December 28, 2009

Anonymous Posts
(12.21.09–12.27.09)

Every week, we collect anonymous entries sent in using the link on our sidebar and post them all on Monday. We post anything as long as it doesn't contain personal attacks or hate speech. Feel free to submit your thoughts and questions :)

Hey all! Hopefully everyone's having an awesome break. I've been spending mine counting down to New Year's Eve with Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper.

We didn't get any anonymous posts two weeks ago (12.14-12.20), mostly because the Dukies were busy catching up on a semester's worth of sleep. But y'all have definitely stepped it up this week! The comments on the last three posts (not to mention the posts themselves) have been equally intriguing and touching. The discourse, empathy and support among friends and strangers alike on this blog is really pretty amazing. Personally, it is consistently reassuring after seeing all of the hate in the news that this Community not only exists, but is strong, and is there for each other.

But anyhow! Here are the posts from this week. As always, these require our responses, so let's get to it :)

#1
Hi so I saw where you posted something about Uganda, so I figured international LGBT issues are just as welcome as American ones. I'm doing my thesis on a group of people in South Asia called the hijras - they can be best thought of as male-to-female transgenders. The NC Consortium for South Asian Studies (the Duke/UNC/NC State organization for South Asian studies) liked my thesis website enough to link it to their blog, so I thought I'd share it with you guys as well.

Happy holidays!


-John

[Ed. Note: Thanks, John!]

#2
Hi Everyone,

Recently, I've been asked by JournElism.org/United Press International to write a 5 articles series on an important issue I hold dear to me. I've chosen LGBTQ equality as one and women's issues as a close second. Anyway, I need to identify 5 key players in the realm of LGBTQ issues (it can be anyone) and have to submit an outline/interview questions.

I would really appreciate any feedback/ideas you all have. So far, I've identified Brian Bond, the White House Deputy Director of Public Affairs, Joe Solmonese (President of HRC), Tammy Baldwin, Wanda Sykes, Ellen Degeneres, Bishop Gene Robinson, etc. Clearly women of color are missing, so any suggestions on that would be a plus. Any out LGBTQ persons or allies in policy-making positions would be especially helpful. Also, any questions you might have for such persons would be great!

In the end, I envision the article series to go beyond the popular gay marriage debate and into some concrete issues that not everyone is familiar with. Things like ENDA, housing discrimination, health issues, even LGBTQ youth (how at risk they are), the Bullying Act, etc.

Any help (small or big) would be fully appreciated!!!

Happy Holidays,
Michelle

[Ed. Note: Hopefully we can help! Readers, I know you've got this one.]

#3
I don't really know what it is I want to write. Or what the point of this post is. But, I've been writing this post in my head for a few weeks now and I feel like I should take the leap and type it out and send it in. For years now, I've been "questioning." It wasn't something I thought about every day, but certain situations made me internally confront my sexuality before immediately supressing my thoughts and moving on with my life. I played this game with myself for a while (honestly, I don't really remember when it started...which is saying something). I met with a new psychiatrist recently to address some other issues when I finally broke my silence. That first appointment I avoided my shrink's questions, but for the next few weeks all I could think about was rehearsing what I'd say next time. Despite how easy it all came in my head and how long I've secretly yearned to have someone to talk to about this, during the next session I found myself hyperventilating, sweating, lightheaded and unable to make eye contact; my heart beat was pounding and I had a serious knot in my stomach. I felt sick for the rest of the day. A HUGE ally with a tolerant, liberal family (and friends), I don't know why this is such a struggle for me. And while I used to not think about it often, recently it's the only thing on my mind. Any quiet downtime I have, I'm running through things in my head. Still, I'm more confused than ever by my sexuality. And you'd never know it.

[Ed. Note: I will leave advice and the like to our comments section, but know that you are not the only person that's dealt with this. Far from it. In fact, this reminds me of post #1 from three weeks ago. Just as I told her, I'll say that I think you'll find that a lot of the Readers have gone through a similar process.]

#4
I have always hated being home for breaks, but the past two weeks have been the absolute worst. This semester, I started my first romantic relationship with another woman (though I've known I was queer for much longer) and being back with my family reminds me how close-minded they are. Well, "close-minded" may not be the right word, but "conservative" definitely is.

It's not even the LGBT stuff that gets to me. My sister is looking at colleges and my dad considers racial diversity a negative aspect of a school and she's not allowed to go to a university that is not religiously affiliated. Ever since I've realized that race and gender equality issues are of paramount importance to me, I've felt a growing distance from my family; they see me as formerly perfect, traditional daughter who got brainwashed by her "radical" group of friends at school (I know, Duke is "radical" to them *eyeroll*) and sort of tune me out whenever I try to explain my views.

So this sexuality thing is like the icing on the cake. We almost NEVER bring up sexuality, not even in a general or theoretical way, so telling them that I'm friends with a lot of gay people and that I consider myself queer is not on the radar. And telling them about my girlfriend (whom they've met on many occasions) is simply out of the question.

For a while, I was really depressed about the fact that I couldn't be open with my parents, but now I just feel feel like they don't deserve to know. When they make me feel like my opinions and emotions are valid, I will be honest with them. But for now, I'll walk the awkward line I'm always tip-toeing on at home: maintaining the prized-daughter status I had in high school while trying to get them to accept and understand what is important to me now. I just need to survive until January 12, when I'm surrounded by everyone and everything I love once again.

[Ed. Note: Going home for the break seems to be rough on a lot of the Readers in this respect. Thanks for sharing your story :)]

7 comments:

  1. #1:
    I think awareness of LGBT life beyond our borders is extremely important and once again I'm reminded of this quote. Along these lines, I really enjoyed how you explored why this would be interesting from the perspective of the American Movement in your 'Implications' section. While each movement has its idiosyncrasies, so much can be learned from what we have in common (and what we don't, too, for that matter)

    #2
    I like your plan to delve into more "obscure" topics that don't get the sort of media (or even everyday) attention they deserve. Off the top of my head, Barney Frank comes to mind for out policy-makers. His last name is no mistake, and has actually been occasionally critical of moves that the LGBT community has made (of the march on Washington, D.C. in October, he said that the only pressure protesters would make would be on the lawn). Rachel Maddow, maybe?

    #3:
    I can't imagine what this sort of confusion is like. Personally, I skipped this limbo for the most part. As a friend, I'd tell you that while you shouldn't shut off your introspection, it is completely okay to not concretely identify with a particular label right now (or ever, really). As for knowing what you want in this respect, don't force an answer, I'd say. I think that the best way to go about this is to give it time.

    #4:
    This is interesting to me because it sounds like another case of wishing that these topics would be brought up in conversation. I wonder if you can relate at all to the feelings expressed by everyone here? (Also LOL @ Duke being radical. Tell your sister to apply to NYU. I'm curious as to what they'd do :) )

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  2. #1: Thank you so much John for sending this in. I haven't had time to read through your whole site yet, but I definitely plan on it. I think it's so important for everyone to educate themselves on many issues, especially the complex ones of trans folks. I really appreciate the work you've done here.

    #2: Pam Spaulding! She's huge for modern media and news.

    #3: I'm glad you've broken the silence. I think it would help to just have more conversations with people. It might help if they weren't people you knew on a personal level--a psychiatrist is a great start. I also agree with Chris. Introspection will drive you crazy. These are the kinds of things that should be let out, talked out, worked out. It's a process. Labels will come later for some. I'm sure if you were to utilize some of the resources at Duke's LGBT Center, it would help. Here's the link to the Living Our Lives Discussion Group: http://lgbt.studentaffairs.duke.edu/programs_services/programs/LGBT%20Center%20Discussion%20Group/index.html. The Spring schedule isn't planned yet, but if it sounds useful you might want to consider that as well. Best of luck!

    #4: Oh man. It seems like you're up against a lot here. I know that each family is different, and that's a terrifying thing when trying to seek advice or give advice. I'm definitely counting down the days...and although I've come out to my dad, the rest of the family is a huge question mark for me. I do think that you're taking important steps by trying to explain your views. Even if they think you're more radical or seem to tune you out, this is still who you are and sometimes we have to plant seeds or give hints that change has happened. This ground work is important because it's hard to believe that they're totally tuning you out. I could be wrong and I don't know your situation at all but I wouldn't undermine the power of these steps you've already taken. Your girlfriend has met your family, and maybe it's not in a presentation of complete honesty or transparency, but they can get to know her and love her and accept her and like her all the same. Keeping the secret sucks and is hard but I think you know your family better than anyone so you shouldn't beat yourself up so much. :) They're probably just one that will take more time.

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  3. #2--in a class this past semester we talked about Pauli Murray and Bayard Rustin. Bayard Rustin was a colleague of MLK. He was the behind the scenes planner of the March on Washington. His role in the civil rights movement has been minimalized because he was gay. He was squeezed out because of his sexual identity and replaced instead by MLK--who made a better leader as a straight church leader. Pauli Murray was especially influential in the Durham area. Her gender identity was sort of queer (though I use that term loosely because I don't know if she would have used it herself). She championed women's rights and LGBT issues.

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  4. I'll respond to the ones I feel I'd be more helpful with. =)

    3- The way I really kind of figured this whole sexuality question out, was I just thought of what my *experiences* (and not my evanescent thoughts at that moment) had been. Societal pressure can force a lot into your head pyschologically at stressful times. But I just closed everything out and thought back to the people I feel in love with a little in high school or caught myself smiling constantly with. And then it hit me that the way I feel about women is completely different than the way I feel about men...and thats not in the heterosexual friendship way. ;) You know you better than anyone else. Also, I wouldn't feel pressured to come up with a certain label for yourself either. I think you'll develop that with time. "Sexuality is fluid." Just try and pay attention to who you naturally seem to fall for. I think you'll know soon enough. =)

    Other commenters mentioned talking to friends or others you know going through the same thing, and I think that's also a nice idea.

    #4 - I think this is really similar to what Summer was talking about, in her "When Winter break starts feeling long..." discussion. We all have a lot of pressure I know to be heterosexually-minded at home sometimes and especially so with conservative family members. I can't say anything that will change your parent's viewpoint on this blog, but I might just recommend positive self-affirmation and love of yourself first. If you're feeling really good about yourself it's hard for anyone, even intolerant family, to knock you down from there. Good luck! I hope you find ways to enjoy home beyond this delimma. =)

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  5. #4: I’m sorry to hear it’s been such a struggle for you lately. As other comments have mentioned, thinking about who you’re happiest with can be very helpful. Imagine that you didn’t feel any family or societal pressure—who would you decide to be with? Chris makes a good point too, that it’s really okay to not be sure, even if that lasts a long time. You could also try the LGBT Discussion Group, which seems somewhat well-suited to your struggles.

    Good luck; I know these struggles can be difficult, though I haven’t admittedly struggled with too much questioning myself.

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  6. #4: Going back home is always difficult for me because I leave the supportive and safe environment of my Duke friends and back into my old-fashioned parents. They aren't religious fundamentalists, but they wouldn't accept a gay son. So I've learned to cope by realizing the only leverage that I have: my presence in their lives. If the situation at home doesn't get better, then I'm gone once I get my diploma. If I do decide to come out and it turns out badly, then I'm gone. If they don't make the effort to understand me, then I'm gone.

    It's harsh mentality to adopt but I found it liberating. I do not have to be a son and brother in a family that can't work with me and I owe nothing to people who do not accept me. I can, and am justified in, cutting the negative influences in my life that hold me back. It certainly isn't the optimal outcome, but it's the one I prefer to coming back to this family every break.

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  7. Jesus Christ...Amen to the comment above. I can no longer even sit beside people in my immediate family because I literally feel like I'm about to vomit due to their beliefs and the things that they (inevitably and without fail) say. You can imagine how fun ths break has been. FML. FML big time.

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