May 19, 2010

Ticks.

So first I should probably just note where I’ve been this whole semester. I had been so sure of myself: on this mission to present my community with interviews and photos. I loved doing it. But then, as some of you know, my last subject’s parents found the entries…the blog. What ensued was not the greatest of circumstances for this individual. I had the permission and everything but I couldn’t escape this feeling of guilt. I stopped writing. What right did I have to put someone in that position of pain and hurt?

I think I reflected on it too much. I was scared that I threw myself out there, and was trying to pull out everyone with me. To be supergay, or ultragay, or gay before anything else. To take the risk and out ourselves on campus, online. That’s a big step. Deep down, I still absolutely agree that being just us was the goal of my entries: to show the broader experience of queer folks at Duke.

But being more out has not been without its hate.

Reactions from family and friends and complete strangers have been interesting. Although I am perhaps more hesitant now to post online, I know these stories are important to tell. So I hope you can bear with me in this post. I hope to continue posting during the summer and make up for my absence and overcome the fears that have piled up on me this semester.

There were two events that occurred really close together. They were my most direct and blunt experience with hate speech. I tried to brush it off and not let it get to me, but I’ve kept replaying these events over and over in my mind over the past few weeks. The first—was on LDOC. For those of you who have seen Patrick’s Documentary, LDOC 2009 was a great memorable experience for me. LDOC 2010 was tons of fun too, don’t get me wrong. But while kissing a female in the crowd while the bands were playing, I suddenly became aware of the people talking around us. I tuned in to a pair of guys next to us, hearing: “They’re kissing each other, that’s fucking disgusting.”

I can delight in the attention and reaction and help show a broader spectrum of female sexuality, the girl I was kissing certainly was. But I don’t really like being told that I’m fucking disgusting. It tore through me like I didn’t know it would. I shocked myself with how much it hurt.

Then, awhile later, the second event. Walking down Markham, hand-in-hand with my partner, a gentleman took it upon himself to lean out of his car and yell, “God made Adam and Eve!”

Not so piercing, no. But what if it was? What if something happened?

The only thing you can really do is laugh it off. Crack jokes. Be stronger...somehow. How do I do that?

I went to the Eno a few days ago, on a hot humid Durham day. I jumped right in that damn river. The peace and serenity of it all was overdue. Listening to the river flow slowly by, sitting on a soggy log, watching the dragonflies dance. I even got a tick! I’ve been terrified of ticks my whole life, but somehow it felt like a milestone. I picked it off without an issue, and maybe I’m sinking too far into hippiedom for my own good but I was pretty excited.

This semester was huge for me. A coming of age with hate speech and ticks. My grades weren’t what I wanted them to be—but are they ever? And I talked to my dad yesterday and while on the subject of coming out to the family he said: Summer, I just want you to include in your life whoever you want to be in it.

I don’t think he knows what that means to me, to us. It made my big ol heart want to explode.

Transparency and honesty are hard. It’s what I’ve made out 2010 to be. So far so good I think.

6 comments:

  1. Summer! Yay for seeing your blog entry.

    As for your ticks metaphor-I think that's totally relatable. I was talking with Valerie last night, and we agreed that I also kind of "catapulted" myself into LGBT life at Duke this semester. It's amazing on one hand-but there are times like last night, when I just want to take a step back and say-wow.

    Ticks, spilling stuff on your short, missing the C2...all of these little things...they stay constant and are the same whether we're choosing to be out and proud or stay completely in the closet. I know I've liked going back to those small pieces of calm...and I've really appreciated the fact that they're still there! :D

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  2. I love seeing how you've evolved in the last year. It's quite inspiring. I also like how you use nature to relax and enjoy life. I'm quite nature and water averse. Right now San Antonio is so hot....

    I know exactly what you mean when it comes to the fear that an isolated incident of hate speech could turn into something more. Hate speech seems like such familiar territory for me yet no one has used it to my face since the beginning of high school. Sure, I've been called dyke, bitch , whore, slut, disgusting, etc. but it happened so long ago. I can still remember when my girlfriend sophomore year of high school told me quite seriously that if we held hands in her neighborhood we would be shot. Why am I still so afraid? Why do I feel unsafe and watch my back when I'm holding hands with my girlfriend in an unfamiliar neighborhood? I think that if such an incident arose I would yell and curse at the person till they begged for mercy. Yet that's not how life works. All of us can be stronger together. We can share our stories with everyone we meet. Hopefully the sting will not become all-consuming. These moments of verbal and physical violence serve to show us how much more work needs to be done. It shakes the hope and belief that Duke is and will be a safe place for LGBT people. For every story I have about a worker at Duke giving me kind words there's a story of someone getting beat up. For every person who glides through Duke smoothly there's someone who can't go a day without being harassed.

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  3. i loved this summer :) my favorite part was your reflection on going to the eno. the whole scene seems like a very real example of how everything you've experienced lately--situations involving transparency, community, confrontation of prejudice, etc--has resulted in personal growth... i feel like anyone could get something out of reading this.

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  4. Thanks for sharing all of these experiences and your feelings about them with us. It's funny how we can be so sure of ourselves and feel so confident but still be affected by things we thought we were stronger than. The truth is, though, that no matter who you are, these things hurt. I think the way you grow stronger is by getting right back out there (sort of like the saying that when you fall off a horse, you get right back on it). Don't let them win by doubting yourself and stepping down from your platform.

    I'm so happy to hear about that conversation your had with your dad. That's HUGE. And really beautiful.

    Don't ever forget, Ms. Puente, that you're an amazing asset to our community.

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  5. Hi Summer!

    I have a bit of an odd history with hate speech. Namely, that I've never really encountered any myself but have always been curious what I would need to do for that to happen. But holding an official position on whether I'm going to seek it out depends on what I think of it.

    The question to me is, and I know this could easily seem insensitive or cruel, but -- it seems as though hate speech is a symptom of us doing at least a portion of our job correctly. Being out, being open, will arouse controversy. But isn't part of our goal to be visible and to show people who we are, even if they react negatively? I'm just questioning; I'm not really entirely sure.

    Yes, hate speech hurts. But isn't it also a symptom of the visibility that brings the progress we seek? Perhaps hate speech will merely embolden others to be similarly offensive in public to members of our community. I guess it really depends on the onlookers. Some will be more offput by whatever it is they see than they are by the blatant rudeness of whomever spoke the hate speech, but surely some people will see that the hate speech was not warranted and become stronger allies because of it. I don't know.

    It's just always a question to me--how visible should I attempt to be? Or is there an optimum degree of visibility to bring the greatest positive changes to the community? I don't know, and I hate that.

    Thanks for the post, Summer.

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  6. Hey Summer,

    Thank you for sharing all of this, it's wonderful to know that this semester has been so integral in your coming of age. I think your Dad's comment was beautiful too, I'm so glad for you! Echoing Veronica, it's been inspiring seeing you change and evolve over the past while. I hope you have a wonderful summer :)

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