November 29, 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 :)

I'll add commentary later, but let's just get these up right now because wow.

In the same vein as the post posted 11/22 about the "ninja" gay men, I sometime feel out of place at the center because of identifying as bisexual. Many of my new (mostly gay male) friends (I'm a freshman) assumed I was a straight ally. And I guess I just don't know how to tell people I'm bi, especially at a LGBT event. I mean, I thought that just by going it would be obvious. But, apparently not.

I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the gay men and straight women at Fab Friday. Not to say that I don't enjoy their company, I just feel like a silent minority.

I'd really like to see some more activities geared towards bi (and transgender? might be leaving those students as well) students at the center. I feel like all the discussion groups are for completely gay/lesbian students. But, being bi offers its own challenges and hurdles that are unique from being gay or straight. For instance, I often feel like responding both to anti-straight ppl and anti-gay ppl remarks. Anyways, thats just what I've been thinking about lately.

I think this is so moving and everyone, regardless of how they identify, should see it. I've been feeling pretty down as of late, and these stories make me hopeful. (link)

I'm home for Thanksgiving and something's really bugging me. A few very select people know that I'm 'questioning.' But I mostly present myself as straight, though I often play the ambiguous card.

At several of our past family gatherings, I almost feel like my sexuality has been under a microscope. My family thinks I'm a "straight ally" and know that LGBTQA stuff is all so important to me (in my own life I don't qualify 'ally' with 'straight,' but I do here because that's what they [at least used to think] think I am--straight and an ally). So, if I thought rationally about it all, I'd probably conclude that they were just following in my footsteps by using gender neutral terms to refer to my future significant other and that they are probably trying to convey to me that "it's okay" if I'm gay. AND I KNOW, for so many people on this blog and in the LGBTQ community, it'd be a DREAM to have a family so accepting and inclusive and whatever. MY GRANDFATHER once asked me if there was a "boy or a special girl friend" or something like that in my life…the significance of that is not lost on me, nor is the intention. Other times, though, it's more aggressive--like when I was challenged at dinner: "why do you only care about lesbian women's issues and not about other women's issues?" (a total fallacy, by the way...I'm sort of just a hardcore feminist, period). It's become very apparent to me that my lack of dating (or rather my "lack of getting fucked" as one member of my family so eloquently stated tonight) combined with my involvement with BDU/the center, etc, leads my family to think I'm gay. This bugs me. I DON'T think being thought of as being gay is a bad thing, so that's not it. People assume I'm gay all the time, actually, and it’s really fine by me. Like, whatever. But, something about this is different. Something about my lack of "getting fucked" being the talk of the town and leading to family speculation on this and that and that they're leaning towards that I'm gay...I just don't appreciate it. And I don’t appreciate it coming up SEVERAL TIMES A DAY. "You don't need to have a family conference about my sexuality!!!" I don't want to talk about my sexuality with my family. I don't even want to talk about it with my best friend(s). I don’t want to do either of these things until *I* know what's going on for me in my own life.

Last summer I read this blog as an incoming freshman. I was so excited to finally be away from my rents and free to date girls. But I got scared as soon as I set foot on campus. So much homophobia. I want to talk to someone, but I'm just too scared/shamed. I don't even know why, though. Lately I've been trying to make myself straight just so life will be easier, but unfortunately easier doesn't equal happier in this case.

In the past week there has been a lot of comments about religious intolerance.

I’m gay. I’m religious. And hold these two possibly conflicting identities simultaneously. I’m blessed—the few people I’ve come out to have been wonderful, independent of their religious identity. It breaks my heart when I hear stories like Edwin’s or Eric’s [Grace and peace, my brothers. No one should have to deal with that]. I personally find no way to reconcile that behavior with the Christianity I’ve learned about since I was young. But then again, perhaps I’m biased.

But even being biased, I have to admit the religious case against us isn’t 100% bigotry, as much as I would like to indulge myself in the thought. In many cases, it’s much more complicated than that.

We ask Christians to respect our identity. But what about theirs? I’m not talking about not expecting love from your parents, or civil treatment for everyone. That’s common human decency. I’m talking about me expecting someone to change her world-view because of me. When we ask someone who is strongly Christian to redefine their views on homosexuality, do we realize how much we ask them to redefine about themselves? If they believe Biblical literalism, that is often the bedrock of who they are. Take that away, and they are lost.

We are angered by Christians who ask us to turn our back on who we are. Yet, what about when we ask them the exact same thing? How long did it take us to accept our own identity? And, now, we come out and expect them to fundamentally change upon interaction with us?

Sure, this portion of their identity may be misfounded. They believe that the LGBTQ portion of ours is, too. Having studied their reasoning, I find it uncompelling, not in keeping with the overall message of the Bible, and certainly not in keeping with the Christian teachings on love. But, as unpopular as it is to say, the Christian hierarchies in Rome, Istanbul, Moscow, etc are not “out to get us.” Someone from the Center who has been a confidant along this entire process for me has sometimes felt the need to use “tough love” to get me to take steps I don’t necessarily want to do. But what (s)he feels when telling me that is what the pastor feels when telling a member of his or her congregation the relevant Christian teachings. I pray they see this is not the love we need, but indignant cries to battle and ostentatious displays are no more effective or merited than the corresponding actions by Christians (This Onion article satirically sums it up nicely).

I started this post by saying I was gay, and that I was religious. Certainly, many who read this post will disagree with what I have written. But I ask, how much worse would readers have reacted if I had merely started with the statement that I am religious?

It is only in giving respect that we’ll be deserving of getting it in return.

For everybody who identifies as bi--Do you identify with this label because you realized that you had crushes on/were attracted to both men and women? Or was it an intellectual recognition that a person's gender doesn't matter and that you'll fall in love with whoever you fall in love with? I ask because I frequently think about identifying as bi, but I don't know what it means to other people who identify so I don't know if it explains what I'm feeling/thinking...


  1. #1: I know that the Center can be overwhelmingly Straight Female and Gay Male, but I assure you that there are most definitely some bi people in the mix as well. [I'm not one of them, I'm a straight female (technically a drag queen trapped in a straight girl's body).]

    However, you should never assume that people will just guess your sexuality off the bat, especially because gender expression is such a complicating thing. If people make the mistake of assuming that you're straight, correct them! Don't just let it happen, that's just enforcing their misinterpretation. The last thing that people at the Center [I'm generalizing, but I think this is pretty true throughout] want to do is make you feel uncomfortable or feel any type of closeted.

    #3: I am SO with you on this! I'm technically an ally, like I said above, but at ANY family gathering my sexuality is always in question due to my involvement. I don't know and will not assume anything about your family, I can only speak for my family. But personally, I was just incredibly upset that they were talking about me as they would talk about a movie. It's not so much my sexuality as my sex life (or lack thereof) that they were talking about, and I'm an incredibly personal person. I just kind of felt like it was just none of their business. But that's just me...I hope that it helps!

    #4: There are so many people you can talk to! If you want someone completely wonderful and wise, look no further than Janie Long, she's just a fantastic asset. Also, I personally would love to talk to you about any kind of suffocation your feeling or just be your friend, that's perfectly fine by me. I'm sure that all of these comments will show you how many people are open and helpful.

    #5: I completely agree and I think that that's a main issue that you've touched upon. I know, personally, that I really just resented all Christians after what happened to my friends after they came out. But I've learned to respect everyone's different views and I actually live my life by the belief that no single belief is wrong. I don't have an issue with even the most fundamentalist/orthodox *insert religion*, my issue is with people using any type of religious belief to influence what is supposed to be blind and just law. It's just not the place for it, in my belief. It's not so much having those beliefs for me, but what you do with them in a larger sense.

    #6: I'm not bi, but I think that people have a lot of different reasons. I'm sure that your reason is not any less legitimate. This is a great step though, the fact that you're trying to connect with other people!

  2. #4: Trust your new friends. If they cannot accept you for who you are, then they are not the friends you're looking for. You're a freshman. You'll have plenty of time to find true friends if these ones are not.
    #5: First of all, I'm glad you called me on my own stereotypes. Thanks.
    More importantly, the human decency that you mention is not as common as it should be (and not just on religious grounds). Even if it were, where do you stand on gay marriage specifically? This is a case where gay and religious beliefs are in direct conflict, but I would argue that christians have no right to limit the marriages of others (or of other christians). Do you consider gay marriage to be a human right, and therefore inalienable along religious grounds? Or is gay marriage so offensive to the bedrock of a christian personality that gays cannot impinge on its sanctity?

  3. #6: I identify as bi because I like both men and women. I wouldn't say gender isn't important to me--there are specific things about men and women that I find uniquely attractive. I've heard pansexuality defined as not placing importance on gender (although I could easily be wrong about this).

    Generally, though, you have the right to take labels and make of them what you will. All that bi means is that you're attracted to people of both genders--it doesn't really explain why.

  4. #4 I know exactly how you feel. Although I came out in highschool and thought I was comfortable with my sexuality, all that changed when I got to Duke. I wanted to be free of my parents and finally be able to hook up with as many boys as I could when I first came to Duke. But when I got here, I was intimidated by what I thought was a very conservative environment dominated by the frat scene. I told myself I couldn't be gay at Duke, so I went back into the closet and tried to like girls. It didn't work. I knew the LGBT center existed but didn't even want to go near it lest someone see me and suspect I was gay. I was terrified of being gay at Duke, and planned to transfer.

    I didn't transfer, and got tired of pretending to be something I'm not. If you're not straight, then you're not straight, and you definitely won't be happier pretending to be. That doesn't mean it's easy though; I am a senior and still am just coming to accept myself. I came out to my friends (over the past two or three years), and it slowly gets easier. But I think I understand how you feel. It's not easy for some people to just trust your friends or go to the LGBT center for support. I hope you find your place at Duke as I have. My only advice is just to listen to yourself and not let other people's ideas of how they deal with their sexuality supplant your own, because people deal with it in so many different ways. I wish you luck, and if you want, I would be happy to talk.

    Matt O'Brien

  5. #1!

    Thanks for posting on the blog. I'm not sure if we've met, but thanks for the reminder to keep trying to be inclusive at the LGBT Center. One thing I have noticed-this is not "fact", just a something again, that I (perhaps falsey) have realized, is that it would seem more bisexual women attend Center events than women who identify as lesbian. I don't like generalizations, (and who am I to necesarily claim to know the sexuality of these individuals?), but from discussions I've had, if you identify as bisexual, you're actually in very good company with an awesome (and numerous) crowd at the Center.

    With that being said, I agree that biphobia is still alive and well, and I'm still just as grateful for this reminder to try and use more inclusive language and just being generally more aware. If you feel comfortable being out and open at the Center, your voice helps this discussion too. :D

    #2 - I'm sort of jaded by the "it gets better" campaign, because it hinges on an uncertain future that may or may not be true for some individuals. My friend just the other day told me that the statement "it gets better" is not accurate, but rather, "we get stronger". I really like that one-it makes more sense to me.

    #3 - Anyway you look at it, this is an invasion of privacy. It also sounds pretty disrespectful to me ('who have you fucked?"), so both of those things are issues you might want to confront with your family in terms of mutual respect and privacy. Good for you though, these issues are completely outside of the tricky/sticky realm of coming out as questioning, so you can confront the situation without having to bring this topic up yet if you're not ready. =)

    #4 - It sounds to me like you might gain the most benefit from talking with Janie. I know how scary it can be to be a first-year at Duke and try to come out. I wasn't able to come out at Duke until I said, "forget this crazy social scene and this homophobia, I'm just going to do this, and forget the opinions of others". I couldn't (and didn't) do this as a first year. Maybe this upcoming Spring semester could be a refreshing start for you? I'd talk with Janie on advice though if you're more comfortable-she's always willing to meet up with students: Students in the community are always willing to help too, and you can request confidentiality.

    #5 - I almost skipped over this one, but I'm trying to respond to everyone who wrote this week: Respect is absolutely relevant. I'd go so far as to say that I respect someone's choice to be religious, but I think there is a distinct difference between the "religious" vs. "LGBT" comparision you have going;-I don't see religious folks as inherently "sinful" or flawed, whereas I've had religious people tell me this about m sexuality. I've had religious people call me and try to convert me over the telephone when they found out I identify as a lesbian. I would never dream of calling up anyone and preaching about my sexual orientation. It's experiences like these that teach me, yes, live and let live, but I'm not going out of my way to see the contrary (religious) point of view, because I've frequently been instructed, insulted by these discussions. At a certain point I just let these issues go.

  6. @5: It seems to me that a lot of this sort of commentary brings to the fore exactly what we mean in the US by secularism and separation of church and state. It's very different from what it was a few hundred years ago.

    Without delving too deep into Constitutional questions, we are guaranteed the freedom from a Congress which establishes a religion or impedes the free expression of any religion. Both clear and convoluted at the same time (those Framers, them!).

    It is my view that the intersection of politics and religion has become an extremely dangerous part of American politics, and champions of secularism have been painted as attacking religion. Looking back at our national history, those who fought for that separation were not just secularists like my boy Thomas Jefferson (I heard he went to a really, really great undergraduate institution) but also evangelical religious leaders. It was seen as not only protecting government from religion but also protecting religion from government.

    Long story short, I think that the fact that our government regulates and gives weight to the sacrament of marriage at all is a dangerous and problematic thing. Forcing religious leaders to perform a religious ceremony on persons they find to living in a lifestyle contrary to certain teachings is infringing on the free practice of religion. It is for that reason that I do not at all get upset like some LGBT people do when politicians like President Obama and Secretary Clinton say they aren't in favor of "gay marriage."

    On the other hand, it is my belief that the entirety of benefits given to a heterosexual couple that undergoes the rite of marriage should be available to non-heterosexual couples, too. The fact that certain rights are doled out to those who participate in a certain religious ceremony seems an awful lot to me like an "establishment clause" question. Our government seems to be supporting one religious lifestyle over another. (I include secularism as a "religious lifestyle" in this question.)

    So, basically, what I'm saying is that "not supporting gay people because of religion" is fine (if not unfounded in my singular personal opinion), but it is not the basis for legislation. The marriage question I raised above is just one example of how it gets so sticky when we mix politics and religion. I think we would all be better off if the "partnership" (or civil union or whatever) contract were completely separate from the religious act of marriage. Like. Go do whatever you want with a priest or a rabbi or a white dress, then go sign this contract if you want the legal benefits. Obviously, if there is a faith community that is down with marrying two men or two women, that's fine too.

    We may not be equal in the eyes of individual religions, which is definitely their right to determine, but we should be equal in the eyes of the Law.

    I guess I'm a pretty hardcore secularist, though.

  7. #1: I understand your split when it comes to anti-gay and anti-straight speech. >_< It's frustrating, to say the least, when both groups of how you identify are tossing hate-speech around. As for activities geared towards bisexual people, I don't really see how that is necessary. I mean, it'd be nice to meet other bisexuals, but I find the activities for gays and lesbians sufficient enough. Then again, I'm not that involved in activities and I really can't speak for how it would be like for a bisexual.

    #4: No good will come from lying to yourself and others. There isn't really a rush in coming out, but you do need to think of yourself and your emotional wellbeing. Take your time, try to find someone to chat with. I'm sure there will be lots of comments from people offering their help or suggestions of who you can talk to. Personally, as a freshman and a queer woman I can understand your discomfort and it could be stemming the perceived homophobia of our peers or the fact that queer women seem to be rare at Duke. I have friends here, and my closest friends are gay men. I have yet to meet any queer women who are freshmen. It's kind of discouraging. BUT! Don't let that hinder you from reaching out to others. Anonymous posts will only get you so far. And as Anonymous @ 8:52 said, you definitely have time to sort out finding REAL friends who'll accept you as you are. But who says your friends now aren't those people? Perhaps you're worrying about nothing, and if you aren't, well they're not good friends for you then.

    I have yet to really run into any homophobia here, aside from having my flag stolen. Everyone I've somehow gotten into a conversation with about my sexuality (however rare these conversations) have been very intelligent and accepting people. AND, if I'd continue with this praising the benefits of being out, being out in college is so liberating regardless of the whole lack-of-queer-women problem. Dating might be a bit hard to come about (see: lack-of-queer-women), but just being yourself is really a wonderful experience. I've never been happier with who I am. I really hope things work out for you. If you need someone to talk to, I believe there's a bit of contact information on my blogger profile (email and AIM SN); I'm willing to offer my friendship and support and especially my ears for listening.

    #6: What Alyssa said pretty much covers my opinion. Pansexuality is the "label" that doesn't place emphasis on gender. Bisexuality, for me, explains my attractions to men and women and that's it; but it's not enough because that's not "me", entirely. Labels are always difficult to decide upon if you don't fit into the clear cut, straight/gay/lesbian thing, and they're downright confusing which is why I try to avoid them.

  8. @ Anonymous 7:37: I'm kind of an extremist when it comes to gay marriage. I want it accepted by church as well as by state. I have a bunch of different arguments that I won't get into here for sake of space (for the state arguments, see below), but the gist boils down to is marriage is about love. I, for some reason, strongly believe that love between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is every bit as strong and valid and that between a man and a woman. So why not marriage? [note--that being said, I wouldn't support legislating a requirement for same-sex religious marriage. Constitutional issues aside, change should come from within]

    @jake: Try as you might, you will never separate Church and State. So long as there is religion, religion will inform morals, and people will vote with the Church. Perhaps we could set up a great facade, where everyone can come up with a "political" reason why they vote a certain way. But, when it comes down to it, they will vote with their religious conscious. I'd rather have the real reasons they vote out in the open, because then there's at least some chance of reasoning with some of them and getting them to change their mind.

    As a hardcore secularist, the question, then, I think you should be asking, is what is the governmental justification for marriage benefits? What is it trying to encourage? If it's procreation (which I hope it's not, in this day and age), then we'd better not extend benefits to homosexuals. Or anyone who is infertile, not planning on kids, etc. If it's social stability, then definitely extend it to same sex marriage.

  9. #1) Your post has several items that confuse me.

    "I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the gay men and straight women at Fab Friday. Not to say that I don't enjoy their company, I just feel like a silent minority."

    Firstly, what about these people make you believe that they are gay men or straight females? Have you asked them about their identity, or are you just making your own assumptions? You may be surprised, actually, about how many people there identify as something other than gay or straight.

    "I feel like all the discussion groups are for completely gay/lesbian students. But, being bi offers its own challenges and hurdles that are unique from being gay or straight."

    Second, in what ways 1) has this discussion group specifically dealt with gay/lesbian students 2)could it be geared more towards other identities? As someone who has attended the discussion groups and numerous other events at the center, I don't feel as if the focus of the event or the target identity is explicitly stated. Once again, I encourage you to analyze your own assumptions - are you placing identities on these people? When people speak about their sexuality in discussion groups, do you automatically assume they mean coming out as gay/lesbian? Perhaps this leads to more of a "homonormativity" (I'm coining this term btw) that exists in the LGBT Community that we're all subjected to - a collection of natural assumptions about sexuality, rather than the ACTUAL dominance of a certain identity.

    I'm sort of rambling here but I hope you get my point. From my perspective, I don't feel as if the events themselves are exclusive to any specific group of people (and I actually think the planners of these events to their best to keep everyone in mind), but perhaps they are perceived to be this way because of the assumptions that we ourselves make about other people's sexuality. Maybe if you feel that they're exclusive, come and speak out about your own experiences! Come and give a voice, a face, to your bisexual identity. It's all about visibility. Let's challenge the homonormativity.

  10. #1: I can relate with how you feel, I think. I feel like when I'm in class, AND not talking about gay things, most people assume I'm straight. And at the center at events, I feel like most people who don't know I have a boyfriend assume I'm a lesbian. But nobody to my knowledge has ever just "assumed" bi. I mean, I'm awful about it, too. When I see something queer about someone my gaydar goes ding ding ding gay! But doesn't necessarily parse between bisexual, pansexual, or strictly homosexual. Do other people's? Can other people tell?

    Because I can't identify bisexuals in our environment without talking to them about it first, and I haven't done that yet, it is easy to assume that they don't exist. And the bisexual invisibility bothers me, too.

    I wonder what we can do to make it better? Email me if you have any ideas.

  11. I think the biggest thing is not assuming you know somebody's identity until you ask them.

    I don't think I've ever been asked my sexuality. When I presented as a femme woman, everyone assumed I was straight and I'd tell people I was gay unprompted in order to correct that assumption. When I started presenting as more male, everyone assumed I was a lesbian. Nowadays when I correct that assumption by telling people I'm actually male, people act like that's all they need to know about my sexuality. Or maybe it's the fact that I have a girlfriend, throwing folks off. But just for the record, I am also queer, folks! I identify as pansexual, or just as queer, largely because I feel like "opposite sex" and "same sex" are a little bit bullshit as concepts. But I'm not straight, even if I am a man currently dating a woman.

    So really, I think the biggest idea causing people pain is that we are supposed to be able to "tell" anything at all about someone's sexuality, just based on superficial details. It's impossible, and it strikes me as homophobic even to try, as if queer people are "just different" from straight folks. It's not hard to ask!

  12. #1. I know how you feel. I don’t necessarily feel out of place at the center but I definitely feel like I’m in a super small majority. There is a HUGE focus on same-sex attraction there and I think many of the students don’t even realize it. I never realized that everyone assumed I was straight until I went to the Womyn event. While I was there, one of my friends (who knew I had a boyfriend previously) was telling us about this lesbian event that she had gone to or was going to go to again and she said to me “ You can come too, you don’t have to be a lesbian (i.e. to like women) to go”. I was kinda shocked by her comment. I wanted to scream “but I like women too!!” , but I haven’t really come out about being bi yet; although one would think showing up to that Womyn event would be a good damn hint lol. Anyway, I just felt really excluded and now I feel like that’s how everyone sees me.

    I’ve kind of gone on a tangent but the point is that I can relate to people assuming that you are straight. It sucks. When I first started coming to the center I was careful not to say anything that would show that I was attracted to men too, because I felt like people would assume that I was straight. I sort of slipped up one time and now I feel like im waiting for an opportunity to comment on a girl so people know that im bi too.

    Side Note: In my major I also feel pressure not to mention my attraction to men. When I go to conferences I am always aware of my sexuality and the fact that im not a lesbian. I always feel like people will look down on me if I indicate that I like men…

    I honestly think that bi people ( WTF lesbians and gays get their own word and all we get is bi??? Couldn’t we get like bisational or something? Jesus lol) ANYWHO, I feel like bi people are the most closeted. People can understand absolutes. They can understand same sex attraction. Period. Or opposite attraction. Period. But both? Its like people just get circus stomach or something and cant live.

    I haven’t read all the blogs but I would like to know how many of the bloggers identify as bi (i.e. are sexually attracted to both sexes)

    I also wish I knew more out bi people so I could talk to them about coming out.


    I am sexually and theoretically bi.I have a hard time believing in absolutes. I personally am not certain that everyone would not be attracted to the opposite and same sex under the right conditions. I also am sexually attracted to men and women.