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    Ann Rostow: What Color Is Your Pill?

    By Ann Rostow–

    What Color Is Your Pill?

    Do you know those theories about the universe that suggest we may all be part of a simulation, like in The Matrix? The odd thing is that while the idea seems absurd on its face, the rationales for being in a simulation make about as much sense as any of the other harebrained scenarios being bandied about by our astronomy friends. Multiverses, mysterious dark energy, string theory; we have no idea where we are. 

    These days, the notion that we might be in a simulation doesn’t seem that outlandish. What else explains the email headline: “Five reasons we should not just ‘move on’ from the Hunter Biden laptop story?” What else explains the people waiting for JFK Junior to come back to life and run for Vice President with Donald Trump? (And why are they waiting in Dallas rather than on a boat off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard?) What else explains our nihilistic indifference to pollution and climate change? Our inability to legislate beyond next week? Our narrowing minds and hardening hearts? The comic book-level craziness of world leaders like Trump, Putin, and Kim Jong-un? Someone must have programmed this descent into lunacy.

    Moving right along, I have a number of dismal stories this week, so instead let me begin with a snippet from North Carolina, where a man turned his four-year-old dog, Fezco, over to the animal shelter because the dog humped another male and the owner thought the dog was gay. I thought I was the one to discover this little gem but I see from Google that it is all over the news, and may have gone viral by the time you read this. 

    And we don’t have to worry about Fezco’s future. He is a medium-sized brown dog who looks like your idea of how a generic “dog” should look. He is clearly very sweet and it seems as if everyone wants to adopt him.  

    Oh, and because I was on a gay dog Google page, I encountered a white dachshund named “Whitney Chewston,” who is often pictured online near a brandy glass full of red wine captioned: “not too fond of gays.” Instagram gradually filled with variations on Chewston’s strangely adorable homophobia and his general snooty affect. Eventually, it became clear that Chewston’s owners are two gay guys, and in one scene he is pictured with them, thinking to himself: “tired of the gays.” 

    Cute!

    Please Spare Us

    Would you be astonished if I told you I agreed with one of One Million Moms’ recent press releases? The Moms are annoyed with a women’s intimate deodorant called “Lume” that apparently has an over-the-top TV commercial that I haven’t seen personally. That said, I have seen—and been increasingly grossed out by—other ads that focus in on private bodily functions. I have already called out the disgusting toilet paper bears in these pages more than once. Then we have the repellent tooth brushing ads that show icky stuff caught in teeth or corn cobs (just as bad). Don’t get me started on ear wax ads or acne products. And I actually saw one the other day that featured a woman defecating on the toilet and making a joke about it. Close the bathroom door and remove those cameras! If you must hawk these items, do so with a little discretion. 

    As for Lume, the Moms tell me that the ad “specifically mentions lady bits, testicles, chesticles, buttcracks, and sweaty backs.” Chesticles? What the hell are chesticles? And why do we want to deodorize these areas? Wash them for God’s sake. You know what? I don’t want to even discuss this any further. One Million Moms plus at least one lesbian agree. And it’s not even a matter of family values. It’s civility. 

    Before we leave the world of the Moms, otherwise known as the American Family Association, I was reading yet another poll that showed support for GLBTs continues to rise across all faith categories in the United States. White evangelical protestants, however, remain at the bottom of a long list of religious denominations, and indeed are part of the only group that continues to oppose same-sex marriage.    

    I was going to skip the poll story, from the Public Religion Research Institute, because, well, it’s a poll story. But then I learned that our adversaries in the white evangelical protestant group represent only 14 percent of Americans. How do they get all the attention? 

    And why are the lawsuits that pit gay clients against Christian business owners considered a third rail? According to this poll, sizable majorities of most religious groups believe faith should not trump civil rights in the public square. The exceptions are the evangelical protestants (38 percent support civil rights) and Mormons (44 percent). Everyone else (16 other categories) agrees that GLBT rights laws should protect market participants even when a business owner doesn’t like us, just as racist business owners are nonetheless required to serve all comers. Overall, 66 percent of citizens oppose letting faith dictate customer service when it conflicts with anti-discrimination laws. 

    Gay Gay Gay!

    It’s hard to say which is worse: the “don’t say gay” bill in Florida, or the executive decision by the Texas government to criminalize parents who seek gender identity care for their kids. 

    Last issue, I wrote about the backlash against Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who voiced a tepid objection to what’s actually titled the Parental Rights In Education bill. As our issue went to press, Chapek reversed himself and apologized for the half-hearted reaction, pledging to stand with Disney’s GLBT employees in opposing the bill, which bans discussion or depiction of anything gay or trans to third graders and younger. The bill also effectively requires public school staff to report students of any age to parents if they seem to be questioning their sexual orientation or gender.

    And while we all agree that third graders don’t need to be taught the graphic ins and outs of gay sex— or any sex, for that matter—what this bill does is scrap any and all representation of gay families, no matter how anodyne. As for sexual orientation, it’s implicit in every story about a King and Queen or Prince and Princess. With this bill, however, sexual orientation means heterosexuality. Discussing the bill, Governor Ron DeSantis’ spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said that anyone who opposed it was presumably okay with “the grooming of 4–8 year-old children,” as if the recognition that gay families exist was tantamount to pederasty.

    Disney’s worldwide staff went out on a one-day strike Tuesday, March 22, to protest the bill and provoke the company out of its complacency. As GLBT Pixar staff wrote in an open letter: “We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were.” Indeed, as a result of the reaction from Disney staff and observers, the company has reportedly restored a same-sex kiss that had been edited out of the upcoming animated film Lightyear.

    DeSantis, meanwhile, claims not to care what his state’s major employers think of his policies. Disney, he said, “is in far too deep with the Communist Party of China and has lost any moral authority to tell you what to do.” Okay then!

    All Hat and No Cattle

    Now, we come face to face with a couple of guys who make Ron DeSantis look like a moderate democrat, namely Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and his partner in a special combination of stupidity and evil, Governor Greg Abbot. As you may recall, Paxton recently issued a non-binding “legal” opinion stating that providing any kind of treatment to help transgender kids was a form of illegal child abuse under existing Texas law. Within a few days of digesting this nonsense, Abbot ordered state agencies to investigate parents who might be guilty of “breaking the law” in this fashion.

    This latest attack on trans kids comes after the state has already banned transgender student athletes from playing for their own gender, relegating transmen and boys to the female teams and transwomen and girls to the male teams. Some families are already making plans to move out of the state, and major cities are starting to lose convention business and tourism. 

    The good news is that Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union have put a quick stop to any investigations, let alone any criminal legal procedures against Lone Star parents. The lawyers won an injunction against the state, forbidding Texas from launching any probes into parenting while the underlying policy is reviewed in court. (That injunction was briefly frozen after Paxton filed an appeal, but the freeze was released and the injunction was restored on March 21.) 

    The bad news is that no one knows what could happen down the road if this case or another gets out of the state courts and arrives in courtrooms possibly run by Trumpian fools. Texas, after all, is the state that banned abortion after six weeks under a bizarre system where the law would be enforced by vigilantes who can file civil suits. And the federal courts are where that law somehow survived review and was allowed to remain on the books during lengthy litigation. Why not let the vigilantes in Texas enforce the newly interpreted child abuse laws and sue parents of transgender kids for damages? They can sue the therapists too, why not?

    The really bad news is that some 15 states have now shifted from anti-trans sports bills to focus on preventing or hindering transgender kids and adults under 21 from accessing health care, whether it be hormone treatments, psychological evaluation, puberty blockers, or other transition strategies. Transgender kids aren’t just political targets; they are targets of an inexplicable surge of venom that is difficult to understand or explain. 

    That said, I should note that the Republican governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb, just vetoed a transgender sports ban, calling it too broad and saying that it “leaves too many unanswered questions.” Thanks for that one, Eric.

    Bulldogs, Bulldogs, Bow Wow Wow

    What else is new, you may ask. I see that our old nemesis, antigay ex-Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, is back in the headlines, now that the two gay couples who filed a civil suit against her have won their case. I know! I’m surprised as well to see that a lawsuit filed in July 2015 is being adjudicated nearly seven years down the road. I know the wheels of justice can turn slowly, but that is ridiculous. Davis, you remember, was the county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples even after the Supreme Court had ruled and she was ordered by a judge to comply or step down.

    I understand from the Lexington Herald Leader that the case was sidetracked by several appeals during the course of the litigation. Davis argued that she was a public servant, protected against lawsuits. (Cue: error buzzer.) You are not covered if you deliberately violate the constitution. Davis then argued that she was protected against lawsuits by her religious freedom. (Cue: error buzzer.) Government officials cannot use faith as an excuse to deny services to this person or that one. 

    Back on schedule, the men won a summary judgment against Davis, who will have to face a jury for punitive damages and attorney fees. It doesn’t sound as if the woman has any money, so I’m guessing that bankruptcy court is the next legal venue on her list. She lost reelection back in 2018.

    I could also tell you about yet another drama going on at the Yale Law School, where students protested an antigay conservative lawyer who was invited to speak by the Federalist Society. At issue was whether or not the students themselves interfered with the free speech of the lawyer, or whether the university interfered with the students by sending armed campus cops to patrol the scene.

    After the incident, whatever it was, appellate court judge Laurence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit sent the following unbelievable email to colleagues:

    “The latest events at Yale Law School in which students attempted to shout down speakers participating in a panel discussion on free speech prompts me to suggest that students who are identified as those willing to disrupt any such panel discussion should be noted. All federal judges—and all federal judges are presumably committed to free speech—should carefully consider whether any student so identified should be disqualified for potential clerkships.” 

    I’d say Judge Silberman needs a refresher course on the First Amendment.

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on March 24, 2022