July 19, 2010

Anonymous Posts
(7.12.10-7.18.10)

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 :)

FDOC (appropriately a four-letter word that begins with F) is around the corner, y'all. This is, uh, extremely scary as a rising senior, and I have no idea where the time went. It seems like yesterday that I remember thinking this Aliza girl in Giles with the anti-Bush dry-erase board doodles was The Coolest Person. And to think now we procrastinate for hours on end together, scheming and talking about how big of a mistake our majors are.

#diarytalk

Also! My best bud Aaron sent this to me. This American Life is his favorite because duh, and this episode is all about the APA and the DSM description of homosexuality. Summer is all about having the time to listen to things like this!

#1
I wish I could tell her.

#2
I am a closeted lesbian woman at Duke. Now that wasn’t so hard, was it? It’s taken me months, years even, to be able to say that to myself. Coming out to myself was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do—well, until recently. Now that I’ve begun to accept myself for who I am, I’ve realized how much further I still have to go. Being in the closet is so much harder than I thought (‘duh’ right?). I should start by saying that I don’t “look” gay—see Risa’s recent post for an excellent explanation as to why that is an absurd idea :). But my point is that no one would meet me and have any reason to think I was anything but straight. That sucks. After working so hard to accept myself, it hurts so much to have to endure the comments people make unwittingly. Of course hateful words and derogatory remarks towards lesbians hurt, but worse, occasionally, is the assumption of heterosexuality. No, I do not want to talk about my dream wedding to my dream man (playing along with that game is especially difficult). No, I do not care to comment on whether I want a summer wedding or a winter wedding—I don’t have the same rights that you do. Of course Leonardo DiCaprio is a fox in Inception, but did you see Ellen Page?? Beautiful. I feel like every conversation I have, I have twice. Once out-loud, playing along with the hetero-assumptions my oblivious companion is making. And a second time in my head, where I get to come up with all kinds of witty retorts to assert my identity. Unfortunately, I’ve faced this particular challenge many times at my workplace this summer. Once, my [female] manager made an off-hand remark that, taken out of context, sounded like she was hitting on me. She immediately started laughing and falling all over herself explaining that she wasn’t hitting on me, and that she in fact ‘liked boys.’ I just wish I had the balls to say what I was thinking in my head, “don’t worry, you’re not my type anyways.” Another time, several of my coworkers were discussing previous bosses that they had who had a tendency to over share personal information. One of them, another one of my managers, brought up a lesbian couple who ran the restaurant she was working at. They had apparently offered to explain how two women were intimate with each other (no doubt a conversation that was brought up by inquiring minds). My manager told us the story with a disgusted tone of voice and a horrified look on her face—clearly expressing her discomfort with lesbian sexuality. I just sat there in silence, feeling my face getting hotter by the minute and probably turning bright red. I hate that I have to sit in silence when I am feeling so deeply offended. I hate that people don’t and can’t understand how hard I’ve worked to accept myself. Living in the closet has laid this almost unbearable weight on my shoulders that I worry will never go away. The prospect of coming out to my friends or family is just as terrifying. The scariest part is not that I think they won’t accept my homosexuality, but rather that they’ll feel like I’ve been lying to them. Which, I guess I have been.

10 comments:

  1. #1: I wish you could to and I hope you can before you run out of time.

    #2: I hate heteronormative people...that being said, I can only imagine what you're going through being a closeted woman at Duke, but being in the closet in a heteronormative society yields the types of experiences that you're going through. Yes, it sucks, but there's nothing you can do about it without revealing your true orientation, or at least like, a half way point. That's how the closet constricts a person.

    People that care about you will accept you, but with time. Immediate satisfaction is never really a possibility with delicate situations like this.

    Being in the closet alone is the toughest thing, but luckily you have the wonderful BDU blog and a very supportive community behind you!

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  2. 2:

    standing up for others is an easier way-station on your transition to standing up for yourself, which is ultimately what "coming out" is about: accepting 'true love' and eschewing the forms of prohibitive social convention and narrow-mindedness that insulate homophobia, etc. it furthermore wont 'out' you (at all) since there are like, millions of straight allies, particularly women.

    I just know there came a point in my life, defending other gays (most notably my own sister), that I realized I ought to apply that brazenness to my own life primarily.

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  3. #1 - I hope this goes well for you. Have you ever seen the 2009 Argentinean movie "The Secret of Their Eyes"? It talks a lot about going for what you believe in even when it seems really difficult...and it might be helpful.

    #2- You're absolutely correct, heteronormativity isn't right. It's so frustrating and so angering especially when you're caught in the middle of it and being judged or assumed to be something you're not.
    I think Swati made a really good point though that you do have a very supportive community here, as a college student, to start coming out if you'd like to. This is a great itme. I would not feel guilty about not coming out sooner-it's a difficult process to even realize yourself that you aren’t straight, especially after all these family and friends assumed they knew who you were without asking you first.

    A quick confession: I remember that when I came out to my first friend on Duke's campus last September, I told her, "I don't understand how I could ever be 'out'. I just can't do that." And...now if you go to my "Interested In" on Facebook it says women, (well "mujeres" for me because its set it Spanish.)

    I guess the point of mentioning that, is just to show that while it may seem impossible right now to come out, it's not. After I did it, I was so surprised at how amazing it felt actually. Things that helped me: 1. talking about it with close friends who won't judge you (this is all of them, as I came to learn) 2. going to the LGBT Center (to realize there are so many other people just like yourself) and 3. learning to accept myself as I am.

    There are a lot of people on this blog and in our community who would be more than happy to help you-Risa, Veronica, Summer, Chris, Ollie, myself, etc. I hope you know that you could always talk to someone here, anonymously even, if you need help. I would also not be shy to use CAPS if you'd like to talk to a professional about being a lesbian woman (I did). The link is just to the right of this post.

    Lastly...good luck! I know this is long but I felt like I could have written your entry this time last year, so I wanted to write what I would have needed to hear. =)

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  4. Megan, thank you for being honest about using the resources at CAPS. The only person who knows about my struggle with my sexuality is a professional that I've seen at home (in the 2 times a year that I get there). It's become apparent to me that I need to find someone at school with whom I can talk, but I'm having a hard time finding the courage to do so. Knowing that you sought out someone at CAPS helps me a lot.

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  5. Anonymous-one thing that took me by surprise, was when I finally started telling people that I had been to CAPS, the majority of my friends responded that they had gone as well. For some reason we seem to be hardwired at Duke to not admit this, but I don’t think there’s shame in taking care of your wellbeing. I'd also really recommend talking to someone in our community if you think you're ready for that. I mentioned some names in the above post-and I'm sure anyone here, via email, facebook, or in person would be more than happy to talk with you. It might seem more natural to talk with someone your own age. I'd be thrilled to help make this a smooth transition for you or anyone going through this.

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  6. Megan, I haven't seen 'the secret of their eyes' but I'll have to check it out. thank you for the suggestion!

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  7. #2 Thank you for this meaningful piece. I, though a male, have gone through virtually the identical process at Duke over the past year, so reading your words was both eerie and reassuring.
    I just wanted to let you know that coming out was much easier and less scary than I thought. I was sure that all my straight male friends from high school would feel betrayed and think I had been lying to them all this time, and instead even the most macho ones were supportive and even curious about my experiences. What I did was explain when coming out that I honestly did not know until this year, and that it was something I so strongly did not want for myself given society's heteronormative structure I convinced myself I couldn't be gay- and then I realized I was wrong. Surprisingly, that made a lot of sense to people.

    Remember, you can come out without allowing people to turn you into "that lesbian." You can be the same person, just more honest and thus happy. You don't have to be an activist, start dressing differently, or even "join the community" if you don't want to. I haven't, and I'm still so happy I decided to address this reality of mine. Because I did, my friendships are stronger, and even if I still sometimes hear hurtful conversations, I'm glad I'm able to react without hiding from myself.
    Good luck!

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  8. 1- i wish you the best of luck. i've been in that frustrated/sad/angry place that i'm reading your post to be coming from, and i know it sucks. just hang in there- you can pull through.

    2- wow. it's incredible to hear you speak my mind like that. from the frustration with wedding fantasies (my mom has shown me the wedding invitation that she's going to send out when i get married....if only), to having double-conversations, to just swallowing your thoughts when you hear something offensive, your experiences really struck a familiar chord in me.
    i'd have to agree with e.f.- coming out as an ally could be a helpful first step in empowering yourself to stand up for yourself. at the same time, you can also become more out without becoming an open ally. it's complex, but i've found that there's no rubric to stick to in this process.
    to speak to what megan said, i want to second the notion that caps can be a great resource. if you're not comfortable telling anyone you're going there (not that there's anything wrong with it!), no one has to know. caps counselors won't even make eye contact with you if you walk by one of them on campus- they are thattt dedicated to respecting your privacy. at the same time, make sure your time at caps is helpful, not harmful. granted, all the information my counselor was getting was coming from my accounts of experiences and my perceptions of situations, but my counselor basically said to me, 'it seems like you'll never be able to come out. maybe it's time to start coming to terms with that.' and one day said 'i know you think this is a big deal now, but who knows, maybe when you're 25 you won't feel this attraction anymore.' i am pretty out now, and i'm pretty confident my queer attractions are not going away anytime soon :). all i'm saying is be cautious. like megan said, maybe talking to someone in the community could help, too.
    i hope that this semester goes well for you. try not to underestimate the power of the baby steps you may be ready to take. i've found that with patience, things change faster than expected. ironic, i know :).

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  9. "One thing that took me by surprise, was when I finally started telling people that I had been to CAPS, the majority of my friends responded that they had gone as well. For some reason we seem to be hardwired at Duke to not admit this, but I don’t think there’s shame in taking care of your wellbeing."

    Amen, Megan Weinand. I had the same experience. As one friend put it, stigmatization and fear of counseling is just "so 90's".

    Nonetheless, I was reluctant to go since senior year of high school. I was convinced that 1) nobody knows me better than I do. What the hell can somebody else offer that I don't already know. I've been perseverating on these issues for quite some time now, and this person is going to have something to offer after an hour (a month, even?). 2) My problems are permanent, and my unhappiness is because of these problems, so there's really no hope there (you can guess where this train of thought led) 3) All this person is going to do is repeat back to me what I've said in different words. It's called "active listening," and it was taught at every one of the peer leadership workshops I participated in in high school. I also took AP Psych, so, you know, I'm basically an expert and qualified to be a professional counselor.

    Mhm.

    My rationale was problematic for many reasons. For one, the purpose of counseling is not to "fix" the impetus of whatever's bothering you. In most cases, this is impossible, I was right. But this does not translate to permanent misery. Counselors work to change how we deal with issues.

    When I finally went to CAPS, I realized all of this. Trust me, I was determined to keep Gary honest and call him out if he ever pulled this "So what you're saying is..." repetition BS.

    It, uh, never happened.

    The experience was cathartic really to just have someone listen for an hour as I free associated and butchered my way through half sentences. Without judging or reaction or interrupting. Janie Long's GREAT at this, as well, by the way. I could go on for years what Janie's done for me (and countless friends) in the past semester. She's always available, (well, not always, but we pretend/treat her like she is haha) and pretty experienced in specifically dealing with queer issues.

    They both posed some great, difficult questions that put so many things in a different perspective. Also! Also. When you talk something out, it forces you to organize and parse and focus one thing at a time, which we don't do just pondering.

    I've written too much. But I just wanted to say that my experience was positive. And that Megan is right on target when she says that it's surprising how many people go. And more so, how many want to go.

    Anonymous two above me is right, too. Especially when he says that you do not have to "join the community," be activist, etc. That's an important point, especially when our first reaction is often "OMG come to The Center and meet everybody ever."

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  10. Uh, wow? Anonymous comment above mine? I cannot believe that you had that experience. I'm really glad that you realize that what you were told is so incredibly wrong. Sorry you even had to sit through somebody saying that to you without slapping them?

    You raise a great point - that sometimes it is necessary to shop for counselors. If you don't vibe with one, it is completely acceptable to ask to see somebody else. The problem with this, at least for me, is that UGH it took so much energy to get here in the first place and now I have to do this? It's infinitely worth it, though.

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