We frequently hear reference made to “queer culture” and wonder if there really is such an entity as a separate culture? Is there in fact a neat, tidy little box that all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people fit into?

It is our contention that there is not such a convenient little box and that the “queer community" consists of individuals reflective of our larger culture, with the only common denominator being an attraction to individuals of the same sex or even both sexes.

(But then that is in itself a restrictive definition and perhaps misrepresentative when one considers the sometimes complex fluidity of gender. However, we will leave that aspect to a different discussion).

As LGBT individuals, we come from all nationalities, ethnicities, religious faiths and nonfaiths. We are white-collar professionals, laborers, construction workers, teachers, professional athletes, doctors, nurses, veterinarians, musicians, artists, soldiers, sailors and yes, even marines!

We are parents, daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, grandparents and many other configurations of family members, both chosen and inherited. Some of us are political activists and others are not, and we are fairly evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

We are a part of and included in all of the above categories, which makes us continue to wonder why we must consistently be referred to as the “lesbian/gay community.” As if we were all one and the same.

Is one’s sexuality or sexual attraction really so important in our culture that it alone overrides all of the other factors that make us individuals? Does it justify a state of separation, and is it justification for social discrimination and veritable outcast status in many situations?

It seems a bit archaic to still believe that sexual gratification is to be confined by procreative definition, and we certainly don’t believe that heterosexuals confine their sexual proclivities to only producing offspring.

Although some seem to do more than their share of reproducing, perhaps it would be better to view homosexuals as nature’s population control. But then we would probably be considered the nonbreeding culture, and we are perhaps straying from the issue at hand, which is our position in the larger culture.

While acknowledging that our greater culture is made up of many subcultures defined by occupation, hobbies, educational pursuits, belief systems or philosophies, we do not see any rationale for a group of people to be set apart, discriminated against or denied basic civil rights because of whom they love or are attracted too.

How individuals pair off and create family units does not seem to demand a distinction apart from our overall culture as much as it demonstrates the commonality that we all share in seeking companionship, safety and comfort in a familial setting, while operating within the framework of our society.

We believe that it is now time for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals to stand up and out apart from any group context and be recognized for who they are and what they do within the context of our overall culture. We can no longer sit back and allow ourselves to be defined by our sexuality while that definition locks us into stereotyped categories that permit discrimination and scorn.

It is no longer merely politically correct and outrageous or maybe even fun to be lesbian or gay, and we must not let ourselves be used as an instrument of rebellion by those seeking some personal aggrandizement or amusement.

We are credible human beings living normal lives with all of the same hopes, dreams and ambitions of everyone else, and it is way past time that we were extended full emancipation and legal license.

We are both angered by and exhausted with politicians using us an instrument for their own sometimes woeful campaigns, as well as those who rally around the candidates pretending to be representative of each and everyone of us while never listening to what we say or feel.

We are here, we live, we create, we participate, and we are human beings, yes, just like you.

Helen Harrell can be reached at . Carol Fischer can be reached at .