Monday, July 25, 2005

Andersen's Surprising Compassion

by Kyle Michaelis
Search the archives and it's plain to see the New Nebraska Network tries pretty hard to keep fading Omaha World-Herald power-broker Harold W. Andersen honest in his old age.

Along with criticism, though, this site also strives to meet in its own conduct and perspective the high standard to which the Omaha World-Herald is so often found lacking. That means recognizing and even thanking Andersen and the World-Herald in those times when they fulfill their duties and actually help make this state a better place.

One such instance occurred yesterday when Andersen went out of his way at the end of his column - a space usually reserved for personal asides and random factoids - to speak in kindness and solidarity of a UNO professor undergoing the difficult process of gender reassignment.

Andersen wrote:
What a remarkable story it is - a well-known and widely respected University of Nebraska at Omaha political science professor and his mate of 37 years courageously going public with the news that the well-known professor had taken steps toward becoming a woman rather than a man.

Professor Wally Bacon now goes by the name Meredith Bacon, has had facial-feminization treatment and hormone treatment and now dresses as a woman.

Remarkable also is the fact that Lynne Bacon, married to Wally Bacon for 37 years, agreed to continue as Meredith Bacon's mate in a new relationship. Bacon expressed fear of "becoming a social outcast." I don't think so.

A college campus environment should be a positive factor as Bacon continues to teach at UNO. And people who have known and respected Wally and Lynne Bacon, as Marian and I have, will, I believe, praise them for their courage, wish them well and consider Meredith and Lynne Bacon as good friends as they did Wally and Lynne Bacon.

This show of support and affection comes on the heels of a column earlier in the week by Michael Kelly that included mention of the potential legal ramifications of Professor Bacon's operation. Thanks to Nebraska law, as well as the controversial 2000 amendment banning same-sex unions thrown-out once by the courts but still under appeal, Lynne and Meredith Bacon risk dissolution of their marriage against their wishes, prompting Lynne to declare such action "highly unfair after two people devoted the better part of their lives to each other."

In this matter, the World-Herald and Andersen have done a service to their community, putting a human face on one of those who fall through the cracks of the majority's half-hearted attempts at tolerance. Though Andersen makes no call from his vantage of power for respect of the Bacon's marriage nor for the logical larger-scale unions of all those in "non-traditional" partnerships based in love, he at least attributes the dignity to these people as individuals that so often gets lost in these debates as the personal and private are used for political purposes.

Of course, I wish Andersen had said more, but this is a start. It's ironic, however, that in this instance Andersen celebrates the "college campus environment" that will allow Professor Bacon to continue working with minimal interference and discrimination. That environment of tolerance, openness, and respect is rooted entirely in the liberalism that Andersen and the World-Herald have so-often decried on campuses when it has not suited their agenda nor benefitted someone known by them personally.

If only everyone in this state had friends like Meredith and Lynne Bacon. What a different people, seeing the world through different eyes, we would be. Most importantly, one would hope sad but all too frequent (and under-reported) incidents such as this, where a group of friends received death threats coming out of a Lincoln gay bar and the verbal assailant received no more than a warning from local police, will cease entirely.

We are better than this. We are more than the sum of our fears and worst impulses. There is no place for hate in the Nebraska that will be.


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