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    Ann Rostow: The Truth Is Out There

    By Ann Rostow–

    The Truth Is Out There

    It’s always hard to decide how to start this column. I go back over a dozen possible lead stories and check for any breaking news, but in the process, of course I stumble over unrelated links. Now, if you were faced with reviewing a federal judge’s hold on an anti-trans law in Florida from two weeks ago, or reading about aliens landing in Las Vegas, which would you pick? 

    Yes. Me too! And it happens repeatedly (I’ve wasted 90 minutes so far this morning) adding an unnecessary frisson of deadline pressure to an otherwise disciplined distillation of LGBT information. The aliens in Vegas were over ten feet tall and “definitely 100 percent non-human,” according to the witness, and appeared after a fireball was seen and photographed in the skies. Do you believe this? I’m not sure I do either, but I like the speculation. As a Star Trek fan, I see aliens as friendly envoys from advanced planets rather than demonic killers looking to wipe out life on Earth and use our planet as a mining station. But as a rational 21st Century Earthling, I see the prospects of their visits as figments of our imagination, a possibility debunked by experts in astronomy and physics. If I used emojis, I’d send a sad face.

    The aforementioned Florida judge, Robert Hinkle, ruled that Florida could not block puberty blockers or other care for three transgender youth as they proceed with their lawsuit against the Penis State’s brand-new ban on gender healthcare for kids under 18. The legal requirements for issuing a preliminary injunction include a determination that the challengers will likely be successful in their efforts down the line, and indeed, while applying intermediate scrutiny to the case, Judge Hinkle wrote that the Florida law was motivated by “the plainly illegitimate purposes of disapproving transgender status and discouraging individuals from pursuing their honest gender identities.” 

    This “purposeful discrimination,” he went on, meant that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their Equal Protection claim. He also thought a parental rights argument would prevail. And interestingly, at a time when European health authorities are expressing concerns with pre-pubescent blockers and the like, Judge Hinkle notes that these counties are not outlawing youth health care, but making sure that therapies and drugs are applied with care on a case-by-case basis. No one disagrees with that strategy.

    I don’t see any mention of Florida contesting this injunction, but then again, I was distracted by the aliens.

    Play Ball

    In other trans news, as our last issue went to press, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard arguments on Connecticut’s refusal to ban transgender girls from playing on high school sports teams. 

    Earlier this year, a three-judge Second Circuit panel ruled in favor of Connecticut’s trans-friendly interpretation of Title IX, but that decision was based on the fact that the four cisgender girls who sued had graduated, and their case was moot. Further, the notion that any of these plaintiffs would have won their track events in the absence of the two victorious transgirls was speculation. Finally, is the failure to win a high school trophy of some sort really the sort of loss a federal court can rectify after the fact? After all, in order to have standing to bring a lawsuit, a plaintiff must suffer an actual injury.

    According to a report in Courthouse News, one of the trans athletes, Terry Miller, never ranked higher that 325th when she ran with the boys, but won a 100-meter dash “by a large margin” against the girls. That gave me pause until I was reading from the earlier three-judge ruling, where I learned the cisgirls had beaten Miller “on numerous occasions” themselves, and also beaten the other transgirl in the case, Andraya Yearwood. 

    Either way, it sounds as if the lawyers for Connecticut bumbled through the June 6 arguments, trying to get the case tossed on technical grounds. We’ll see what the 15 judges think of the situation soon enough, I imagine. And it’s not hard to predict that the Supreme Court will eventually have something to say on this issue.

    How Low Is Your T?

    Before we move on from trans athletes, however, let’s ask ourselves this: Does it matter if a transgirl never has a chance against the boys but turns around and crushes it against the girls? As usual in trans issues, it’s complicated.

    First, sports for girls and boys prior to varsity high school and college athletics is not aimed at winning. It’s aimed at socialization, fitness, friendship, and fun. The notion of removing a girl from these games because she’s trans is outrageous.

    Then there’s college sports and perhaps top-level high school competition. If I’m not mistaken, transgender girls have to take hormones for a couple of years before they’re eligible to play. If not, of course they would have an unfair advantage in one-on-one events against cisgirls. 

    Making it more complicated is the question of to what extent your testosterone level affects your athleticism. I think the research is unclear. Then, what other factors influence a transwoman who has gone through puberty as a biological male? Again, unclear. Finally, when it comes to women’s sports, what are the natural elements in determining athletic excellence and how are these elements distributed throughout trans and ciswomen? How do we treat ciswomen with high testosterone? What if a transwoman is naturally much better than her peers? Is her success automatically suspect? Why would she be dismissed when a ciswoman who consistently outplays her peers is celebrated? 

    Answer these and other questions before you make an all or nothing decision.

    Are You Kidding Me?

    What else is new, you wonder? I was all set to rail against the Lynnwood, Washington, spa that was refusing to allow transgender women to participate unless they have had bottom surgery. I assumed that everyone involved would be wearing gym clothes or bathrobes, so what’s the big deal? 

    According to LGBTQ Nation, however, the Olympus Spa is some kind of all-female Korean nude place, where everyone is naked. Transwomen are welcome, but not if their genitals are still swinging. Now, Olympus has been charged with discrimination under the state’s civil rights law, normally a process of which I approve. But, come on, guys! If I were the type of person to go to a women-only nude spa for a “traditional, ceremonial, act of cleansing,” I doubt I’d be comfortable with male genitalia on display, regardless of whether the person doing the display was a transwoman or a cisguy. It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to look at someone’s junk during my “traditional act of cleansing.”

    Haven Wilvich was part of a women’s group that was planning on a trip to the spa, but when she called ahead, she learned she would not be allowed to participate. “It felt really terrible to be invited to an event and find out I can’t attend because the spa is willing to reduce me to my genitalia and not see me as the woman that I am,” she told The Lynwood Times. I can see how that could be hard to take, but Haven’s genitalia just don’t belong in this context. That said, I think she could have worn a piece of clothing to tuck it all out of sight for the occasion, but I suppose that would not have been an option.

    And in other news, I read that Johns Hopkins issued a new glossary of GLBT terms where it defined “lesbian” as a “non-man attracted to a non-man.” The absurd definition was quickly deleted, but not before it caused a well-deserved outcry, and gave undeserved credence to those who ridicule legitimate attempts to make language more inclusive or, for that matter, more expansive. 

    What were they thinking, you wonder? Um, they were trying to recognize that a non-binary person might consider themselves a lesbian, while failing to realize that they just effectively downgraded every woman on the planet, cis, trans, gay, and straight. Meanwhile, the group had no problem referring to gay “men,” when consistency would have required they revert to the term “gay non-women” if they really wanted non-binary people to fit into the category. 

    Language is important. But language can only be stretched so far if it’s to maintain its role as an expressive means to communicate. And I don’t think many non-binary people are insisting that we dispense with male, female, man, or woman in order to embrace the ambiguity that can exist in the liminal space between them. Quite the contrary, I imagine. 

    Our community can go too far, and being “woke” can too easily stray beyond a range of common sense that leaves us vulnerable to easy condemnation. We are already condemned unfairly; let’s not give people a real excuse to point the finger.

    We Dare Defend Our Rights

    Over in Montgomery, Alabama, the co-founder of the Invisible Histories Project, Dr. Maigen Sullivan, delivered a lecture on LGBTQ history in Alabama, which sounds like one of those innocuous well-meaning events that I personally like to skip in favor of Margarita Night at the Rainbow Cattle Club. 

    The event was hosted by the Alabama Department of Archives and History, but paid for, not with taxpayer funds, but under a grant from the Alabama Humanities Alliance. Nonetheless, a couple of GOP lawmakers attacked the program as part of a “woke liberal” agenda that doesn’t represent Alabama values. “The fact that state money, buildings, and resources are being used to promote a liberal political LGBTQ agenda flies in the face of our state’s values,” said House Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen. “If this is what they are doing with the taxpayer money that is sent to them, perhaps we should re-reevaluate their [ADAH’s] allocation in the next budget.”

    It wasn’t paid for with public funds! And even if it had been, since when are funds for archives and history limited to subjects of interest to right-wing politicians and conservative activists? Talk about big brother and the thought police. There’s no one worse than this “anti-woke” cabal with its banned books, its restrictions on school discussion, its denial of slavery, its war on drag shows, and its insufferable pomposity. I’m waiting for the arc of the moral universe to bend back towards justice, but these days I fear the arc is operating on cosmic time. 

    Oh, the title of this section? It’s the state motto of Alabama!

    I Want a Fun Badge

    Guess who’s on today’s target at the One Million Moms shoot out? It’s the Girl Scouts of America, who have “been on a moral decline for a long time, supporting abortion, sexual education similar to that of Planned Parenthood, and the LGBTQ+ agenda.”

    This month, girls “as young as kindergarten age” can earn a rainbow striped Fun Badge by learning some GLBT terminology and completing one or more gay-themed activities. According to One Million Moms, the girls might: “sketch a portrait of a member of the LGBTQ+ community whom you admire; make a LGBTQ+ music playlist; create art that celebrates how families come in all kinds; participate in No Name-Calling Week, which is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); or attend an LGBTQ+ Pride celebration.” 

    It’s not at all clear from the Moms’ press release exactly what might be wrong with these sweet-sounding tasks. Still, the Moms request that we all stop buying cookies and boycott the Girl Scouts “as long as the organization is pushing these liberal agendas on girls.” 

    It’s interesting. The press release doesn’t even include the usually amusing hyperbole. It’s almost as if they’ve forgotten what all the fuss is about and it reads as if they cut and pasted the language from the GLSEN or Girl Scout pamphlets. Are they perhaps getting tired of hyperventilating into a paper bag every time they see a non-binary minion or a gay starfish? Who knows?

    Before I go, let me mention the depressing Gallup Poll results that I was going to cover, but did not. It looks as if support for the GLBT community has plummeted in American society over the last year—down 7 percent. I don’t like to think about it and I find it depressing, so I’m just ignoring it (sort of).

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on June 22, 2023