March 31, 2010

This Video. (via Videogum): Words cannot express the empathy I have for this boy. (Also, if you do not think this is LGBT news, you do not know what LGBT news is.)

March 29, 2010

Anonymous Posts

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 you guys.

1) We had a ton of pre-frosh visit the Center this weekend and it was pretty much The Most Awesome. I would never have the confidence to do that in a million years, and I'm realizing that these younger generations are bold. Thanks for hanging out! Hope to see you all in the Fall.

2) Walk by Kilgo J when you can. We are making the section look like an LGBT SLG. It's legit. Let us know if you want a flag, too! We'll even hang it for you :) Apparently, someone wrote a letter to RLHS complaining about the rainbow flags, citing an obscure line in building code. This is good! We are pissing intolerant people off! That means we're doing our job.

Lots of awesome posts this week. Comment time!

LOVE IT. Jane Lynch is an amazing woman. Sue Sylvester on the other hand thinks we've gotta watch out for all those "sneaky gays" out there! Check it out and get PUMPED for Glee starting again soon!!

[Ed. Note: I'm going to be honest, #1. This sort of sounds like the work of a PR person at Fox. This is very ad-like and most likely a blatant pandering to our Glee-obsessed gay community. But having said that, OMG CAN'T WAIT.]

HELLO BDU. the posters you unleashed on campus today were extroardinary. YES

[Ed. Note: I know! The No Homo(phobia) campaign was incredibly successful. Everyone involved just GOT. IT. last week, and are pretty much my heros. Mason Plumlee even signed our pledge! More information about the anti-hate speech campaign here.]

I want to cry. I want to lie down in my bed and cry my eyes out like a little child. It's not a problem of identifying. I know who I am. It's a problem of finding someone special for me. And I guess being a gay guy doesn't make it any easier. Everyone's already in relationships or don't want one. Or they don't want me. It's really frustrating you know? And there's nothing I can do about it. I'm always the friend, never the boyfriend. I'm always there for them no matter what, but who's there for me? I guess I'm just a helpless romantic. I've always imagined being able to call up or text my boyfriend after a long day of classes and grabbing lunch and eating in the gardens or something. But it's never happened. And I don't know what to do. Everyone tells me to be patient but for how long? I'm a very patient person but by God! I can only be patient to a certain degree. I just want someone to spend my time with. Someone to watch a movie with. Is that so much to ask for? Maybe it is. I don't know. I'd love to feel wanted for once in my life. I guess I'll just have to settle with being the friend for now. Being the best friend that secretly has a crush on you. The one that is always there for you. Always the shoulder to cry on. And then, in that moment of weakness, admit my feelings to you, hoping that something will spark in your mind. Hoping that you'll remember that it was me who was always there for you, that it's me who you really want. I know this post may not be about a pressing gay issue, but for me, I can't stop thinking about it.

[Ed. Note: I can't really do better than the "be patient" advice because that's all you can do. It's just not sensible to ever think that you've met everyone that you're ever going to meet. We are young [!] and all it takes is one person to make it all completely worth it. This sounds cliche! Pretty much The Most Cliche. You'd think I was taking Cliche 101 at Cliche University. But it's true! A LOT can change in even one night. Hang in there, #3, you'll be alright :)]

When I first entered the LGBT Center for Fab Friday, I was excited, happy, thrilled, anxious. I was ready to meet all the new people and for once feel at home and welcomed. I felt like I could be myself and make new friends without being judged. I didn't know anyone there, had no previous connections, had seen some people around campus but that was it. I walked in at 4:32. I left at 5:08. 36 minutes. In those 36 minutes, all of my emotions were reversed. I was hurt, sad, depressed. Why you ask? No one talked to me. Not one person. Yeah, I come off as quiet and shy but once you get to talking to me, I kinda have trouble getting myself to shut up. But no one tried. Everyone was fractured off into their own very distinct groups. There was little correspondence between groups. For the most part, they all moved together. Being new there, I of course had no group to join so I just stood along the outside, observing everything, getting a drink and some snacks every once in a while. In what turned out to be a futile attempt, I tried to join one group, only to be ignored for the usual Fab Friday goers. Ever since then, I have not set foot in the Center again and never felt really attached to the gay community. Thankfully, I've had an awesome group of open and understanding friends that have been there to help me through my rough times. It just hurts when your own community inadvertently treats you like an exile. It took me a while to write this. I don't want to criticize the Center, I'm sure it's a great place with great people, but I just wanted to let you know that it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to pay more attention to new faces. I don't know if I'll be returning to the Center anytime soon but when or if I do, I hope my experience is better.

[Ed. Note: I'm really happy this was posted here. I think you offer a great perspective on how coming to The Center can feel for those who aren't regulars. This entry embodies one of the major goals of the blog - to educate the out community at Duke. We can't lose sight of what it's like to be shy, closeted, new, etc. here. I promise to go up to new people at Fab Friday, #4, including you when you come back this week and give us another try :)]

[Ed. Note: This is a sweet video put together by The Center about Coming Out Day at Duke. Really well done, and a good idea of what this awesome event is like. See you in 2010!]

Shit is hitting the fan right now.

In a good way, I think.

Things are changing faster than expected. I was in for so so so so long. And now I’m out. Yeah, there are still people who I need to tell, and people who I don’t want to tell, but for the most part, I am now officially a not-straight-woman (not positive on what lingo I want to go with). It’s weird because I never really was a straight woman...well, except for always. Should I hold a press conference or something? I guess that would be a little formal. A party? Too over-the-top. Maybe I’ll just tell people next time I see them. Or a mass text. Yes. No?

Anyways, it seems as though a huge, long era of my life is coming to an end. And I’m glad it is, in general, but I’m just not used to it being over. I’m not used to being able to tell people about my sexuality without having to rehearse it 15 [bajilion] times in my head first. I’m not used to saying out loud, “Wow, she’s gorgeous,” or not having to say “Yeah, I definitely think he’s cute.” I’m not used to being ready to face my future or to stop thinking about my depressive, suicidal past. But it’s time for me to move on. I definitely didn’t foresee any trouble in letting go of these things that I absolutely hated about my closeted life, but they are things that I strangely want to hold on to. They are emotions and experiences that I definitely don’t want to forget, but that I am also not sure I want to stop experiencing. It’s just weird- coming out seems to be losing its thrill, in a way. I loved coming out and then telling my story and answering questions, but now that I’m not wrestling with things I used to be wrestling with, telling my story seems extraneous. It’s weird and definitely unexpected that when I come out to someone and they just say “cool!” it’s kind of a let-down. Am I super twisted for feeling this way? It is very much possible that I am- and it won’t hurt my feelings if I get 15 [bajillion] comments saying “Yes, you should be straight up ecstatic that the response is ‘cool!’” I’m just wondering.

Anyways, I also wanted to thank you all for sharing your stories because I wouldn’t have understood mine (let alone started to share it) without you. I would also like to strongly encourage others who may have been in for so so so so long to come join me outside. It seems like it’ll be fun. And I selfishly want to have more people to play with! The more, the merrier, as they say. Girls/women (depending on which you prefer), I’m waiting for you, that I’m being honest and all :).

Ok, I’m signing this anonymously as I’m not quite ready yet to have people know who I don’t know know. Ya feel? If you read it slowly, I think that might make sense.

Also please comment on my post. Otherwise I will continue to post painfully long anonymous posts until I get 15 [bajilion] comments each. Seriously, I really want to hear what you have to say- anything at all.

Happy to have finally gotten together the guts to hit the "Done" button, and sad to be returning to my homework,
Anonymous from Bostock

[Ed. Note: You're my girl #6! I'm really glad you're moving ahead like this :) As for missing parts of your past, I'd say that there are many different ways to recreate that excitement. Personally, working on this blog and reading as people come out to themselves and others is just as thrilling as if I were going through it myself. Controversy's also fun - maybe you'd be interested in protesting with me and Aliza sometime. I'm sure we could find some people who wouldn't respond with "cool" haha. What you said about when you were depressed - that there are parts of this you don't want to forget - really resonates with me. There are many awful, awful episodes I've gone through in my life, but to be honest I think I'd do them all over again. Masochistic? Maybe. I just don't think I'd be the same person without those experiences. They've also given me first-hand knowledge on a lot of issues that I wouldn't otherwise have. (I'm holding you to your promise of painfully long anonymous posts, by the way :) )]

I miss my LGBTA Dukies! I love the blog and enjoy seeing the great things you all are doing :-)

[Ed. Note: Awesome! It's pretty cool to see how this site finds people. Come back and visit, #7!]

March 26, 2010

Flamboyance, Visibility

It’s been a long time since I’ve written, and for that I apologize. I’ve been busy working with RENT (which everyone should see, by the way! visit for details), but that’s not a sufficient excuse.

I write today on the same topic I began writing on in January (and never completed): the dark, strange, and often counterintuitive world of “visibility.”

What exactly do I mean by that? What do we even have to gain from visibility?

Let’s call visibility, for now, “the extent to which an average person who is making no deliberate efforts to encounter nor avoid exposure to unambiguously LGBTQ individuals or information.” Blegh, that's a mouthful.

I’m trying to say that being LGBTQ isn’t like being, say, female. Or east Asian. Or anything else that’s usually, though not always nor exclusively, visibly determined. You can’t look at someone and just know that s/he is gay or queer or a 2 on the Kinsey scale or however else a person might identify. And even the fact that I have to word it that way hints at some of the additional complexities, because there isn’t any definitive test to tell people (or yourself, or your parents) exactly what it is you are (trust me, I wish there were). Plenty of people identify as something either misleading or not entirely straightforward—whether the typically ambiguous queer or the closeted folks who still list themselves as “Interested In” the opposite gender—not to say that most of them don’t have excellent reasons, because they usually do.

But it would be a mistake to pretend that everything is suddenly simple as soon as a person has made the crucial (and bold, and terrifying, and wonderful, and everything else) step of saying, “Hello, world! I’m gay!” Sexuality can change. Situations change. Maybe you’ve just moved to Florida and suddenly realize you can be fired for being gay, which can and does happen all the time, so you decide to go back into the closet until the world suddenly becomes a better, warmer, more loving place (hah, I wish).

This… freedom of self-identification, however, is at least a little bit troubling. Maybe it’s just me, but I think sexuality is a pretty fundamental thing. And knowing that how you fundamentally understand yourself—not only how you tell others whom and what you are but also what exactly you tell you about yourself—can change… that’s terrifying to me.

A while back I went through a phase where I really admired individuals who were, say, flamboyantly gay, who made sure there was no doubt in anyone’s mind just exactly how they identified. To some extents, I still do. While it seems like so many of us do our best to blend in, these people put it all on the line and show the world a side of things it probably doesn’t often get to see, unless we’re talking about NYC or Portland or Seattle or San Francisco or some other gay mecca. One of the big talking points at our last BDU meeting was that people don’t feel like the LGBTQ community at Duke is visible.

Are we? Aren’t we? How do we get there? Do we turn ourselves into monuments of fabulousness? It’s certainly a possibility. Do we alter our hairstyles, our clothing, our speech? Do we put up posters saying, “Hey! The gays are here, even if you can’t see them. Don’t put us down?” All of this just seems unfair. Why should I have to make myself visibly gay? How is this still an issue?

What this boils down to for me is this: I don’t necessarily want to fit in, but I don’t want to have to stand out. This week is our Anti-Hate Speech Campaign here at Duke. Earlier in the week we had given out rainbow ribbons until we ran out of them. The next day, I repinned my ribbon to my shirt and went about my business. First stop of the day, coffee. My barista says, “What’s that for? Is it Pride day or something?” I explained the campaign to him, but being the only one wearing a ribbon that day, I felt like I stuck out terribly. I suppose the purpose of the ribbon is to open dialogue. It just feels… uncomfortable to stand out so boldly.

But what am I afraid of? Am I afraid of being perceived as gay? I mean, not really, because I am. All the same, there’s a huge fear of appearing too flamboyant and I can’t even convey exactly why that is.

I’m not trying to blend in, but I don’t think I should have to stand out to be recognized. For now, I suppose the only way to get where I’d like to get is to stand out. If some people don’t want to view the LGBTQ community as full people, then I guess I’m willing to make sacrifices until they will. But it’s a thin line to tread—it seems like I’m expected to show that that I’m gay, but I’m also “cool” or “normal” or maybe even just “not weird…” whatever it is I need to seem like to win that person over. But I don’t believe in that either!

There can be little doubt that I’m actually quite weird. I’m an eccentric, strange, sometimes difficult-to-tolerate person. I’m also exceptional in a number of ways. But none of that has anything to do with the fact that I’m gay, and it just seems silly to me by now that anyone would think it would.

So… standing out? I’ll do it, I guess. Through rainbow ribbons and involvement and posters if not through clothing. It just doesn’t feel fair. Here I am, little old Matt, winning over the world one person at a time. At least I can say that, here at Duke, I know I’m not doing it alone. But for what it’s worth, I’ll say that I think if you’re not fighting, you’re wasting your time. Do it. Fight. From the protection of your closet if need be. Just do it.

March 25, 2010

Gates eases ban on gays in the military: (from CNN) Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Thursday that the Pentagon will start to ease its enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibiting gay individuals from serving openly in the military.

Among other things, Gates said the Pentagon is raising the threshold for what constitutes an appropriate level of information necessary to launch a "credible inquiry" into allegations of homosexual behavior.

The change, which will take effect in 30 days and apply to all current cases, is a reflection of "common sense" and "common decency," Gates said. "These changes reflect some of the insights we have gained over 17 years of implementing the current law, including the need for consistency, oversight and clear standards."

President Obama and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, support a legislative repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," which was first enacted in 1993. Some senior members of the military, however, have expressed concern over the impact of the ban's repeal on unit cohesion and morale, among other things.

March 23, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell Hits Home

Today I am outraged. I can't decide if this merits tears or rage. The BDU blog was the only outlet through which I could think to express these thoughts. I have always believed that DADT was wrong--it was unconstitutional, wrong on so many levels. I could rattle off a list of facts that would surely make a strong argument for its repeal. But today it hit home. It hit home hard. It was no longer "soldiers" or "Americans" but a friend. I could not promise this friend any security and wanted to cry when I saw them stand and risk everything for who they are. Why is this a choice anyone has to make? So today, DADT's repeal became MY issue. It is in my heart and I am determined to see its end in this presidential term.

Watch out for BDU's DADT display...for those 13,339 soldiers who have been discharged from the US military for being LGBT since 1993. Outrageous wouldn't you say? I am a student of the issue and really invite you all to research it, learn with me, and stand for the rights of all to be who they are.

March 22, 2010

Anonymous Posts
(2.15.10-3.21.10) (FINALLY)

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 :)

Right. So.

It is clear that as an editor I've pretty much been The Worst in the past 3 weeks. There's no excuse for it, and I'm truly sorry for people who were upset by the lack of posts - specifically anonymous posts. I'm getting my act together, promise.

Since then, though, despite my complete failure, The Girls on the staff have just been crushing it on the blog. Veronica and Risa have been writing simply amazing pieces for the site (if you haven't checked them out, do so right now). Patrick deserves cred, too!

So here are the way way long overdue anonymous entries, yo.

I don't know how I identify. Sometimes I think one thing, then later I'll think something else, and even later I'll be unsure again. And sometimes all of this bothers me. But The Center never fails me. Whenever I'm there I just always feel really empowered. The students there are unlike students I've met anywhere else on campus. In just a few words they are: grounded, passionate and eccentric. I love the "community" feeling that exists. And Janie, Chris and Peg always make me feel welcome. Thank you for facilitating this positive space on campus.

[Ed. Note: Amen. I have never been disappointed by a visit to the Center, either. To think that I was so anti-going freshman year! I don't even want to think about all the hugs I missed out on. Thank YOU for making my time there just as warming :)]

Same shit, different gender. I am the one who expresses my feelings, sacrifices time and sleep, and is generally more invested. I thought being in a same-sex relationship would be easy because there would be certain commonalities in the way we think, but I was so wrong. Is there something in me that is attracted to taciturn people? It just pisses me off to think that I'm "the girl in the relationship" because that supports the stupid gender binary in addition to my clingy, dependent-on-my-significant-other tendencies...but it seems that that is the most accurate description of what's going on here. I guess it is just a personality thing, rather than a sexuality thing. Some people are attracted to blondes, I'm attracted to people who have trouble putting their feelings into words. Does anyone else find themselves taking on the same role in every relationship they're in? This is starting to get frustrating.

[Ed. Note: That is frustrating! Ambiguity in a relationship sucks, and yes, seems to be a Y chromosome thing. Feeling that you are putting in all of the effort with little positive feedback can be crippling. For some reason this short-lived show Ari (King of Obscure Entertainment) told me about once comes to mind, called "Tell Me You Love Me." Basically the premise was pretty much that: just... tell me you love me. Meh. I may be way off, but that's how your post resonates with me.]

There are a ton of cute girls here, huh man?"

This sentence, and others like it, sometimes are my worst nightmare. I used to identify as gay, in fact, I've come out to my family back home, and all of my friends at Duke. The problem is, everywhere I go, I run into new challenges with coming out. You would think that once I was totally out in school, I would never go back into the closet, but for some reason, that hasn't been the case lately.

You see, I'm currently taking a semester off and doing an internship. At first I wasn't intending to go back into the closet, but sexuality really never comes up in my conversations, and I'm kind of tough to spot as gay, so people simply assume I'm straight. When people assume this, it seems so tough for me to correct them, because I don't want it to be awkward or anything. I just want to go with the flow, because I don't really mind, except for the fact that I'm hiding something that is a large part of my identity. It's such a catch-22, because I don't want to make things super awkward, but at the same time, the fact that I like guys is probably going to come up in all of my close friendships. I dunno, I guess I just really value my relationships with straight guys, because I don't identify very much with a lot of the gay community that i've met for some reason, I guess it's just not really my scene. I don't want to hide who I am, but at the same time, I don't want guys to think that I want to hit on them just because I like hanging out with them.

Not too sure where I'm going with this, but anyone have any advice?

[Ed. Note: Good post! Personally, I have many straight male friends that I'm completely out to (and always have been). It's never been a problem, and the honesty prevents really awkward and uncomfortable comments like the one you mentioned above. They've never felt uncomfortable around me (as far as I know) and we talk about everything. I don't think we give straight men enough credit - just as not all gays are not the same, not every heterosexual is a homophobe. At the same time, though! It can be really difficult to bring these things up on the fly or out of nowhere - today, someone asked me if the homework due tomorrow was gay. I didn't say anything (I really shoulda, and I'm pissed that I didn't). I'm still kind of working on that myself. Has anyone figured how to navigate these issues?]

A friend of mine recently asked out a woman she had been interested in for weeks. She finally got up the nerve to ask her out and was overjoyed to get a yes. The date went fairly well, nothing spectacular but far from terrible. A few days later, my friend was approached by a mutual acquaintance of theirs and was simply told that the interest was not mutual. Rather than be cruel and say no at the outset, her hopes were raised and then dashed via a third party. This is the kind of thing we all used to see in middle school. I have heard countless other stories of avoidance and middlemen used to solve dating issues. If someone has the guts to put themselves out there, the least that can be done in return is to explain yourself (a “sry i think we shud just b friends” text is probably not the most well-mannered approach) and treat the other person with respect. So please, let’s collectively suck it up and endure the uncomfortable conversations and put an end to the middle school drama. We all deserve better. /end rant

[Ed. Note: Agreed. The Joe Jonas Breakup should not be the paradigm for communication at Duke. We can do better.]

I'm a very outspoken ally but her comment challenged my pre-existing ideas in an unusual way. She was telling me about her boyfriend and how he was jealous that she was spending so much time with her best friend (another female). I almost made a comment that "well, you're into guys. so what's he so worried about?" except she explained that she's bi and her best friend is an ex before I had a chance to make my remark. I'd like to think that my thought wasn't homophobic or heteronormative (because I didn't assume that she was attracted to men), but I admit that it was assuming of a different sort of normative--one of being attracted to only one sex. Thanks, friend, for showing me that no matter how hard I try to be inclusive, I'm still a product of this society and I have some of my own prejudices to overcome.

[Ed. Note: GREAT point, #5. A goal of mine, too, is to recognize this (huge) room for progress even within The Community. Major changes in how we speak start with Us.]


[Ed. Note: I know! I can't really stress enough how sorry I am for going M.I.A. Besides infinite guilt, though, the people who've called me out on this remind me that there are people visiting! Which is promising! Keep me honest, Readers.]

Sometimes I intellectualize (rather than thinking about what I feel) my sexuality and I think I should be bi. It's about the person, right? Not their gender. At least it should be.

[Ed. Note: Ideally, yeah :) It's very difficult to break out of societal norms when it comes to attraction, but I know many people who've been much happier once they did.]

When I first met the staff at the center as a freshman I introduced myself as a "straight ally." I'm sorry I couldn't just call myself an ally [without specifying my sexual orientation] or that I didn't feel comfortable just introducing myself by the other typical freshman labels [hometown, intended major, etc]. I realize that proclaiming my straightness like that doesn't really make me much of an ally at all and that it was just lingering homophobia on my part. I'm past that point, now, but I still feel bad about it.

[Ed. Note: Thanks for sharing, #8, I really like this post. You rock.]

BDU, I won't lie. I'm a little disappointed in the lack of posts lately. I still check back every day, though, so keep up the good work. I'd love to see more stories about LGBT life at Duke in particular. How was your adjustment in coming out? How supportive is the straight community? I know that I'll be there soon, but I'm still impatient. All of your articles are great, and this blog is one of the first things I check every morning.

I posted a while back about being accepted ED, and I have suggestion. There is a pretty active Duke 2014 facebook group, and I was hoping that someone could post a link or a thread to the page, especially when the RD admits start joining, which should be very soon.

[Ed. Note: Yo whattup '14. Missed you. Sorry for the slow couple of weeks! You are in good company with your frustration. You're pretty much The Best for checking up on the site all the time. We'll do better by you, promise. About the facebook group, I'll get on that. Feel free to talk us up to other incoming students yourself! Spread the good word!]

Have at it, Readers! And again, thanks for your patience. This Community has always been there for me, and I appreciate the support and encouragement. In other words,

hate speech hurts. no homo(phobia).


Our slogan is "hate speech hurts. No Homo(phobia)".

Cause, let's face it. Hate speech sucks and homophobia is stupid.

The point of the campaign is to raise awareness about hate speech. So many people use it without thinking about what they're saying--who they might be offending, the hate they're perpetuating and normalizing, what it really means. BDU is calling those individuals out.

We will be sponsoring various events through out the week.

3/22 MONDAY: If you want to help with the campaign, we're going to be having a work party today, Monday, at 6pm in the BC. Following that, come to bridge painting at 8pm.

3/23 TUESDAY: We're going to be spreading our brilliant posters around campus starting at 10AM. You can meet in the LGBT center to pick up supplies! We also will have representatives tabling on the plaza from 11:00 to 3:00. Tabling on the plaza includes making spray paint t-shirts, serving rainbow cupcakes, and getting people to take a pledge not to use hate-speech and speak up when they hear it in return for a rainbow ribbon!

2/25 THURSDAY: More tabling on the plaza from 11-3! (see above, 3/23 Tuesday for details about tabling).

We need people to sign up to help with tabling! Please visit the doodle poll and sign up. Even if you've never done anything with BDU, come by the table, make friends and lend a hand. In all honesty, tabling for last year's Day of Silence was my first real BDU event--so don't be shy. Tabling is a great way to get to know people and help change the world!!

To sum it all up...BDU's anti-hate speech campaign includes:
1. AMAZING/gorgeous posters w/ snarky, in-your-face messages!
2. Pledge-signing!
3. Banners!
5. Ribbons!
6. To-die-for t-shirts! (Seriously, you'll want one, they're awesome!)

Questions? Email me, Risa, at

I effing hate hate speech, but I LOVE BDU!!

March 15, 2010

"Transgender Need Not Apply At J.Crew" - Gothamist

Jen Carlson writes: "The group (Make the Road New York) says the preppy proprietor (J. Crew) might as well post a 'transgender people need not apply' sign on their door. They recently put the company's Manhattan retail store to the test, (along with 23 other retail stores), sending a transgender and a nontransgender to apply for jobs—with everything else (age, race, experience) matching on their resumes. The full results can be seen after the jump. The group's report 'also found a 42 percent net rate of discrimination for transgender job applicants... [and] 49 percent of transgender workers surveyed reported that they have never been offered a job in the time that they have lived openly as transgender.'

Queerty asks, 'J. Crew has spent nearly three decades outfitting America's homosexuals in their dandy wardrobe... why aren't you hiring transgender job applicants?'


Irene Tung of Make The Road NY tells us J. Crew is being singled out of the 24 stores tested because they 'acted in a discriminatory way with two different matched pairs. The two separate instances of discrimination are considered by the Attorney General and also by social scientists who specialize in matched pair testing, to be especially egregious because they represent a pattern of discrimination. So it is this pattern of discrimination we are singling out at J. Crew.'"

Will Phillips at the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards:

This kid is AMAZing!!

The Homeless Challenge

I have known for a while that homelessness among LGBT youth is a problem. Many teenagers either get kicked out or live in fear that they will get kicked out when they come out to their parents. It is estimated that 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT. After completing the Homeless Challenge I have a much better idea not just of how it is to be homeless, but also how it is to be openly LGBT and homeless. Thinking about how toned down my experience was compared to the plight of actual homeless youth makes me sick. Nowhere else in society is homophobia so clearly and destructively expressed.

The Homeless Challenge is put on by the National Coalition for the Homeless in cities throughout the country. Fifteen people went on this year's Alternative Spring Break trip to Washington D.C. We were divided into groups of five and spent most of our time walking in groups of two or three. For 48 hours we gave up possessions, showers and money. At night formerly homeless guides kept us safe while we slept on the street in our sleeping bags and layers of clothing. During the day we were encouraged to complete tasks like applying for a job or library card, using the bathroom at a fancy hotel, talking to homeless people and panhandling. We ate at soup kitchens.

Being out is important to me. I saw the homeless challenge as an opportunity to experience what it was like to be a openly gay homeless youth without compromising my safety. While panhandling, a seemingly homeless man asked me why I was homeless. I told him I was kicked out of the house because I was gay. He proceeded to quote Bible verses at me and ask me why I chose to be gay. I pretended to agree with him. After telling me how nasty I was he stormed off, no longer the concerned man who thought I was too young to be on the streets. During our wrap-up session with our guides I was asked to share my cover story. Right after I said I was from Texas he remarked “The only things to come out of Texas are steers and queers.” When I told him I was one of those queers, he said he didn’t believe me. I told the group my cover story (that I was kicked out of the house) and about the random man who chastised me for being gay. The guide couldn’t have cared less. Later, when we reflected on the experience just as a group, the comment was mentioned. Turns out it went beyond just one remark or cold stare. Other people in the group thought our guides were homophobic. The reactions I personally received were not extreme. I could have heard them any day of the week on Duke’s campus and have heard them throughout my life. The difference is that I had been singled out and shamed by an authority figure. When you are on the streets without food, shelter and safety these attitudes are the difference between life and death. While I am not quick to call any of these selfless and strong men “homophobic bastards” I know that their attitudes are dangerous. During our challenge I was surprised at the existence of a homeless community. Homeless people we met were quick to give us advice, clothing or companionship. Most non-homeless people don’t know where the soup kitchens are. Finding out where to eat was not as simple as searching on the Internet since most public libraries require a library card to use their computers and library cards usually require a permanent address. Additionally the soup kitchens we went to had a strong religious component. I don’t think there is anything wrong with charities run by religious groups or religion as a means to uplift people. Yet these places are likely to be unfriendly to LGBT homeless people. Sometimes the harshest rejection comes from religious institutions. When you need food, clothing and companionship you can’t pick and choose where to go.

After this challenge I reflected on how different my experience would have been if I was flamboyantly gay. I wondered if my homeless peers would have showed me the same friendliness. I wondered about violent reactions and sexual assault. I wondered if I would have been able to find a girlfriend in my dirty, lethargic and isolated state. During our reflection one of my friends remarked that when I thought some men on the streets wanted to sexually assault me it was just fear. Yet this is anything but empty fear. It’s not empty fear when you have the statistics and experience to back it up. Over the next couple days I will continue the homelessness theme by posting data, suggested reading and resources. Any LGBT student who has experienced homelessness and wants to be interviewed should contact me.

I encourage everyone to participate in a homeless challenge and an Alternative Spring Break before they graduate.

March 3, 2010

Out Athletes: The 2010 Winter Olympics Edition

Every other Wednesday I will be writing about LGBT Issues in Sport. Between each regularly scheduled post I may chime in with more posts if something comes up and/or I have the time. I have a serious academic interest in sport and in this column I’ll be highlighting current events, sharing resources, reflecting on complex issues and sharing athlete’s stories among other things. For more about me, you can read my first post, here. Please feel free to email me with thoughts or if you come across something you’d like me to include on the blog.

Last week Duke hosted artist Jeff Sheng and his exhibit, Fearless. Fearless is a series of over 100 photographs of out LGBT high school and collegiate athletes. Sheng also spoke about his project called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so named because it’s a photo documentary book of American servicemen and service women who are LGBT. Anybody who spent any time with me last week bore the burden of putting up with my uncontained enthusiasm for Sheng’s visit. On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending lunch at The Center (thanks, Chris Purcell!) and also his talk that night. I can’t wait to write about that…or about Representative Kyrsten Sinema’s visit which was also last week [even though it’s not sports related I hope to write a post about it]…but both are going to have to wait because

1) the Olympics just ended and I can’t possibly only write one post about them (if you haven’t read it already, read my take on Johnny Weir here)
2) writing about Fearless will take me a while (I’m swamped with stuff right now, so I hope you’ll understand) and
3) I want to address the most recent comment on my last post about Weir.

February 26, 2010 6:17PM
Anonymous said…
There could be a lot of reasons he does what he does. It’s just a shame we don’t have more queers in the public eye. Can anyone name more than three currently active gay athletes? Or one?
Thank you, Anonymous, for inspiring what is going to be a new sub-column, if you will, of my regular posts. Welcome to the first volume of “Out Athletes.” Every so often I’ll dedicate one of my posts to highlighting out athletes. It is my intention to highlight individuals who are currently competing or who were out or came out during their career as an athlete. This is not to say that I won’t ever talk about other athletes who’ve come out of the closet since their playing days ended—just that in these specifically designated posts I won’t be. If you have a favorite athlete who fits this criteria, comment below or send me an email! I’d love to know why he/she/ze is your favorite (or one of your favorites) athlete(s) and to share their story with our fellow readers!

Oh, and I know I started this post by putting off writing about Fearless, but I’d be remiss not to comment on the fact that this is what Fearless is all about—recognizing out athletes and giving out athletes a face! See, it all does tie together!

Out Athletes: The 2010 Winter Olympics Edition
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

The San Diego Gay and Lesbian News identified six gay athletes who competed in the most recent Olympic games. All six are women. I’ve not read of any openly gay men, bisexual or transgender identified individuals who competed. Though, Women’s Figure Skating Gold Medalist Kim Yu-Na’s coach, Brian Orser, is (now) openly gay after being outed in a partner lawsuit in 1998, a decade after his second Olympic appearance. Out of roughly 5,000 athletes who competed, it would seem that there would be more than six in total, but these are the only ones who’ve made it known to the press. I think this is an important distinction to make. Someone may be out of the closet to their friends and family and even acquaintances and coworkers, but that does not mean that they’ve disclosed it to news sources.

A question for you readers: what do you think of these athletes (yes, I’m assuming there were athletes who competed and fit this description) who are out in their personal lives but not to the press? Is this being out of the closet?

The six confirmed women who love women are:

Renate Groenewold, speed skater from the Netherlands
An Olympic veteran, Groenewold competed and placed 10th in the 3000m. The Vancouver games marked Groenewold’s third Olympics (2006, 2002). In 2002 and 2006 she captured the silver medal in the 3000m. In 2009 she won gold at the world championships, also in the 3000m.

Sanne van Kerkhof*, speed skater from the Netherlands
In her first Olympics, van Kerkhof competed and placed 4th, with her teammates, in the 3000m Relay.

Ireen Wust*, speed skater from the Netherlands
Wust won the gold medal in the 1500m. She also competed in the 1000m (finished 8th), the 3000m (finished 7th) and the team pursuit (finished 6th with her teammates). The Vancouver games were her second Olympics (2006). She was the defending gold medalist in the 3000m after winning in Torino. In Torino she also won the bronze medal in the 1500m. Wust came out casually during an interview in 2009 when she commented on her current relationship (see the * below for details).

Vibeke Skofterud, cross-country skier from Norway
A member of the gold medal winning 4x5km Relay team, Skofterud also placed 22nd in the 10km individual.

Sarah Vaillancourt, hockey player from Canada
A Harvard graduate, Vaillancourt scored three goals and completed five assists en route to winning her second Olympic gold medal (2006).

Erika Holst, a hockey player from Sweden
An experienced Olympian, Holst and Sweden finished fourth in the women’s hockey competition. She previously represented Sweden at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and 2006 Torino Olympics, garnering a bronze and silver medal, respectively. Interesting to note, Holst came out in the middle of her career in 2006.

*denotes that Wust and van Kerkhof are girlfriends. Wust is less than thrilled that her sexuality and not her skating has been the cover story. She is quoted as having said, “I want to talk about ice skating…You are not asking Sven Kramer [Dutch, European and World All-round Champion] about how his relationship is going. So why would you ask me? If I would’ve had a relationship with a guy, you wouldn’t have asked me either.” I have some thoughts on this, so maybe I’ll get around to writing about it over spring break. Oh, and I guess I owe Wust an apology for once again making her sexuality a plot line.

In all, it seems that while only six Winter Olympic athletes (and one coach) publically identified as gay (disclaimer: I don't actually know if these individuals prefer 'gay' or 'lesbian' or 'queer' or __________), the LGBT community has much to be proud of in all of their accomplishments! Random statistical fact: they amassed three gold medals (four, if you count Kim Yu-Na's gold as her coach's) which, had they been a country, would have been good for a tie for 9th place in the "gold medal count!" In total, 20 countries had athletes who won a gold. Eighty-two countries participated in the games.

[Author's note: it's been brought to my attention that the length of my posts may discourage readership, so I thank you for taking the time to read my columns. I hope that you find them interesting and informative. For better, or for worse, this was my attempt at a semi-short blog (nobody's perfect).]

Anti-Hate Speech Campaign Photo Shoot!!

Calling all BDUers or LGBT and Ally Identified Students at Duke!!

You may know that a committee of BDU has been working on an anti-hate speech campaign. Well, we've got it mostly figured out. And now we need your help to make it come to fruition!

We've chosen to use black/gray scale and purple (cause purple is just the best color, is there any question about that?). We'll have three different posters (see below). The campaign tag line is: Hate speech hurts. No homo(phobia).

Poster 1) Some posters will be modeled after GLSEN's "Think B4 You Speak" Campaign. We'll be using the definition theme. We've chosed to create posters for "fag" and "dyke." GLSEN's definition posters are pictured below:

Poster 2) Some posters will feature two people with talking bubbles. Person A's talking bubble says "oh dude nice homo" and Person B's talking bubble says "yeah, that ignorance really brings out your eyes."

Poster 3) Some posters will feature students like YOU. They will be formatted like GLSEN's (see picture below), but the text will say: "I'm gay. Your homework isn't." or "I'm gay. Your test isn't."

Brandy, Cody, Matt, Aliza, Risa, and Alyssa

March 2, 2010

The Chronicle: Editorial "Phase in gender-neutral housing"

Did you see "The Chronicle" today? Well, take a gander when you have a chance: "When it comes to the issue of gender-neutral housing, it is time for Duke to follow suit with its peer institutions."

Props to Michelle Sohn.