A Word In Edgewise: O Tempora, O Mores!

Photo courtesy of BigStock/Natali Alkema
Photo courtesy of BigStock/Natali Alkema

In August, 2010, I was delighted to write here that California U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker had ruled unconstitutional California’s ballot initiative Proposition 8 denying marriage rights to same-sex couples.

“Proposition 8,” he declared, “fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license … Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”

“First Step Down the Aisle” reached the altar June 26, 2015, after SCOTUS’ Obergefell v. Hodges decision made same-sex marriage legal nationwide. A major victory, but that was eight years ago. Today, it’s Pride 2023, a time to celebrate, yet a time overcast with anti-gay, anti-trans attacks, and increased misogyny following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The Florida Legislature recently passed a bill prohibiting gender-transition care for minors and restricting it for adults. Also prohibited is classroom instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation through the 8th grade, eventually to all grades. Greater license is granted to people (other than a student’s parents) to challenge school books they deem “inappropriate.”

Spending on diversity, equity, and inclusion, is prohibited while eliminating majors in gender studies. Students and teachers will not be required to use pronouns not corresponding to a person’s biological sex assignment at birth. State colleges will be banned from using state or federal funds for any diversity, equity, or inclusion programs.

Florida is only one state among many promoting or legislating restrictive measures against LGBTQ+ citizens, while attitudes towards any “different” individuals are becoming less empathetic. But, as biographer Jennifer Wright (Madame Restell) recently observed, “In America, the pendulum is always swinging between enlightenment and puritanism, and never rests entirely to one side.”

The late 19th century had its prurient Anthony Comstock, vigilant to arrest for any lapse in virtue or taint of immorality as per his definitions. He passed–though his censoring tentacles plagued Mae West and James Joyce from beyond the grave. “Don’t say Gay” is now the cry, and promoting children’s books with any perceived hint of sexuality or non-binaryness can again terminate a job or bring court action.

Prejudice never sleeps, but unlike leopards, it changes spots. Same-sex affection, families, loves are still verboten, but “transgenderism” has been promoted to primary whipping-person.

I’d graduated college by the time the word was coined in 1966; until then, “transgender” wasn’t used even by those to whom it applied. When I was eight, I insisted on dungarees with deep pockets and a front zipper – “Girl’s” jeans’ zippers were on the left. Mother took me to G.Fox’s Boys Department where a reluctant sales lady insisted I try the male jeans on in the Girl’s dressing-room. Any hints offered by my insistence on boy’s jeans and high-top black sneakers or my yellow swim trunks with green palm- fronds and gray sharks, were ignored. No adult muttered, “transgender.” They couldn’t: it didn’t exist.

And what to do today? Enjoy Pride with friends, celebrate what’s still gained; work to regain the lost. Keep abreast of the news, be aware of what further encroachments are on the horizon. Vote. Gift kids with books; LGBTQ+., history, fantasy/SF, science, Dinosaurs. The wheel of time continues to turn.


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