Notes from my lawn (Now get off of it.)

October 13, 2022 11:01 am

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In my youth, I’m ashamed to say, I often teased my father when he complained about “the old days” or “kids now,” but with each passing year, I see more of him in me and understand where he was coming from. 

As I was stewing on who knows what issue last week, seething myself into anger over some Tennessee political action, I considered the advice of people wiser than myself who have told me over the years it’s far better to openly discuss issues than keeping them in. 

In that spirit, I give you access to my ‘‘get off my lawn list,’’ the curmudgeonly accounting of a few of the thoughts that roll around in my head in the middle of the night — and they aren’t all political.

Transgender Tennesseans

Can we please leave transgender people alone? 

Seriously, I am tired of hearing about transgender issues, and by that, I mean I’m tired of elected officials and wannabe politicians trying to whip up outrage against what is, in Tennessee, likely a very small part of our population who aren’t doing a damn thing to hurt anyone. 

Transgender people aren’t a 21st century phenomenon. As far back as ancient Greece, historians documented non-gender conforming individuals and the American Historical Association, the largest U.S. organization for historians from all fields, cites their role in history. One piece includes vintage photos of a transgender man who fought in the Civil War and two British transgender women from the 1870s. 

I don’t understand being transgender. But one doesn’t have to understand an issue thoroughly to be empathetic. 

Instead, Tennessee has legislators like Rep. Jason Zachary of Knoxville and Robby Starbuck, a write-in candidate for the 5th Congressional District, beating the drum to gin up outrage against Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Clinic for Transgender Health and the families who go there. 

Enough, please. Let them lead their lives, no matter what you think about it.

Jeffrey Dahmer

Or, rather, it’s not Jeffrey Dahmer but Jeffrey Dahmer content that is under my skin.

Netflix is streaming two Dahmer shows: “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” is a biographical drama and “The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes” features interviews with psychologists who evaluated the serial killer and Dahmer’s lawyers. 

I lived in Milwaukee at the time of Dahmer’s eventual 1991 arrest, and let me tell you: I doubt there’s anyone who was also there who feels a need to relive that period. National media outlets nicknamed Dahmer “The Milwaukee Cannibal” and “The Milwaukee Monster.” Each time I mentioned to someone outside the city I lived in Milwaukee, I could expect a question about Dahmer. 

There’s no need to rehash this. And hasn’t life been weird enough the last few years without resuscitating this particularly gruesome weirdness? 

Tennessee Republicans’ obsessions with other peoples’ bodies

From drag shows to LGBTQ Tennesseans to banning abortion, Tennessee’s Republicans have an unhealthy interest in who Tennesseans love and what we are doing with our bodies. 

These drag queens aren't doing anything to bother you. (Photo: John Partipilo)
These drag queens aren’t doing anything to bother you. Leave them alone. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Thanks to our legislature’s GOP supermajority, we now have the most draconian abortion ban in the country save for Idaho. The University of Idaho advised staff members to not even provide abortion or contraceptive counseling to students in order to comply with a state law. In Tennessee, our abortion ban is written so there is no provision for phycians to provide emergency abortions even if the mother’s life is in danger. Rather, a doctor who is criminally charged after a procedure can attempt to prove in their own defense the mother’s life was in danger. 

Currently, a number of lawmakers are spending time criticizing drag shows, and Jackson GOP Rep. Chris Todd went to court last week to try to shut down the Jackson PRIDE event because of the event’s drag show. Drag shows, again, are nothing new. Some are characterized as ‘‘family-friendly,’’ a designation that apparently drives some people wild with outrage. To those critics, I give you the ‘‘womanless weddings’’ that were hosted by civic groups in Franklin as fundraisers during my childhood, featuring grown, church-going men vying to wear dresses and makeup as part of the “bridal party.” 

I feel certain that anyone who has been to a drag show realizes there’s nothing sexual about them. Drag queens and drag shows are meant to be over-the-top entertainment spectacles; I guarantee queens are thinking about keeping their lip sync and lipstick on point and not about “converting” anyone in the audience to becoming gay or lesbian. 

And don’t get me started on book bans, which stem from either LGBTQ issues or the unwillingness to address America’s racial history. 

Back in my day, the Democratic-led Tennessee General Assembly did plenty of stupid things and had its fair share of corrupt lawmakers. But I don’t remember the level of meanness displayed to their own constituents as recent iterations of the legislature have shown, and that’s what keeps me awake at night. 

Now get off my lawn.

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J. Holly McCall
J. Holly McCall

Holly McCall has been a fixture in Tennessee media and politics for decades. She covered city hall for papers in Columbus, Ohio and Joplin, Missouri before returning to Tennessee with the Nashville Business Journal. Holly brings a deep wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s political processes and players and likes nothing better than getting into the weeds of how political deals are made.