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    Ann Rostow: Whither the Transmen?

    By Ann Rostow–

    Whither the Transmen?

    Here’s something I’ve written about many times, which I stopped mentioning in an effort not to belabor the point and annoy my cherished readers. But I feel compelled to bring it up again.

    I was just reading attorney pundit Chris Geidner’s Law Dork blog, where he notes that Utah has once again won the prize for first enacted anti-GLBT legislation of the calendar year, this time for a bill that essentially bans transgender kids from using school facilities that don’t match their birth sex and restricts transgender men and women from government facilities under various convoluted circumstances.

    I gather that there are exceptions for post-operative transgender men and women, but it’s not at all clear to me what happens to transgender men and boys who are taking hormones. Testosterone treatment means these guys may have beards (if they’re old enough), muscles, bulky male looks, and styles. What the hell, Utah lawmakers? Are these men really supposed to hit the ladies room if they want to go the bathroom in a government building? Why isn’t this obvious lapse in reasoning brought to the forefront of debate more often? Why don’t we see more cases of transgender men forced to confront women in their facilities by illogical laws like these? 

    The bill is titled “Sex based designations for privacy, anti-bullying, and women’s opportunities.” As always, it’s all about the specter of male-born men pretending to be trans-women so they can sneak into the bathroom and pester hapless females under the protective ambit of civil rights laws. This scenario happens, um, never. Any creepy guy who wants to prey on women will find ways to do so regardless of legislative dictates, and the last people who would fit such a category are transgender women. 

    And what kind of reception do you think an ultra-feminine pre-op transwoman is going to get in the men’s room? I have a generally positive view of human nature (which is being sorely tested these days), so I think most men will be respectful, but many of them won’t. So much for privacy, anti-bullying, and women’s opportunities.

    What a Piece of Work Is Mark Robinson

    I guess the GOP candidate for governor of North Carolina is not one of our friends and allies. According to NBC News, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson suggested that transwomen, or rather “people who are confused” about their gender, should “find a corner outside somewhere” to go to the bathroom. Mark? I think there are laws against that. Of course, we’ve all been in that position at some point in our lives, but we’ve generally had excellent explanations for our predicaments. 

    “We’re going to defend women in this state,” Robinson said at a campaign stop. “That means if you’re a man on Friday night and all of the sudden on Saturday, you feel like a woman and you want to go in the women’s bathroom in the mall, you will be arrested—or whatever we got to do to you.”

    The women’s bathroom in the mall? I’m sorry. This is serious stuff, this candidate is a horse’s ass, transgender rights are being shredded throughout our country, and this guy’s choice of imagery is really inconsequential. But still! No one goes to the women’s bathroom in the mall. No one goes to the mall, period. And “all of a sudden on Saturday?” What’s that all about? 

    The whole thing is something out of a Tarantino movie. A drag queen squats in an alleyway. That night, she staggers home, removes her wig and make up. The next morning, a bedraggled male stares back in the mirror. He makes his way through the deserted mall, stopping at the cosmetics counter of a fading anchor store. Passing the empty food court, he goes down a short hallway, hesitates for a second, and enters the door marked with a stick figure in a skirt. Trying a new lipstick, we see his image becoming transformed to hers. But wait! We hear a flush, a stall opens, a menacing figure emerges in the reflection.

    It’s Mark Robinson! (Cue: screaming. Fade to black.)

    I know. I conflated drag queens and transwomen, but hey, the scenes worked better that way. Oh, and in 2018, Robinson reposted a Facebook bit about gun control that included a little history lesson: “This foolishness about Hitler disarming MILLIONS of Jews and then marching them off to concentration camps is a bunch of hogwash,” wrote whoever it was. We may not know who wrote the original post, but we do know that Robinson liked it, and that’s enough for us, isn’t it?

    Lordy Lordy

    I was planning on telling you about a “Christian” couple from Indiana who have asked the Supreme Court to punish the state for removing their transgender teen daughter from their custody back in 2018. Hey, I did the math too! Years have passed. This kid is an adult. And the High Court usually does not accept cases in which the original dispute is moot. 

    Still, I wanted to understand what happened, and why this kid was removed from her parents’ home absent some other issue. Parental rights are considered fundamental under the Constitution, so Indiana should have had a really good reason. Much as it would be hellish for a transgirl to live with hostile parents who used masculine terms and so forth, it’s technically not grounds for getting removed from your household unless you manage to get declared an adult somehow.

    To make a long story short, if that’s still possible (which it isn’t because I rambled), I could not find any mainstream reporting about this. Headline after headline trumpeted the fact that Mary and Jeremy Cox have filed this petition before the Court, but they were all from rightwing or Christian media. I finally resorted to reading the petition, which consisted of argle bargle, if I may borrow a legal term of art from Antonin Scalia. So, I still have no idea what happened, what constitutional issues might be at stake, or why the High Court should overlook the many years that have intervened since the facts of the case took place. 

    If you see a reference to this petition, just know that I tried to cover it for you.

    Lesbians Behaving Okay

    I just ran a search for lesbian news in the hopes of finding one of our delightful lesbians behaving badly stories, but no such luck (yet). First up, however, was a story about a lesbian bar in London where transwomen will be barred. Really, ladies? I’m not even going to read this story. We have fought bravely against discrimination for decades alongside our gay, bi, and trans comrades in arms, only to come to this? A mean-spirited narrow definition of what it means to be a woman that denies the humanity and femininity of an important minority of our fellow sisters. Why? What are these bar women afraid of? Why so hurtful? This isn’t an Olympic trial where excessive testosterone might play some competitive role. It’s a frigging bar! I can’t go on.

    What else did I find on there? Let’s see. How about this subhead? “Kristen Stewart is in Berlin for the international premiere of lesbian crime-romance Love Lies Bleeding.” Makes you want to be in Berlin too, doesn’t it? I’ve never been.

    I’m in a different generation from Kristen Stewart, but when I was her age, I would either have wanted to be just like her, or go out with someone just like her. I can’t decide. Luckily, it doesn’t matter. As for lesbian crime-romance, I lived on Christopher and Bleeker in the early1980s when everyone was up in arms over the movie Cruising, because the killer was a lesbian (or something) and I remember watching some protests out my window before heading to the Duchess as we did every single night. I can’t recall what was wrong with lesbian killers. I think it was just too much for us at the time. We were already reviled just for being us. Did we have to be ax murderers on film too? 

    Here, we can see from Kristen’s movie, is yet another example of progress towards equality and civil rights. Yay!

    There’s also something called a “chapstick lesbian,” which is not of great interest. In my experience, there have always been chapstick lesbians, and there will always be chapstick lesbians because who wants chapped lips? We also have “chapstick straight women,” who are similar to “chapstick lesbians” except they are attracted to men. Bottom line? All women use ChapStick/lip balm.

    Further, I was struck by an article on the high rates of lesbian divorces, which aren’t actually that high but are higher than gay male divorce rates. First, same-sex marriage statistics are relatively new. We’ve only had the right to wed legally for ten or fifteen years, so whatever numbers you can find are probably erroneous.

    Second, it seems women are more likely to initiate divorce proceedings in straight marriages as well, perhaps because we have a lower tolerance for infidelity than the guys. I’ll say! Half the gay male couples I know have elaborate rules for their relationships, like you can only sleep with someone else on alternate Fridays, or you can only sleep with the same guy three times, or you can only sleep around if your husband sees a photo and approves of the guy first. 

    Third, our U-Haul tendencies may lead us to hop into marriage before we’re ready, the corollary being that we hop out faster as well.

    Fourth, like the business with chapstick, who cares?  

    I See You!

    Oh, by the way, I just saw that “Lesbian Visibility Week” is April 22–28. Who thinks of things like this, and what are we supposed to do about it? I dutifully went to the Lesbian Visibility Week website (just for you) and I can tell you that “we will be celebrating the power of sisterhood by uplifting incredible LGBTQIA women and non-binary people from every generation, in every field and in every country around the world. One community, so many brilliant individuals.”

    But there’s more!  

    “This year DIVA is working in partnership with EL*C (Euro Central Asian Lesbian Committee), ILGA World, GLAAD, Curve, and LGBT Foundation to make Lesbian Visibility Week a truly international stage where iconic LGBTQIA women and non-binary people can all take a moment in the spotlight to be recognized for the work they do and the joy they bring.”

    For the record, I have a non-binary grandchild, aged eight, who plays ice hockey and just promised their other grandmother (my wife) that they were going to “knock that guy into next week,” referring to a player on the other team. I certainly hope these fine organizations give my little buddy a chance to shine during Lesbian Visibility Week. They (grandchild) have also mastered some choice phrases, including a two-word expression with the initials “MF,” probably launched at one of the unfortunate little children across from them on the ice rink. I do, in fact, get a great deal of joy out of this.

    There’s also a special Lesbian Visibility Day in the middle of the week, specifically April 26, a Friday. I have learned from the website that Lesbian Visibility Week began in Los Angeles in 1990 and “was celebrated until 1992.” In other words, it was an immediate flop. 

    International Lesbian Visibility Day was revived by DIVA, a British magazine in 2008, and the whole week of visibility came along in 2020 when, if I recall correctly, the entire world spent two years hiding out in sweatpants and t-shirts, eating junk food and binge-watching TV from home. 

    “Lesbians need to be given space to be visible and shown to the world on our own terms,” said DIVA publisher Linda Riley. She seems like a good person and a gogetter, but I don’t even know what this means. Given space by whom? To do what exactly? What does she mean “shown to the world on our own terms?” Whose terms? Shown how? By whom? I lack patience for this kind of vague rhetoric. But I feel guilty for criticizing someone who’s trying to do something useful while I sit around and complain. Forgive me, Linda.

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on February 22, 2024