Helen Harrell with Carol Fischer

September 6, 2008

Because of a range of genetic conditions, people who look like women may have a Y chromosome, while people who look like men may not. And many times these individuals do not learn about such defects until they reach adulthood, when things can become very complicated quite quickly.

The aforementioned is a loosely paraphrased quote from a plastic surgeon who specializes in transgender medicine and was interviewed about genetic testing at the Beijing Olympics. What caught our attention was the term "defects."

It seemed odd to us that a doctor would refer to her patients as being defective just because their chromosomes, or perhaps their genitalia, don't meet the prescribed binary definitions of female and male. However, that may be irrelevant, given that the greater context of the discussion focused upon the validity and legalities of genetic testing of athletes in the Olympic games.

July 26, 2008

Lesbianism is not contagious. Seriously, you can share a friendship, work space, recreational activities, even a church pew with a lesbian or gay, bisexual or transgender person, and it will in no way effect your own personal gender identity or sexual orientation.

You don’t need a vaccine to prevent contamination, and you might even build up a natural immunity to homophobia by freely associating outside your own comfort zone and accepting the fact that love and its attractions are more than a political statement.

We recognize your possible fear that folks might define you by your association and think you are a lesbian too (gasp!), but we don’t buy that “birds of a feather” argument. If one so easily became who they associate with then we would all become one another and there would be no distinction.

Besides, we humans are supposed to be defined by so much more than our procreative genitalia. Not to mention that we could learn from one another.

June 19, 2008

With perennial optimism we always anticipate that monsoon season will end and spring will arrive. This year spring was long and chilly but typical of Indiana weather that fluctuates like the wind. We are now, WHAM, smack dab into summer.

We are always impressed with the determination and bravery of the little spring flowers who weather late season ice and snow to bloom in glorious colors. They are awesome to behold but perhaps paled a bit this year in comparison to the determination of the two Democratic presidential candidates. The change to warmer weather was indeed abrupt and not unlike the end of the campaign between Obama and Clinton.

After months of being drenched in rain and the competitive dialogue, debates, not-so-subtle slandering and then pandering to various groups as well as one another, it’s over, and Clinton has literally disappeared from the scene. WHAM again! Makes us wonder what it was really all about anyway. Seems way too coincidental that for the first time ever we had two candidates from the most disenfranchised groups in our culture taking center stage in a run for the highest office.

May 26, 2008

The folks in California are celebrating, and for good reason. Last week the California Supreme Court ruled to overturn the lesbian/gay marriage ban which could soon lead to legalized queer weddings in the nation's largest state. If so, California would be the second state after Massachusetts to allow same-gender marriage.

In a 4-to-3 decision, the state's high court determined that domestic partnerships are not a good substitute for marriage. And while the justices did not say that same gender couples must be allowed to marry, they did determine that same-gender couples must be treated equal to opposite-gender couples. For example, the state could decide that marriage is for churches and offer civil unions to opposite gender-couples.

But then same-gender couples must also be offered civil unions. If the state recognizes opposite-gender marriages, then the state needs to recognize same-gender marriages. Since California already offers domestic partner benefits that include legal rights and responsibilities similar to marriage, it seems only logical that the next step is to extend full marriage rights to all couples.

April 19, 2008

It seems that folks sure do get worked up over the marriage issue and fret about relationships that exist beyond their own experiences and definitions. Most recently, when the topic of marriage arises in conversation, thoughts no doubt turn to the issues of the LGBTQI community and their efforts to achieve marriage rights.

Especially in the past five or so years, much public and private dialogue has occurred surrounding marriage, but there has been little real change for couples who wish to legalize their unions.

One state has extended marriage rights to LGBT couples, a few others offer domestic partnerships, a couple recognize civil unions, and the rest either have not taken action, have anti-marriage legislation (read that so called 'marriage protection') in process or stand by their existing constitutions that already declare man-and-woman unions as the only legitimate option.

March 22, 2008

We assume that if you are regular readers of this paper and our column then you are probably advocates of free speech and free expression as tacit to a democratic society. But do you ever ask yourself just how to be heard?

The right of free speech and finding a forum in which to speak are two separate issues, but there is a solution: community radio. It's as simple as that. And Bloomington is fortunate to have its very own community radio station in WFHB.

Maybe you are already a listener, or maybe you've never heard of the station, but it has been around for nearly 30 years in one manifestation or another. WFHB was the first community radio station in Indiana, and over the past 15 years has evolved into a seriously representative and credible voice for the community.

March 8, 2008

Just as we were growing weary of reading some 30-plus years of bumper stickers, they seem to have all but disappeared from the vehicular landscape. Maybe you've noticed too that there are now very few cars, trucks and vans that have even one slogan plastered on the bumper or rear window offering some bit of wisdom, some perhaps not so wise.

While we found many amusing and others clever, there were those that were offensive, even insulting. But what did this fad really say about out culture?

As with any hot item that is latched onto by Americans and replicated ad nauseum, bumper-stick mania seemed to indicate that while we believe ourselves to be individualistic and strive to prove it with catchy phrases or expressions, what any fad clearly demonstrates is how we all become more alike than not.

February 23, 2008

This may be a good year to be a Democrat, but is it a good year to be a woman? Is it ever a good year to be a woman? Now we love being women and have never aspired to be anyone other than ourselves. But it seems that while women have made some progress in achieving equal opportunity in this country, there is still a pervasive sense of inequity in all societal arenas, from business to education.

Our observance of the current political campaign is an example of what we see as an overall attitude toward women that manifests the ugliness of discrimination and demonstrates that women are still not seen as individuals capable of being completely in charge of anything and certainly not as leaders of our government and country.

We must say here that women could certainly do no worse than the men and maybe even better. Perhaps that is a real fear; that women, given the opportunity can do better. Just a musing.

February 9, 2008

In the grand scheme of things, 40 years is not much more than a blip on the historic radar. However, in terms of an individual life span, 40 years is quite a long time. The other day we were reflecting upon some of our personal experiences over the years and observed what has changed and what has seemed to remain the same.

Four decades ago we were a strikingly different pair. One of us was a university student, an ardent feminist, an antiwar protestor and civil rights activist. The other was a university student who left academics to become a marine in what was then a manifestation of idealistic patriotism with a desire to contribute to society.

While one was advocating on behalf of women, blacks and everyone being discriminated against, as well as marching and organizing against the Viet Nam war (and no, we did not jeer the non-volunteer returning soldiers), the other was carrying 80 pound packs on forced 20-mile marches at 4 a.m. in preparation for defense of country and nation, to death if necessary.

January 26, 2008

At every turn we hear how things are so much better for the LGBT community. People say that they feel safer, and we hear that many students seem to think that all is well. We also know that there are civil rights and legal protections laws being enacted in various cities and states across the country, and polls seem to support an overall improvement in acceptance of lesbian and gay folks and their families.

While we certainly don't want to discourage anyone, we always keep in mind that students and others of us are currently safe within the walls of an accepting university and academic community, and other employment venues are not so accommodating. And there are still more states without protections and partnership sanctions than there are with them.

Hence, being the skeptics that we are, we wonder if all is as good as it seems on the surface.

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