Sex before marriage

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported yesterday that the first test of the state's new constitutional ban on same-sex marriage has arrived, and it's messy. Barbara Lynn Terry, a male-to-female, pre-operative transgendered Milwaukeean, has applied for a license to marry Nicole Winstanley. Terry, who was born Ronald Francis Terry, wants to be counted as the groom, i.e., as a man, even though she's lived as a woman for many years.

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge David Hansher had the awkward obligation today to determine whether Terry was man enough to qualify as a groom under state law. At the time of this writing, I don't know the outcome of the hearing. Regardless of Judge Hansher's decision, the case points up some of the absurdities of the marriage ban.

I'm all for laws that restrict marriage to two consenting adults. Age and consent are fairly easy to document, or even for an objective observer to estimate. Gender, however, is much more fluid, and not just thanks to recent medical advances. Cross-dressing, opposite-sex role-playing, and other gender-bending behaviors are well documented throughout history, even celebrated (think Joan of Arc or Harriet Tubman).

Linguists could spend years cataloguing the terminology (like "twink" or "stone") for the many nuances of identity acknowledged in gay and lesbian communities. Intersexed (or hermaphrodite) people often struggle throughout their lives with identity issues, especially when they've had a gender forcibly assigned. As much as some would like to think, gender isn't something you're simply born with; it's constructed over a lifetime through experiences, societal expectations and internal dialogue.

The proposed Terry-Winstanley marriage shines an unflattering light on our government's attempt to regulate relationships according to gender. Post-op transgendered people (that is, those who have undergone sex reassignment surgery) are getting married in states that ban same-sex marriages, such …


Looking for the GW-spot

Oh, man. With the lame-duck Bush Administration on the fast quack, some weeks there's just too much weird news. Two seemingly unrelated stories caught my attention in the past 48 hours. Maybe you can tie 'em together. Or maybe I'll just have to make us some pâté.

First story, this one from Thursday: Bush made a tour of Latin America this week to boost his faltering partnerships with presidents there. During a joint press conference with Brazil's president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a reporter asked whether Brazil was having any luck in getting more access to European and U.S. markets through ongoing trade talks. According to the New York Times, President da Silva said he was hopeful that the negotiators would soon reach "the so-called 'G-point' to come to an agreement" - "point" being the best word the Brazilian translator could come up with on the "spot." Ahem.

The Brazilians in the room laughed out loud. President Bush looked pale. And, NYT reports: "The other Americans in the room puzzled over what initially appeared to them to be perhaps a local term used when speaking about trade talks."

Yeah, trade talks that go like this: "Honey, I'll do that thing you like, if you make sure to reach my 'G-point' first."

Second story, from the AP wire Friday afternoon: Or maybe it's not a story. Depends on who you ask. Who's asking? And who told you to ask anyway? Can I see some I.D.?

Enough beating around the -- ahem -- bush. The FBI released a bulletin this week alleging that foreign extremists have been getting commercial driver licenses in order to drive yellow school buses. The AP led into the story with this provocative wind-up: "Suspected members of extremist groups have signed up as school bus drivers in the United States, counterterror officials said Friday, in a cautionary bulletin to police." However, an FBI spokesman conceded that they have no proof that any of these drivers pose a threat. "There are no threats, no plots and no history lead…


Down the drain

In early 21st century America, science is a touchy subject. For one thing, school board members like me have to make sure that every student in the district meets the state standards in science, but you're held accountable to those standards by a president who's none too keen on book-learnin' in general and all that scientifical stuff in specific. Science, after all, is the Miracle-Gro feeding some of the biggest thorns in the president's side, like stem cell research, global warming, birth control, and military intelligence.

And then there's Kansas. The statewide school board, which determines what Kansas students will be tested on, flaps around on the issue of teaching evolution like a vestigial appendage in the political wind. Last month, the board chose to reverse its 2005 decision that required teachers to tell children that evolution was merely a "controversial theory." The February decision was the fifth revision to the science standards on evolution in eight years. The National Center for Science Education, a pro-evolution advocacy group, keeps track of the ups and downs of science in schools on its website (, where the Kansas "Events" page reads like a smarmy soap opera script.

But it's not only No Child Left Behind, or Kansas, or evolution, or even junior chemistry sets that make science and children an explosive mix.

This week, I'm feeling the pain of the social science researchers who have just set up a website protesting misuse of their research by the anti-gay Focus on the Family (FOF) organization. At, child psychiatrists, sociologists, and other researchers are challenging FOF's pattern of using their work to allege that children are harmed by having gay parents or by being gay themselves. Some of the researchers, all well credentialed social or medical scientists, have posted their disclaimers and letters to FOF's founder James Dobson on the site. notes that for a l…