Windy City Media Group Frontpage News Home
CELEBRATING 28+ YEARS OF Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender NEWS

Search Gay News Articles
Advanced Search
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2014-10-22
Download Issue
  News Index       Archives   About WCMG    Publications    Bars & Clubs     Calendar   Videos   Advertisers    OUT! Guide    Classifieds   AIDS @ 32
 Local | National | World | Politics | Obits | Profiles | Views | Entertainment | Theater | Dance | Music | Film | Art | Books | TV/Gossip
 Travel | History | Marriage | Youth | Trans | Lesbian | Celebrations | Food | Nightlife | Sports | Health | Real Estate | Autos | Pets | Crime

Knight at the Movies: Nightbreed; Advanced Style; film notes Knight at the Movies: Nightbreed; Advanced Style;
film notes
Like many other writers, horror (and gay) literary icon Clive Barker has ...

Browse Gay News Index   Browse Gay News Archives
  Windy City Times

Sharon is Home
by Kera Soko
2007-07-11

facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email


Patty Bresser, Sharon Kowalski and Karen Thompson (left to right). Photo courtesy of Thompson. Karen Thompson in the late 1980s. Photo by Marcy Hochberg

___________

Eight years after the accident, she got to go home. Seven years after that, she can stand with a brace. Eight years after that and Sharon Kowalski, age 50, is starting to talk.

Kowalski was hit by a drunk driver on Nov. 13, 1983, in an accident that killed her niece. It left Kowalski with a traumatic brain injury and several physical impairments—but what disabled her most was being torn away from her home. She lived in St. Cloud, Minn., with her lesbian partner of four years.

Kowalski could not go home because of a lack of legal documentation stating that in case of an accident she was to deem Karen Thompson, her partner, her guardian and caretaker. Without an advance directive, which is a section of a durable power of attorney for healthcare decisions, Thompson was forced to turn to the justice ­system.

At the time Thompson went to court, she and Kowalski had been 'roommates' to anyone who had an inquiring mind. When her father, Don Kowalski, was exposed to the truth of their relationship, he broke the agreement he made with Thompson to grant her full visitation rights to see his daughter.

Thompson had never used the word 'gay' the entire time she lived with Kowalski, and now she had no choice but to do so if she were to obtain visitation rights. Thompson may not have foreseen Don Kowalski's acidic reaction, and she ­certainly did not expect a similar reaction from the justice system.

'You expect the judicial system then to be fair, to be just, but that just isn't the case,' said Thompson. 'She had that window of opportunity for learning to take place and she didn't get the help that she needed at the most vital time. The first three to four years is the most important time for cognitive training, for motor retraining—and I had been specially prepared to work with someone like Sharon without even realizing it. I've used everything I've ever learned in any of the [ physical and occupational therapy ] courses that I've ever taken when I worked with Sharon, and somehow I wasn't the best qualified!'

Court date after court date left Karen Thompson in a conflicted role, she said. She could either be the big bad wolf—which is how she appeared to Kowalski's parents and neighbors as well as the judges—or she could simply be misunderstood. It took about eight years before the Minnesota Court of Appeals made a decision according to the ward's wishes. Although she was ready to communicate her wishes to reside with Thompson, not all of the discrimination against Kowalski was based on sexual orientation. Some of the fear came from the idea that a person with a disability could make her own decisions. As Thompson explained to her father that Kowalski 'was like as a baby, wearing diapers, who needed to be changed every two hours, he got caught in his own able-ism,' she said. 'He didn't have people around him to help him to understand how Sharon's life could be.'

It took more than three attempts to gain custody of Kowalski, but Thompson was actually the third guardian awarded to Kowalski. Even after Don Kowalski relinquished his rights as guardian, Thompson did not get to take Sharon Kowalski home. A neighbor who was previously an outside party to the custody battle was awarded guardianship over Thompson.

A case that began on July 25, 1985, handed down its final decision Dec. 17, 1991. It was a small victory for the LGBT community but a large one for Sharon Kowalski, who got to be reunited with her lesbian partner.

Under her father's care, Kowalski received virtually no visitors in the nursing home and, apparently, few check-ups. Without any direct care or contact, nobody noticed her toes gradually curled under her, for example. ( The problem was corrected through surgery. ) According to Thompson, the most surprising thing is that Kowalski never seemed to scar emotionally. Kowalski still has many physical scars, but she's standing in a walking brace, talking and cheating at cards. Today, 23 years after her accident, Kowalski seems to be doing the impossible. Thompson said that all she ever asked was for people to not 'put limits on a human being.'

Thompson and Kowalski have found new causes to fight for, namely disability access and people-first language. They host workshops on anti-ableism and they teach people just by going through their normal day's activities. Thompson may get frustrated when people stare, 'but I'm an educator. People need to see people with disabilities out and about so we can get past our fears.'

They were a couple who came out nationally before they even knew how to identify with being gay. 'Short of what happened I wouldn't know what would drag me out [ of the closet ] ,' Thompson admitted. 'Coming out I realized that as long as we're invisible, we're vulnerable.'

The gay community taught Thompson how to cope with her identity, while Kowalski taught Thompson about living with a disability, Thompson said. But together, they give back by being advocates within the community that supported them. 'I would think with AIDS, a rupture within our community, that one would think [ more about disability issues ] ,' Thompson said.

Also, although Thompson and Kowalski may not have ever had children, they do have an addition to their family—Patty Bresser, Kowalski's current girlfriend. It was because of Bresser that Thompson could find comfort during her forced period of separation from Kowalski. 'I didn't think I was going to survive. ... There were times that I cried myself to sleep one time too many and just didn't care if I ever woke up,' Thompson said.

Their family may not be the typical family, but who's to say what's typical?


facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.

Howard Brown Health Center expands exam rooms 2014-10-22
LOCAL: AFC partners to reduce STDs; Panel on state fiscal crisis 2014-10-22
Health: HRC scores healthcare; AFC reaches out to Mexican men 2014-10-22
HRC releases health care equality index 2014-10-16
Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical named leader in LGBT health 2014-10-16
TALK TO THE DOC Trans people and hormone therapy 2014-10-14
Rev. Marti Scott: Battling homophobia, racism--and climate change 2014-10-14
CDC releases numbers about HIV care, treatment 2014-10-08
Current of Tampa Bay offers free laundry day Oct. 16 2014-10-07
Lesbian couple sues area clinic after sperm mix-up 2014-10-06
CARS brings STI testing to young women, transwomen of color 2014-10-01
Operation Do Ask, Do Tell: Symposium on health for military GLBTs 2014-09-30
Gay/bi men see HIV as top health issue facing community 2014-09-27
CDC: Half gay/bi men diagnosed with HIV get treatment 2014-09-26
THEATER REVIEW The Healthcare Plays 2014-09-24
TALK TO THE DOC Lesbian and pap smears 2014-09-23
Report: Bisexual people suffer violence, discrimination 2014-09-22
Veterans Health Administration opens doors to LGBT vets 2014-09-17
Maria Mejia writes about her HIV battle 2014-09-17
Men Having Babies hosts parenting expo 2014-09-16
ASK LAMBDA LEGAL Trans health care 2014-09-16
CDPH's Project CHAT surveys gay, bi men 2014-09-10
Legislators call for consistent, nondiscriminatory tissue donation policy 2014-09-08
Chicago Surrogacy Seminar, Gay Parenting Expo Sept. 13 2014-09-04
LGBT aging: Special issue available on role of social work 2014-09-02
PASSAGES: Healthcare advocate Caryn Berman dies 2014-09-02
NCLR representing conversion survivor alleging abuse 2014-08-27
Lambda launches Know Your Rights At Work for LGBT, HIV+ 2014-08-27
New Lurie clinic marks $2.5-million gift 2014-08-26
Study: LGBT Americans report less access to health care 2014-08-26
New study sees financial struggles among LGBT Americans 2014-08-25
NLGJA 2014: Health writers discuss HIV/AIDS reporting 2014-08-24
Red Pump Project talks HIV/AIDS awareness 2014-08-20
Pot luck: Canna-business confab coming to Chicago 2014-08-19
Condoms' Aug. 13 at Little Black Pearl 2014-08-13
Chenoweth's health; James Franco's change; Sam Smith 2014-08-13
Federal officials discuss HIV/AIDS progress 2014-08-10
National groups offer support to LGBT cancer survivors 2014-08-06
HIV/AIDS, stigma fight brings lesbian couple together 2014-08-06
AIDS policy listening session Aug. 5 2014-07-30





Copyright © 2014 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
the online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 



 

Aon, KPMG hold pro-LGBT event
 
ELECTIONS 2014 Printable Election Guide Charts
 
Gay in the Life: Justin Romme
 
Sophia Bush on 'Chicago P.D.' and being an LGBT ally
 
BENT NIGHTS Xina Xurner;'Shame That Tune'; Asgeir
 
Windy City Times Current DownloadNightspots Current DownloadQueercast Current Download
Windy City Media Group BlogsJoin Our Email List!Donate Now








  News Index       Archives   About WCMG    Publications    Bars & Clubs     Calendar   Videos   Advertisers    OUT! Guide    Classifieds   AIDS @ 32
 Local | National | World | Politics | Obits | Profiles | Views | Entertainment | Theater | Dance | Music | Film | Art | Books | TV/Gossip
 Travel | History | Marriage | Youth | Trans | Lesbian | Celebrations | Food | Nightlife | Sports | Health | Real Estate | Autos | Pets | Crime



About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video      News Videos      Nightspots Videos      Entertainment Videos      Queercast Videos      Comedy Videos     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.