?” Okay, I was right. Lara was initially called Sphengic, but it seems she has since been renamed. I think we can all agree that “Lara” has a much nicer ring to it. I mean, can you imagine “Sphengic’s Theme”?

                  “You’ll come to me, out of the long-ago

                  Warm as the wind, soft as the kiss of snow

                  Sphengic, my own, think of me now and then

                  Godspeed, my love, till you are mine again.”

    No, of course you can’t. It simply doesn’t work.

    The article I’m reading in LGBTQ Nation says that other gay penguin couples are doing well, including Eduardo and Rio in San Francisco, Inca and Rayas in Madrid, and Ferrari and Pringle in London. Two lesbian penguins, Thelma and Louise, are enjoying life in New Zealand, while the Denver Zoo boasts a pair of gay flamingos. And there you have it.

    Notes From Underground

    I’m back from the echidnas’ sex rabbit hole (I couldn’t help myself!) and I can tell you that echidnas are from Australia, where a government website informed me that female echidnas have two vaginas. During sex, the males “shut down” two of their four penis heads and operate with the other two. The next time they get lucky, they’ll use the other two heads to increase their chances of procreating. 

    “From mid-May to early September,” the “good living” website tells us, “male echidnas actively seek out females to mate. They form a line known as an ‘echidna train,’ with the female leading the ‘train,’ followed by up to ten males. A smaller, younger male is often at the rear of the line.”

    “The male suitors follow the female for long distances until the female is ready to mate. She then lies relaxed and flat on her stomach and the males that formed the ‘train’ dig a circular trench around her. Eventually the largest male pushes the competing rivals out of this ‘mating rut.’ He then digs more dirt out from the spot where the female’s tail is resting, lies on his side, and places his tail under hers, and they mate.”

    Strangely romantic, right? Emphasis on “strangely.”

    Meanwhile, I was also going to take note of our transgender Jeopardy champ, Amy. Go girl! I love her. 

    There’s also a guy who was put on South Carolina’s sex offender list back in the day for gay sex. He was pardoned for this in 2006 but the Palmetto State won’t take him off the list, so he has filed suit. 

    And a federal court in New York has ruled against Emilee Carpenter, a Christian wedding photographer, who (you guessed it) does not want to accept same-sex clients. On that note, however, the European Court of Human Rights has issued a technical ruling against Gareth Lee, a gay man who wanted a Belfast bakery to put “support gay marriage” on a cake. The Court said the case was inadmissible, as a domestic matter. Earlier, the U.K. Supreme Court had ruled in favor of the baker, on the U.K. equivalent of free speech grounds.

    Mea Culpa

    There’s a reason I am avoiding the subject of health care discrimination. It’s complicated and requires a level of focused concentration that eludes me at present. I can tell you that Obama and company interpreted the ACA (Obamacare) ban on sex discrimination as a wide rule that encompassed sexual orientation and gender bias. You know by now that the definition of sex discrimination is fairly crucial to our protection under federal law. As long as sex discrimination includes us, we are covered in the workplace and in public education venues. Even the Supreme Court agreed that sex bias includes bias against gay and trans people in the Bostock ruling.

    Getting back to Obamacare, as soon as Trump got comfortable in office, his uber-Christian minions began to issue reports and dictates that undid various friendly legal interpretations and policies including those that governed the ACA. When the High Court issued the Bostock opinion in mid-2020, the Trump administration simply ignored the implications of the decision, an irritation, but one we assumed would be cured once Biden reached the Oval Office. And sure enough, the Biden administration quickly reverted to our side again. 

    That’s nice, but there are several problems. First, without Congressional action, we could continually shift between good and bad administrations, watching our rights and protections change directions with the political winds. Second, much of what appears to be settled law is still subject to court challenges that, in turn, can depend on whether or not some crazy right-wing judge gets ahold of the case. And each case can take years. 

    Further, one of the reasons I tried to avoid this subject is because the Biden administration’s final policy statement on discrimination in Obamacare is not even expected for another three months. Why? Bureaucracy, I think. I’m not sure. Are there not enough people to draft the necessary paperwork? Must it be checked by a dozen lawyers? Are there many factors involved of which I am unaware? Probably. Who knows?

    Meanwhile, I guess six or more lawsuits that challenge the relevant section of Obamacare (1557) are on hold pending the formal Biden policy, which is scheduled for April. Another lawsuit out of North Dakota is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, where a panel will decide whether religious actors turn their backs on gender transition patients without violating Obamacare protections. 

    Two class action suits were filed in August, one from Tennessee and one from Texas, arguing that the Supreme Court’s Bostock ruling does not apply to Obamacare’s ban on sex discrimination. I haven’t read the legal explanation for this awkward-sounding position, and I don’t want to. Also in August, a conservative judge out of Texas, Reed O’Connor, ruled in favor of a Catholic medical group that sought to avoid anti-discrimination law based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). I particularly go out of my way to avoid cases based on the RFRA, such as Hobby Lobby, since there are many aspects of this law that I don’t understand.

    All in all, I think you can see from whence my reluctance stems. I have lost track of a large number of lawsuits, some of which are based on confusing statutes. I am not sure of when Biden and company will announce important GLBT policies, and I have no idea how these policies are formulated for public release. At the same time, there are many other aspects of our civil rights that reverberate throughout the administration and the courts in other contexts which I also have ignored, leaving me without a complete picture. No wonder I’d rather tell you about the cats on the blender box or the sexual habits of spiny anteaters than grapple with bias in Obamacare. 

    I’m somewhat tempted to bluster through and sound as if I know more than I do, simply because I’m betting many of you busy readers will assume the best of me and lack the independent knowledge to call me out. But, of course, I’d never stoop so low.

    Published on January 13, 2022