November 20, 2010

Serving Up Some Tolerance

[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.]

First, I’d like to just add this link.

This is an article a transgendered friend of mine from high school posted on his Facebook a few days ago. I think it’s great UNCG is doing this, and that it reflects a positive image upon North Carolina as a whole. Or maybe just UNCG, because it is known to be the most queer friendly university in the UNC school systems. (Which NC locals so kindly say the G stands for Gay and not Greensboro… well, maybe not kindly, but I find it a bit endearing, because UNCG is awesome!)

And now, with that shared, onto my original entry:

“Nothing’s off limits for you” she joked.

“No, actually, there are things that I don’t joke about; things I don’t tolerate being said,” the other woman replied frankly.

“Like what?” another asked.

“Like, 'You’re retarded' or ‘That’s gay’ or, you know…”

As she trailed off (perhaps to avoid the mention of racial slurs), I knew exactly where the discussion was going to lead, but the impending doom I often felt when discussions tumbled onto the topic of homosexuality was absent. I felt comfortable, safe, and accepted.

“Oh yeah, I understand,” another said.

“Like, my best friend is a lesbian and I just don’t take that. Speaking of which I think Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is incredibly stupid,” she continued.

Despite the fact that I was feeling accepted, I was still awed by what was happening.

Allow me to back up and explain the situation.

Last week, when this discussion began, I was sitting on the floor of the lobby of Virginia Tech’s War Memorial Hall, the recreational sports building, with 7 other women. These women are members of Duke’s women’s club volleyball team—and I can say that I absolutely adore this random assortment (and when I say random assortment, I mean ages ranging from 18 to 26, engineering and public policy majors, Americans and Germans, whatever you could imagine; truly a random assortment) of women brought together by the desire to play a sport they love. And that love of volleyball unites us and we really are a team despite the fact that we’re still getting to know one another.

My experience with volleyball girls from playing volleyball all throughout my middle and high school careers caused me to form some, I suppose, unfair opinions and prejudices against the volleyball playing community as a whole. I expected closed-mindedness and ignorance and to be completely honest I’ve never really felt comfortable within the volleyball community because I was (and am) who I am. In high school, it was a rare occasion to hear anything supportive of homosexuality. Of course, they all weren’t like that, but the majority was. From what I saw, queer women didn’t play volleyball (weren’t softball and basketball the sports?) and I often felt like I was the only one. I actually still believe I’m one of the rare few playing volleyball, but within the Duke community I don’t feel as awkward. No, I’m definitely not comfortable coming out to the team, but I don’t feel as alienated and unwanted as I’ve felt in previous years. The outpouring of acceptance does allow me to feel comfortable with them. Their educated and compassionate discussion of their support of homosexuals—soldiers and others—allowed me a level of comfort I’ve never felt with any other volleyball team I’ve called my own; not my middle school team, not my high school team, and not my club/travel teams.

Perhaps it is a reflection of the Duke community, or perhaps it is a reflection of the real world and the fact that people are naturally more mature and reasonable when older. Of course, that’s not always the case, but whatever the source of this acceptance, I won’t really question it. I’m happy to have such wonderful teammates and consider myself lucky to know them.

ALSO: I'd like to credit this horrendously pun-y title to my friend Chris Clarke. Creative, isn't he?

1 comment:

  1. "Ebony,"
    Thanks for sharing this with us. As you've mentioned, sports teams can either be really awesome spaces where everyone is welcomed in the name of pursuing another goal or really hostile environments--and not just in terms of homophobia, but other things, too. I'm so glad to know that club volleyball here is of the former.

    I don't share this because I think that you think that there is not a single queer woman volleyball player, but I thought it was worth mentioning, at least, that I know a woman (who is a fair number of years older than us) who played D1 college volleyball and is LGB (I don't know exactly how she identifies). Also, Natalie Cook, who won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 in beach volleyball and several other medals at international competitions, is out. Granted, I wouldn't be surprised if the environment of beach volleyball is different from indoor volleyball, but still worth noting...especially because cause she started playing indoors :)