Best of the Week
of Sept. 27, 1998


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Sept. 27, 1998, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found in their respective archives, which we invite you to browse. There, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. We encourage you to answer any questions relevant to your demographic background, as well as to ask any provocative question you desire. Answers posted are not necessarily meant to represent the views of an entire demographic group, but can provide a window into the insights of an individual from that group.

First-time users should first make a quick stop at our guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.

THE QUESTION:
SO68: As both a transsexual and a lesbian, I have a hard time with the gay and lesbian community at large, which fails to acknowledge transsexuals can also be as queer as they are. Why can't gays and lesbians accept us for who we are - their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters?
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Marlene, 38, out and proud transsexual lesbian <
marleneb@wcnet.org>, N. Baltimore, OH

ANSWER 1:
As a 41-year old gay man, I remember the discrimination against drag queens that ran rampant in the gay male community. Many gay men are particularly insecurie about their masculinity, and feel they have to attack those who "cross over" in role. And while it isn't as bad as it used to be, many in the lesbian community are insecure about anything male-associated, which includes women who have sex with men and women who used to be men. It's almost a "loyalty oath" mentality, as in the notion that lesbian female transexuals are predatory straight men who got a sex change so they could hit on "real" lesbian women. It's ridiculous, but there it is.
POSTED SEPT. 30, 1998
Josh G. gay-identified bisexual man <
joshuag@slip.net>, San Francisco, CA
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THE QUESTION:
RE100: Whenever I tell a Catholic I am an atheist, I get told "You're too young to have made that decision." How can anyone say this, knowing that the standard age for confirmation is about 13?
POSTED SEPT. 30, 1998
Stef, female, 19 <
Sidhe_devil@hotmail.com>, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
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THE QUESTION:
O21: To construction workers: Why does it seem as though every time a teenage girl walks by a construction site, there are always workers who stop working to look at the girl? Do they mean it as a compliment?
POSTED AUG. 18, 1998
Stephanie S., 15 <
leopoos@yahoo.com>, Dallas, TX

ANSWER 1:
Men are always looking at women. On a construction site, men talk about women and can openly admire a young female body without their girlfriends, wives, etc. getting upset. I believe girls who receive that attention should take it as a compliment and not be upset by it. That is just the way men are.
POSTED SEPT. 30, 1998
30-year-old tradesman, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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THE QUESTION:
R54: Why do so many African-Americans pronounce the word "ask" as '"aks" (as in axe)?
POSTED MARCH 19, 1998
Bob N., MI
(Similar question posted April 14, 1998, by "Phur" of Flint, MI; May 3, 1998, by Murph of Detroit, MI; and June 5, 1998, by Rich, 56, white,rkimmell@ix.netcom.com, Sylmar, CA)

ANSWER 1:
I'm not African American, but I am a linguist, and I think this question goes beyond race. Precisely how or why the pronunciation "aks" came about is a difficult question. "Ask" and "aks," as well as one British pronunciation, "Ahhsk," among others, are dialectical variants. Why are the vowels different in the American and British versions? This variation - across races, genders, cultures, classes, even family members - is a fact of language. People might look down on a certain pronunciation or see it as humorous, but there's nothing inherently inferior about a combination of speech sounds.
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
Anna S., 27, Boston, Mass.
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THE QUESTION:
O27: Why do people laugh at me when I tell them I milk cows for a living? I feel I probably work harder than most people.
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
J. Davidson, Manchester, MI

ANSWER 1:
You have your hands on teets all day long and you don't find that funny? I know, I know, you use machines nowadays. Why not try saying you are an agricultural worker?
POSTED SEPT. 30, 1998
Beth, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
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THE QUESTION:
GE79: Why do I hear so many women (especially those having them for the first time) describe pelvic examinations in a negative light? I have a shy friend who was depressed for two days after her first one. Why?
POSTED SEPT. 25, 1998
L. Hills <
lhills@yahoo.com>, Trenton, NJ

ANSWER 1:
As a 39-year-old woman, I've had pelvic examinations ever year since I was 18. Ninety five percent of the time there was discomfort or downright pain. That was with a male physician. I even went to different physicians over the years, and invariably male phyicians were oblivious to the pain and discomfort they were causing. Not to mention the emotional distress feeling humiliated by having your feet up in stirrups. I went to a female physician for several years, not just for pelvic exams, and she was the best doctor I ever went to (unfortunately I moved out of the state). The pelvic exams were done before I was even aware she had started! There was no discomfort at all. And her "bedside manner" was also very good. After speaking to other female friends about this topic, the consensus is that female gynecologists are much better at allaying fears, and they have a "gentler touch." I think you should recommend to your friend that she go to a female gynecologist the next time she needs to have a pelvic exam.
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
Jane F., female, 39, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
Even assuming that your friend had a wonderful, personable physician with warm bedside manner and gentle technique who volunteered information about what and why he/she was doing during the exam (a real long shot), two reasons appear inherent in your question: Fear of the unknown of any first-time procedure (particularly for something that is generally uncomfortable at best and painful at worst), and shyness. Many women are taught to be modest about their private parts, while others have sadly been indoctrinated to believe that they are ugly, smelly or "bad," engendering feelings of shame. Unlike boys who commonly use public urinals and shower in gym together, young women are more likely to have rarely (perhaps never) had their genitals publicly exposed since becoming old enough to wash themselves without parental help.

Try to imagine being a teenager lying flat on your back with your feet up in stirrups and your butt hanging out on the edge of a table with a bright light shining down between your legs while a doctor slides something in whatever orifices you have. Not exactly the highlight of anyone's day! Now try to imagine a condescending comment and pain from having your insides scraped, and you'll have a good idea of a common female pelvic exam experience. If you don't have to go back to work or school immediately, you go home and lie down until the bleeding and cramping stop. In a few days they send you a bill. Get the picture now?
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
DykeOnByke, lesbian mother <
DykeOnByke@aol.com>, Dearborn, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
There are many ways in which a doctor may be insensitive, or for a pelvic exam may be a negative experience. Some possible examples include: Answering uncomfortable questions about one's sexual history; being touched in private places (especially for women who have had limited sexual experience, or bad sexual experiences, or are uncomfortable for other personal reasons); doctors who use a speculum that is too large, too cold or incorrectly inserted (speculums are instruments inserted into the vagina); taking one's clothes off; body image and being looked at (breast exams often include a visual examination), not knowing why you are being touched in a certain way (doctors often don't explain ahead what they are doing or why, so patients are left wondering, Is this a sexual or medical act?): not knowing what's going on (many doctors do not allow the patient to sit up and give her a mirror so she can follow the exam).

Depending on how thorough the exam is, it may include: A visual breast exam, a physical breast exam, a speculum exam, a bi-manual (which involves inserting a gloved finger in the vagina) and a recto-vaginal (involves inserting a gloved finger in the rectum). As with any doctor's visit, there is also fear of discovering illness, plus issues concerning sexually transmitted diseases. There is also the ever-popular move-down-to-the-end-of-the-table humiliation, which usually involves a doctor sitting on a stool between your spread-open legs and saying "move closer.. closer.. closer.. closer.. OK, now back up.. no closer..." (No, this is not someone trying to park in a tight spot, this is actually what happens on a gynecologist's table.)

Those are just a few examples of things that can make women uncomfortable in the course of an ordinary exam. Of course, some women have doctors who are flagrantly offensive or unethical (I had a friend whose doctor kissed her on the shoulder after an exam, and I've heard worse than that, too.) If a woman has a good doctor who is informed and professional, a gynecologist's visit can be a positive experience in which she is able to take charge of her health and learn about her body and health.
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
Jessica N, female, 26, former teacher of breast and pelvic exams at medical schools, <
jessica@pioneeris.net>, NY, NY
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THE QUESTION:
R454: I, as most people are, am aware of the struggles African-American people went through in slavery and even when they were freed and struggled for the same rights as white people. But it does not seem society knows or cares about the troubles Irish people encountered. They were forced into "white slavery" and to this day have religious wars. Is this information generally considered less important than the struggles of African Americans?
POSTED SEPT. 10, 1998
Regina W., Irish white female <
reginak@clt-online.com>, Charlotte, NC

ANSWER 1:
From my experience, I have rarely seen/heard anyone make degrading remarks about Irish people. Also, there are still obvious feelings of discontent between whites and blacks today. Even though Irish and African Americans have had similar pasts, it seems as though many people simply can't get past the color issue.
POSTED SEPT. 22, 1998
White <
eric.crabbendam@fmr.com>, Charlotte, NC

FURTHER NOTICE:
I think it is much easier to find racists against black people than it is to find racists against the Catholic Irish, though it would depend largely on which state or country you were in. In Northern Ireland and Scotland, there are very few black people, and so the issue of Catholic Irish vs. Protestant whites is much more in the news and in people's everyday lives. I have never experienced much anti-Irish feeling in the North of the United States, but then I have usually visited relatives and friends of an Irish background. However, some racists like members of the KKK are against both black people and Irish Catholics. It makes me aware that although our skin colour is the same, many of us have distinctive facial features that could only have come from one island!
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
Clare, Irish female, Belfast, Ireland
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THE QUESTION:
RE98: I go to a Baptist school but am Lutheran. I get insulted, beat up on, picked on and hated. I have no friends, only enemies. I get made fun of because Lutherans drink real wine at communion and they (Baptists) use grape juice. Is it wrong to use wine? They say that if Jesus drank wine at the Last Supper, he would have broken his Nazarite vow and sinned.
POSTED SEPT. 27, 1998
13, Lutheran, Texas
(DIRECTOR'S NOTE: Upon receiving this question,
Y? received an e-mail from the boy's father saying he and his wife had not known of their son's problem until he posted to Y?, and that they would appreciate any advice from users on how to handle the situation.)

ANSWER 1:
Wine was used frequently in Biblical times because safe drinking water was hard to come by. Yes, it had less alcohol than today's commercial wine, but it did contain alcohol. A Nazarene is a person from Nazareth. Jesus was a Nazarene. A Nazarite is a member of a religious sect that did abstain from wine. John the Baptist was a Nazarite, but there is no evidence that Jesus was. Disagreements like this are nothing new to the church. Read Romans 14 to see what Paul said about things like this. And remember the words of Romans 12:18, "Whenever possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with all people." To the parents, speak to your school administrators immediately. It's bad enough that abuse like this happens in public school, but in a so-called Christian school, it is inexcusable! My prayers are with you all.
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
Stacee, 30, Christian, former Baptist, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
I was raised Baptist, attended a Baptist school and went to a Baptist University. The apostle Paul tells us to drink a little wine for the stomach's sake. Baptists will say this was unfermented wine and therefore grape juice, but Paul also says "be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit," so this would strongly imply that he was not referring to grape juice, unless one can get drunk on Welches! Don't let a few sour grapes spoil you on your quest for spiritual truth. Good luck to you.
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
Steve N. <
blaster7@hotmail.xom>, Dallas, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
This is an issue I think you should discuss with your parents, and if I were your parent, I would discuss it with school officials. I would guess that your parents, although Lutherans, do not hold ill feelings toward Baptists or they wouldn't send you to that school. It doesn't seem that your folks want you to learn to use religion as a "cover" for acting badly, as your schoolmates seem to be doing. Letters, stories and teachings that were written a few thousand years ago (at some point becoming what we call the Bible) can be translated and interpreted in many ways, and they certainly have been. Those writings have been used by many people for many purposes. It would be nice to think that they were used only for good, but they have been used as excuses for wars, teaching prejudice and denying peoples' rights. I can't and won't tell you what to believe, but I don't believe the basis for any true faith is to make anyone feel bad. What you believe and what you practice are for you to decide, and as long as you're not harming anyone or anything in the process, you should not feel that your way is "wrong." I wish you peace and harmony.
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
Darbma, 44, no exclusive religion <
darbymom@hotmail.com>, New York , NY

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Your parents should tell the school authorities of the continuous torture you seem to be going through in school. Kids generally enjoy harrassing kids who are a bit different, and they continue until there is a new/weak kid on the block. Hopefully, when your parents talk to the school authorities, the torture will stop, or at least subside. Have you considered changing to another school?? That may be a good idea.
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
Ify <
ifebigh77@hotmail.com>, Miami FL

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
Part of your situation has less to do with religon than it does with being different. In life you'll meet people who think different equals wrong. As an overweight child, I received similar abuse at my own Baptist church. The hardest thing I had to learn at 13 was that different was not bad. Different is Different, and it is our differences that make us special. People want to belong, and sometimes they feel that striking out at those who are different will make them seem more a part of the group. I can't tell you whether drinking wine is wrong. That's something you have to work out for yourself, but I can tell you that just because someone else thinks it's wrong, it doesn't mean that it is. Follow your heart and respect the differences and opinions of others without allowing them to be forced upon you.
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
Brianna A., 20, Ex-Baptist, <
helsie@geocities.com>, Houston, TX
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THE QUESTION:
A24: Why do people feel it is all right to stereotype all teenagers and younger people based on one bad apple? Example: In my hometown, teenagers who came into the local mall in groups of four or more were told they either had to split up or leave. Why don't they do the same to 40-year-olds?
POSTED AUG. 3, 1998
Craig, 15 <
Bonowitz@aol.com>, Des Moines, IA

ANSWER 1:
I don't know, but what I do know is that it's not fair. I am a teenager and I can honestly say that I am not bad at all. I don't like violence, I don't drink or do drugs and I actually have respect. But since I'm 15 and I wear baggy clothes, many adults see me and think trouble. I don't think it's fair. I've smiled at little kids, and their parents have actually pulled them closer to them - away from me. Gee, thanks.
POSTED SEPT. 28, 1998
Meg X., 15, female, Modesto, Ca
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THE QUESTION:
R383: Why are long, elaborate fake nails so popular among urban black women? Don't these interfere with daily tasks? Do black men find these nails attractive?
POSTED JULY 27, 1998
J.A.B, 25, white, Pikesville, MD

ANSWER 1:
I have artificial nails and get a lot of compliments. Most of the girls I know get them because they look good continually, the polish stays on longer than your real nails and they help stop annoying habits like biting your nails. A lot of black men love them, I don't know why exactly, and are willing to pay for their women to have them done. Long nails are really impractical. I keep mine fairly short (they're still kind of long) during the school year so I can type and play the piano. You just adjust to them.
POSTED SEPT. 28, 1998
Kaleah, 18, black high school student, Houston, Texas

FURTHER NOTICE:
They wear them because they like them. It seems to be somewhat of a status symbol, too. Moving to the Detroit area from Nebraska, I was pretty surprised to see the number of urban women here who wear long acrylic nails. Numerous shops are dedicated to separating substantial amounts of money from customers in exchange for snazzy painted nails. I suspect a dealer would have quickly starved to death trying to earn a living from that in Nebraska, where plain, hard-working unadorned hands were the norm. My first year here two women with long painted nails with little rhinestones in them played on my softball team. Long nails didn't seem to impede their softball ability any. They were good players with strong throwing arms. I view acrylic nails as just another type of body adornment, like tattoos, piercing, makeup, hairstyles, etc. Different strokes for different folks. Incidentally, no one has ever suggested that I get false fingernails. Long ago I was told that any lesbian with long nails did not have a current lover. That was a myth, too.
POSTED SEPT. 28, 1998
DykeOnByke, white lesbian with plain short nails <
DykeOnByke@aol.com>, Southfield, MI
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THE QUESTION:
G29: Why do so many people come to the United States not knowing how to speak English? I would never move to a country without first learning the native language.
POSTED SEPT. 5, 1998
20, American <
dawn0621@hotmail.com>, Chicago, IL

ANSWER 1:
Please tell me what the native language of America is first. Many Americans (born in the United States) speak Spanish as their first language. Among Native Americans, there are many languages to select from. English is not the official language of the United States. In fact, the only language to come close to that honor has been German! There are many people here who believe that anyone entering the United States should speak English, but until I see people in this country properly speak the language, I cannot take that stance.
POSTED SEPT. 28, 1998
F. Gonzalez, 30 , White Anglo-Spanish Pagan (WASP) male <
gonzalez1@hauns.com>, Alamogordo, N.M.

FURTHER NOTICE:
I live in a city that was built by each ethnic group as they appeared on the scene, starting with the English, then the Irish, Polish, German, etc., right up to and including the latest influx of Hispanics (mostly Puerto Rican) and Koreans and Vietnamese. All these ethnic groups have learned English, even though, as you say, it has never been made the official language of the United States. We are still an English-speaking country. You may not like it, but it is a fact. My ancestors had to learn the language to get ahead here. They did very well, I might add. Today, for some reason, we feel that Hispanics shouldn't have to learn English. No one expects them to give up their native tongue. I wish I could still speak German, but I feel they (Hispanics) ought to keep it among themselves, as did all the other groups that came here. There were clubs where you went to stay in touch with your roots. I find it odd that no one expects us to include Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese or any other Asian language as the "official" language of the United States.
POSTED SEPT. 30, 1998
Kevin H., 41, American (German-Irish) <
kevin@javanet.com>, Holyoke, MA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
This country is still a land of opportunity for people from countries without the vigorous economies of the United States. I married into an immigrant family. My wife knew some English when we met, and my in-laws knew less. My wife learned to speak excellent English but my inlaws never quite learned to cope with it. They came here not knowing English because my father-in-law saw good employment opportunities here in a field in which there was an extreme shortage of employees. He was able to work without speaking much English because his employer spoke a language both of them knew. That is probably true of the folks the questioner has been observing.
POSTED SEPT. 30, 1998
Jerry T. <
gmt@GTE.net>, Tampa, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
To Gonzalez: English is the official language of the United States. This issue has been raised on ballots across the country and has consistently been unanimous. Imagine the chaos that would and does exist in America because of the variety of languages. No other country in the world tolerates and caters to people who do not speak the official or dominant language of that country. The expense of providing things such as voting ballots in multiple languages is staggering, and still all languages are not covered. The past election was clear evidence that Americans want English to be the official language. They voted in the proposition to teach English in public schools, rather than providing bilingual classes where non-English languages are taught. English is not the official language of the world, only the United States, and rightly so.
POSTED SEPT. 30, 1998
39, female of German/Irish descent, Roseville, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
While there is no "official" act to proclaim American English as the U.S. language, it is clearly used as a first language by 96 percent of the nation. (Reference Time Magazine and Compton's Encyclopedia.) All of our national documents, laws, recordings, etc., are in American English. Really, who is to say that we do not speak English "correctly"? And I'm not sure where you are coming from as far as German being the closest to being the official language. I believe Dawn may not have meant "Native language" when describing our nation's "official" language. I do agree with her that to go to a foreign country with such a language barrier causes much frustration for both parties trying to understand each other. To come to this nation with no American English, or just English for that matter, and believing that any other language will get you around the country well enough is foolish. By the way, why the cut on WASP?
POSTED SEPT. 30, 1998
T.B. , 41, American white male, Denver, CO

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