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    Ann Rostow: Where Woke Goes to Die

    By Ann Rostow–

    Where Woke Goes to Die

    I was going to lead this column with the story about Lauri Carleton, the (straight) California shop owner who was shot dead August 18 by a man who resented her rainbow flag. Sadly, I expected this murder to go unnoticed by the mainstream press, but I have been gratified to see that the news went national. 

    I’m also unsettled by the grim satisfaction I took in learning that the killer himself, 27-year-old Travis Ikeguchi, was shot and killed by police. Since when did I start reveling in anyone’s loss of life? I’m not claiming to be an outstanding example of compassion, but I’ve always opposed the death penalty and glimpsed some humanity in even the worst of my fellow beings, with the possible exception of Hitler. Is today’s toxic atmosphere dissolving what I had thought of as a positive attribute? 


    Tide Turning Against Us

    I’ll leave you to read about Carleton elsewhere and move along to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, one of the more conservative federal appellate courts, which just reversed an injunction against Alabama’s ban on transgender youth healthcare allowing the ban to be enforced while the law is challenged in lower court. The lower court had put the law on hold during the litigation, and while several courts have ruled in favor of transgender plaintiffs challenging these damaging blockades, this three-judge panel, all nominated by Trump, went in the opposite direction. 

    Notably, a divided panel from the Sixth Circuit also ruled against transgender plaintiffs in a similar motion out of Tennessee last month, which will be reviewed in depth and again decided by early September.

    I haven’t read the latest decision, handed down August 21, because it’s too early in the morning to overload my fragile brain with 60 pages of dense legal rationales. But I gather the court relied, in part, on the High Court’s abortion decision, which took a baseball bat to the Due Process Clause, dictating that the Constitution requires a law be “deeply rooted in [our] history and tradition” and “essential to our Nation’s scheme of ordered liberty” in order to survive review (I simplify, because as I mentioned, it’s early). That test, when used loosely, can serve to defeat almost any modern premise. Is “the right to marry a member of the same sex” deeply rooted in American history? Is the “right to change your gender” essential to the Nation’s scheme of ordered liberty? You get the picture.

    Note that, unlike others, Alabama’s statute imposes a felony charge on medical personnel who transgress. 

    The previous day, a Sunday, a federal judge in Georgia put a temporary stop to the Peach State’s trans health ban. Since Georgia is also in the Eleventh Circuit, this ruling will not stand for long. Like the bans on transgender athletes, the anti-trans healthcare laws will be heading to the High Court in two shakes of a bunny’s tail.

    For some reason, the voice of Brenda from The Closer just popped into my head as I was finishing that paragraph. I know none of this is amusing, but sometimes it feels as if I’m several different people writing as one.  

    Battle of Gettysburg

    Speaking of Trump judges, on August 14, a couple of them got together on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and ruled in favor of a trans-friendly school policy out of Maryland. The two-judge majority told a group of conservative parents that they lacked standing to challenge a Montgomery County Board of Education provision that allowed teachers to withhold information about transgender students from parents when a student wished the information to remain private. 

    As you know, under our system, a plaintiff must have an actual dispute in order to bring suit, and since none of the parents had transgender kids, their suit was nothing more than a philosophical disagreement. A George H. W. Bush appointee dissented from the ruling, reasoning that, in theory, all the parents might have transgender kids who were keeping their lives secret with the help of their teachers. He didn’t say that exactly, but that’s essentially how he got around the standing issue.

    Even though we get a few good rulings here and there, the dam has broken on the surge of anti-trans laws and court decisions and our country is being flooded with ill-will. On August 21, in a personal example, my step-daughter was one of three dozen or so residents who testified at a Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, school board meeting on behalf of a transgender tennis coach who is under attack by some “Moms for Liberty,” along with a handful of anti-GLBT school board members including Michelle Smyers. 

    The coach, Sasha Yates, transitioned a couple of years ago with the support of the administration at Gettysburg High. She is widely popular and well-liked by everyone, except for the Florida-based Moms, Smyers, and a couple of bad apples on the board who are trying to nullify her contract. At issue, aside from the simple fact that she is trans, are two bathroom incidents, one in which she changed her shirt in private in the locker room, and another when a student entered the ladies room that Yates was using. Yates agreed to use a staff room after these events, but the blowback from the right has become relentless.    

    In an August 16 letter to the school district on behalf of Smyers, America First Legal warned that Smyers would sue the district if she did not receive “a copy of all reprimands issued to Yates and any other relevant documentation … related to Yates’ employment” by close of business August 17. I have no idea if this threat was successful, although I haven’t read about any lawsuits as yet. It’s just a glimpse of what is going on throughout the country below the radar while we’re watching the chaos going on above it. 

    Because of my personal connection, I listened to an hour of testimony from parents and residents in favor of Yates, who was praised over and over again as a dedicated coach, devoted to players and to her sport. On the other side, we had two or three nutcases bashing transpeople as unstable and ranting about “men” in bathrooms. When will this become intolerable?

    Lesbians Behaving Badly

    Let’s have a complete change of pace and delve into a story from Front Page Detectives. I have a rule against reporting news from bizarre websites and other mysterious online sources, but the rule is always set aside when something gruesome comes along. It may be a total fabrication, but I’m covering it anyway! The headline reads: “Gwen Graham and Catherine Wood Used Murder to Boost Their Sex Life,” and emanates from the “FPD CASE VAULT.” 

    According to VAULT records, the lesbian duo met at a nursing home in Walker, Michigan, in 1986 when in their 20s. They soon realized they both had a penchant for sexual asphyxia, which was fun for a while but soon paled in comparison to the thrill they got from murdering old people and having sex while preparing the victims for burial. (Since when is that a job for the nursing home aides?) At one point, we learn, Graham insisted that Wood kill someone to prove her love, but Wood refused and Graham moved to Texas with another woman. Later, Wood confessed all to her ex-husband, who told police, and the two murderers were convicted and sentenced to long prison terms. 

    This all happened decades ago, but the story was just posted online, so it’s fresh as far as I’m concerned. And it turns out to be true. Graham has been locked up for life, but Wood was paroled a couple of years ago and was then living in South Carolina. Uh oh.

    And why are we covering this? It’s because I think it’s important to recognize that, although gay women are usually exemplary citizens, far above the general public in both style and intellect, we’re not all perfect! Further, despite what you may have gleaned from these pages, not all badly behaved lesbians are British.  

    Sorry, Mitt!

    If I weren’t tired of legal news, I’d cover the ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court, giving the thumbs up to a Catholic school that fired an unmarried art teacher for getting pregnant, based on the school’s insistence that everyone behave as if it were 1950. I might also cover the weird judge who ordered lawyers for Southwest Airlines to take a refresher on religion in law from the far-right attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom. But I am tired, so we’ll leave these intrigues unexamined. 

    How about the BBC reporter who asked the captain of the Moroccan soccer team whether she had any gay teammates and, if so, what is it like for them in Morocco? Homosexuality is a criminal act in Morocco, with sentences between six months and three years, along with fines, so the question was inappropriate to say the least. When the moderator told the unnamed reporter to “stick to football,” he insisted the question was not political, but “about people” and kept blathering on, suggesting cluelessly that the moderator “let her answer the question.” Later, the BBC sort of apologized, saying there was “no intention to cause any harm or distress.” 

    Then there’s the head of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, who said that gay people “even if they do it once … are to be killed.” And, of course, continuing delights from Russia, where the parliament has banned any and all transgender medical interventions or change in documentation, annulled all marriages involving a transgender person, and banned transgender citizens from becoming foster or adoptive parents. I see that I already told you about that development, but it bears repeating. I want to send a mental apology to Mitt Romney, whom I ridiculed in 2012 when he said Russia remained one of our country’s main adversaries. 

    Like many of my fellow yellow dog Democrats out there, I was a passionate opponent of George W Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, and we won’t even discuss the men of the 20th century. It’s not as if I would support any of them if I went back in time, but how admirable they all seem in comparison to the Republicans of today. 

    WSONTFAMW? Inquiring Minds Want to Know

    Now, I’m torn. There are two lesbians who have been producing a “true crime” podcast aimed at getting to the bottom of who took a dump on the floor of the bathroom at their wedding in 2018. The program, Who Shat on the Floor at My Wedding, or WSOTFAMW, includes 13 episodes and is reportedly a big hit. The women have interviewed many guests, recreated the crime scene, speculated on logistics and pursued many leads. If the topic wasn’t so inherently repellent, I’d be tempted to check it out, but it’s just too much for me. I gather it’s been established (somehow) that the incident wasn’t an accident, but a deliberate act.

    So, I’m torn because I have a lot of material on the WSOTFAMW story, but I also have an article about a Georgia teacher, booted out of her job for reading a harmless book to her fifth-grade class about a non-binary child who has a purple shadow instead of a pink or blue one. 

    I also have a piece about a rightwing couple in Massachusetts who were rejected by the state’s foster parent and adoption program on account of their conservative views. The couple, Michael and Catherine “Kitty” Burke, have filed a complaint against the state Department of Children and Families after flunking the various tests given to see if couples are suitable to become parents to wards of the state. 

    When asked about GLBT kids, Kitty Burke allegedly said “let’s take the T out of it,” and called trans health services “chemical castration.” Michael Burke said he “might” attend the wedding of a gay adopted child, while Kitty said a gay or lesbian child would be okay, provided they were chaste. Oh, and they both promised not to kick a gay kid out of the house. I haven’t read their complaint, but what the hell? You can’t tell in advance if a kid is gay or straight or trans. Sending an innocent child into such a household would be gross negligence on the part of Massachusetts officials. Or have we all gone crazy?

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on August 24, 2023