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    Ann Rostow: Transgender Bunnies Unite

    By Ann Rostow–

    Transgender Bunnies Unite

    Here’s an odd one that I somehow missed earlier. In late February, a divided three judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reinstated Indiana’s ban on transgender youth healthcare on its own initiative with no appeal from the state. The ban had never been enforced, since a lower court had issued a preliminary injunction against the law a few weeks before it was to go into effect last summer, thus allowing a challenge to the law to proceed. The State of Indiana appealed that injunction, but did not ask the higher court to reverse the injunction while that appeal was litigated. Then, out of the blue, the panel hopped up to the plate and allowed the law to go into effect with no apparent analysis that made any sense to legal eagle Chris Geidner, reporting on his Law Dork blog. 

    And so it continues, our country’s all or nothing fight for transgender rights, featuring insane hostility from the right against passionate advocacy from the left with zero space for debate or discussion between them. On Easter, I’m sure you read that the date fell on March 31, the Transgender Day of Visibility. The Biden administration issued a standard (Democratic) statement of support, triggering a huge backlash as the other side accused it of deliberately undermining the Holy Day with a gratuitous heretical slap in the face to devout trans-hating Christians. 

    Hello, people! Haven’t we all figured out by now that no one knows when the hell Easter arrives from year to year because it seems to drop randomly into our calendars sometime in the spring? I just checked, and it comes on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the equinox. There’s astronomical Easter, Julian Easter (for our Greek friends and family), and our regular one, Gregorian Easter. It’s been in April going back to 2016, when it was in late March. Whatever! Transgender Day of Visibility, by contrast, is always on March 31, so it was not a nefarious plot by Biden to mark the date.

    But who cares about facts or reality these days? No one. I read that Trump is considered a “savior” figure by many of his acolytes and that obviously false news reports proliferate on websites operated by the Trump-pushing foreign governments we know and love. That’s not new, but I guess they are exploding online, complete with legitimate sounding media names like “DC Weekly” and others that I can’t be bothered to track down this minute. 

    Cue: Recitation of the “Second Coming.”

    Rocky Road to Perdition

    Well, that’s a depressing start. I’ll continue the negative trend by pointing out something that I just reported elsewhere, even though it has nothing to do with GLBT news. It’s the declining sales of chocolate chip ice cream, my favorite, which was first demoted to a seasonal variety, and now seems to be vanishing from the shelves, replaced by ridiculous cookie and candy nonsense on one hand, and jarring things like pickle spice gelato on the other. 

    Why? Is ice cream now reserved for small children? Are gelato manufacturers aiming for the pretentious idiot market? Chocolate chip is unique, dear readers. Transcending the combination of vanilla and chocolate bits, it forms its own unparalleled flavor. There’s nothing particularly seasonal about it, unlike let’s say peach ice cream or some pumpkin experiment. Winter, spring, summer, and fall, it is a delicious treat for all ages and all tastes. For God’s sake, bring it back. I just had to get that off my chest, again.

    Boycott Alert!

    Meanwhile, here’s a nice catch from my wife Mel, who sent me an NBC report about Best Buy. Network news hounds sniffed out an SEC filing that contained an email exchange between the electronics retailer and the National Center for Public Policy Research, one of those innocuous sounding organizations whose generic name hides a far right “think” tank. Apparently, the aforementioned tank holds shares in Best Buy and insisted the company start monitoring their employees’ charitable donations. 

    Like many big companies, Best Buy has one of those matching employee giving deals, which includes some GLBT groups in their funding. “Best Buy has partnerships with and contributes to organizations and activists that promote the practice of gender transition surgeries on minors and evangelize gender theory to minors,” wrote a tank staffer, Ethan Peck, in January. “Why are Best Buy shareholders funding the proliferation of an ideology seeking to mutilate the reproductive organs of children before they finish puberty?”

    He continued, “This contentious and vast disagreement between radical gender theory activists and the general public has nothing to do with Best Buy selling electronics.”

    The tank identified eight gay operations, which Peck described as “predatory butchers,” including the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and the GLBT seniors’ advocates, SAGE, demanding that Best Buy stop any employee contributions. 

    In response, Best Buy lawyer Marina Rizzo wrote: “As discussed during our call, we do allow our individual employee organizations, including our Military ERG, Conservative employee interest group, and our PRIDE group, among many other groups, some discretion to directly support organizations of their choosing. That said, any such contributions would be screened to ensure they do not advocate or support the causes or agendas you have identified as concerning. We hope this addresses the concerns.”

    Given NBC’s report, we can presume that the “causes and agendas … identified as concerning” include those of “predatory butchers, [who seek] to mutilate the reproductive organs of children before they finish puberty.” 

    Long gone, it seems, are the days when corporate policy makers championed equality and rose to our defense when the far right raised these issues. I suppose I would understand it if Best Buy lawyers dribbled out some platitudes to assuage a big shareholder. But these aren’t platitudes. This is the full-blown pandering of a puppy looking to please. And since it took place under the radar, it just goes to show how easily Best Buy will throw us under the bus when it thinks no one is paying attention.

    According to NBC, Peck was pleased with Rizzo’s reply, but managed to squeal about some statements on the company’s website. Links to Best Buy’s GLBT page have been severed, as was a page titled “Our Gay History in Fifty States.” I’m not sure when that took place, but you can draw your own conclusions.

    When contacted by NBC, Best Buy spokeswoman Carly Charlson noted that the Human Rights Campaign has recognized the big box retailer as one of the best places to work for 18 years. At that, HRC’s Vice President of Programs and Corporate Advocacy, Eric Bloem, replied: “Any company that uses their Corporate Equality Index distinction as cover while working with fringe groups and bad actors does not reflect true LGBTQ+ allyship in the corporate space.”

    Trump Judge Takes Our Side

    Now, here’s a switch up for us. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has unanimously ruled in favor of Tyler Copeland, a transgender prison guard who sued the Georgia Department of Corrections for allowing a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The panel, which included an anti-gay Trump appointee, sent the matter back to the District Court, where a judge had previously tossed Copeland’s case. 

    I hear you! Ann, are you sure this was the Eleventh Circuit? One of the most conservative appellate courts in the country? Did you say one of the judges was Andrew Brasher, a man who was universally opposed by GLBT and civil rights advocates, and described as an extremist ideologue when he came before the Senate in 2020? Did you say the ruling in favor of a transgender man was unanimous?

    Yes, so make of this what you will. In my view, it’s an instance of a judge who applied clearcut legal analysis and joined his more liberal colleagues perhaps despite his personal feelings. I don’t know. Maybe Judge Brasher has changed in four years. Inquiring minds are, um, inquiring.

    Tyler Copeland spent about four of his ten years as a prison guard as a man, transitioning in spite of the widespread and continual ridicule he received from his peers, supervisors, and even from inmates. He repeatedly documented his harassment and brought it to the attention of Human Resources and bosses. He was called “ma’am” and “baby girl” on the radio, pushed around, chased by a car in the parking lot, and laughed at. He was denied promotion until after his complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Finally, he sued the Department under Title VII, alleging a hostile environment, a denial of promotion, and retaliation. The District Court denied all three claims on summary judgement, and Copeland appealed to the Eleventh Circuit (joined by the United States Justice Department).

    The panel, which included an Obama nominee and a Clinton judge, agreed with the lower court that Copeland could not sue for denial of promotion or retaliation. However, the court overruled the District Court when it came to the hostile environment claim, in a strongly worded 32-page opinion by Judge Jill Pryor. The opinion held that Copeland had met every element of a hostile environment claim, and that the District Court erred by taking sides in various debates that belonged before a jury. (In summary judgement, a court is not supposed to be drawing any factual conclusions.)

    Bottom line: you never know.

    Only In Knutsford!

    So, I was scanning some twitter/X comments about Biden’s controversial respect for the Transgender Day of Visibility when I noticed a clickbait headline about a woman who saved a baby hedgehog. The headline implied that the story had a most amusing denouement, and it was datelined “Knutsford, England.” Bring it on, mates!

    Our unidentified heroine, an animal lover in her late sixties, found the injured hedgehog on the sidewalk and called the Lower Moss Wood Educational Nature Reserve & Wildlife Hospital for advice. She was told to keep the creature warm and bring it in the next day since hedgehogs are nocturnal and finding one during the day would indicate there was something amiss. 

    Dutifully, she put it in a box with some kibble and a little blanket and brought it to the hospital the following day. There, the triage nurse examined the lifeless body, which turned out to be the bobble head from a ski hat. 

    Are you laughing? What on Earth was this woman thinking? How could you pick up the thing, handle it, put it in a box with kibble, notice that it isn’t moving, call the wildlife center, and actually go over there with part of a hat?  

    And what else is new, you ask? Well, DeSantis and Disney have settled their fight over Disney’s tax abatement zone or whatever it was. I used to know all the details, but I tired of the subject so I’ve forgotten. Both sides claimed victory. DeSantis and our advocates have also come to a deal on the famous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which Florida now admits will, in fact, allow everyone to say “gay,” and discuss sexual orientation and what have you, except in formal classroom instruction. 

    I don’t know about you, and I know I’m part of an older generation, but I don’t recall much formal classroom instruction on anything sexy with the possible exception of the menstruation lecture in middle school. That involved a pamphlet with cartoon illustrations of fallopian tubes and such, which we all found hilarious for reasons unclear.

    It turned out there was nothing very funny about menstruation when push came to shove, and I had to get the skinny from my mother when the time came. I also had to use Kotex and a strap to hold it in place, which I could never get the hang of, leading to a number of humiliating “accidents.” At the time, I was distressed that I was the only girl who was incapable of coping with this routine phenomenon, and to top it off, my mother slapped me without warning the morning after my period arrived, which she then explained was a superstitious but friendly gesture. Hello, womanhood! After a while I asked her how long this was going to continue, and she said every month for most of my adult life. 

    I was appalled. Guys, you really missed the boat. Not.

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on April 4, 2024