June 29, 2010

Coming Out to Nana

In the entry I wrote on January 14th, 2010, I told a horrible story about a conversation I had with one of my grandmothers where she mentioned damnation to all gays. Two days ago, on Thursday (I am writing this on Saturday), I called her up. As context I want to say that we're not too close, mostly based on a rough relationship with my mother. So I was catching up with her on the phone, and I told her all about moving off campus and how great life is etc etc.

Then there was the perfect window to out myself.

"So, are you seeing anyone?"

AHHHHHHHH. BREATHE. BREATHE. It's okay. She won't hate you.

"Yes." (Ughhh cop out!)

"What's he do?"

"Actually, Nana, I'm dating a female."

I did it. The whole time, I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest. Maybe it wasn't a radical type of honesty since I had to be led by questions, but I didn't avert and I didn't lie. Then I proceeded to tell her all about Hilary.

I could sense her pauses between sentences getting longer and longer, she was clearly choosing her words carefully. She sounded sad. But then she said, "All I want is for you to be happy." Even if that's not totally true, she's being a trooper and I appreciate her effort so much. She talked about how angry and depressed I was six months ago and how she can really feel the changes I've made and how well I'm doing.

So the people in my family who know: My dad, mom, one nana, Ashleigh (my sister) and Brock (my brother). After telling this nana, I wouldn't be surprised if word got around quick to that side of the family. But I'm so much closer to my dad's side. I've got another set of grandparents, aunts and uncles… What's keeping me from telling them about my great news and joy?

I've spent several occasions (probably amounting up to hours at this point) talking to Megan about this. She encouraged me to tell my family in person because it's so much more intimate. I get that, I definitely do. But if the next chance I get to go home is in December, then it will have been a year since I've seen them, and a year since I've been with Hilary. It's already been six months.

And I figure since telling the first nana was the most terrifying, it can't be all that bad. And on a side note, what's more important, telling them I'm gay? Or telling them I'm in a gay relationship? OR telling them I live with my partner?!

I feel like I'm moving too quickly along in my life to exclude them much longer, otherwise I will be like a stranger living a double life, and that sure as hell isn't happening again.

Thus, I find myself empathizing with so many of you, and whose stories I've collected or heard.

June 28, 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 :)

This post is already superlate, so I'm not going to delay much longer. Hope everyone in The City had a great time at Pride last weekend - I know that The Entire Community was together and I'm really upset/jealous I wasn't there. I miss y'all trillions.

She or he or whatever they want to be
It’s concerning to you, I can see
Maybe tomorrow they’ll want to express
More freely
And you’ll stare
And wonder why they’re in a tie
When just yesterday
They were in a dress and isn’t
It a mess?
He or she or whatever they need to be
It’s puzzling you, I can already see
But dear the jokes on you
When your face is bent
In confusion
At the sight of them
In a tie and dress and isn’t
It a bigger mess?
You are she, you are he,
You will hold the hand of what you see
As the opposite of what you were
Born to be,
Male parts bind you to your tie
Female parts bind you to
Your dress
And if that’s where you find happiness
I wish you all the best
While your judging eyes
And thoughts make
The biggest mess

June 26, 2010

I'm Coming Out... Again???

So, I've been a bit MIA on the blog for a while but with good reason. I've been working at Duke this summer doing a lot of the behind the scenes work helping to organize all the summer camps like TIP (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Brandy! :D ) I've gone back and forth about writing about this for a while but something happened recently to seal my decision.

Anyway, I work in a small office with 5 other people. They're all really great to work with and I'm pretty good friends with one of the other student workers. So I felt moderately at ease around them. That is, until one of my co-workers asked the question: Is he gay? Funny thing is, he was asking me if I thought one of our supervisors was gay despite him having a wife and children.

I honestly do not remember how I answered him. I was too caught up in the thought that maybe he was homophobic or thought gay people were destined to hell. Why was he so concerned about our supervisor's private life? The little bubble of safety I once felt now lay shattered on the ground around me. I heard a faint laughter, something mocking me: "You thought you were safe. You were wrong. *Insert evil snicker*" I panicked. I made up some excuse to leave and came back to my room. Was I going to have to come out again? Wasn't the first time enough? Is it NECESSARY that I come out? Why should I have to? But I decided to let it go and just forget about it. I was probably just overreacting anyway.

A few days ago, a different co-worker began telling me about a party his fraternity was going to throw at their off-campus house. In his attempt to win over my RSVP, he mentioned the amounts of drinks there would be and how a friend of his was going to bring "a ton of hot dancer chicks from the American Dance Festival." I looked at him and laughed. Little did he know how pathetic his attempt to make me want to go to his party only made me want to go less. Don't get me wrong. I love a good party just as much as the next guy, but by 1) using women as his selling point which infuriated me to no end and 2) thinking I was some hormone-driven dog, I had no problem turning down his offer. But then, he did something I didn't expect: "Why not?"

Oh no. I'm going to have to do it again. I'm going to have to come out to him, aren't I? Just like they did the first time I tried to come out to my friends, the words formed a simple sentence in my mind, traveled down to my lips, but couldn't pass them. If I could have turned red with anxiety, I would have. I hurriedly made up some half-baked excuse about wanting to get some rest and just relax. He left me alone. Crisis averted, right?

Temporarily, yes. But I just can't shake it. Why did I have so much trouble proclaiming something that I say so often now, something that I'm proud of? Am I still afraid of the sideways glances and evil glares? Am I terrified of the words he'll say? Do I think he'll look at me any differently? Am I really as open and proud of who I am as I'd like myself to believe? Is it just because of the people I usually surround myself with, ones that are accepting and loving and caring and open? This guy certainly isn't a person that I would normally hang out with on a regular basis. I mean, there's nothing wrong with him but it's just a mismatch of personalities and interests.

Something else struck me: I'm so worried about him judging and stereotyping me, but what if I'm doing the exact same thing to him? Could I possibly be going through this struggle because I'm stereotyping him to say what I would expect someone like him to say? Am I causing myself anxiety about being stereotyped because of my own stereotypes?

Answer: I am.

It's funny, you know. I always expect people to make leaps and bounds towards forgetting stereotypes and being more open-minded but, as evidenced by this, I still have my own progress to make in stereotyping. Part of me just wants to come out with it (pun only slightly intended) and just say I'm gay. But another part of me is mortified. I have to work with these people for the rest of the summer. What if things get awkward? Will our work dynamic suffer? On the other hand, what if there's absolutely no problem with it at all? Gah! I'm giving myself a headache going around and around in circles like this. I give up. Should I come out (with a proper parade and floats and rainbows, just kidding... sort of) or is there really no need to?

Any suggestions?

June 25, 2010

Change of Scenery

I moved in with my partner.

For those of you who aren't my Facebook friends and can't follow my insane joy and random photos of my Durham summer adventures…let me backtrack.

I tested the waters on a few friends first…"I think I might move in with Hilary…" and tried to gauge people's reactions. Overall, the responses were uncertain, or trying to be polite, some were nervous. I don't blame any of you--the pervasive hook-up culture at Duke and unknown world of Durham and its queers can be a cloud of impenetrable-ness. Then came the next phase…"We've been looking for a place…," then finally, "WE SIGNED A LEASE TODAY!"

The reactions didn't change much. I got the occasional, "So now we REALLY won't see you." (coughChrisPerrycough)

The Duke campus isn't bliss for all of us. In my case, I'm not talking about hate speech or feeling unwelcome on campus because of the general student body versus my queerness. I'm talking about class and I'm talking about ethnicity. On the surface, I've got white skin and blue eyes. I blend in okay unless I'm intentionally trying not to (which has been more of the case lately). But I'm Mexican. I was raised Mexican. No, I don't have the best Spanish in the world, but I come from a working class neighborhood of Mexicans. That's what I know, and what I love.

I try not to make everything about money, or judge folks on their privilege. We're all born into different circumstances and I love everyone in the LGBT community for different reasons. But for me and my mental health, I need folks who can commiserate with me a bit more on financial issues.

Speeding up to the last month, I feel like I've finally accomplished that.

For those of you who have kept up with my summer adventures, I moved off campus into a house of four other Durhamite women, including my partner. We've got three cats, a dog, and a bird (ridiculous, I know). Everyone in the house is partnered…and we've become quite social. So the house is a bit of a zoo. But a lovely home we've christened 'Lockamy.' (To discover why this name was picked, you'd have to come over, so make plans to visit me in the fall!)

My friend Anthony and I have also been fond of calling the place 'Estrogenhaus.'

Recently, I've been laughing so much. Hysterics from tickling, giggles from baking in my massive kitchen, joy from the animals doing silly things. So much happiness. I feel like the most fortunate woman. But I wanted to write to you all today because I know what the struggle feels like. I want to honor and celebrate the good times, but the fight through mental health and reducing isolation can be a lonely one.

I hope to open my house to you all. I know what staying on campus too long does to me. The effects are probably different for some folks, and I know plenty of students that love the campus and never see any reason to leave. But there is so much greatness in Durham, there are so many good people, and I urge you to explore it with me next year.

The Pinhook has recently started having nights that are open to 18+ and they have some very fun events, we will most definitely have weekend brunches at my house, and hopefully some WLW events. I'm not trying to make you vom with my love, I'm just saying that it's been a three year struggle for me (so for any first years reading this, if it gets bad for you, don't wait for it to get worse! Come have cookies and play with my kitten), and I want to help any part of my community that I can.

Also, I'm currently in the airport on my way to a language immersion program, so I won't be in touch for the next 7 weeks since I'm not allowed to do anything in English. Maybe I'll move this blog into the bilingual realm and post a Spanish entry. ^_^

Please have a great summer, I can't wait to see all of your beautiful faces in the fall!

PS. A bunch of my friends who are in a Durham arts collective (DURTY) are planning a music festival in August. I believe the 28th is the tentative planned date. I know lots of you will be here by then and it should be a huge party with tons of local kids and bands. Please come! It will be a great opportunity to begin building bridges between Durham kids and Duke kids!

June 23, 2010

"I can’t recall a recent situation which has made me feel like these words did."

[Ed. Note: Andrea Patiño Contreras, an awesome friend and huge ally, sent this to me to be posted on the blog. We all pretty much knew she was The Greatest already, but it's officialer now? Right? I think that works. Anyhow, sweet post! Thanks for sharing!]

I am currently in Accra, Ghana, studying Cultural Anthropology and travelling around. Over the past week I have been staying at a really nice host family and though transitioning to Ghanaian life from American and Colombian lifestyles has been a little hard, I have finally been able to get used to a lot of the new things I have encountered. Sunday morning, however, I had a very upsetting experience that I thought I wanted to share with all of you.

My host mom, Aunt Vic, is a wonderful old lady. She is very (very) religious and as the head of the house, there are many practices in the house that involve praying, going to church, studying the Bible etc. I am not entirely sure what her denomination is, but it is some sort of Christian charismatic something. I knew that they go to church every Sunday, and I also knew (as I had been told by the other exchange students staying here) that Sunday church, plus school, plus Bible study, would take up to four hours. My roommate and I (none of us particularly religious) had decided we wanted to go to church because we knew it was important for the family and because we were, to a certain, extent expected to do so.

When we arrived we were guided into a crowded room where we sat on our own. The rest of the family members were scattered all over the room. I had known about this service for some days now and I had been preparing myself to be able to be there for four hours and to deal with a lot of things that I knew could upset me. Nonetheless, I was completely willing to see what it was like and I went in with my most open mind.

Though I was feeling absolutely uncomfortable at the beginning, after an hour of singing and dancing to cool-sounding songs about God and Jesus, I started to give in and try to dance and cope with what was going on around me. By then I was happy and thinking to myself what a great time these people have compared to the boring and stiff (no offense) Catholic services I had grown up with. This was a happy party.

However, as the sermon started things started to change. Though I knew I was going to be told that sex is a sin and all that, I wasn’t ready to hear that I should “shut down all the sinful people I know from my life, like those who are lesbians, or homosexuals, or drunks”. When I heard that I felt that my heart was about to explode a little and that I got really red and rolled my eyes and shook my head. I can’t recall a recent situation which has made me feel like these words did. I wanted to stand up and leave but I didn’t want to be a shame to my host family or be rude, especially in a place where I was one of the three white people in the room (an interesting point here as I am considered to be “white” here, while in the U.S. I am never seen as white but Hispanic). Anyways, it felt really bad, but I stayed listening to the rest of the sermon which by then was feeling like pure crap (again, no offense).

Half an hour later, the offering time came. I was too enraged and of course, I would never give money to a place that promotes intolerance and triggers discrimination and damages society in the way in which this sermon was doing it. However, as the only white people in the room we were easily pointed at and we were expected to give something. I just sat there with my roommate and pretended to be indifferent, but people around us were asking and demanding money. Then the minister looked straight into my eyes and asked me where my offering was, and people in the two rows in front me turned around asking the same question. I wasn’t going to give money. Instead of saying I didn’t have any I told the woman in front of me I simply didn’t have an envelope (which all the others were using to put their money in). Bad idea! They brought me one of course. I hid it in my purse and pretended to forget, but ten minutes later the people gossiping in the front row asked me for it.

When I gave it (1 GCD = less than 1 dollar) I simply wanted to cry. I stood there and my eyes got so watery. I didn’t want people around me to think that I was actually inspired by all this. I felt that I completely betrayed myself, all my friends and people I love who support and who are part of the LGBT community. It really felt awful and I was so angry at myself for not being able to say no. There was so much pressure in the church though, but I still think that that is not an excuse for not standing on my feet and stand for my principles. I know it was sort of my small incident, but it really hit me hard. I thought though, that sharing it with you all would be the best way of redeeming myself.

June 22, 2010

Hillary Clinton Should Deliver All of Obama's LGBT Speeches and Also This Other Guy, Who is a Real Person In Real Life: Ok, so today there was this big event at the White House for LGBT Pride Month. The audience was mostly local and state-level advocates (so yes, I was too important and BIG TIME to be invited), and Hil gave this badass speech. She makes incrimental change and legislation on duh issues sound so OK! Seriously, though, kind of wish she was in the Oval Office right now.

Sometimes, though, we meet people who are so far from The Best. They are pretty much the opposite of The Best. But they are real people, somehow, that are living in real life right now. This "ex-gay" (gay) guy is one of those people, and his video has been making the blog rounds today and is very LOL.

Top 10 Lines From This Video:

#1-10: All of the lines.

When he started reaching (?) at 3:04 I was kind of convinced that this was a huge joke because look at the reaching thing he does at 3:04. But it is real, and the website checks out. Thank you, Right!

June 21, 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 :)

What an epic weekend, y'all. Michelle and I drove down to Duke to pay our respects say goodbye to Chris Purcell on his last day. As depressing as this may be, though, it was an awesome trip and I saw Everybody That I Need To See In My Life Right Now. Sitting around the Center with Janie, Megan, Jack, Chris, Justin, Summer, Peg and Mish was probably one of the best parts of my summer so far. I know I've said it before, but I'm SO excited for this Community next semester. Especially since I've resolved that We are going to spend every weekend at Summer's place after excursions to pick various fruits (no pun intended (pun intended)). As JH said, we should do more "beautiful things" in our lives.

I also saw the incomparable co-presidents of UNC's GLBTSA, Billy Kluttz and Alex Kilkka. The LGBT retreat dates have been set for the fall, and it sounds like it might top last year's? Maybe? That would be a very difficult thing to do and we cannot really expect that, considering last year was The Greatest Time. So many hugs. But it really does seem that we'll see unprecedented collaboration among the Triangle schools' (and maybe more!) LGBT communities. Let's do this, Everybody.

In other news, Womyn, Duke's new queer women magazine, is taking applications this week for their review board. The application can be downloaded here, and We should all fill it out. Also, actual written submissions will be accepted beginning July 1st. Think they'll accept a sonnet about Summer Puente? Because I'm sort of banking on it.

Okokok. Anonymous posts.

I love Pride.
It's the only time,space, place where I feel COMPLETELY accepted, loved, embraced. And there's so much overflowing community it's overwhelming. But in an amazing way.

On another note, I think it's the only time when people read me as queer. Which is so rare I'm not used ot it. that I don't know how I feel about it..proud, but a little disoriented? Maybe I should wear a rainbow pin or bracelet to try it out how it feels in the real world? Or is that totally unnecessary to try out?...

"Call me wen u can."

That's all my sister's text said. She has never asked me to call her. She always tries to minimize the contact between us, seeing as though our relationship is anything but friendly.

"She knows."

That's what went through my mind. Repeatedly. Relentlessly. I was an emotional mess and I didn't know what I was going to do. Oddly enough, the fact that I didn't know what to do is a big step from where I was before coming to Duke. Had it been last year, before my freshman year started, I would have prepared myself to outright deny anything that would label me as being gay. Not today. I actually considered just giving in and finally letting go of the secret that has bound and silenced me for eighteen years.

While putting off the inevitable, I thought about everything that could happen. Being kicked out, being rejected by every single family member, losing those I love. These situations are the most extreme; I have no substantial proof to neither quell nor confirm these outcomes. But being at Duke has changed me. I have grown tired of the facade I wear back at home. Here at Duke I don't have to pay attention to every single detail, details that could somehow lead to suspicion, suspicions that could lead to accusations. I have weighed the pros and cons in regards to coming out. Unfortunately, for many reasons, legitimate or not, I decided against coming out this summer. Call it cowardice, call it fear, call it insecurity. Heck, maybe those are accurate, but I do know that I am not quite ready yet. But I digress.

After failing to calm myself I managed to call my sister. Each second waiting for her to answer the phone allowed my mind to think of every negative outcome. I felt relieved after listening to her voicemail message, but I knew it wasn't over. A couple minutes later she called me back and I asked myself I could answer. I did. Long story short, it had nothing to do with me being gay. You'd think I let out a huge sigh of relief and laughed about it after hanging up. I didn't. In fact, I felt even worse. The reasons? I thought about how unfair society is. How people live their lives tormented by a secret. Why people even have to go through all this. This story may or may not have significance, but I'll share it anyways. I wish I didn't have to post it as an anon, but it's best that way.

I couldn't bring myself to hit done. Rob. Vague enough for the world outside of Duke, but personal enough for my community. Now I can hit done.

I went back and forth debating whether or not to send this anonymous post in, but in the end I figure I might as well- I've GOT to get these thoughts out!! So i'm taking summer school at UNC, and sometimes i'll see other lesbians around campus. Well, I think they're gay but of course I can't be 100% sure. :) anyways, I really wanted to meet someone this summer. I have so much extra time on my hands and I'd love to just take someone out to dinner or something, maybe start something up, but i have no CLUE how to go about meeting someone.

argh, frustration.

alrighty, done venting for now :)

June 19, 2010

Yeah, but it IS about sex.

There’s something that’s been bothering me for a while about homophobia.

It gets mentioned here and there in writings—someone notices how inappropriate it is that as soon as people think of same-sex couples, they picture two guys getting in on and are immediately disgusted, whereas with straight people, that’s not the case.

I’ve always been careful to make a distinction between homosexuality itself and any particular sex act. Being Catholic, I have a hard time with the “love the sinner, hate the sin” mantra, but it helps me keep the two apart—something I think more people need to do.

See, it shouldn’t matter, but there’s a huge difference between being gay and having sex with people of the same gender. They can’t be the same thing because they’re not even in the same category. Gay is an adjective, a descriptor, something that people might happen to be. And sexual activity is none of anyone’s business. That’s it. Case closed.

The video posted on the blog a few weeks ago about homophobia and anti-gay violence in Uganda was deeply disturbing. But it bothered me primarily because the tactics being used by these politicians and religious leaders are awfully misleading. Whether or not the activities like “eating poo-poo” in gross-out videos are common among the community is none of anyone’s business. The problem is, Uganda is debating sex when it thinks it’s debating homosexuality. If the law is against homosexuals, then they need to be talking about homosexuality, not sex, and those videos have no place in such an argument.

Now let’s talk about progress. Stateside, the issue of whether homosexuality is moral or immoral, largely, doesn’t matter. All reasonably reasonable people agree that there’s no issue there (I mean, sure, this is contentious, but my point assumes this, so if you have issues here, let me know, but I’m moving on). But if people don’t find being gay problematic, then what they really find problematic is gay sex—and it strikes me as though if people find this problematic, it tells me two things about them: [one], that they’re really breaching the privacy of gay couples every time they think about the issue (weird, isn’t it?) and/or [two], that there’s really an unhealthy level of obsession with gay sex, even among the homophobes. People say that homosexuality is the issue, not sex. But I don’t agree. If you have a problem with The Gays (and Lesbians and Bisexuals and the Queer and Transgendered communities), it’s because you’re violating our privacy by picturing us in bed together (or, God forgive your dirty mind, in bed with you).

If you don’t like it, don’t think about it. Pretty simple solution. If you can’t do that, then figure out what makes you so obsessed with gay sex and get past it. Homosexuality != (does not equal!) gay sex. It’s a fact. It’s no business of anyone’s whether I’m sexually active or not. If I have a boyfriend, is it reasonable to assume we’re having sex? Well, no, but we dont think about these things with straight couples. Why should we for gay ones? It just doesn’t matter, folks! Move along!

Everyone agrees that friendship, intimacy, and love are all pretty good things, regardless of gender. So, homophobes (especially the ones in my extended family), just honor me this request. When you fondle, kiss, or otherwise show affection in public, I think it’s great. I am an enormous fan of PDA and, generally, seeing examples of love in the world. But I do not, and will not, picture you having sex. It doesn’t (and shouldn’t) happen. When I see your babies, I don’t picture you conceiving them. All I ask is that you do the same for me.

If you find yourself disgusted by thoughts of gay couples, then get your prying mind out of the bedroom and expand your definitions of love.

(note: I just realized I posted this as BDU, rather than my account. I’ve already multi-linked here, so I can’t change that now, but know that this post comes from/represents Matt Lyons and not Blue Devils United)

June 17, 2010

Glad for GLAD

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.

When I started blogging I mentioned that I would be covering interesting stories and sharing resources. I haven’t done very much of the former yet, but I’d like to take this post to promote a survey sponsored by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

An organization that fights legal battles against discriminations based on orientation, HIV status and gender identity and expression, last year GLAD launched an effort against homophobia and transphobia in sport. On October 2, 2009, GLAD issued the following statement about their recent undertaking: “To determine how we can best address homophobia and transphobia in sports, GLAD is researching the ways in which anti-gay and anti-transgender attitudes affect LGBT athletes and coaches.”

To do this, they’re collecting the stories and experiences of anybody currently or formerly associated with any sport at any level—rec, high school, college, pro, athlete, coach, family member or friend of an athlete. The hope is that these stories will illuminate the obstacles keeping LGBTQ-identified individuals from participating, having success or gaining positive experiences in sport. Of course, they’re also optimistic about the current climate on teams and ask for stories of positive experiences as well.

Though there are already several [read: too many] well documented cases of homophobia in sport violating the rights of individuals (such cases will be highlighted in future blogs), I believe that this is the right first step for GLAD to take. For every case which is fought in the courtroom (or settled out of it), far too many instances of homophobia and transphobia in sport are never brought to light. When the environment is toxic, most people (especially children and teens) will just stop playing the sport, rather than take action. And, seriously, who can blame them?

This survey will help to identify common themes among our experiences. How do homophobia and transphobia manifest themselves? What’s it look like in the locker room? During practice? During formal competition? During travel? Is it coming from the coach? The parents? The players/teammates? How are LGBTQ-identified coaches or administrators in sport affected differently than the athletes themselves? Is it in negative recruiting practices? Is it jokes or gossip from their athletes or colleagues? How does the environment change at each level (rec vs. high school vs. college, varsity vs. club vs intramural)?

I’ve been involved with sports for a long time and in a lot of different ways. As such, I’ve played for LGBTQ-identified and straight coaches and I’ve had LGBTQ-identified and straight teammates. I’ve witnessed really positive scenarios and not so positive incidents. In writing his personal story of being a gay athlete, Jamal Brown “look[s] forward to a day when the challenges LGBT athletes face come from competition, and not from teammates.” And so do I.

I would encourage every reader of this blog to take the time to fill out the survey and share your stories. Furthermore, I invite you to share your story (anonymously or not) in the comments section below. Share with GLAD and with us what your experiences have been, so we can all be aware and so that together we can team up to make athletic spaces safe, inclusive and embracing of everyone.

[Author’s note: Thanks for allowing me to vary the content of my columns. I often find myself having thoughts that I want to write about for the blog. Though several of my most recent posts have not been sports centered, LGBT Issues in Sport continue to be in the front of my mind as I go through every day. I’m excited to devote my next few entries solely to these topics.]

June 15, 2010

Where Have All the Role Models Gone??

Growing up, I knew zero gay people. I met my first gay person when I was a junior in high school (the same year I came out, coincidence???---ha no). My guidance counselor was an out gay male and I was extremely fortunate to have a strong and supportive, out, gay male mentor in my adolescence. Through his guidance, I was never scared walking through the halls, hearing the taunts and the threats. I knew that if he could do the same, that I could as well. He introduced me to the book Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son by Kevin Jennings, an amazing LGBT activist, leader, educator and alumnus of my high school who showed me that despite my location, I can achieve anything I want to and that my sexuality is not a deterrent to my future.

Luckily, in the years since I was a teenager struggling with my sexuality there has been a plethora of celebrities who have come out. Celebrities are a great venue for LGBT youth to see mentors who are just like them, when many grow up without any positive LGBT role models. Nowadays, young gay men can look to these people as examples of people who have stood up for what they believe in and were never afraid to be who they were. Oh wait, none of them actually do this.

Where was the public outcry from T. R. Knight when he was verbally harassed for his sexual orientation by a coworker on Grey's Anatomy. Sure, he made a couple statements, but they were all done in a passive way that never showed that he was sticking up for himself. He was presented with an opportunity to show young gay men that it is not acceptable for someone to call you a faggot and that you can stand up for yourself. Instead, he gave the message that silence and acceptance is the better route to go.

Neil Patrick Harris has been with his current boyfriend for nearly 6 years. However, when Proposition 8 was placed on the ballot, where was he? With his star power and presumed care of the issue, he could have done a lot for the campaign (here I am assuming two things that aren't necessarily true, but I was nevertheless disappointed with his passivity on the issue: one, that being a celebrity, he is also a resident of California as many are and two, that being in a relationship, he sees marriage as an important issue to fight for). Instead, he opted to show gay youth that it is not important to fight for your rights if the increased visibility might impact your career.

Don't even gay me started with Lance Bass who came out just in time for book about being a gay boy bander was released (eerily similar to recently out country music star Chely Wright who came out the day before her book and CD were released).

Lastly, we come to Elton John. Elton has done more for gay rights than probably any other celebrity before him. He proved that you could be gay and still be successful. His song "That's What Friends Are For" with Dionne Warwick and Friends helped to raise over $3 million for the American Foundation for AIDS Research. He truly exemplified a gay mentor, until last week. He performed at Rush Limbaugh's wedding for a reported $1 million. My question to y'all is how much does your soul cost? Cause I can tell you sure as hell that my asking price would be a lot higher!!!

Luckily for me (and all of us really), we are no longer in a place where we know zero gay people. And better yet, we have plenty of role models. I would personally like to thank my role model, Christopher Purcell, for proving to me that gay men can stand up for what they believe in and live their life free from fear and doubt. If I had known people like him when I was younger, my childhood would have been a far less scary and dark place.

June 14, 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 :)

Just got back from DC Pride with a bunch of Dukies. Simply epic. Pride is a cathartic and comforting showing of solidarity in a country that seems to want nothing to do with "others." Having said that, I have never felt more pale and out of shape in my life.

Anyhow. I think I've hijacked the blog enough this week, so I'm just going to get to the anonymous posts.

Right now nothing is more difficult than figuring out whether I also like men or whether I'm just trying to distract myself from other issues in my life. It used to come and go in high school, so upon entering college I chalked my feelings up to teenage angst. But these days I'm starting to feel that way regularly and I know I'm much more on top of things than I was as a high schooler. To be frank, I'm completely petrified at the idea of approaching another man, let alone telling close friends or family members. I like to think of myself as a guy who doesn't care what other people think of him, but I know the things some of my friends say and I can't help but wonder whether they'd ever feel like they could act like themselves around me. And why am I even thinking about coming out? I'm not even sure if I'm being honest with myself at this point.

And just like that, Zealots by the Fugees came up on iTunes and I feel better for the time being. Thank you for bearing with my rant. May you all haunt MCs like Mephistopheles. That's a reference to the song I'm listening to, in case I just confused everyone.

Follow up to my post (had The Fugees song): Clearly I'm a true hipster. I want people to think I have good taste in music even when I'm anonymous :P

June 12, 2010

Hi. My Name is Brandy. PUKE!

I’m gay. I’m out. I go to the Center. I can walk through the doors without my face feeling hot…I can sit in the back room without my hands shaking…and I can say hello to the people who work there without staring at the floor.

This is a big improvement from a year and a half ago when I took Janie’s class Clinical Issues for LGBT. During breaks, I would go to the bathroom to see if my face was red because it felt extremely hot. I would hide my shaking hands under the table and I would try really hard to make eye contact while talking.

Sometimes I would cry out of happiness on the bus ride home from the class because I was so touched to sit in a room with queer people. It literally made my day when one of the people I knew wasn’t straight had a conversation with me. Sometimes I would cry myself to sleep because people said things that I found very hurtful. I was sad because the L, G, B, and T are not one happy family. Needless to say, it was a little bit of a roller coaster and I probably wasn’t comfortable enough with my sexuality to take the class in the first place.

I have grown a lot since taking the class. I am more accepting of myself. I even have “interested in women” listed on my Facebook page. Despite this progress, sometimes I worry that I just put on a façade of being a comfortably out queer person. I say this given part of me doesn’t feel like a “real” gay. I know that this is a little ridiculous because what the hell is a “real” gay is in the first place? The not-so-rational part of me says that, in order to be a “real” gay a person has to experience knowing that they are queer without anyone else being aware of the fact.

I never really had to face this challenge. I came out to my queer friends who I was especially close to very soon after I began questioning. I don’t think I would have got to the point of actively questioning for any length of time if they didn’t come out to me. These friends were there all along the way. I had special escorts to take me to the Center. I had special escorts to take me to BDU. I had special escorts to tell me about the queer people on campus. Before walking into the Center, I knew a lot of people’s names and how they identified.

I never endured the pain that occurs when a person knows that they are queer, but hasn’t told anyone else. I realize that this is probably a horrible experience…isolating and alienating to say the least. But, all the same, part of me wishes that I went through it. I would be able to share this experience with other people when they talk about coming out. I would be able to feel a sense of connection when they mention how they knew they were queer, but couldn’t manage to tell anyone for a long time.

Intellectually, I think the not-so-rational part of me is interesting. It says that in order to be a “real” gay a person has to experience knowing that they are queer without anyone else being aware of the fact. Even so, not every queer person has been in this situation. I know because I’m one of those people. This experience plays a fundamental role in coming out stories when they are circulated within the LGBT community. I want my story to fit within this all too prevalent model. I want to be a “real” gay. Yes. I’m attracted to women and not attracted to men…but sometimes I still don’t feel like a “real” gay.

My feelings of inauthenticity are partially derived from never being out to myself without being out to other people. I have explained this in detail above, but I’m still glossing over a large portion of the picture. Part of me wants to pretend that I’m putting it all out there…that this is the only reason why I don’t feel like a “real” gay. But, I’m not being completely honest. I also don’t feel like a “real” gay because I don’t call myself lesbian…because I initially came out as gay and bisexual…and because my interest in D/s means gender isn’t always the most important thing to me. Simply put, my sexuality is complicated…it doesn’t fit into a nice little box. But, I like labels. Of the multitude of identities potentially available to me I could choose gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer…any combination of the four or I could keep it simple with “no labels please.” I’m a fan of complex messes so I choose to call myself gay.

Sometimes I flat out say I’m gay. Sometimes I let people assume I’m lesbian. Sometimes I keep it short by saying queer. I usually use that word when I want to avoid the hour long conversation that starts with “I’m gay, but not lesbian…and no I don’t just refuse to call myself lesbian because I’m a patriarchal misogynist that is afraid of female sexuality. In reality, my interest in D/s complicates my experience.” I hate this conversation because, the very few times I have had it without burying my face in a hoodie, it has ended with me thinking “don’t tell me what YOU think I am or what YOU think I should call myself cause if YOU do so I will gladly ‘cut you’ (as Justin says).” The need for this conversation and my reluctance to start it, along with never having the experience of knowing I’m gay without anyone else being aware of the fact, makes me feel inauthentic. It makes me feel like I’m not a “real” gay.

Despite these feelings, I’m slowly I’m becoming more comfortable. My face doesn’t get hot any more, my hands don’t shake, and I can look people in the eye. But, I’m still making my way out from underneath the hoodie. I say these things knowing that most people probably perceive me as being very out. I suppose I am very out…my friends know, my family knows… Facebook knows. But, I don’t always feel out. I don’t always feel okay with my sexuality. Sometimes I catch myself being biphobic which saddens me because activism around bisexuality gave me the courage to come out…while I only call myself gay at the moment the B helped me be okay with my interest in D/s. Sometimes I’m afraid to be out around women who identify as lesbian…I don’t want them to think I’m any less of a “real” gay because I don’t use that label. I guess I still have wok to do. I’m trying to contain the not-so-rational part of me that says I’m not a “real” gay. With time, I suppose this issue will pass…I can feel it becoming more distant as time goes on.

After taking Janie’s class, it took me quite a while to go to a BDU meeting. I would tell my roommate, the president by chance, that I would go every week. At the last minute, I would back out. My excuse…I can’t go because I will get so nervous that I will puke all over the floor. That isn’t a very good introduction. “Hi. My name is Brandy. PUKE!” My roommate said I was being ridiculous. If I puked she would simply summon Aliza to clean it up, act like nothing happened, and continue on with the meeting. The thought of seeing this post on the blog makes me feel a little queasy. People will know my big fear of not being a “real” gay. They will know that I’m not comfortable with my sexuality all the time. They will remind me that I wrote this post by mentioning it when they see me. I’m tempted to not send this post to the editor. I’m tempted to put it up anonymously. My excuse…I can’t do it because I will get so nervous that I will puke all over the floor. But, my roommate was right, that excuse doesn’t really hold up. I didn’t puke at a BDU meeting and I probably won’t puke over a blog post. If I do, maybe Aliza will offer to clean it up, we can act like nothing happened, and we can continue on with everything else.

* * *
Considering I graduated in May, this will probably be my first and last post on the blog. As a result…shout outs to Viviana and Hassaan for escorting me to the Center and to BDU …thanks for telling me about the queer people on campus. Shout outs to Jack and Gina for listening to me talk about my sexuality while hiding under a hoodie. Thanks to Cody for putting up with my very awkward Common Ground coming out back in the day. Thanks to Janie for acting like nothing was out of the ordinary even though I stared at the floor when I was first introduced to you. Much love to Chris (Purcell and Perry) for helping me feel more comfortable by making endless jokes about D/s. Last but not least…thanks to Peggy Ann for being a welcoming face even when my face felt hot and my hands were shaking.

June 8, 2010

Glee Party Tonight On The Blog!

The Glee season finale is tonight at 9, Everybody. This is going to be an epic event because we are so not certain about what is going to happen! Will New Directions almost definitely without a doubt win regionals?! We just don't know! (We know.) Will Quinn give birth at the end of the episode, going into labor at regionals?! MAYBE. (Yes.) Glee is an emotional roller-coaster and is sure to have some surprises up its sleeve! Maybe we'll get the rest of the songs that should have been in the Gaga episode.

Anyhow. Let's all treat the blog like Kilgo commons and meet here for it. That way we can more efficiently discuss the CRAZY things that will be happening.

*Note: To those not on the East Coast, be careful of spoilers, but you are invited, too! Come whenever! Parttyyyyyyy.
* * *

[8:52] Ok. Vivster and Michelle will be here momentarily. So ready for this.
[8:59] Wasting no time with Schuester being annoyingly overdramatic. I. Will. Not. Let. You. Do. This.
[9:03] I'm not already crying.
[9:04] Um yeah we miss her, too. Where HAS Emma been all of these episodes?
[9:05] Matthew Morrison: Best. Actor. Ever.
[9:07] lmfao Look at Professor Hyperbole, over here. What, do they go to Hyperbole High?

Gaga's Alejandro Video OR The Debut of The Machine Gun Bra


That is sort of a lot to process and I cannot wait for Ari to Pop Up Video me through it with factoids and gagasymbolism. "That snow was also used in the Sound of Music" -Ari, probably.

June 7, 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 :)

Not much to rant about today, Readers, besides the fact that the blog is BLOWING UP, and everybody is coming up so big. Good work, Staff! And keep it up, because We All love to hear what you have to say.

As we all know the season finale of Glee is tomorrow night. I am so nervous because I do not know exactly what is going to happen! (I know exactly what is going to happen.) Anyhow, I'll be live-blogging it here, so we can all have a place to watch it together. More details to come!

Interesting anonymous posts today, People. Curious to see what you all have to say.

i'm questioning. i'm starting to be comfortable with the fact that maybe i'm bi. but i'm afraid to come out because maybe i'm wrong.

New York Times Op-ed: Gay? Whatever, Dude.

Something has been stirring up inside of me lately since I have been home, and I don't think I could have put my finger on it until now, but I think I'm going through a strange phase where I am starting to ask myself, "Am I too gay?"

Now, I'm not talking about a scale of gayness as depicted by some sort of cerebral flamboyance meter wherein I believe I am too "feminine" for the public good. I am talking about whether my life, in the last semester and especially since coming home, has revolved around my being gay to a point where my friends at home don't really want to hang out with me anymore.

When I was a closeted guy in high school, and even to a point last summer, I felt like I had so much going on for me. I talked about everything such as books, politics, movies, pop culture, etc. But ever since I have become a freer version of myself, that is, more willing to discuss my sexual likings, I feel like I have lost the interesting edge that has kept me in sync with my friends from home.

I have just been feeling recently that my friends, well at least my most important one, has stopped wanting to hang out with me since I have been home this break. Perhaps I have just become too "gay" now, since it seems to control a lot of what I talk about when I'm with them. In a sense, I am so thankful that I no longer have to hide who I am, but at the same time, I feel like everything I do, from checking websites, to going clubbing, seems to revolve around my sexuality when in earlier times, this never used to be the case.

At school my friends are both gay and straight, and I'm so thankful that I keep in touch with all of them. But is there a point when the people I surround myself with can be "too gay?" Am I limiting myself to a group that will eventually lead me to forget how to interact with a straight audience?

On another note: I often think to myself if I want to distance myself from the gay community at Duke, as it seems that in the past semester, the cattiness has risen to a point of animosity and malicious intent that I don't want to deal with anymore for my own good. It's like Samantha Jones said, "I love you, but I love me more."

I don't want to be a person whose sexuality seems to dictate the course of their actions, but with this new sense of freedom, I feel like I can't help but want to express myself in ways I never have before. Perhaps not having a loved one is part of it. But in all honesty, perhaps I do want the "old" me back, because although he wasn't out, at least he remained interesting to a wide audience, including his best friends from home.


A high school friend of mine is getting kicked out of her house soon. Her mother has told her that as soon as she turns 18 she is no longer welcome there. Ever. Verbatim, this woman told her daughter that she is disgusting, that she wasn’t raised to be like this, that God hates her, and that she would rather see her dead.

All because she likes girls.

You see, her mother found one of her journals where she keeps all her ideas for stories and recounts some thoughts or events she’s had that day. Then follows three angry voice mails, an early pick up from school, a smashed cell phone, and an extremely heated argument. Now my friend’s only hope for reconciling with her mother is to take an online, ex-gay course… and then bury her true feelings until she breaks or her mother passes.

Hearing my friend tell me this, it gave me such a sick feeling in my stomach. I tried to see it from a parental point of view: I have a child, a beautiful baby girl. I raise her for almost 18 years, watching her go through school, seeing her graduate, and remembering things like her first steps, her first words, play dates, story time, soccer games, movie nights, prom... And no matter which way I turn it in my mind, no matter what scenario I fit to it, I simply cannot fathom telling this child, my child, that she is disgusting, that I would rather she were dead.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen. I’ve known kids who’ve run away from home, or worse, for this reason before. Their parents find a hidden note, or they snoop on their computers at night, or listen in on a phone conversation. Some are tossed out immediately. Others suffer neglect or abuse until they can’t stand it anymore. I’ve sat in a restaurant and heard my step-mother say “One day, an earthquake is gonna send California out to sea, and it will sink, as God’s wrath against the homosexuals.” Because obviously, all gays are in California and all Californians are gay. It’s absurd.

Why is homophobia strong enough to drive some parents to feel this way about their children? Is it because they won’t have grandkids now? Science has become advanced enough that gayness is no longer a deterrent for continuing the bloodline. Is it the social stigma, the ageless prejudice? Maybe. Especially here in the South you find parents who, if not religiously inclined, have been taught that it is morally deplorable for so long it just sticks. Unfortunately, it seems religion is one of the stronger forces driving these feelings. My friend is getting kicked out of her house because her mother believes without a doubt that homosexuality is a sin. That God hates the homosexuals, so the only thing to do is change her daughter, or excommunicate her.

It is my belief, deep down, that even the God so many quote against us would disagree with this woman. The Bible preaches many things but the common motif is always Love. Unfortunately, this is too often overlooked. What happened to “love thy neighbor”? Where is “love the sinner, hate the sin”? Why is another girl, a child, being thrown from her home and her family because of who she loves? Homophobia is something I’ve seen so long it doesn’t really surprise me anymore, but to the point where you will hate your own children, cast them out like so many used napkins… I hope there never comes a time when I understand that.

June 6, 2010

On a High!!!

I'm on such a high right now. It's one of my last nights home before I leave to be a counselor and I just got back from the 19th Annual Awards Dinner for Equality Arizona. With everything that's going on these days, espcially around the hot topic of immigration, it's easy to name all sorts of not-so-good things going on in my state. I left the dinner, though, with a lot of hope and enthusiasm [once in the car on the way home, my exact words may or may not have been "I wish I could go back to Duke tomorrow and get started on stuff for BDU"]. Hundreds of people gathered tonight for this dinner, all of whom are well-connected and all of whom actively support efforts towards equality through their money, time and/or energy. I was fortunate to be invited last minute by a good family friend (she's my parents' age; a lady at our table asked us if we were on a date...I'm not making this up) and Equality Arizona made it possible for me to attend free of charge as a "Young Emerging Leader." I joined public officials, business leaders, educators and so many other passionate and hardworking people. Donna Rossi, an out lesbian and senior reporter for CBS News in Phoenix, emceed the event; David Mixner, activist extraordinaire and a contemporary of Harvey Milk, gave an inspiring keynote address.

Last but not least, as the BDU blog (and sports) are always on my mind...I even managed to score (pun intended!) a picture [below] with 2006 Olympic Ice Dancer, Ryan O'Meara. O'Meara shared his story as the evening's prelude speaker. Be on the lookout for a future post featuring O'Meara, who's agreed to let me interview him!

A few more pictures...

With eight-time (count it...that's 16 years, folks) Arizona Legislator Ken Cheuvront (left) and Phoenix City Council Member Tom Simplot.

With Kyrsten Sinema, who visited Duke in February.

With keynote speaker, activist, political strategist and contemporary of Harvey Milk, David Mixner.

With Arizona's Attorney General and Gubernatorial Candidate, Terry Goddard.

June 1, 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 :)

Glee was kind of whatever tonight, Readers. #amiright? Schuester is The Worst and his plot line continues to be tedious, uninteresting and as of tonight very ?. What, exactly, was he doing to Sue? Is that something that adults who are ADULTS do? Is that even what a protagonist does? It was not even necessary to break that large trophy. That was a kind of an impetuous and childish thing to do. He should meet up with a teacher at the school that can teach him sentences. And then he can use those, instead of slow clapping and devil-hornsing to communicate his awfulness.

I hate so much about the things that he chooses to be.

Also, do not say that white women cannot have soul and then have a white woman not have soul. That is not how to prove that! It is the opposite, really, of how to prove that. As Chris Purcell, The Greatest, points out, they probably should have just replayed this.

Anyhow! /rant. There are anonymous posts to be read! I see you, UNC!

Please sign this petition in support of the asylum application of Iranian LGBT film director, Kiana Firouz. Her application was recently rejected and she risks deportation to Iran, where her homosexuality is condemned. Thank you.

My first year of college had its ups and downs- at the start of the first semester, I hadn't come out to anyone but my mom. That's how it was until late September- when I realized that the anxiety I was feeling was directly related to the fact that I felt completely trapped. I spent long hours on the phone talking with my mom about how I felt such a strong need to come out but was simply terrified. I explained to her that I couldn't make friends for fear of judgement. I wanted to meet people who would just accept my sexuality, and that would be that. At this point, I had no idea just how open-minded my campus was, overall. Through my own fear of judgement, I was pre-judging the student body, which I'm sure kept me from forming some great friendships earlier on.

On October 1st, 2009, I went to UNC's LGBT center to talk to a counselor about my fears of coming out to my close friends and family, and how important it was for me to tell them. This was one of the best decisions I've made, I believe, in my life. Simply expressing my feelings to someone other than my mother for the first time gave me the courage to start the coming out process. I was met with nothing but acceptance and support over the next few months, and will forever be grateful and thankful for that. Second semester, once scheduling conflicts went away, I was able to get more involved with the LGBT community and events on campus. I was able to formulate the friendships I was longing for first semester, both inside and outside the LGBT community- no longer lacking that confidence I had lost after high school and no longer feeling as though I was carrying a burden.

Somewhere throughout my initial coming out process, my sister said to me- "Don't be so quick to judge the openness of others. You may be surprised."

She was right.

Soon-to-be Camp Counselor; Always an Ally

After being home for the past few weeks, I’m getting ready to leave to work at a Jewish, outdoor adventure, overnight camp (Ramah Outdoor Adventure). I like to think of it as Boy Scout camp meets Judaism (and girls). The camp opens this summer and is the latest initiative by Ramah—the official summer camp organization of the Conservative Movement of Judaism (not to be confused with conservatism in American politics).

I had the great fortune of being a camper at Ramah Darom (in Georgia) for several summers. Experiences from camp, along with relationships with my peers and my counselors/other staff members, played a very pivotal role in my life. Over the years I had counselors who were always there to listen, counselors who challenged me, counselors who believed in me, counselors who reminded me to not take life too seriously, counselors who showed me the ins-and-outs of Judaism, counselors who shared my passions, counselors who were my friends, and counselors who modeled for me what it meant to embrace my full self (eccentricities included). I know firsthand the power that a counselor can have on a camper looking for a role model or a mentor.

The campers I’ll have this summer are mostly rising 8th-10th graders (though I'll also work with rising 6th/7th graders and families). They’re old enough that they’re “real people,” but that also means that they’re tenuously trying to navigate their lives: their sense of self, their peer group, and their values, just to name a few. [Any readers extra-eager to re-live those years? ‘Cause, uhhh, you won’t find me volunteering for the chance.] I am excited, however, to be their friend and I hope to have a lasting impression. In this way, it’s important to me that I’m visible.

I want every camper to feel safe, valued and respected. I want every camper to know that I am her or his ally. I want any camper who is out in other areas of her or his life to be comfortable being out at camp. I want any camper who is still in the closet to know that I’m on her or his side and that she or he can talk to me in confidence (for that matter, I hope a camper who is out feels comfortable talking to me about any issues that arise). I want any camper who is in the closet to feel that camp is a supportive environment where she or he can safely begin her or his coming out process (I recognize that the three immediately preceding points are easier said than done).

Even if there is not a single LGBT-identified camper (either in or out of the closet), there are still messages I hope to impart. I want every camper to understand that Conservative Judaism does not condemn LGBT-identified members of our community. On the contrary, The Seminary will admit and ordain openly gay and lesbian-identified individuals [the current Jewish law does not address trans nor bisexual rabbis]. Last but not least, I want every camper to leave camp thinking that being an ally and standing up against homophobia are “cool” and feeling empowered to act accordingly.

[These are, maybe obviously, not my only goals as a counselor; rather, goals I’ve given very deliberate thought to for months. I also, perhaps predictably, want to be a beacon of feminism (a loaded goal which I won't unpack here); I want to be there for my campers to listen about any issue they may be facing—not just LGBT themed struggles; I want to imbue my campers with self confidence; I want to help them to reach their personal goals; I want to help them to strengthen their Jewish identity; I want to facilitate them making relationships among themselves; I want them to learn to be comfortable with themselves.]

That all sounds real swell, but creating a safe space, making myself approachable and empowering campers to speak up will not just happen by mere virtue of me being a counselor. It takes deliberate actions. So, how will I do this? And, how can I do this without overstepping a boundary of being overly “political” in my role as a counselor?

The second question first: There are plenty of ways to stand up for LGBT issues without invoking the politics of today. I can’t say whether the issue of marriage or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will come up—though if it does, it will be because a camper initiated the conversation. However, I don’t believe (and I think that the readers of the blog will agree with me) that affirming the worth of any of my campers is “political.”

To create this type of environment, though, I must be visible. Some actions, by their very virtue, will be reactive, while I can do others at anytime. Hopefully, nothing occurs which would force me to intervene. However, I will do my best to be aware of situations which may arise. For instance, when used, I will speak up against homophobic slang and facilitate conversations about the role of language. If it happens, I will question why someone’s sexuality was a qualifying adjective to a story. If a camper is out of the closet, I will be sure to pay close attention as to how this is perceived by his or her cabinmates. If an issue arises, I will be quick to act in his or her defense [this is, I believe, a situation especially unique unto overnight camp, since living space isn't typically intimately shared until college]. Similarly, I will pay close attention to if a camper's gender expression or perceived sexual orientation becomes the target of his or her peers and will act accordingly if necessary. This may sound like I'm expecting the worst, but really I'm optimistic that the most reactive I'll have to be is to everyday slang [no homo(phobia)].

Other things I can do start on the very first day. I will do my best to use affirming and inclusive language. I will proudly don my Love=Love and no homo(phobia) shirts. I will wear my BDU silicone bracelet and I will display a rainbow sticker on my nalgene and a rainbow ribbon on my backpack. Perhaps most importantly given the nature of the camp as observantly Jewish, I will be prepared to the best of my ability to answer questions and present information about LGBT issues and Judaism.

I should note that I was excited to see "sexual preference" included in our anti-discrimination policy. I could be critical of the outdated language (sexual preference vs. sexual orientation), but I'm just glad to know that the directors of the camp are forward thinking, aware of these issues, and dedicated to seeing that homophobia not be part of our camp culture. I have every reason to believe that this was not just included in the policy as an empty formality, but a genuine concern. In fact, last summer (at a week for potential staff members) I recall having a conversation about homophobia with our director; he also "liked" a link to my Day of Silence post on facebook.

I'm excited for the challenges that await me--personally, Jewish-ly, and professionally--and I'm excited to expand the ways in which I speak out against homophobia. Like Veronica’s “informal research,” I look forward to reporting back to you about my experiences.

But first, Readers, I'd like to learn from you what your experiences have been as a camp counselor or a camper. How did you see homophobia manifest itself? What are ways that you addressed it? What positive stories can you share about being out at camp (as a camper or counselor)? Please help me to be the best that I can be this summer!

[Sports related blogs will be posted during the next few months while I’m away. Please note, however, that I’ll be mostly unable to engage with you in the comments section. The camp at which I will be a counselor has very limited internet service!]