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!]