January 25, 2010

Can we all be friends?

Hey everybody! So, I'm really sorry that this post is ridiculously late. The past week has been insanely hectic, and to top it off, I completely forgot what I was going to write about this week! So, I'm just going to roll with it and see what happens.

With the addition of more women to the blog staff (!!), I think I'll delve a bit into the oft-lamented gender imbalance represented within our Duke LGBTQ community (although I realize that this topic is not one that can be effectively addressed in one blogpost). Depending on your level of involvement in our little community, you may or may not be familiar with the host of visibility efforts directed specifically at queer women at Duke. Unfortunately, the plight of invisibility at Duke seems to be most effective in silencing the voices of Duke women. It is a struggle to find a balance between the men and women involved in different areas of our community (including this staff), and once we get more women engaged, there tends to be a sense of having tapped out our source of queer women.

What I have begun to question is, through our efforts to reach out to more women, what type of community we are attempting to create for queer women at Duke? Are we trying to expand the number of out, identified LGBTQ women to form a community able to rival the men? Or do we envision one singular LGBTQ community equally representative of both men and women?

This may seem like an obvious, or even silly question, but I ask it in response to some of my own experiences and past conversations with other members of our community. I have heard on various occasions, from different gay male friends of mine, that outside of Duke, they don't know if we would've ever been friends because they don't generally "like" lesbians, or because gay men and women supposedly don't interact outside of our smaller community. Or they will say that they can't STAND lesbians...except for me, because I'm different. Don't get me wrong, it is extremely flattering to hear this, and most of it is (hopefully) in jest. But it makes me wonder, would I have gotten to know my gay male friends as well as I have if I had had other women to interact with at the LGBT Center? If I hadn't met them by proxy of them just being there and being the visible part of our queer Duke community, would I still feel such a relatability towards gay men? And on the same token, would they have had any inclination to get to know me if I associated primarily with a visible, present, gay female community at Duke?

Considering this issue is especially troubling because I LOVE my gay guy friends at Duke. They are such an invaluable part of my support network, and I honestly can't imagine not having them in my life. Sure, we have certain contrasting interests ( ;p ), but other than the obvious differences, I don't see any reason why we should separate ourselves into our respective gendered groups. Then again, maybe I just don't know any better. While queer men at Duke have an opportunity to experience the support of a somewhat established male community, I can't say that I have had the same opportunity with queer women. I'm sure there are some things that can't be addressed as well by my guy friends simply because on some level we are not going through the same experiences, and there are points at which we simply cannot relate.

On the whole though, I hope that the assertion that gay men and lesbians don't get along in the "real world" is a hideous rumor, and that with greater interaction with queer females, more gay men will feel comfortable with the idea that gay men and women don't have to be so different after all, and vice versa. Personally, while I strongly desire a female support network in the LGBTQ community, I would hate for that to come at the cost of my relationships with my gay male friends. As we move towards expanding female visibility in the LGBTQ community, I hope that we will make sure to be careful to not only foster relationships between women, and the creation of a support network there, but also to create bridges across gender lines in order to ensure the development of a wholly inclusive and interactive community.

*Like I said at the beginning, this is hardly the scope of the gender issues in the LGBTQ community at Duke, but this is one aspect that I have been thinking about. If you ever want to talk about it more, definitely hit me up, because I could go on for quite a bit. :)


  1. I really enjoyed reading your post Aliza, like usual it's insightful and thought-provoking. The gender imbalance in the LGBT community is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed, difficult as it may be. I truly hope the visibility efforts at Duke are successful in their goals.

    For my part, I've often wondered whether I would know as many gay or queer-identified women were I not to interact with the center? I would like to answer yes, but I to be honest I think it would be unlikely, which troubles me. I've learnt so much from you all and I truly value the friendships I've made :)

    At any rate, I agree with you that the more interactions gay men and women have, the boundaries are broken down and friendships forged. I think the Center acts as a excellent facilitator for this and will continue to do so - we're lucky to have it for so many reasons.

  2. This has been on my mind a lot.

    Maybe I'm just going through a particularly sensitive period in my life, maybe I'm just looking for an argument, maybe I'm just in a mood to be attacking...I don't know.

    And I'm definitely not about to claim that I'm the most social person in the world that knows how to navigate the social waters of Duke--gay or straight.

    Like you, I see the value of a support system that the gay male community provides for me and for the Center. These are people I run into on campus who can literally change my day around.

    But I'm also hyper aware of the sexism that exists (in jest, or not...it doesn't matter), and how I want to build ally relations that transcend straight, gay, lesbian, queer, whatever attraction level...

    These aren't coherent thoughts. They're not more coherent than they were two days ago when I started thinking about how I would comment on this.

    I just don't like being told vaginas are disgusting. It's something I've struggled with my whole life and I'm really sensitive about it. But I also know that there are conversations I need to have on a one and one basis and not be passive aggressive about through a blog comment. *cough*