World & National Briefs

HIV fight lags in the U.S.

The effort to treat the HIV virus and the use of PrEP has led to a drop in new infections around the world. The Centers for Disease Control says new HIV cases declined in the United States by 12 percent between 2017 and 2021. The United Nations agency UNAIDS reports HIV cases dropped 70 percent in the Netherlands, 68 percent in Italy, and 44 percent in Australia. United Kingdom health authorities recorded a 33 percent drop in the same period. Experts in the U.S. blame racism, stigma, lack of HIV funding, and poor intergovernmental coordination as the reason the U.S. does not show the same dramatic decreases.

Gay Man, Baltic Nation President

Latvia, a key Baltic state, has elected a gay man, Edgars Rinkēvičs, as president. This is a first for the European Union. The Latvian presidency is elected by Parliament and serves a largely ceremonial role as head of state. Rinkēvičs has a functional job as the country’s foreign minister and will resign to be the national party planner. There have been lesbian or gay prime ministers — usually a more powerful position— in European countries, namely Belgium, Iceland, and Serbia.

Good news and not from GLAAD Acceptance Survey

The 2023 GLAAD annual Acceptance Survey reports that 84 percent of U.S. respondents endorsed equal rights, the largest percentage since GLAAD initiated the study in 2015. GLAAD has officially dropped the name, “Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation,” in favor of the acronym to be better able to support the TGIA2+ community. The organization notes with concern that a majority of “non-LGBTQ Americans,” 54 percent, are confused by the use of they/them as pronouns. The study found that 86 percent believe that exposure to hate content online leads to violence, and 66 percent of Americans believe that anti-LGBTQ legislation l will lead to discrimination and violence. GLAAD reports hopeful signs, with majorities of non-LGBTQ+ respondents saying they are comfortable with “LGBTQ+ people in a variety of situations in one’s place of worship, as family members, and as doctors.”

First, they came for drag queens

Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada canceled a drag show for their Pride month on orders from the Secretary of Defense and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. USAF officers approved the show before the SecDef told Congress that drag shows were not appropriate for military bases. A USAF official said about the other events, “Consistent with (the) Secretary’s congressional testimony, Commanders have been directed to either cancel or relocate these events to an off-base location.”

Montana’s governor signed a bill into law that bans drag performers from reading books to children at public venues, including libraries and schools, becoming the first state to ban what are often called Drag Story Hours.

A Florida law that bans children from attending live adult entertainment has impacted the state’s “furry” community. Furries are those fun-loving folk who are interested, sometimes sexually, in anthropomorphic or cartoon animals. (Is an “F” a coming addition to the acronym?) A large “Furry” convention in the state was forced by the venue it chose to bar anyone under the age of 18 from attending as they feared losing operating and liquor licenses and fire safety certificates.

The governor of South Dakota has ordered the state’s higher education Board of Regents to ban drag shows from campuses and remove preferred pronouns from college and university materials. In an apparently contradictory diktat, the Board was instructed to, “Remove any policy or procedure that prohibits students from exercising their right to free speech.”

A federal judge ruled that Tennessee’s law restricting drag performances in public or where children are present is unconstitutional because it is “both unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad.” The judge wrote that the Supreme Court has never held that sexually explicit — but not obscene — speech receives less protection than political, artistic, or scientific speech.

Then, they came for Pride

Niche marketing to LGBTQ+ people is risky. Ask Bud Light. Bomb threats were made at Target stores in backlash to in-store displays of Pride merchandise. Stores in Oklahoma, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Louisiana, Utah, and Pennsylvania received threatening phone calls or emails. The stores were evacuated, but no explosives were found. Target moved Pride merchandise displays containing female-style swimsuits that can be used to “tuck” male genitalia and featured rainbow-themed mugs, buttons, and tee shirts from the front of the stores. The initial displays annoyed customers, and the removal annoyed others. Threats in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York reportedly said Target, “betrayed the LGBTQ+ community.”

Starbucks’ workers’ union and management argued over allegations the chain banned Pride decorations. Management said it did not do that and reaffirmed its Pride niche marketing efforts. However, Massachusetts workers posted language from management telling local stores, “They didn’t have any labor hours to decorate for Pride.” Baristas in Wisconsin posted about having to remove Pride decorations because they weren’t “welcoming for everyone.” Starbucks has denied the claims. It is enough to give everyone the coffee jitters.

Multiple parents gathered outside a school in Los Angeles to protest an optional “Pride Day” assembly that included a video reading of a book that showcased families with “two mommies or two daddies.”
Middle school students in Massachusetts refused to wear buttons and disrupted a Pride Month Spirit Day assembly with chants of, “My pronouns are USA.” Students were asked to wear rainbow-colored clothing, but the dissidents showed up in red, white, and blue or black. The local school board is taking up the issue.

California’s Orange County government went “Bi” about Pride Month recognition. In May, the county council voted to ban flying flags other than official national, state, local, and military flags on county property. This neatly finessed the need to raise Rainbow “Ole Glory” or the Progressive 2+LGBTQIA flag in June. Then a week later, the council issued a proclamation of celebration of “Pride Month.”

The city council in Hamtramck, Mich., unanimously voted to ban flags representing “any religious, ethnic, racial, political, or sexual orientation” to be flown. Another finesse of Pride recognition. The council claimed this action does not restrict freedom of speech but prevents radical or racist groups from asking for their flags to be flown. The Associated Press notes all Hamtramck’s city council members are adherents of Islam, with councilmember Nayeem Choudhury saying, “LGBTQ residents are welcome, but why do you have to have the flag shown on government property to be represented? You’re already represented. We already know who you are.”

They were warned, but they persisted

Defying the Human Rights Campaign’s Florida travel advisory, 150,000 people went to Orlando for theme park rides and to mingle with costumed performers, danced at all-night parties, and lounged poolside during the oft-held, “Gay Days.” HRC warned of law enforcement harassment and general discrimination after the Florida state government passed anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Gay Days, Inc. wanted a large turnout to send a message that, “LGBTQ+ people are not going away in Florida.” Police activity and violence in Orlando did not reach the level seen at College Spring break celebrations in Miami, earlier in the season.

Pride goes “tits up” at the White House

In a show of “bare-breastedness” unseen at the White House since the Kennedy Administration, the 2023 Pride celebration on the South Lawn stopped traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue and generated traffic, at least on TikTok. Transgender TikTok influencer, Rose Montoya, boosted her brand by posting a greeting with the current president and then busting out newly acquired breasts in front of the White House West Portico. It took the WH a few days, but the “faux Washington mammarial” display was denounced as inappropriate and announced Montoya would not be invited back to the White House. Montoya took to TikTok to defend flashing the world, saying, “My trans masculine friends were showing off their top surgery scars and living in joy, and I wanted to join them. And because it is perfectly within the law, I decided to join them.” She expressed support for “freeing the nipple” and said the criticism acknowledged that “trans women are women.”

Brooks rides to Bud Light’s rescue

Garth Brooks sang in 1992, “We Shall Be Free.” The singer-songwriter lives up to this dated anthem by selling Bud Light beer at his new Nashville bar, “Friends in Low Places.” Bud Light has seen a big drop in sales after the brewer used a transgender TikTok figure to promote the brand. Bud Light has now lost its position as the best-selling beer in the U.S.A. to Modelo Especial, an ostensible Mexican beer. Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the same parent company of Bud Light. “Diversity, inclusiveness: that’s me! That’s always been me,” Brooks declared online.

Pat Robertson, RIP*

One must paraphrase the great Bette Davis to discuss the death of Pat Robertson, 93, the conservative Christian televangelist who once linked homosexuality to Hitler. When told her rival, Joan Crawford, had died, Bette said, “My mother always told me to say something good about the dead. Joan Crawford is dead. Good.” Robertson founded the Christian Coalition, making religious fealty central to politics in the U.S.A. and other countries. He ran for U. S. president once. He was not nice about gays and lesbians: He once wished Facebook had a “vomit” button to use for pics of gay couples kissing. He blamed the 1998 hurricane season’s severity on the Gay Days festival in Orlando, Florida. He also said the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. were God’s retribution for the U.S. public’s acceptance of gays and lesbians. He went on in that same vein for years. He was more willing to accept transgender people, agreeing with the Islamic Republic of Iran policy that gender-affirming surgery can be performed without sin and chastising the co-hosts’ negative comments about transgender people. Go figure. Is he in heaven? Is he in hell? Who cares, just so long as he is dead. Drive a stake through his heart.
[* Editor: Rest In Perdition]

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