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Michael Musto

Hillary, Caitlyn, The Pope: How Do Our Friends Become Our Enemies?

Ryan Pfluger (Jenner)

Also: Anderson Cooper and Mom Leave Nothing Unsaid

An enemy who's "the devil you know" can sometimes be easier to negotiate than a friend who momentarily turns on you. After all, with the enemy, you know exactly what you're dealing with. But lately, we've learned that you can't always trust supposed allies when it comes to their support, providing a slippery situation that we have to always stay on top of in order to demand the respect we deserve. The expression "wolf in sheep's clothing" comes to mind, and there's been an uncomfortable number of them popping up, propelling me into this retaliatory wolf hunt:

In March, Hillary Clinton nervily praised the AIDS "advocacy" of the Reagans (particularly Nancy) and actually said those two opened up a conversation about the subject in the 1980s, thereby leading to wonderful progress. Ugh. I know when someone dies, you want to try to say something nice about them, but implying that the Reagans were AIDS activists is like saying Hitler was a humanitarian. I'm shocked that Hillary pretended not to know that. The truth is, they were so willfully negligent about AIDS--staying mum as tens of thousands of people died and the epidemic kept morbidly mounting--that activists were launched against them, insisting on a response to the crisis. In fact, one of the main reasons for the founding of the activist group ACT UP--which I used to furiously march in the streets with--was the hideous inaction of the Reagans about HIV, something that makes them deserving of eternal scorn, not kudos. Thankfully, the instant uproar over Hillary's pandering remarks made her take them back faster than ill-fitting shoes, and I'm quite certain she'll never say anything that ridiculous on the topic again. And now, she's our friend again.

I would never imply that Pope Francis is a bestie to the LGBT community, given the hideous track record of the Church, but there have been glimmers of hope, particularly with his refreshing comments like "Who am I to judge?" Last September, when he came to the states, Francis seemed to bring some sensitivity with him. Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who infamously refused to issue same-sex licenses despite the Supreme Court decision, was bragging that she'd had a wonderful meeting with the Pope on his visit. But to their credit, the Vatican played that encounter way down and said the only real audience he gave during that leg of the trip was to an ex student of his (who happened to be a gay man, there with his lover). I started thinking this Pope might change things by blessing LGBTs rather than condemning them to hell, as has been done in previous centuries. But then he seriously backtracked. In February, our "friend" made outlandish, bible thumping comments putting down trans people. He compared them to nuclear weapons in that they do not "recognize the order of creation." He said trans is a "new sin", likened them to Herod, and said "the gender theory" will surely lead to massive destruction. Oh, please, Mary. Destruction is caused by bigotry, scapegoating, and the misuse of religion to oppress people. It's not caused by a few hormones.

But wait a gay minute! The Pope is now our friend again! Sort of! In a paper released last Friday, he advised priests to be more accepting of gays and lesbians, not to mention divorced Catholics or anyone one else in an "irregular" situation (i.e. anyone in Hell's Kitchen, lol.). He wrote against "unjust discrimination" aimed at gays and lesbians and added, "By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and growth." Amazing. Actual doctrines won't be updated, so I guess we're still going to hell when we die, but at least we'll do so with a hint of acceptance. Now, Francis, how about taking back your trans comments so I won't have to burn my Bingo card? And how about stepping back from your continued anti-gay marriage stance? How can you be against discrimination, yet openly discriminate? After all, who are you to judge?

Meanwhile, Caitlyn Jenner is more than a friend--she's a member of the community--but though her show has tackled some fascinating topics and featured interesting people, she sometimes steps in it, making us wonder when she'll finally transition from a Republican. While the Pope demeans trans people, so does Caitlyn, albeit more out of self-loathing than second-hand divinity. In March, Caitlyn boldly claimed that Republicans don't say they hate trans or gay people, they instead feel, "I want a thriving economy, so every trans person has a job." Yeah, without rights at the workplace! Without proper bathroom use! And without a same-sex partner if they desire one! Besides, even if Republicans did want trans people to have jobs, their rabid anti-LGBT stance (which includes desperately wanting to undo same-sex marriage) hardly fosters an ambience that would help LGBTs get employed. Also, why do we need Republicans to give them jobs? Obama inherited the Republican mess of an economy--the worst financial crisis since the great Depression--and turned things around in his eight-year reign, including unemployment, which has dramatically dwindled. If anyone could help all kinds of people get jobs, it's him, not Ted Cruz, whom Caitlyn wants to be the trans ambassador for. (And believe me, he definitely needs one--though I doubt he's frantically looking for one any time soon.)

The trans topic really sets mouths spinning in unfortunate ways, tapping into all kinds of fears and biases. In January, Barry Humphries--who's long donned drag to play the hilarious character Dame Edna Everage--said in an interview that he agrees with feminist writer Germaine Greer that trans women are just "mutilated men." This is no doubt the first time Humphries has agreed with the Pope on anything, and it's sad that they're aligned in their crassness, equating gender confirmation with self-maiming. I've been mutilated by the gladioli Dame Edna routinely throws at her audience, but the future looks bright because I'll never be sitting there again.

Also agreeing with dreary Greer is Richard O'Brien, who wrote and played Riff-Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the cult movie about a "sweet transvestite" who liberates people with sexual antics and iconoclastic ideas. I've long revered O'Brien because his show and the subsequent movie cannonballed an entire generation out of a million closets, and that includes yours truly, who attended the midnight screenings in the 1970s, feeling part of a creative, resourceful community in a way that profoundly changed my life. "Don't dream it, be it" became our mantra, but unfortunately, it's led to a nightmare. O'Brien, of all people, now says that trans women can't really be women. Having taken female hormones to the point where he says he feels 70% male, 30% female (a "third sex"), time-warping O'Brien told an interviewer, "I agree with Greer and Humphries. You can't be a woman. You can be an idea of a woman. You're in the middle and there's nothing wrong with that...I have all the sympathy in the world for anyone who does it, but you aren't a woman." Come on, Richard. There's more to being a woman than just menstruating. And when did a trans person ever say they wanted sympathy? What they crave is better friends--and for people who used to move things forward to keep their reactionary views to themselves.

But don't worry, pals. If you're going to continue airing your dumb remarks, we'll be monitoring the situation and giving you one last chance before we bump you into the "enemies" list. And when that happens, beware of the wrath of the righteous.



A friend to the community, Gloria Vanderbilt is the socialite-turned-mogul who recently revealed that she had a lesbian relationship way back in school. Her other gift to the LGBT world is her famous son Anderson Cooper, who interviews her about her life in the lovely HBO movie Nothing Left Unsaid (directed by Liz Garbus). At the premiere for the film last week, HBO's Sheila Nevins said she once shared a six-and-a-half-hour flight with Vanderbilt, who insisted on playing 20 Questions about her various lovers through the years. "There wasn't a dull moment," remembered Nevins. "There were people you wouldn't even dream of!" Joked Anderson, "She used to ask me to play the same game with her as well. It's completely inappropriate!"

In the doc, gay talk only comes up when Vanderbilt recalls how lesbian stuff was used against her mother in the world-famous custody trial centered on Gloria. "In those days, of course, that was considered strange," says the 92-year-old icon. The movie also covers Vanderbilt's socialite years, her marriages, her painting, and the suicide of her son Carter. (She admits to laying down and crying for three weeks afterward, then never doing so again, having no tears left.) Meanwhile, Anderson reveals that he always wanted to have children, but realizes he'd have to change professions to devote more time to them. But what a mom he has! "She's the most youthful and modern person that I know," beamed Anderson at the premiere. "She still believes that right around the corner is the next great love." Or at least a very dear friend.

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Michael Musto