February 28, 2010

LGBT Leadership

In high school I never read the newspaper or watched the news. Now I read the Wall Street Journal almost everyday. In high school I never played sports and worked out three times a year. Now I (am still learning to) play rugby. In high school the only position related to “student government” that I ran for was National Honor Society President. Now I can’t even say that much. It’s not like I wasn’t president of multiple clubs (who wasn’t?) it’s just that my presidency wasn’t earned from convincing a large number of people to vote for me. In both cases I was the only person who ran- the obvious successor to the previous president. Leadership is a dirty word to me. Every over-achieving youngster is indoctrinated with the idea of leadership. Yet not everyone can be President. Not everyone wants to either. I wanted to be a writer or an intellectual. Someone who knows weird shit that no one else knows. Someone who can give uncensored advice.

I have a feeling that being openly lesbian was the source of my “unpopularity” in high school. I came into Duke with no knowledge of LGBT politicians or presidents and the overwhelming feeling that the only role I could play in life was that of a subversive lesbian intellectual or mathematically adept robot. My experiences at Duke have taught me that LGBT leaders exist and that I can be one of them. The first time I felt like a “representative” was at Common Ground when Bruce appointed me to speak for my group about what we had learned during the retreat. I had the same experience at the LGBT Leadership retreat. Speaking for a group, expressing my ideas and experiences- these are all things I enjoy doing. Every time Gordon tells to run for student government I get closer to the point of no return. The choice to not run for office or influence social life at Duke is one for me to make.

Right now I am focused on other endeavors. I’m trying to greatly improve my grades after a scarring semester in Pratt. I’m trying to not get between Riot and Scorch during rugby games. I’m trying to be involved in Know Your Status beyond just HIV-counseling from 3-4 pm on Mondays. I’m trying to pursue my academic interest in East Asia and find a fulfilling social life that doesn’t revolve around partying and getting drunk. Most importantly, I’m trying to be a good girlfriend. YIKES!

I have looked at applications for various student government positions and try to keep up with school news. I stayed after a BDU-meeting to listen to the three Young Trustee finalists and ask them questions. I take every opportunity to talk about my experiences with campus culture. For someone who thought that she’d be on the Varsity Crew team before she’d have any involvement with student government these are small but vital steps. Though my life as it is has no room for running a campaign, that doesn’t mean I can’t be a “representative” in other ways. Next week I will be participating in an Alternative Spring Break in Washington D.C. where I’ll lobby Congress about bills related to homelessness. What scares me the most is the possibility of failure- not because I’m a lesbian but because I am not the best candidate for a position or don’t have the most compelling argument. It is a fear that everyone must deal with and one that is particularly strong because the game of politics is so new to me.

North Carolina needs LGBT politicians as much as the Duke women’s rugby team needs players. Playing a rugby game with thirteen instead of fifteen women (less when people get injured during the game) sucks just as much as not having enough young LGBT politicians to secure the future. After listening to Mark Kleinschmidt, openly gay mayor of Chapel Hill, I feel this sentiment with great urgency. As I continue to think about what it means to “Stay in San Antonio and fight” the thought of being an elected representative continues to pop up. I have no idea what this part of my life holds. I am excited for what might happen.


  1. Join the Committee on Gender! It's part of DSG. A lot of people you know are helping out and speaking personally, I feel I'm getting to do a lot of cool hands-on stuff without having to run for anything or be too much of a "Leader."

  2. Veronica,
    I'm excited that you have taken such a proactive stance your fresh(wo)man year!

    You seem to what to be in a highly visible political position, but don't want to necessarily run a campaign. There is a solution to this problem:

    next semester apply to be a Senator at Large. I was one my sophomore year and I feel that it gave me a lot of insight into how Duke politics works. More than that, if you want to get anything done on this campus (for ex., start a publication or a student group, etc.) and you want funding/support, knowing how DSG and SOFC works is extremely helpful.

    Best of luck!