April 27, 2010

Eric Fürst

[In addition to all of our awesome visible and identifying columnists, we also have some awesome anonymous columnists that for one reason or another must use a pseudonym (and pseudopic?). Details on anonymous columnists here.]

I tend to squirm uncomfortably in my seat when someone inquires point blank about my sexuality, and not because I’m bashful. It’s just that I have to make a quick decision, and it usually depends on: how drunk I am, how long I want the conversation to last, and the hotness of the person asking. In some cases I’d rather be seen than heard. So yes I can be a Big Fucking Hypocrite. But beyond it all I’m trying to avoid using a word I find most unsavory—bisexual. Primarily, it wrongly supposes two standards of sexual expression apart from this intermediary. And then there’s that annoying idiom, that bisexuality is merely a way station for gayness. I heard a friend (entirely oblivious to my recent sexplorations) parrot this belief, and made a mental note to postpone any divulgence of the kind. And in my flirtations with the periphery of Duke’s LGBT community, I’ve been surprised to observe the wariness with which the “B” is tolerated; I sometimes feel that it’s given obligatory lip service for the sake of community but not necessarily true solidarity. I guess it’s difficult to embrace a sexual category comprised of participants who embrace categorical uncertainty.

This perception of bisexuals can be expressed in mainstream terms: straight people think they’re hiding something and gay people view them skeptically for not fully fulfilling (or maybe half-rejecting?) their gayness. If a straight man has sex with a man he is commonly considered gay, closeted, or bisexual. If a gay man has sex with a woman, is his sexuality questioned so?

I’m going to take some stabs at deconstructing this rationale. Kinsey may be an easier starting point but I think it’s a misunderstanding of the more complex social construction theories that lost popularity in the last two decades, as the gay rights movement surged and activism was badly needed as the AIDS crisis emerged. The threat that these views posed was misinterpreting sexual orientation as mere “preference.” If this was the case, the conservative opposition could dub homosexuality a choice. Then, what’s wrong with asking someone to choose different, especially if this gay option is so strongly correlated with the frightening emergence of a new disease? This idea of preference can be especially pungent when applied to bisexuality. One might assume that most bisexual men would rather—if their sexuality really was so subjective—spend their lives in a monogamous heterosexual relationship—the kind that allows identity conformity, minimized discrimination, greater sexual health, and of course, the possibility of natural procreation.

With subversion a more enlightening (or at least more daring) end than conformity, I’d probably be interested in a sexual regimen more strictly homosexual than heterosexual. But as it is, I’m happy to traipse through the nebulous grays, confusing some and delighting my own ADD tendencies. Still, it’s easy to envision adopting some monogamous gay lifestyle characteristics. I can think of several male friends with whom I wouldn’t mind signing a lease, and—perhaps unsurprisingly—I don’t exactly subscribe to the notion of heterosexual couples as the gold standard of child rearing. Yet, the thought of homosexual monogamy, from my point of view, is more restrictive than heterosexual monogamy is boring.

Anyway, construction theory doesn’t really discredit the validity of these singularly-oriented referents insofar as individuals derive personal meaning and community from them; it merely challenges the notion that this language actually defines something intrinsic in the way that physical characteristics are thought to be an expression of alleles coded intrinsically in one’s DNA. To me, sexuality hardly makes sense as a phenotype. Sexuality in its essence must account not only for intrinsic desires and orientations but also choices made on the basis of free will, which ultimately has a large stake in the gender of partners whom we seek to bed.

I would further counter that by discrediting this theory, you are not only embracing the mainstream gay rights movement, but also the rote categorization by which people dismiss, abuse, and misunderstand the deeds of others. It may be contrary to the simplicity of mantras like, “We’re here, we’re queer!”, but I think there’s an importance to understanding unconventional sexualities and resisting the compulsion to categorize. Even if one’s experience isn’t specifically covered by the LGBTQAI (etc) umbrella, in the end, it’s going to be phobias regarding otherness that drive policy and retard progress more than any pragmatic concern for the individual, or disease, or equality. For me, it’s an important exercise in unlearning the illusory differences and embracing a more dynamic conception of “self”—an exhilarating and exhausting work-in-progress with no foreseeable end.

So forgive me if, the next time I’m sitting with you in a bar, I try to avoid the word vomit above by just saying “I’m not straight”...it might mean that I think you’re cute.

—Eric Fürst

P.S. Please disagree with me. I’ve assumed an annoyingly didactic tone that I wouldn’t typically use in real life, in an effort to stoke some dissent.

Letter From The Editor: Anonymous Columnists

I think a major strength of our site, and something that differentiates it from its predecessor is complete absence of anonymity of our staff writers. When redesigning the blog in the Fall, we decided that the use of pseudonyms connoted that there was sense of fear among Us, and that couldn't be further from the truth. To reiterate our mission statement, we are not afraid, and we feel safe here. We've gotten so much positive feedback from people that have commended the openness of the writers, and this comment is pretty much Sentence Of The Year for me. The Out Community is blowing up on campus, and I feel as if all of these pictures and full names effectively convey that.

We were not so stupid, though, to think that everyone would be willing to be so visible. Our goal is to effectively and honestly capture what life at Duke and in America is like for LGBTQA students, and this cannot be done without also providing a podium for our closeted peers or those who just could not be as open were they writing under their full name. We set up the anonymous posting system to address this, and it's been hugely successful. 65 entries since November 9 is so many entries!

But! But. I think we may've overlooked a major possibility - that some of our out friends in BDU, more than willing to display their full name and picture, would not be able to out of fear of repercussions at home. A quick Google search of a columnist's name+"Duke" would lead here, and could very well mean a cutting off of tuition funds by parents for some or a revoking of scholarship by ROTC for others. As valued, awesome and all-the-more important as their visibility on the blog would be, it would not be worth being disowned or financially cut off. I know some that would argue otherwise and I understand their point of view, but I'm going to stick by this one.

At the last blog meeting, though, we all agreed that we should find a way to include the voices of those who were still willing to be regular columnists. Our current anonymous posting structure is not conducive to the frequency or length of columns, and I personally don't like the connotation of putting longer entries in a separate post like I did last week. So from now on (starting today) we will have some anonymous columnists.

Here's what I'm worried about. I don't want Readers to assume that anonymous columnists are not sharing their name out of fear of being out on campus. This is no doubt the case for many Duke students, and may even be the case for some anonymous staffers in the future, but I urge y'all to recognize that the choice to not identify one's self is not necessarily a reflection of campus culture (however discouraging campus culture can be). More often, I'm finding, this is a testament to what life's like back home.

Anyhow! While this seems like an obvious solution, it was a decision and precedent we had to discuss quite a bit. Like I said, pseudonyms didn't work too well on the old blog, but I'm confident that we will differ in our huge volume of identified writers that'll be right alongside :)

Okay! Let's do this!

April 26, 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 :)

It's LWOC, y'all. And from all of the anonymous posts we got this week, you would think that the L stood for Lanonymous posts (my fire alarm went off at 4:45 AM last night so my jokes are going to be like this).

Glee was incredible, etc. etc.

Let's just get to it.

I love being involved with the Center. Let’s get that straight. But another thing I want to get straight is this: I am straight. For some time, I’ve enjoyed being low key in the Center and showing up to events, even helping to plan some, and I LOVE the people who make up this community. But something inside me still keeps me from being 100% committed or involved. Something inside me pulls me so hard to get more engaged with the issues, to be an advocate for LGBT issues, to prove that things are looking up and with hard work here, now, we’ll get more people to be aware of these issues, too! And yet, I can’t bring myself to be fully invested. I guess you could say I’m not completely “out” as an ally. Or, maybe I am (I surely am proud to be an ally), but every time I bring up that “I’m hanging out at the Center” or “Yes, I’m participating in Day of Silence” or “Hey, come with me to this event, you don’t have to be gay or anything,” I worry that people still … assume. I especially worry about this with my co-workers. But why does that bother me? There’s nothing wrong with being LGBT … right? Is that why I feel the need to specify “straight” on my Facebook page? To qualify ally with “straight?” Then again, socially, religiously, politically, there still is something “wrong” with being gay, generally speaking. Is me being a straight ally then make the cause more valuable? More valid? Does me being removed from the “problem” give the cause more power? To a certain extent, I think it probably does. If someone is not affected by immigration issues, or healthcare issues, or minority issues, then the voices most loudly heard are usually people more empowered to speak – oftentimes, those not affected by these issues. Unfortunately, sometimes those calling for oppression are louder than those calling for freedom. But that is changing. Hopefully. Slowly, but surely.

So I ask myself again, why am I an ally? What’s in it for me? And then I think that if I’m asking myself that, then others sure as hell are asking themselves that, too. When I first started going to the Center, I felt like I was approached with caution, curiosity, and suspicion. To this day I still sometimes feel that, whether that’s truly the case or not. Do I do it to prove how “open-minded” and liberal I am? Do I do it just to get a reaction? Or, do I do it to prove that there are others like me out there, too?

After years of introspection, I think I’ve been able to start identifying the reasons I am an ally. I am an ally for the humanity and dignity and worth in you and in me. I am an ally because you deserve the same respect, consideration, happiness, protection, peace, and rights as anyone. I am an ally because I see the absolute beauty of perfect creation that you are, just as you are. No, this is not me up on a high horse. This is me exposed completely at my deepest core.
But, while these thoughts and feelings are in my mind and heart, I still struggle with openly expressing them. I still need help coming out as an ally and really not give a shit what people think – as long as it gets them to think about LGBT issues. And in that respect, I remain in solidarity with those who must question whether they can come out on a daily basis, for those who do struggle with LGBT issues and discrimination, and for those who question the power of their voice and presence.

I like to think of myself as an ally. I come often to Fab Fridays, I hang out at the center in my free moments, and consider many of the individuals within the LGBTQ community my friends. Though, I often question how good of an ally I am. Yes, I am strong on the social part- but I feel like I lack in the activism part.

Recently, DUU put up the "me too" chalkboards on the plaza. One night. As I was looking at the posts for inspirations, I saw someone wrote "I hate transgendered people." I inwardly thought how horrible that was. But that was it, I thought about how bad it was then moved on to another part of the board and wrote superficially wrote "I hate going to the gym." As I waited for my companion to write something on the wall, another ally who's a familiar face at the center saw the post- vocally said "that's horrible" and proceeded to cross it out. She rewrote "I hate bigots." Echoing in the spirit of the board, my companion wrote "me too" next to it. Now that's an ally. I was so disappointed in myself in that moment- at how passive I was. I felt like a coward. I realized how recently I've become more lax in how approach the various forms of "soft" hate speech around me. I used to be so vigilantly in questioning my friends who casually used "fag" or "retard." Now, I let words coolly pass me with an unreceived eyebrow arch to mark my disapproval.

In the weeks since, I've made sure to vocally question whenever my male friends say "no homo" or "i'm not a queer." I try to openly entreat them as to what that means- why are we denigrating groups people for the sake of humor. I think I realized why I stopped doing this before, it's not a popular thing to question privilege. You get stares, stammers, and sighs of frustration. But, it's necessary. All forms of silent (and not so silent) repression are connected and need to be attacked.

Still, I constantly question how good of an ally I am for all disenfranchised groups- whether it based on gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, etc. I feel like that I am not doing enough. I feel like awareness is not worth anything if you don't do anything with it. At this point, I feel like most of my stock is based on awareness.

Thank you to all the people in the Center, especially Janie and Chris. You make the lives of so many people on this campus just that little bit better, even if you've never met them.

I hate being stereotyped. I am a very politically conservative individual who hates being stereotyped as a gay-hater just because I'm conservative. I have no problem with LGBT individuals, but I do when they automatically assume I dislike them (And this was even before the DCR issue!). This is not a blanket statement, and most LGBT's do not do this, but a few here at Duke have branded me a homophobe just because I am conservative, even though I've given them no reason to think that.

I really want to be able to support the LGBT cause, but every time I run into someone who judges me, I have a hard time. It seems almost like they *need* someone to be against them, as it justifies them somehow. I know most LGBTs aren't like that, but please know that the best way to advance your cause is not through trumped up victimization, but rather just being who you are and not actively seeking out people to be against you (once again, not saying most of you do that). I feel many people would rally behind the LGBT community if that happened :)

I would like to apologize for my post last week in which I falsely claimed to have been diagnosed with HIV. I intended it partly as a joke, and partly as a means to encourage people to get tested. I hope that the latter did occur. I understand, however, that the post created a lot of distress and for that I am sorry.

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love San Antonio...Not

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how much I’m going to miss my Duke/Durham LGBT community this summer. I think my homeland has some potential and it’s nice to have a mission but…

I’ll probably just spend my time doing research and making websites and hanging out with people I already know instead of taking on the gargantuan task of assembling a cohesive LGBT woman-identified community. Though I’ve already broken down my task into manageable parts and sent some e-mails, I still feel sorry that I live in San Antonio and not metropolitan, livable, liberal, "we’re not really part of Texas", Austin (gag me with a fucking spoon.) I could commute one hour plus in horrid traffic to go to the discussion groups at the LGBT youth community center and the hipster lesbian clubs. I probably will just because I’m going to Austin anyway to work with professors at UT. Late-nighting will be difficult since I don’t have any friends who live in Austin (I don't want to repeat the Homeless Challenge.) Making friends in Austin is high on my to-do list.

Even if I volunteer at the few LGBT organizations and art spaces and go to the (male/straight/American Eagle butch dominated) gay clubs in San Antonio I doubt I’ll become a part of a legitimate community or find an acceptable hook-up. This is partly because I have difficulty talking to total strangers and partly because I rarely find someone I want to talk to.

I’m leaving Duke just as I realize that a great lesbian community exists in Durham. I have well-connected friends (ahem Summer.) And I might actually see the women I meet again. Though I’ve lived in San Antonio my whole life I have a paltry LGBT network. I semi-regularly communicate with two queer women. Maybe I fucked up in high school. I spent too much time doing math problems and not enough time getting to know the girls on the softball team. When I got pissed off that no LGBT youth community/resources existed I merely changed my Facebook status.

Now that I’m an anonymous college-age human rather than a wholesome youth I think I would have more options. I can go clubbing all I want but finding a hook-up isn’t as a mechanical, guaranteed process as it is for gay men. When it comes down to it, my desire to build community and serve the LGBT community has always stemmed from my desire for hot women. The more people I meet and the more involved I become, the higher my chances are of meeting a woman who fits my esoteric qualifications (non-white, butch-ish or femme-like, indie, artsy, conventional haircut, internationally-minded, certain piercings, intelligent, tall, fashionable, D&D free.) Though my interest has lusty origins, I can now say that being part of such a community has rewards beyond meeting people to hook-up with. The truth is that the women I’ve hooked up with don’t go to the Center. Some people don't feel the need to be part of the LGBT club. I admire their spontaneity. I can't leave my sex life up to chance. The cholos who used to hit on me on the bus are starting to look good. Maybe I should use this summer to squeeze the gray areas out of myself instead of trying to squeeze the LGBT out of San Antonio.

As I wonder what/who I’m going to do this summer, I can’t help but be bitter that I’m from San Antonio, whose motto is “Keep San Antonio Lame.” Sure, it’s better than being from middle-of-nowhere Iowa, but having to hunt for LGBT shit that’s open to women is getting old. I’ve promised myself that this is the last summer I’ll spend in San Antonio. I don’t care if Harvey Milk told me to “Stay in San Antonio and fight!” He probably never went there himself.

April 19, 2010

Special BDU Meeting Tonight

8:30 PM, Duke Center for LGBT Life

By now, most people have read this or this and are outraged. In order to channel this energy into constructive, informed discussion, BDU is holding a meeting tonight at 8:30pm in the Center for LGBT Life . Please come, ask questions, and discuss.

Anonymous Post #7

[Ed. Note: For the sake of formatting, I'm putting this superlong entry in a separate post.]

I’m frequently disgusted by my own arrogance, and little seems more egotistical than the self-masturbatory experience of a blog post. But I finally gave in in response to Summer Puente’s challenge that the boys “step up their game.” Here it goes.

In the last two weeks I’ve been coming to terms with the reality that I’m really, probably, most likely not gay. And that’s a tough fate for me to accept.

Then again, I never have been gay, or at least never commoditized myself as such—other people may have, and I don’t really mind. This has mostly been fine. It was only problematic once, when a guy I was hooking up with sort of vindictively told my girlfriend I was gay. I was shocked, only because I’d never used that referent, or attached it to him. In this context, it felt ugly to me. It was an accusation.

When I came to Duke,

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 :)

So. Much. To. Discuss.

First off, we all know that GLEE returned last week. It was okay? Jonathan Groff is marginally attractive at best with his hair like that (fellow Spring Awakening alum Matt Doyle remains infinitely awesomer and my husband). Also, can we just delete Schuster and Emma's plot line in its entirety? Let's just get rid of it. It is tedious, repetitive and does not involve Kurt, Mercedes or Sue Sylvester. It would also mean we would hear much less of Schuster's singing, which is something that we can all agree is a very good thing. The Best Thing.

Songs that have hello in them is also an insanely lame theme. I propose that "Telephone" be the key word in a future episode. #amiright?

Also, we got a RANGE of anonymous posts this week. Please respond to as many as you can, and make sure that every entry gets a comment. It's superimportant, especially with this batch, y'all. I know that normally I comment on the posts within this post, but I've been told that's sort of pretentious. Maybe! Obviously, I never meant to make my commentary or advice any sort of official response because I am an idiot 21 year old that is an idiot and 21 years old. It should trump the opinion of no one. I really just wanted to thank everyone officially on behalf of the Staff for sending something in. But maybe! I do not want to risk anything! So Imma put everything in the comments section from now on. My name's Chris for all of y'all that don't know :)

Ok. Let's do this.

I am disgusted by gay people and I don't want to be. I know a few gay people and think of them as my friends, but inside I just can't shake this revulsion. I have the most respect for those who stay in the closet even though I know it's not healthy for them to do that. Sometimes I think it's really insensitive of me to harbor these feelings of disgust, but at least I keep them inside and don't show my revulsion outwardly. How can I possibly be accepting of gays when in my experience here at Duke, it only seems like they're trying to get attention any way they can? I'd love to meet just one gay person who isn't flamboyant as hell and seems sincere to me. Otherwise I just think that homosexuality is a bid for attention. Like I said, I don't want to feel this way. I just don't know how to feel differently.

I don't know how I feel about homosexuality but evolutionarily it doesn't make any sense. Can someone explain to me from an evolutionary perspective, how does homosexuality exist? Survival of the fittest generally means that those who don't reproduce get eliminated.

Really liked the Day of Silence posters on campus. They meant less when I saw the people on the posters talking on Friday.

I am always lonely, always hurting, even when I'm with my friends; when I hurt too much inside, I hurt myself. It would be better if I could show who I truly am, but I can't. I think that people only like me because I'm funny, but I'm only funny because I'm too scared to let them know how hard it is to get through every day. My humor is a mask. I started to come to the Center in hopes that I would somehow find the courage to really be myself, or to ask for help. And sometimes I manage to open up for a little while. But it's never enough, and as soon as I leave I put the mask back on.

BDU, thank you for being silent. Thank you for saying everything by saying nothing at all. In my humble opinion, Friday's DOS was a huge success. The many posters that hung around campus for both DOS and the no homo(phobia) campaign sent an immensely powerful message to the Duke student body. I can imagine that many of you who were silent on Friday wondered if it was 'worth it'. Did this day of silence accomplish anything? Can our message be heard if we aren't saying anything? Will we see change on our campus because of our actions? You can rest assured, BDU, you were successful: I heard you.

I walked around campus on Friday completely humbled. You who are already brave and confident enough to live your lives out loud are willing to stand up for those who are not as strong as you. You fight against injustice, stigma, hateful words, and outright cruelty for people you don't even know. Through your silence, you stand in solidarity with someone in one of your classes, someone you've eaten dinner with occasionally, someone you pass on the plaza, someone you sit next to on the C1 every week. You give hope and strength to those who are silenced every day out of fear. Fear of rejection, fear of prejudice, fear of the truth. Your increasing presence on our campus is a daily reminder to the silent that there is a community ready and waiting to accept them with open arms when they are ready to speak. So thank you, BDU, for your participation in DOS. Thank you for being silent for me.


Well, that's not really a good word to describe how I feel. Upset. Depressed. Angry. Overwhelmed, maybe? Terribly...sad. Eh, let's stick with frustrated.

The center is a great place. It's full of great people, great resources, and great events. But mostly great people.

The rest of the world. Is. Not.

It’s really hard sometimes, when you hang in the Center a lot, and all of your friends are friends of the Center, and your life really doesn't function very much outside of the Center. Then, it's really hard sometimes when you can't go to Center, when you have to present yourself to the rest of the world. I feel vulnerable, weak. Terribly exposed. Naked, even. But at the same time...cold. Sheltered, Isolated. Fortfied. By this wall that I build around myself when I'm not sure how you feel about me and my sexuality. When I hear your slurs and your comments, and when I let out my chuckle that's so fake it's awkward, mentally I'm cementing another brick onto my wall that I've built between me and you. And the world. Until, I've got so many bricks that I can't get out. What started out as a way to protect myself from you has now trapped me inside.

And let me tell you, it's real dark.

I can hear my own heart beating, louder than the muted sounds of life that are going on outside of this prison. Sometimes, I'd like to scream and see if anyone could hear me, but even if they heard would they know it? I grab a sledgehammer and try to break through these thick walls. I swing and smash and watch as the cement blocks turn to dust. Only now, the sledgehammer has become a razor, a pistol, alcohol, hydrocodone, and the dust is now my body, my spirit, my will, my MOTIVATION. Because I see infinitely more blocks behind that one.

All I can say is, thank God for the Center.

What do I do when I can't go there anymore? I think I am suffocating.

See separate post.

I know this is a recurring theme on the blog, but I feel like venting, so here goes. I guess I feel very lonely at Duke, not because I lack friends, because I don't, I have a fantastic group who are close to me. It stems more from the fact that after being here for a few years and I still haven't had a meaningful relationship. Every time I see the couples who are involved with the center, both male and female identified, I feel a pang of envy. Many of them seem so content and comfortable in each other's presence, which is fantastic and I'm really happy for them. My overriding, selfish thought however is "Why not me, what do they have that I don't?" The fact that Duke's LGBTQ community is so small just compounds it.

Perhaps I just haven't met the right person, perhaps my standards are too high, perhaps I'm just unlucky - it could be any number of reasons. Everyone tells me to be patient, to wait and that the right person will come along eventually. Rationally, I know that they're correct, but it's very difficult to be rational about something as emotive as a relationship.

I know I should be patient, not let it get to me and realize that many other people are in the exact same situation. But it's difficult. It's really worn down my self confidence and esteem over these past few years. I've started to wonder about what huge flaws I must have to make me so uninteresting to others and which cause me to fail whenever I pursue someone else.

So there's my spiel. For all those out there in the same situation, I truly empathize with you - I hope you meet that special person sometime soon. It'll be one less of us in this situation.

I don't know what to do. I just got the call from Durham Public Health last week, and I'm still in a state of utter shock. I always knew that hooking up on the internet was sketchy and dangerous. I always felt badly about it…but what could I do? Most of the gays at the center won't even look at me, (Do they look at anyone without a nice camera and Common Ground apparel?) let alone pay me any romantic attention. I was desperate…I needed that close contact and intimacy that only being penetrated can provide. But the condom broke…and now my life is over. I'm HIV positive and I don't know what to do. I can't tell anyone…but there's someone who has to know. I had unprotected sex a few weeks ago with a guy at Duke and I don't know how to tell him that he may be infected. There are lives at stake...

April 16, 2010

Day of Silence at Duke Today

Duke University participates annually in the Day of Silence, a nationwide annual day of action wherein students take a vow of silence in support of the LGBT persons and their allies who have felt silenced by intolerance or injustice. This year, the Day of Silence is on Friday, April 16th.

"Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling, and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today"

One again, Matt Lyons has organized a MASSIVE poster campaign, and has photographed 60 students and faculty, including Summer's shown above. The rest of the posters can be seen here! #35 is a personal favorite :)

When and Why I'm Silent

Maybe writing a blog post is an unconventional way to start my Day of Silence. But I had some thoughts about today I wanted to share.

Some of you may know that my favorite quote--a quote which truly changed my life--is by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He said "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." When it came time to apply to college, it likely comes as no surprise to those of you who know me that I chose the option to "create your own prompt" (I am, after all, the girl who applied for Program II).

Inspired by this quote, aware of the role it played in changing my perspective, and convinced it articulated my passion and forthright manner, I wrote that it was "the motto by which I aim to live my life." A line in my essay said something about how "For someone who is not afraid of death or dying, I'm awfully afraid of my life ending, at least as Martin Luther King defined it." I gave some examples of things I'm passionate about (Title IX; Girls for A Change) and things I speak up against (hate speech; an experience in Israel) before I concluded by writing that "When people don’t speak up about everyday inequities, regardless if it is they or others who are affected, it is dangerous and harmful to our society. That is what MLK meant. Our lives become polluted with injustices if nobody speaks out—if everybody is silent...That is why I can’t be silent. Not now. Not ever." [Thanks, Mom, for finding my essay on the computer at home!]

And yet, today, for the fourth consecutive year, dating back to my junior year in high school, I will participate in the National Day of Silence. [An aside: My first year, I was the only person I knew participating. As a senior in high school many more people took part (a trend for which I do not take credit). Coming here, though, from never having a community that participated, is really empowering and inspiring.] Surely, being silent today is not equal to being silent at other times in my life. After all, today is a day of not talking, not really a day of "silence." But there are still some weird opposing forces at play. Some LGBTQA advocates don't agree with the Day of Silence. Personally, it made me recall MLK's quote and my essay and about the seemingly contradictory messages, which are really not contradictory at all.

I hope the Duke admissions officer who read my application won't mind if I go back on those last three short sentences. For, today, I will be silent.

I’m silent because I respect you. I’m silent because you shouldn’t have to be. I’m silent because your silence goes unnoticed and I’m silent to make your silence heard.

I’m silent to speak up against the bullying I’ve witnessed. I’m silent because I care. I’m silent because you deserve respect. I’m silent for your right to be you. I’m silent because you’re silenced every day.

I’m silent because you are my friend, my family, my classmate, my peer, my teammate, my mentor, my role model, my co-worker, my neighbor—a member of my community. I’m silent because I cherish you. I’m silent because I love you.

I’m silent because your fight is my fight; because your pain is my pain. I’m silent for change. I’m silent for progress. I’m silent for equality and I’m silent so there will be justice.

April 13, 2010

Know Your Status

It was a Monday. I went to the Bryan Center to participate in the Know Your Status program. I’ve done this before. Ever since I became sexually active, I have gotten tested for HIV and other STI’s; however, this time was different. I was not going for a regular check-up. I did not go into it assuming that the test was going to come out negative. I went because one of my past sexual partners had contacted me. He told me that he just tested positive for HIV and that it was advisable that I do the same. I was scared. So many thoughts were running through my mind.

HIV does not discriminate. I know that as an educated college student who practices safe sex and who is not a drug user, I have felt removed from the virus. It is something I have read much about and am fully aware of the statistics, but I never thought that it would hit so close to home. I took the obvious precautions to be safe, but always felt that they were at times unnecessary.

It is extremely important that as sexually active individuals, we know our status and the status of those we are engaging in sexual intercourse with.

While I was sitting waiting for the results, my mind was racing. We were safe. We thought we knew each other’s statuses. We did everything “right,” yet here I was in a situation that was only supposed to happen to people who did “wrong.” While my test did come out as negative, my life has been forever changed. This has been one of the scariest weeks of my life and no one should ever have to go through this fear. I urge everyone who reads this to go out and get tested and continue getting tested for the rest of your life. There is no excuse not to and there is never a reason to stop getting tested.

April 12, 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 :)

You guys!

This week we had a blog meeting, and tons of people came! It was pretty much The Most Fun and We've got lots in store for the rest of the semester.

Also! I have to plug the production of RENT here at Duke because I am responsible for keeping you up to date with Duke LGBT news. And this is Duke LGBT news because duh. The production is nothing short of amazing, and we were all blown away. I'm going again next weekend, come with me!

Anyhow. We got one anonymous post this week!

I have the most traditional values. I am a Black female who has been straight all her lives with straight friends and straight boyfriends. I have memories of experiences with 2 girls from my childhood. I am so attracted to other women that even talking about 2 girls kissing gets me so aroused.. it's not the same when I discuss heterosexual couples. Nobody I'm friends with would ever think I was anything but straight. But the truth is, I'm questioning. I don't know if I want a relationship with another woman, or how I'd handle it, but God knows that I really want to FUCK another woman. I put up an ad on Craigslist for someone like me... and I can't wait till I find her... so I can experience bliss: my dream of having sex with another woman using a strap-on.

[Ed. Note: Oh, hey, #1. I think all I can offer is to be careful on Craigslist. It can be kind of sketch. But so long as you stay safe, by all means you do you.]

My Coming Out Story

I came out so long ago that it feels like ancient history. Or Texas history. I came out in 7th grade, the one year I had to take Texas History. My coming out is kind of like the Battle of the Alamo: though I initially lost I ended the war a winner. I knew I was non-straight when I saw the Rocky Horror Picture show live the summer before the start of 7th grade. I had previously been attracted to women but had thought everyone else felt the way I did; they just didn’t talk about it. After going home I talked to my friend Blake on AIM who was in the same theatre program as me and openly gay. We talked about the show. I casually mentioned that the character Columbia was “hot.” He asked me if I was gay. I told him I had never considered it. After our night-long conversation I was convinced that I was different from the other girls and the word “bisexual” applied to me. My friend Catherine started talking to Blake. He accidentally told her of my sexual revelation.

I didn’t know this had happened until the first day of 7th grade when Catherine and her friends interrogated me about my “bisexuality.” Lacking any sense of self-preservation and with the knowledge that the damage had already been done, I told Catherine I didn’t care about whom she shared this knowledge with. One day I had a group of nerdy, conventional friends. Another day they all avoided me. The words fag, dyke, bitch, slut and whore followed me from advisory to the long bus ride home. I had been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder in elementary school. This wave of hostility brought out the worst depression of my life.

I came out to my parents around the same time. I had come home from school crying. My dad went to my room and asked me question after question. He asked me if I had a boyfriend and then asked if I had a girlfriend. When I answered yes, he told me I was too young to know and left the room. I tried in vain for months to convince my parents that I wasn’t too young to know. My dad, concerned about my safety, forbid me from telling anyone about my sexuality. Unfortunately, the damage was already done.

My new friends were potheads and punks, though I was too emotionally detached to be more than their mute accomplice during school. I had been a tomboy from a young age but slowly morphed into a feminine creature. At first I was grotesque. I wore too much make-up and thrift store clothes. Now I am completely comfortable with my identity as a femme. In 7th grade I managed to still make excellent grades. I was isolated but not without hope. By 8th grade I was barely passing my classes. The “girlfriends” I had in middle school only wanted sex from me or told the most vicious bullies about my sexuality. Everyday I faked sick or begged my mom not to take me to school. I was convinced that I couldn’t stay in school and had no future. The summer between 7th and 8th grade I only ate cheerios and nearly fainted in the shower.

Though I constantly felt like I wanted to die, I didn’t have a plan for how to commit suicide. I faint at the sight of blood, had no idea how to get a gun (I hope no one’s surprised that my Texas house was sans gun) and didn’t have pills readily available. I spent most of my time listening to avant-jazz and making crude drawings. When my parents and I met with the school counselor I spent the whole time hysterically crying and yelling at her. I was convinced that all the other kids in school were stupid. Though I don’t like to draw now, I became quite good at anatomical drawings. This one picture particularly impressed me and I was fond of copying it:

My privilege saved me from suicide. My parents had enough money to send me to therapy and put me on anti-depressants and cared enough to let me leave therapists who I felt weren’t supportive. The transfer to private Catholic school saved me academically and wouldn’t have been possible without my parent’s economic status. Though I was marked as the “weird lesbian girl” at my Catholic high school and wasn’t socially active, I did well enough to get into Duke. I am privileged that my family now treats my sexuality as a non-issue. As a result I can completely commit to being out to everyone I meet at Duke and can act as a witness to all facets of Duke’s social climate. I am not afraid of how people will react to my sexuality because I’ve heard it all. I still don’t know what it’s like to live somewhere where race and sexuality are not hot-button topics. While I intend to have this experience soon I am also grateful for the perspective I gained from being out at a young age in San Antonio, Texas.

This is part of a poem I wrote from my “dark period.” I sometimes chant the stanza to myself when I’m feeling down:
If god hates fags
You think that I would burn and die
My outside rubbing with my inside
Like they teach you to rub two sticks together

April 9, 2010

This Weekend!
Full Frame Film Festival and LGBT Related Movies

Hey all,
I just wanted to alert everyone about the Full Frame Film Festival happening this weekend in Durham (it actually opened tonight). This is The Festival's 13th year.

I was going through the list of featured films and saw some had LGBT themes. Here's a brief list I compiled with synopses (directly from the site) and their respective showtime information. Just to be clear, I've not seen any of these and I'm not "endorsing" any of them or their viewpoints. Though, hopefully some of you will be able to attend one or more over the weekend. Be sure to let us know what you thought of it! You could even write blog post review of the film! Tickets are $10 each...see this link for more information.

My Two Cents

This has been a popular topic of interest as of late and I haven't chimed in before, but I'd like to offer my two cents.

I don’t know if I’m considered part of the ‘in crowd’ or not, but I’ve definitely felt like part of the ‘out crowd’ before. There's been at least one occassion when I popped into The Center to see what was going on and left soon thereafter. In between, I stood uncomfortably and felt really out of place. As my Duke career has continued on, I’ve gotten more and more involved.

The first thing I did related to The Center was to stop by early on in my freshman year to see what they offered in terms of resources and programming and stuff. I met Chris Purcell, who showed me around and introduced me to Janie (who I still didn’t really know personally until this semester). I don’t think I went back until the spring (still a freshman) when I attended to an ally training event. At the end of the year, around this time, I helped table for National Day of Silence because it was something I did in high school and wanted to continue to do. I think I might have made an appearance at a BDU meeting or two last year, as well…but they weren’t particularly great experiences. It still felt like everyone knew everyone else and I didn’t quite fit.

This year, I made it to a BDU meeting at the beginning and made it to some (but not all) subsequent ones thereafter. I started blogging as a way to contribute to the community on my own time and I got really involved with the anti-hate speech campaign. Since then things have really changed for the better. I’ve even recently started hanging out in the back room during chunks of down time in my day.

I’m sorry for that long explanation, but I wanted you to understand the evolution and spectrum of my experiences with The Center. I haven’t always been around or involved in all the ways that I currently am.

From my limited experiences, the best advice I have, and this doesn’t necessarily apply to # 1 but may apply to individuals who are really looking to be involved, is to join a committee and work on a specific project. BDU meetings alone don’t really introduce you to people and don’t facilitate making relationships with others. However, working on a project for BDU, much like working on a group project for a class, gave me a space to get to know a small number of individuals on a more personal level. For me, it was less intimidating to be a newbie in that smaller setting. And, because I was working on something I was really passionate about I felt comfortable just being myself. Getting to know those individuals opened the door for me to get to know others. I don’t know everyone…I’m constantly meeting new people in the back room or at a BDU meeting, but I feel really comfortable in the space that The Center creates.

To #1, to address why you “should go”: I don’t actually think every LGBTQA identified individual has to go to The Center or be involved with BDU or whatever, so I don't really feel comfortable telling you that "you should go." I do hope, though, that The Center meets everyone-who-is-looking-for-that-kind-of-space-or-community’s needs. I, personally, really value having a community focused around something that is a part of my life. A comparable example is my involvement with the Freeman Center for Jewish Life. There, and at The Center, I can engage in activities and conversations that I can’t (necessarily) do/have with my friends in my block or from my freshman dorm or, to a somewhat lesser extent, my classes. Whether it’s campaigning against hate speech or celebrating the Jewish Sabbath, these are things I love to talk and think about and to act on, but that I couldn’t do on my own or with friends I may know from elsewhere. If you can have these experiences with your group of friends then you don’t need The Center to fill a void for you. But for me, it fills a really important void. Or, if you have no burning desire to have these experiences, then that’s perfectly okay, too! Lastly, I can’t say enough about the kind of individuals I’ve met through BDU and/or The Center. These individuals are quirky, passionate, original, genuine and down to earth--some of the qualities that I value most in my friends. They are real. I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer or knock the rest of the Duke population, but I haven’t found that anywhere else (if you disagree, please show me what I’m missing on campus).

[stay tuned for a sports related column soon...sorry!]

April 8, 2010

Viviana Santiago, Professional Baller: Today, Vivi wrote a letter to the Chronicle regarding the BSAI Step Off two weeks ago. Some things were said there that most definitely needed to be addressed. It is important to recognize though, that like Vivi says, her letter should not be an end to this conversation, but rather the beginning. (More on what happened that weekend coming soon).

To #1, Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Center

[This is kind of out of the ordinary, but we got this anonymous entry today in response to another one that was posted on Monday. I figured it was time sensitive and also WAY too long to go in our regular post for next Monday so I'm just posting it now!]

As a non-Greek woman at Duke, I have a complicated relationship with sororities. A lot of women I sincerely admire and respect are members of them. But, during the wonderful day known as “Bid Day”, I find myself cringing at all their high-pitched wailing of Greek letters.

Now, I didn’t join a sorority, because like a lot of non-Greeks, I possessed an image in my mind of what a sorority girl was supposed to look and act like. I didn’t feel like I would belong, so I found alternative social circles to devote myself to. Honestly, I can say that I love the people I spend time with and I don’t regret my decision to not participate in Greek life. However, thinking about the justification behind my decision to refrain from sororities reveals some intriguing parallels with the common reasons people give for not coming to the Center. In this post, I hope to articulate my understanding of the current divide in the Duke LGBTQA community between Center “regulars” and Center “non-goers”. At the end, I also hope to provide an engaging incentive to attend Center programs other than “give us another try, we promise we’ll try to talk to you.”

Before I start, let me preface by saying that I am devotedly loyal to the Center. I work there, I socialize there, I eat there, etc. So yes, I am biased in favor of the Center, but give me a chance and hear me out.

From what I can discern, there are two main reasons why people don’t come to the Center. These reasons are not necessarily mutually exclusive and of course there are tons of other reasons why people don’t attend Center events. However, the two main ones I most commonly come across are:
1. Personal apprehension with being “visible”
2. Exclusivity

The first reason is a complicated one that most need to overcome individually. Of course, personal apprehension with being out could be alleviated with having a better and more inclusive campus culture. However, what I’m really interested in is the exclusivity that is associated with the Center.

What do people mean when they say that Fab Fridays are “exclusive”? Well, on a simple level, they mean cliques, coteries, the “in-crowd”. On a deeper level, they also may be referring to the behavior norms of Duke’s LGBT community.

It’s no secret that any community will have community “norms”—for better or worse. Norms include language, common interests, clothing style, you get the point. I think part of the reason some people don’t want to come to the Center is that they feel that they won’t fit in. Nobody wants to feel marginalized for not following the norm in larger society only to find that they are also outside the norms of a smaller community. Just as I had a preconceived image in my mind of what norms a sorority girl must follow, I think many students have an image of what queer life at the Center is.

Now, the LGBT community both at Duke and in the larger context (contrary to popular belief, there is a world beyond these gothic, pollinated borders) is unique in a lot of aspects, but it is especially distinct when it comes to norms of behavior. Usually, I believe you can’t rightfully criticize a community for having norms. Yes, you can challenge them, question them, fight them. But you can’t criticize a community for actually having a set of norms to operate in. In other words, you can challenge the law, break the law, fight the law. But you can’t criticize the existence of laws. Some of you anarchists may disagree with me, but I tend to think that having some sort of legal system is probably a smart thing for a civilization to have.

This principle of having a common set of norms holds for every community, except when it comes to the LGBT community. We are a group of people whose very existence challenges the propriety and utility of gender norms. In this same vein, I find it incredibly regressive when, as a community, we try to regulate how gay men and lesbians are supposed to act. For example, we shouldn’t use a love of Lady Gaga or the Indigo Girls as an indicator of someone’s sexual orientation. Sure, it’s funny. Maybe it may even be true most of the time. But, it’s still backwards to our mission as a community: to prove that sexuality cannot be embodied or encapsulated by mere physical appearance.

So how does this relate to me not joining a sorority and the Center in any way?

Well, even though I don’t regret my decision not to join a sorority, I do regret my reasons for doing so. I gave Greek life an unfair image without ever giving it half a chance to prove me otherwise. And, as someone recently pointed out to me, if my perception of sorority norms was so troublesome, I should have done more to engage with and change the norms.

So if you don’t come to the Center because you don’t particularly care for Lady Gaga and you don’t think you fit the community norms, I give you a personal challenge. We at the Center will do our best to reach out. But meet us halfway and challenge the way we define ourselves. The more diverse individuals with diverse interests we get, the better. With every new face and new personality at social events, the closer we are to proving that the LGBTQA community is more than the way we dress or the music we like. This is a truth that we must convey to the larger community, but, more importantly, to ourselves. See you at the next Fab Friday, Women Loving Women discussion, and/or Blue Devils United meeting :D.


April 6, 2010

Blog Meeting Tomorrow Night!

BDU Blog Meeting, Tomorrow Night
Wed. April 7 at 6PM
Kilgo J216
All are welcome!

I know I originally said that the meeting would be tonight, but I sort of forgot it'd be my birthday? Yeah. But! We're on for tomorrow in my room. Also, it's three hours earlier, People On Central!

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 :)

So last night we won the 2010 National Championship in Men's basketball. Cameron Indoor was packed and went absolutely nuts when we won. It was exhilarating to participate in my 3rd bonfire celebration at Duke.

Having said that, I feel as if this is an appropriate venue to express how bittersweet it is for me to beat Butler. Y'all might not know this, but two of my husbands are actually on their team - Gordon Hayward and Coach Brad Stevens. It's tough to console them after a loss like this, but what's really important is that we have each other (I hope Scheyer doesn't read this. It'd make for a pretty awkward date tonight).

Anyhow! Lot's of anonymous posts this week. Keep 'em coming!

Hi BDU blog,
Firstly, let me say how much I enjoy reading this blog. Keep up the good work! Now, I would like to address a recent anonymous post and the discussion it seems to have stirred up. Let me give you my perspective: I'm a gay guy who has been out for a while, and I'm someone who is quite secure with my own sexual and social identity. I have a couple of gay friends who have all urged me to go to Fab Friday, but here's the thing: I've heard a lot about the cliqueness of the LGBT Center. What especially worries me is the angst I hear from a couple of regular attendees about how even they feel really excluded sometimes and how the entire environment oftentimes seems to be pretty Mean Girls-esque. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I am very happy socially with both my close friends and my extended social circle, and I suppose one might classify my social life as that of a stereotypical/traditional Duke student, except for the fact that I'm gay. My question that I would like to pose is this: as someone who is generally socially content, what reason do I have to go to the LGBT Center? It seems like there's a whole lot of y'all that are really passionate about the place, but I don't want to have a horror-story experience. Moreover, I really just don't get what my motivation should be for going. What do I stand to gain from going? I would really appreciate a response from anyone who has an opinion on this.

[Ed. Note: Great question, Number 1. A lot of us do really talk up The Center quite a bit. For me, personally, it is a place where I can always find some of my friends. The staff there - Peg, Janie and Chris - are so much fun and helpful. Always. It's hard to articulate, but I guess it's sort of an on-campus home for me, replete with parents and siblings :) As mentioned, we're truly working on the cliquiness - we don't mean to be!

But! But. The Center is not the only way to get involved with The Community on campus. It might not be for you right now! Clearly it's not the easiest thing to walk in to your first time without knowing anyone. But there is also Blue Devils United, our advocacy group on campus that meets every other Wednesday at 6 in The Center (not this week, but next). Those meetings are much more low-key in my opinion. Also! There is also the LGBT discussion group (I'm not sure if those are done for the semester, though, I'll ask) and of course our awesome BLOG that is meeting TONIGHT TOMORROW NIGHT (stay tuned for details!).]

I am so frustrated. Don't get me wrong, I like being gay. I love loving women, because they are amazing. But so often I find myself falling for straight girls-or really, just girls in general on this campus, and it's SO FRUSTERATING because I have to just accept that it will never amount to anything. I feel like I am in a continuous cycle of liking girls who don't, and could *never* like me back, for reasons that they can't even control.

It's like I'm getting burnout. I'm burnout of always liking straight girls. Falling in love and just knowing that it's not reciprocated. Period. I know that, yes, maybe a nice gay girl will come along and I'll like her as much as I like all these straight girls, and then maybe I'll be lucky enough to have her like me too. But it's not too likely. And I'm not too keen on dating a girl I meet at the Center because there's so few of us and it would just make things so awkward.

And while I sit here and wait for me to meet that special someone, my heart just feels like it can't take this eternal singledom anymore. But it has to.

And in the mean time, it's falling left and right for straight girls.

[Ed. Note: This is kind of superfrustrating. I hear you, #2. You are describing, uh, all of high school and a good chunk of Duke for me. Patience I guess is really all that I can preach, as shitty as it makes me feel doing so. But bah! to being reluctant to date someone you met at The Center. They're My Favorites, and HOT COMMODS. You'd be doing yourself a disservice!]

i compulsively submit anonymous posts.

[Ed. Note: Haha, I compulsively love you? All the time? Is that possible?]

Even though you're gay, everytime you affirm my role in the community as an ally (implying/assuming that I'm straight) it just means that I'll be less likely to talk to you about my sexuality. There's a reason I don't flaunt my heterosexuality--and it isn't just because I think that that's a shitty thing to do. It's also because I don't really know if I am.

[Ed. Note: Oh, hey, #4. This is really important, and to be honest, this is a perspective or sentiment that I'd never thought of before. I've actually heard the opposite, more often, I think - that straight allies are constantly assumed to be LGBTQ. But definitely your situation is just as, well, oppressive. I really value posts like this because they help us as a Community improve in ways that I don't think we'd come up with on our own. /mush]

So... I'm a little late, but I wanted to thank everyone involved in the no hate speech campaign recently. I went to a rural high school where one of my good friends was almost daily confronted with hate speech because of their sexuality... though I'm afraid it happens every where. =\ I was glad to see such a well put together event/posters bringing this problem to everyone's attention. Also, I was pretty impressed/ mesmerized by the rainbow cupcakes!! They were amazing. How did you get those perfect layers!?! ...my baking skills (i.e. boiling water) don't quite compare. =) Good work BDU!

[Ed. Note: NUMBER 5, I KNOW. The cupcakes! Apparently it was a very involved process and hopefully someone who was involved in the baking process can explain what went down. Thank you, though! Everyone did do an absolutely great job with what was like you said, a very important campaign.]