Women's and Gender Studies Program


Date of this Version

May 1991


Published in The Women’s Journal Advocate (Lincoln, Nebraska), May 1991, page 7. Copyright © 1991 Barbara DiBernard.


Karen Thompson’s lover Sharon Kowalski was severely injured in November 1983 when a drunk driver crashed into her car. Sharon is now paralyzed from the waist down and has serious brain damage. The two women had exchanged rings, bought a house together, made each other beneficiaries of their life insurance policies, and made a lifetime commitment to each other, but were extremely closeted. When Karen, at the suggestion of a counselor, came out to Sharon’s parents after the accident, the Kowalskis reacted with anger, denial, and hatred. “They said I was sick and crazy and they never wanted to set eyes on me again,” Karen Thompson says. A legal struggle began which resulted in Donald Kowalski being appointed Sharon’s legal guardian, and Karen being prevented from seeing her lover for 3½ years, even though after the accident she had worked with Sharon 8–10 hours a day, during which time Sharon made significant progress in communication, movement, and skills. In March 1989 Karen was able to see Sharon again, by court and medical order, and it appears that she will be able to continue doing so, although she has to drive several hours to the Medical Center where Sharon currently lives.