Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Gender and Sexual Identity

A forum was held two Sunday evenings at the First Congregational (UCC) Church on this subject. I missed the first one but was very glad I went to the second one on January 22. I frankly didn't know what to expect. Intimidation and disgust are two things which have never occurred to me in the presence of gay people, but I feel both of those things when I hear the name Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and that Oshkosh oozer of viscious hate: Teno Groppi.

In my years in the barroom music business in Madison I routinely went to the Monday night jams at the Washington Hotel on West Washington St. The hotel was gay-owned, the patrons were gay-straight, and it attracted a university crowd. The Monday night blues rivaled the finest Chicago might offer. It was a moment in time, cherished and never to be repeated since the hotel went up in flames some time ago.

Music is a common bond among people, it was music that brought the races together in the last century and this fellow feels that music will play a big part in breaking down gender barriers and ending needless hate.

Susan Allen led the forum. She is the faculty advisor for "Support the Rainbow", the gay-straight alliance at Southwest High School in Green Bay. 'From Right Wing Evangelist to Advocate for Gay Youth' was the forum title. Kay Springstroh sent me a formal invitation and greeted me at the door about 5:50pm. There was a wonderful snack table with several tasty soft cheeses. The program started late and I don't think the public address system was on.

A kiosk next to the podium advised the audience of 'rules'. It advised participants to be courteous and to have respect toward others. The first rule was a new one for me: NO BIBLE BINGO. I never asked what this was supposed to mean but I caught on. Bible Bingo is when people argue over particular verses to prove points. It never works. Many different points of view can be 'proven' by using bible verses which seemingly contradict each other. I like the term Bible Bingo.

Sue Allen has an interesting story to tell. She was a bible-thumping evangelical right-wing Republican for 20yrs and believed homosexuality was a sin. In her words: "So how in the world did I ever get from that point of being such a self-righteous, intolerant, born-again Christian living in Milwaukee, to being a single mother of three in Green Bay, who is an active ally and supporter of homosexual rights?" She then detailed in increments how her thoughts changed over the years.

She had the audience play games. One scenario had the 'most macho man' stand on one side of the room and the 'most feminine woman' on the other. Then she looked straight ahead at the audience and commented that the rest of us were somewhere between the man and the woman. (I have always felt that all women were 10% male and all men 10% female.)

Things I learned...
  • One baby in 2,000 is born with Down's Syndrome.
  • One baby in 1,600 is born with damage or disfigurement in the groin area.

Disfigurement in the groin area is more common than Down's Syndrome. We are, of course, familiar with Down's Syndrome since we can see it! We can't see the other.

M.D.'s are sometimes at a loss which sex to check on a birth certificate. Sometimes they must act immediately to make the excretory organs work to save the life of a baby. Years ago the slip of a knife during a circumcision might lead the Doc to 'make' the baby boy a girl. Life is not black and white but many shades of grey. Add color and it's a rainbow.

Co-Pastors Ralph and Carol DiBiasio-Snyder made everyone feel at home. Go here:http://www.fccoshkosh.org/copastor.html

The United Church of Christ (Congregational) has been at the forefront of social change as long as I can remember. Their theme "That They may all be One" is demonstrated constantly by their actions.

One man who attended has a gay son who teaches High School in another state. This man worries for his son. Every person hopes the best for their children.



AngelAiken AKA Thee U.M.O.G said...


Glad you did this and glad I was there! I learned a lot.

Lisaben said...

Gary, thank you for reporting on our gender/sexual identity series and thank you for attending Susan Allen’s presentation.

Just a few additions, for clarification, regarding people who are now called “Intersex”. There is no single intersex body because there are many hormonal, anatomical and genetic variations. Most intersex people identify as men or woman, just like everyone else although their gender might be considered “ambiguous.” Intersex is a congenital, umbrella term which includes conditions like Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH), Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), and Klinefelter’s Syndrome (KS), among many others. There have been over 35 different combinations of chromosomes already identified even though we tend to think in narrow terms of XX or XY. There are also dozens of medical conditions in which the child’s genital sex and chromosomal sex do not match or are different from what we may consider to be “standard” male or female.

Intersex people used to be referred to as hermaphrodites; a term we now try to avoid since it seems to stigmatize intersex medical conditions.

The visibility of intersex people has been increasing because many are speaking out against forced surgery on infants which, supposedly, fit them into the narrowly defined little boxes of gender that Americans, especially, are so fond of constructing. It also adds to the marriage equality debate as to what procedures will be put in place to ensure that “one man and one woman” are given marriage rights. Will a heterosexual woman with AIS, for example, be allowed to marry even though her chromosomes are XY?

Most importantly, there are thousands of intersex people in our world and we all need to help put an end to shame and secrecy. When 1 in 1600 people are intersex, it’s time we realize that, statistically speaking, we know people who are affected and hurt by marginalization.

I would invite your readers to visit the Intersex Society of North America for further information. http://www.isna.org/

P.S. We started late because people were busy eating the cheese.

Gary said...

Thank you for the additions and the website. When is the next forum???

jody said...

Back to the Club de Wash in Madison (in the Washington Hotel)

Ya, definitely a real hot spot for years. In the early 80s I lived in a flat in a big house on Main St, a few blocks from the Wash. Hotel. There were a group of guys who lived a few houses down - real pricks. The "leader" had been in some branch of the military and had a taste for blood.

They would get tanked up in the early evening hours on Saturday nights and then go lurk around the Wash. Hotel looking for gay guys to beat up for fun. I am not making this up.
I never SAW this of course but the Lead Creep used to brag about it to my housemate, who was a total moron and also ex-military and he also thought it was kind of funny.

So when I said we should probably tell someone the Housemate said no way, they'd know who told and he didn't care about the "fags" anyway. I was 22, totally scared of the Lead Creep and didn't know what to do on my own so I let it go too. Not something I'm real proud of but I was at a loss.

Do you remember what caused the fire? Or the year? Last time I was there was on my wedding day in 1985 so it was after that anyway.
Hey, maybe the Lead Creep had a Bic lighter....

Lisaben said...

I'll guess 95 or 96 for the fire? I remember something about that crazy firefighter who ran against Tammy Baldwin and who was also fired by the lesbian fire chief for anti-gay hate speech. After the fire, he was publically elated, if I remember corectly. I can't recall his name and I can't remember the actual dateline of the events.

I do remember that Rod Scheel died in the early 90s and his dreams for safe, warm, and fun places for the LGBT community to socialize in Madison, especially, seemed to fade away. When the place burned, I think Rod's Back Door, the Barber's Closet, Cafe Palms, Club de Wash, and the New Bar were all still in operation. I think they still rented out rooms upstairs, too, but I don't know if the retired railraod workers still lived there after Rod died.

From the mostly straight young people following new bands in CDW to the queens dancing in the New Bar to the leather men in the basement to the lesbian feminsts dining in the Palms, there will never be another Hotel Washington.