November 17, 2010

Let's Queer Up

[In addition to all of our awesome visible and identifying columnists, we also have some awesome anonymous columnists that for one reason or another must use a pseudonym (and pseudopic?). Details on anonymous columnists here.]

If you had a chance to wander around campus yesterday morning, you may have noticed a new addition to the ext
ensive expanse of event and party flyering that regularly papers Duke. All over campus, "Got Privilege?" and "Heterosexual Privilege Checklist" flyers have sprung up, covering advertising boards, academic buildings, bathroom stalls, and bus stops (rumor has it that James B. Duke himself was found adorned with an appropriately pointed "Got Privilege?" sign).

Let me just throw out there right now that I think that this is awesome. This kind of action addresses one of the most insidious ways in which our society (including Duke), silences LGBTQ experiences. Through the perpetuation of an implicitly accepted hierarchy of worth, we have become desensitized to all the little things that tell LGBTQ persons every day that their experiences are "other" or invalid. For example, I can count the number of times I have seen an LGBTQ couple showing affection in public on campus on my two hands. However, when I walk around campus I am bombarded by heterosexual displays of affection everyday, to the point that I don't notice if a heterosexual couple is holding hands or kissing in public. But if an LGBTQ couple were doing that? You bet I'd notice! I think it's safe to say that most of us would. LGBTQ love still exists within a theoretical, rights-based understanding ("I'm not homophobic! You can be gay, just don't be gay in front of me,"). We have yet to embrace, as a society, a space wherein LGBTQ experiences are given just as much credence as straight (or cis-gendered) ones.

And that's completely normative bullshit.

The flyering campaign seems to be especially relevant in light of an upcoming event that is specifically aimed at addressing these pervasive issues of privilege. Today, from 12pm-3pm on the Duke Plaza, there will be a flash hand-holding/PDA mob, wherein participants (gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, etc) will hold hands with/cuddle/make-out with a same-sex partner. There will be no posters, no flyers explaining what we are doing. But just by being there, publicly displaying same-sex affection, we will be pushing our peers' boundaries and their perceptions of what is and is not "normal" to see.

If you too can count on two hands the number of times you have seen LGBTQ couples who feel comfortable and safe enough to display affection on the Plaza, Main Quad, in the dorms, at the bus stop, etc., then imagine how affirming seeing tons of same-sex affection (between men and gender-nonconforming individuals as well as women) would be. Now stop imagining that reality and come take action. It is up to us to push our peers to confront the crap that is the status quo. It's time for us to queer up.

Facebook event for the hand-holding/PDA flashmob here.


  1. I agree. <3 the flyers!

    About today's flashmob...I know I would have had fun if I'd been able to go (class takes all the fun out of life)...but I question how successful it was. Carla J, or someone else who was there, can you tell us more about your experiences/what people said/if people noticed, etc...

  2. i think that the list of "heterosexual privilege" should have been less focused on things like "you don't have to worry about x"...these aren't really so much heterosexual privileges as they are disadvantages to being gay. we want to be careful not to sound like whiners.

  3. I don't get it. What you're interpreting to as "you can be gay, just not in front of me" just sounds like acknowledgment of the fact that, yeah, it's still surprising to see gay PDA/queers in action. And what's wrong with that? Normative bullshit? Being queer will never be the norm, and I just don't personally understand the need to fit in so desperately, this exclusion phobia. So if I'm left out in class, I have two options: I can enlighten the class on my life, and make them think outside the box or at least differently (valid). Or, I can sit back and realize that life is not always catered to my interests, and if a conversation is framed in a heteronormative way, well, I understand that 90% of my classmates are probably hetero (valid).
    I just feel that your message is mixed because you say to confront the status quo, while also appearing to want to be included in it at the same time.

    Overall, the flash-mob hand-holding thing just doesn't sit well with me, and I've been trying hard to pinpoint exactly why (e.g., I am totally into gay pride parades). Is the message too crass or maybe just too simple? What exactly is it going to achieve that the rainbow flag campaign didn't (in a way that to me seemed more powerful—the flags stay up after the mob disperses)? I would have loved to witness it on campus though. Did anyone document it with video/pictures?

  4. The thing about the lists:

    They've been thought provoking for some, annoying for others, ignored by a lot of people. (Just like most fliers, actually.)But they're still going up in a common space, with its own code-of-conduct. It's considered really rude to cover up an entire board with one kind of flier--even more to cover up multiple boards that way. You don't put fliers on the doors to the BC (as a friend of mine put it, "I want to get McDonald's at three in the morning, not be reminded of privileges I don't have). Covering entire boards is a really good way to guarantee that your fliers will be covered up, torn down, or otherwise moved so that the groups that use flyering as a way to publicize events can get their space back.