December 6, 2010

For even "the most closeted" of Frat Stars :)


Dear Closeted Fraternity Brother,

You might very well know who I am. After all, I have met and befriended roughly fourteen guys like you on this campus (yes, I keep count!), and a few of you have even read this wonderful blog (out of curiosity, of course... what was that phrase again? "No homo," right?). I wish I could say that I write on here often, but I don't. I do not presume to understand the struggle that is LGBTQ-affiliation in an often-bigoted world. I do, however, presume to understand the awesomeness that is Greek life at Duke: I go out. I drink. And I rage. A lot. I like to dance in the cage with my sorority sisters at Shooter's, on Saturdays I like to dress up like some version of a skanky blue collar worker for Tailgate, and, most importantly, I like to go to all of your fraternity's events, whether it's SigNu Seafood, Pikes of the Caribbean, or DTD's Iced Out.

It is at events like these where, before I begin making my own poor life decisions, you drunkenly come up to me and, with a sneaky smile, tell me you heard that I "hang out with a lot of homos." I tell you that it's not nice to phrase it that way, but, yes, many of my friends are gay. You say it's okay for you to phrase it that way because you could be "a homo," too. I tell you that that is a very significant thing to admit, and that I had no idea you were questioning. A look of fear appears on your face, and you tell me you've "done sh** with guys before," but you were "just really drunk," and it probably doesn't mean anything. I ask you if you want to talk about it sometime over coffee. You get angry and tell me to "f*** off" and that, if I tell anyone what you just told me, I shouldn't bother showing up to your section parties anymore.

At first, these conversations leave me feeling hurt and confused. But, the more that they happen, the more they just feel predictably normal. I have gotten used to being both your confidante and your verbal punching bag. And while it is nice to be confided in, it is not very nice to be used as a convenient sounding board and then threatened because I was the "fag hag" in your drunken line of fire. You and I are friends, and friends do not say or do these things to each other. The only instance I can think of for a friend to logically act like this is if they are feeling angry and alone. As you know, I say and do mean things when I feel angry and alone. So, when I think of what's eating at your soul right now, I imagine that you, my friend, must be feeling very angry and alone.

I wanted to write to you to tell you that you are not at all alone. Not to toot my own horn (after our years or months or days of friendship, you surely must know how big my ego is), but I guess it suffices to say that I am the inextricable link. What you say to me about your hidden sexuality is nothing new. It has been said to me before; you have said it to me before, shrouded in all different kinds of Greek letters. And so I am what binds you to a number of other men on this campus who share your inner struggle. I am the proof that none of you are alone. And while I will always uphold my promise to keep your admissions safe within the confines of my heart, a little chip breaks off of it every time you reveal your secret - often in drunken, incomprehensible snippets - to me. You reveal your secret so often and so frequently to the point that I worry every piece of my heart will chip away, and there will be nothing left to protect what you have shared with me. I will have nothing to do but shout your secret to the world because, that way, you and everyone like you will finally realize that you are not alone.

Don't freak out, though! That was just me being dramatic. But you must understand that this could be a big problem down the road, and I worry about it every day. I worry about you every day. I worry that as time goes on, these feelings you are having will not at all go away but will instead grow and grow, and you will be so ashamed of them that you will not merely hide them from the world but you will also hide all of the other things that you are: you are an incredible Social Chair. You are really good at doing the Borat accent. You are not afraid to go free ballin'. You would rather do a naked run around Wannie than clean your dorm. You can out-chug everyone. You make every girl at every party feel at ease. You make me feel at ease. And I have a suspicious feeling that you also make your brothers feel at ease.

And so I know you find it just as irritatingly presumptuous as I do when I hear what people say: "You should just come out because then you'll realize who your real friends are," or, "Coming out will make you stronger in the long run," or "The fact that you can't come out means you have 'issues' and are insecure." But I don't think that advice will help you very much because I know your world, why you are in it, and why you want to stay in it. There is nothing like an amazing section party with Akon blasting and slutty dancing everywhere and neighbors making noise complaints. There is nothing like a bunch of guys you can shotgun ten beers in section with and then run around mooning the Campus Police. There is nothing like living with a bunch of brothers who will play pong with you at 7 am on a Saturday morning because you have to "pre-pregame" Tailgate. This is your life at Duke, and it's a damn, good life. You have every right to keep it.

You are afraid that these experiences will all go away - that they will all be stripped from your hands the moment it becomes known that you you like guys. But I wholeheartedly believe that your brothers are, in fact, your real friends. Time spent together does not lie, and these memories and friendships you have cultivated with your brothers have happened for a reason. You received a bid to join your respective fraternity because your brothers all saw in you what I see in you - what the world sees in you. They are not going to disappear and abandon you the moment they find out something new about who you are. They might not know how to respond to it, they might be weird at first, and, yes, they might be a little uncomfortable. But they are human beings with struggles of their own, and they are your brothers and your friends. They will get over their awkwardness very quickly because they will remember why they rushed you in the first place.

I know this letter will not automatically affect your resistance to come out, but I do hope it will at least make you think about things. Your brothers love you very much, and, contrary to what those GDI's might say, being in a fraternity gives you a bond that will last your whole life. The common misconception is that fraternities are merely breeding grounds for insecure, misogynist "bro's" who hide who they are for four years by partying, drinking, and partaking in legally questionable behavior. You and I both know that that isn't necessarily true. You might be insecure about being gay, but partying, drinking, and tearing down traffic signs across campus at 4am is part of who you are, and, okay, maybe it's part of why you joined a fraternity in the first place. There is nothing wrong with that. This is what makes your world at Duke so fun. Just remember that there is life after Duke, too, and coming out might make it all just a tiny bit easier. Your brothers will stand by you. I've seen it happen in KA, in DTD, in Wayne, in PiKapp, in ATO, and the list goes on... You really will be okay. I know it, know it, know it.

One part of you will not define the whole. You are too much, and you are just enough, and nothing will change that. You are loved, and you are not alone.

I love you,
E.

12 comments:

  1. Edie, I love you so freaking much it's ridiculous. This is awesome. Thank you for being a great friend to all of these guys and letting them know that they are not alone. Thank you for letting them know that it's ok. This is such an important message to hear and one that I feel really connected to. Just thank you!

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  2. Edie! I'm so glad I met you this Friday, and I'm so thrilled you're writing on the blog.

    This line really resonated with me: "Time spent together does not lie". I completely agree. I once read somewhere, "those who care about you will always care about you", I really liked that one too. It was from a gay athelete who came out, despite homophobia in sports that he had experienced. (It's also from Dr. Seuss. =)

    AJ had a really great post about coming out Greek too, from last Spring semester, for anyone looking to read more on this: www.bluedevilsunited.com/2010/05/gay-greeks-plea.html

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  3. i really appreciate your empathy and your support. i know your intentions are good, and that you want to make sure people don't feel alone. that's a truly kind thing to do.

    at the same time, as someone who has been through a closeted lifestyle and a coming-out process, i feel offended by your disregard for the advice you quoted (like "Coming out will make you stronger in the long run."). i have found those things to be true, and so have many people i know. these are things we have learned from personal experience, rather than conjecture.

    i also think the generalization of what greek guys will miss, if their coming out is a negative experience, is an unfair one. there are many fears of loss unrelated to alcohol and undoubtedly illegal activity (side note: these activities are not a right and i would argue they shouldn't be what makes duke fun.). there's even more than losing friendships, although i'm glad you addressed that.

    most importantly, to say that these men should simply come out and trust in greek foreverhood is ignoring the importance of self-confidence. focusing on other people being "ok with" these guys' sexuality is unhealthy. the people who live happily are the ones who learn to love themselves, without worrying about the opinions of others. even when their brothers accept them, (like you said) "there is life after Duke." these men need to get used to being in their own skin, so after they graduate they don't end up back in the closet, like many Duke faculty and grad students have done, as well as countless people elsewhere in the work force.

    i appreciate your post. supportive friends are priceless. i just think you may be targeting the wrong issues.

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  4. Anonymous @ 1:31AM, she's writing this as a letter to a specific friend of hers: "I know your world, why you are in it, and why you want to stay in it." These are her friend's issues and her friend's reasons for wanting to stay in the closet. Your mileage may vary. That's OK and not really the point of this post. It's still relevant to us even if our situations are not exactly the same.

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  5. I don't care if you never write on the blog Edie, if I can read a post like that, I wouldn't mind if it showed up once in a blue moon.

    Anon @ 2:54 AM, I echo that in response to the first. It's a personal, and while she may be "targeting the wrong issues" they're not exactly wrong, just individually specific. Also, she elaborates saying that coming out may make things a little easier after making the advice quotes.

    Context to what this post is is somewhat essential to the understanding of it. Edie, I really appreciate what you're doing and that you're offering yourself as a liaison for anyone who feels scared and alone in the Greek world. We need more people to stand up and fight for them.

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  6. To anon at 1:31 am, this was not written to the closeted Greek community at large. I would be the first person to recognized that fraternities and sororities are made up of an extremely diverse group of men and women, many of whom do not drink or go out and do crazy shit when they're drunk. I apologize if my letter seemed to be disregarding that.

    What you must understand is that the letter was personal and was written with a very distinct group of friends in mind - all of whom have found the idea of coming out beyond scary because they truly love their brothers and do not want to change their personal experience at Duke.

    I know, in my heart, exactly who I was targeting and exactly who I was speaking to. When I spoke of generalized examples of advice i.e. "Coming out will make you stronger in the long run," etc. I was not claiming that this advice was not truthful. It is, and I entirely wish I could say it to my friends and they would understand. Unfortunately, however, when you have a built a life and a bond with a group of people, someone telling you that you should "just be strong" and that, maybe, they're not your "real friends," is incredibly presumptuous and unhelpful.

    The whole point of acknowledging the facets of Greek life that my closeted friends know - the partying, the drinking, the girls - was to also point out that, just because that is the life someone leads, it does not make them ignorant or stupid or shallow. These guys need to understand that so many of their brothers are going to support them and be there for them because it's happened so many times before. There are more out, gay fraternity brothers at this school than people think - it's just that, instead of spending time at the center, they are at Tailgate and at Shooter's. And that is perfectly okay.

    To my boys, you know who you are, and that's all I really give a shit about.

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  7. This is every reason that you are the only person in our sorority I ever came out to.

    I love you and am so grateful there are women like you in the Greek system.

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  8. Edie, what a beautiful post. Thank you for your honesty and support.

    The reason I didn't come out until sophomore year of Duke was fear of everyone else. Would I be put in a box? All I did was worry... Would my opinions, my energy, and my warm personality count for less because I like men? Would I be blown off as "the faggot?" Would women be less interested in talking to me? Would people look at me and look away, for fear of being associated? Would my straight male friends slowly stop asking to hang out? I spent years contemplating these questions. I wish someone had just told me the answer to all of them, at least in my experience at Duke (though I am not Greek I have many friends who are, and I go out within the Greek scene frequently), is NO.

    Duke = smart people doing and saying dumb things because it's fun.

    Smart people recognize that discriminating against someone for a condition they were born under is not smart. I promise.

    Doing and saying dumb things = homophobic comments, said because they forgot to think about it and because it's what everyone else is doing. Kind of like binge drinking.

    sidenote: Smart girls recognize that gays are more fun anyway.


    A reason you might be worried about being gay is that you're not really "that gay." The truth is that most of us aren't, it's just that you only hear about the really gay ones. My professors don't know I'm gay, they don't need to, because it's not relevant. It's not relevant to 90% of my life. You can come out and it can be irrelevant to 90% of your life too. Your life will go on, and, in truth, people will have an immense amount of respect for your ability to make being gay not that big a deal, because it's usually not.

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  9. Ugh, what narcissistic drivel.

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  10. guessing a lot of these guys are in DTD

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  11. E,

    Man I wish I had gone to Duke and met you! I am a PiKapp from an area chapter and realized I was gay about the same time that I was pledging my fraternity, and the latter buried the former for quite a while because I thought the life I was living was what I needed to continue instead of honoring who I am and living the life I want and deserve to live. I have recently graduated and finished my year as president of my chapter, and most of the guys still don't know. I didn't even tell girlfriends on campus until this last fall semester before I left.

    I doubt it would have gone down well at first to tell my chapter but in a way I think it may have been better if I had. The ones I have told, same goes for my closest non greek friends, took it amazingly well and still support me unconditionally, which maintains my faith in the best of Greek Life. This is not to say I believe all Greeks are so open, because many in my chapter alone are, forgive me, sacks of complete and utter shit and devoid of humanity.

    I've lost my train of thought, but perhaps some greek guys who have something on their chest will read this and relieve themselves of that burden. So thank you for that.

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