February 28, 2010

LGBT Leadership

In high school I never read the newspaper or watched the news. Now I read the Wall Street Journal almost everyday. In high school I never played sports and worked out three times a year. Now I (am still learning to) play rugby. In high school the only position related to “student government” that I ran for was National Honor Society President. Now I can’t even say that much. It’s not like I wasn’t president of multiple clubs (who wasn’t?) it’s just that my presidency wasn’t earned from convincing a large number of people to vote for me. In both cases I was the only person who ran- the obvious successor to the previous president. Leadership is a dirty word to me. Every over-achieving youngster is indoctrinated with the idea of leadership. Yet not everyone can be President. Not everyone wants to either. I wanted to be a writer or an intellectual. Someone who knows weird shit that no one else knows. Someone who can give uncensored advice.

I have a feeling that being openly lesbian was the source of my “unpopularity” in high school. I came into Duke with no knowledge of LGBT politicians or presidents and the overwhelming feeling that the only role I could play in life was that of a subversive lesbian intellectual or mathematically adept robot. My experiences at Duke have taught me that LGBT leaders exist and that I can be one of them. The first time I felt like a “representative” was at Common Ground when Bruce appointed me to speak for my group about what we had learned during the retreat. I had the same experience at the LGBT Leadership retreat. Speaking for a group, expressing my ideas and experiences- these are all things I enjoy doing. Every time Gordon tells to run for student government I get closer to the point of no return. The choice to not run for office or influence social life at Duke is one for me to make.

Right now I am focused on other endeavors. I’m trying to greatly improve my grades after a scarring semester in Pratt. I’m trying to not get between Riot and Scorch during rugby games. I’m trying to be involved in Know Your Status beyond just HIV-counseling from 3-4 pm on Mondays. I’m trying to pursue my academic interest in East Asia and find a fulfilling social life that doesn’t revolve around partying and getting drunk. Most importantly, I’m trying to be a good girlfriend. YIKES!

I have looked at applications for various student government positions and try to keep up with school news. I stayed after a BDU-meeting to listen to the three Young Trustee finalists and ask them questions. I take every opportunity to talk about my experiences with campus culture. For someone who thought that she’d be on the Varsity Crew team before she’d have any involvement with student government these are small but vital steps. Though my life as it is has no room for running a campaign, that doesn’t mean I can’t be a “representative” in other ways. Next week I will be participating in an Alternative Spring Break in Washington D.C. where I’ll lobby Congress about bills related to homelessness. What scares me the most is the possibility of failure- not because I’m a lesbian but because I am not the best candidate for a position or don’t have the most compelling argument. It is a fear that everyone must deal with and one that is particularly strong because the game of politics is so new to me.

North Carolina needs LGBT politicians as much as the Duke women’s rugby team needs players. Playing a rugby game with thirteen instead of fifteen women (less when people get injured during the game) sucks just as much as not having enough young LGBT politicians to secure the future. After listening to Mark Kleinschmidt, openly gay mayor of Chapel Hill, I feel this sentiment with great urgency. As I continue to think about what it means to “Stay in San Antonio and fight” the thought of being an elected representative continues to pop up. I have no idea what this part of my life holds. I am excited for what might happen.

February 26, 2010

Rainbow Ch00nage part 1

I am completely addicted to the Internet and spend way too much time clicking links of links of links till I can’t click anymore. I also have a compulsion to find new music because my music library of over 60 gigabytes is like so five minutes ago. As such I have an account on Pandora, Last fm, subscribed to numerous YouTube channels relating to music; also I come through the iTunes music store like I am trying to find the secrets of the universe. As such I have become acquainted with several not big time artists of the queer orientation and/or who appeal to a queer audience. so I have decided to feature them in a multi-part blog post so here are the first three on my list of rainbow ch00nage.

First off there is Cazwell; this old school rapper/hip-hop artist of the homosexual persuasion spins some wicked tunes. he is based in New York City and has been central to the underground dance scene; he has even co-stared with Lady GaGa while she was still just a quirky student at NYU. When I first listened to him I could of sworn he was a British rapper, or from the early 90’s but he , by his own admission part of the old school; which for me is a plus. Most rap and hip hop of current makes me want to cry for their trite puns overtly sexual in nature and mind numbing repetitions nature behooves me greatly. Yet with Cazwell I can listen to his entire album with out the least bit of a complaint. He is also awful sweet and his lyrics are either ridiculously funny or sexual in a way that doesn't make you feel sleazy for listening to it, good music all a round.



Second There is his friend Amanda Leopore, who is the world’s self-proclaimed number one transsexual; the embodiment of fierceness pulled though the glamor of Marilyn Monroe with a fantastical dosing of Jessica rabbit I might say. though music is not here main career focus she as dabbled in music scene with the help and collaborations of others. She has been the cover girl for MAC and other cosmetics companies and has lost count of all the surgeries she has had in the pursuit of fabulousness. Her fame is mostly due to her staple presences in New York night clubs. She is heading Mardi Gras in Australia this year.



Third there is Cameron Carpenter, he doesn't like labels and is firmly in the whatever-sexual category. He would be some geeky/OCD version of a cross between Adam Lambert and Johann Sebastian Bach. He is the only person who I can say shreds hardcore on an organ; seriously this guy is like inhuman with a keyboard. Watching his hands and for the matter, feet, fly adroitly over the bazillion buttons and keys of an organ makes me think that someone needs to have is babies to ensure the fate of humankind. On a side note he sewed one by one , by hand, the sequence on that shirt of his, just for your information.




watch his other video here (embedding was disabled from the site)

one somewhat honorable mention would be the Electric Six’s song I Want to Take You to a Gay Bar that has the best music video in terms of visual sexual entendres, metaphors and/or allusions.

February 23, 2010


Yale to offer gender-neutral housing: In response to student activism, Yale University will begin to offer gender-neutral housing to rising seniors this fall.

From Yale Daily News: "We applaud the decision by the Yale administration both because it is the right action to take and because it recognizes the serious interest students have shown in this issue. ...
But as pleased as we are about the decision itself, we are more pleased that Yale officials made it in part as a response to student activism. Whatever one might think about the specifics of gender-neutral housing, there is no denying that it is good to see students fighting for a change they think is worthwhile. Yesterday’s announcement should serve as a reminder that we who are here today have a chance to shape the Yale of tomorrow."

February 17, 2010

Johnny Queer? No, Johnny Weir

Every other Wednesday I will be writing about LGBT Issues in Sport. Between each regularly scheduled post I may chime in with more posts if something comes up and/or I have the time. I have a serious academic interest in sport and in this column I’ll be highlighting current events, sharing resources, reflecting on complex issues and sharing athlete’s stories among other things. For more about me, you can read my first post, here. Please feel free to email me with thoughts or if you come across something you’d like me to include on the blog.

US Olympic figure skating personality Johnny Weir is always in the spotlight. Currently under attack by animal rights advocates for his use of real fur, Weir has a history of dodging questions about his sexuality. In recent years his eccentricity on and off the ice has sparked conversation. Some are critical of his effeminate nature—saying he’s figure skating’s cliché and not good for the sport which is trying to grow its fan base (read: be more masculine in the traditional, gender binary way). Others love the passion and grace he brings to the ice. Either way, most everyone has an opinion about his sexuality and wants to know definitively if he’s gay or straight.

Most recently, ESPN’s Jim Caple went to write a story about Weir—who suggested that they chat while getting a mani-pedi at a Fifth Avenue spa. Following this experience, Caple wrote a lengthy article for ESPN’s Outside the Lines called “Johnny Weir is a Real Man.” In it, he chronicles Weir’s flamboyant mannerisms and attitudes while defending figure skating as a “real sport.” He also applauds Weir for being so open and voicing his strong opinions. Opinionated he may be, but Weir isn’t a completely open book. When Caple asks him about being gay or straight Weir responds by saying


With that kind of thing, I don't see the importance of revealing anything about yourself. I'm looking at you, and you are just you. I don't care if you're married or gay. All these things make you you. So whether it's gay, Asian, lesbian, whatever, Jehovah's Witness, these things make people up. It's not the most important thing whether someone is gay or not. I want to be judged by who I am, not what I am. I mean, I am Johnny Weir. Judge me the way you see me, love me the way you see me, hate me the way you see me. All these things make me up, and sexuality and having sex is the least that people should worry about.

Most people assume he is gay, which leads to some hostile feelings from members of the LGBT community. There seem to be two schools of thought on the matter. The first is a sort of resentment toward him not being a spokesperson or perhaps having the courage to be out as a public figure. One commenter wrote the following:


Thanks Johnny Weir, for not actually coming out of the closet and demonstrating that successful [sic], high-profile athletes can be openly gay, but instead remain "undeclared" and play up every negative stereotype of male homosexuality that the media will needlessly feed off of until you inevitably get caught "in the act." Thank you for not doing the hard work of being an openly gay athlete that may be able to transcend sterotypes [sic] and be a role model for young gays around the country, but instead looking like a 16 year-old truckstop twinkerbell [sic] that just hooked up at a Pride Alliance meeting while giving the media open cover for reinforcing every negative cliche about male homosexuality.

Seriously, on behalf of the gay community, we thank you for all you have done.

Fucker. [1]

The truth is that I get where this person is coming from. Having public icons who lead openly out lives is important for progress and providing role models. But at the same time, I LOVE the message that Weir is sending. Personally, I find it moving and empowering. I think it’d be a different story if he vehemently denied being gay or proclaimed his heterosexuality at every chance (let’s not forget that all of this is assuming that he’s actually gay…but more on that below). In short, the message he’s sending is equally as valuable as coming out.

As much as he isn’t willing to be the token gay athlete, he seems to be waging his own war on homophobia. Only, his message is “I’m not going to let you define me by my sexuality.” Today, this seems to be a popular push by many members in the LGBT community. In the past, and even still today, people come out and are accepted and embraced—but then they’re forever stuck in this role of “the gay _________ (fill in the blank).” Weir challenges that. There are so many complexities that make each of us who we are and sexuality isn’t necessarily the defining characteristic (this sentiment seems to be expressed fairly frequently on the blog and at The Center). I don’t think he’s taking this stand with the intent to benefit the gay rights movement, because his website makes it quite clear that everything he does he does for himself (peruse through his Q&A and you’ll get that impression, too) but I think he’d be glad to know he was making a difference.

But, just for fun, let’s play out some other scenarios.

Alternative 1: He comes out. If Johnny Weir came out, let’s be honest—nobody would be shocked. I don’t believe that his coming out would shake things up or advance the movement. At all. People would simply say “Oh, Johnny Weir is gay? Yeah, like, we already knew that.” I don’t mean to say that he shouldn’t come out, if he’s gay and if he wants to. I just mean to say that I don’t think it’d be the progressive move his critics are hoping it would be.

Alternative 2: He’s straight. I know. You think I’m kidding. But, I’m not. What if Johnny Weir is straight? Has anybody considered that? Instead of making a blanket statement about sexuality not defining him, if he’s straight, his only other real alternative is to proclaim his heterosexuality. Him proclaiming his heterosexuality in the face of everyone who calls him gay (which I promise you, would be a lot) would make it seem like being gay was a bad thing—something you don’t want to be, rather than just something he isn’t. He’d be forced to defend his straightness and flaunt it. Honestly, it’s one of the things I hate most about people: going out of your way to make sure everyone knows you’re straight lest someone think otherwise. Not to mention, others would be even more critical of him than they are now because they’d all insist that he was secretly gay and setting a bad example. And in the end, it wouldn’t make him the out-gay-athlete-role-model people want him to be, anyways.

So, maybe his message isn’t just revolutionary (in that, other celebrities haven’t taken this route before…at least that I’m aware of). Maybe it’s also the most impactful.

Readers, I’d be interested to hear what you all think about his message and the alternative scenarios that I’ve provided. Is it empowering? Can you identify with the desire to not just be “the gay ______ (fill in the blank)”? Am I totally off base? Is there another scenario I didn’t think of?

On another note: gay, straight, bi, or unlabeled…I think you’ll agree that Weir's performance to Lady GaGa’s Poker Face is maybe the sexiest figure skating you’ve ever seen. So evocative. So erotic. Seriously, a must watch.

February 16, 2010

Anonymous Posts
(2.8.10-2.14.10)

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 :)

You guys. You guys.

This weekend was the GLBT & Ally Retreat for students from Duke, UNC and NC State. It was pretty much The Greatest Thing, and everyone involved in organizing the event deserves TREMENDOUS credit. Solidarity is important in any social movement let alone our own and I'm confident that we made a ton of progress this weekend in forging an unprecedented relationship among the three schools. We all adore Lady Gaga and apparently know every word to Seasons of Love, so I really don't think any differences need reconciling. Nothing stands in our way!

We plugged the blog at the retreat, and I know some of the non-Dukies have visited already. Welcome! I hope y'all participate as much in the comments section and anonymous posts as everyone else! We want to hear what you all have to say!

Anonymous posts for this week, y'all (sorry they're a day late!):

#1
I think I may be falling for her, but I can't tell if she's doing the same. And to that end, I'm not sure if I'm truly crazy about her, or if I just think about her all the time because I need something to occupy my thoughts.

I'm not sure if either of us is even ready for this, or if taking this to the next step is the right thing.

The only thing I know for sure is.....that she's too important to mess up.

I wish there was more of a guideline for this same-sex relationship stuff.

[Ed. Note: A theme I think we've seen among many anonymous posts is a comparison between straight and same-sex couples. A lot of readers seem to feel that there is a difference between the two when it comes to "what should I do?" or "what is appropriate?" Personally, I disagree and believe that the answers to these questions are really the same for gays or straights. At the same time, I am a dumb 20 year-old that was incredibly giddy that this was a group on facebook and joined immediately. What do I know! Readers, whuddya gotta say?]

February 15, 2010

Beyond "Lesbian" Fashion

“Forgive me father for I have sinned
I have broken the commandments of the fashion world
Shaming my LGBT brother, with his muscled body and one-of-a-kind tennis shoes
I am without direction, doomed to think impure thoughts
About what clothes I will buy and wear
A mullet atop my head
A flannel shirt and ill-fitting jeans loosely slung on my body”

When I told my mom I was going to write about lesbian fashion for the Our Lives blog she replied “Lesbian fashion? You’ll really be able to write a whole article about that?” My sweet mother is not exactly immersed in current fashion trends, because if she was she’d know that I could write an entire book about lesbian fashion. In the early 1990s K.D. Lang ushered in the era of “lesbian chic.” After that, a distinct “lesbian” style went mainstream. Now LGBT women are an integral part of the fashion world, whether as models, stylists, or fashion bloggers. Unfortunately certain ideals about beauty still persist. Masculine lesbians, no matter how dapper or handsome they are, still don’t get the same positive attention as glamorous fems. In my articles on fashion I will often focus on female masculinity, because I find masculine women as beautiful and fashionable as feminine women.

If you’ve ever seen me traipsing about campus you know fashion is something I have a passing interest in. My style is trendy though subtly androgynous. Though “keeping” up with richly dressed fellow Dukies is not an endeavor I’m proud of, my love of fashion extends beyond just looking like the typical Longchamp toting Duke girl.
I like to think that my style is guided by myriad sources, from street fashion blogs to magazines to music to different cultures. (Sometimes it's just by what I can find at used stores.)I also can’t forget how indebted I am to my fellow queer women. From them I have learned not to be too literally feminine or impractical in my fashion choices. I also learned not to wear clothing that overpowered me, or clothing that was trendy but unflattering. The desire to look good, whether by wearing clothing intended for men or for women, is a hallmark of “lesbian” fashion.

Short-haired, beautifully androgynous women are presented as the “ideal” face of lesbianism. These are the tombois, hipsters, rocker chicks and power lesbians. It’s no surprise that Ellen DeGeneres makes the cut in addition Kate Moennig, Beth Ditto, K.D. Lang, Jackie Warner, Kim Stoltz (!!!!), Joan Jett, Leisha Hailey and Samantha Ronson, What unites all these women? They wear men’s clothing, often in creative ways. Most have short hair. They wear suits, leather, bright colors, muted colors, ties, fedoras, sports-bras, sneakers, low-slung jeans…If fashion is all about contrast then these women are masters of the contrast between masculine and feminine. No gender expression can be overpowering.

Ever since YSL made the first woman’s suit, androgyny has been a fixture of women’s fashion. The right kind of androgyny is difficult to achieve; so difficult that lesbians have an unfortunate history of fashion mishaps. Lesbians are able to wear just about anything they want, from sensible shoes to skirts to camo cargo shorts, and as a result must choose their clothing with great caution. Men on the other hand must not only avoid wearing dresses, skirts and heels, they also have difficulty finding clothing that uses creative proportions or colors. Jean-Paul Gaultier first presented skirts for men in a show in 2006. Now men in skirts (along with men in tights) are common in fashion shows. Street fashion blogs often feature men in high heels and skirts carrying hangbags previously reserved for women. While the fashion world has become more accepting of men who boldly cross gender-lines in their attire, American cities, and especially Duke’s campus, are much less accepting.

If you’re a tomboy you probably have trouble finding clothing that fits. Men’s clothing hides your body while women’s clothing emphasizes it too much. Many fashion lines are now being crated that fill these needs. If you’re the fashion-conscious tomboy with loads of cash, check-out Made Me Clothing. Unbound Apparel sells gender-neutral t-shirts. Dykes In the City carries a wide range of clothing for masculine and queer women. While in our particular moment in time and place a woman in men's clothes in assumed to be a lesbian, masculine clothing choices were not always tied with queerness in America. Other cultures have different ideas about the relationship between gender expression and sexuality. I've noticed that East Asian culture is more accepting of avant-garde fashion for women and women that crosses gender boundaries. Just around Duke's campus I have seen more Asian women dress in men's clothing than any other ethnic group. On a campus where gender expression is severely limited, these women stand out to me.

If you’ve ever been to www.xxboys.net, watched an Athens Boys Choir video, or seen Lucas Sliveria of the band The Cliks, you know that transmen are a diverse and attractive bunch. One of the most important clothing items for pre-op or no-op transen are chest binders. Fun fact: Taiwan is leading the world in chest binder production. Queer and trans friendly sex shops tend to sell chest binders, and they are easily found online.

Though I don’t have trouble buying my clothes at non-specialty stores I have had problems with getting my hair cut correctly. I stopped going to cheap hair cutters because I would always get a tame, femmed up version of the hair I desired (even when I brought photographic evidence!) Bianca Jimenez was the first hairstylist I had who understood lesbian haircuts. I told her all my business. I even made her a mix CD of post-punk music! Then one day I called the salon and I was told that she had left. Dejected, I bounced around to different salons; even trying out the local Aveda before I finally came across Doo or Dye, unquestionably the only punk-rock hair salon in San Antonio. (Its motto: 110% pure Texas fury!) I’ve become so attuned to the minutiae of my desired hairstyle that I don’t think it matters who cuts my hair, as long as they aren’t hell-bent on femming me up.

I feel like I have it easy because I’ve been out about my sexuality from an early age. I have an intuitive grasp of “lesbian fashion”- to the point where no one has ever accused of being “too femme” or asked me what I was doing at a gay bar. Has anyone felt like they were being ignored in a queer environment because they didn’t look or act queer enough? Do you feel like you dress in a “lesbian” way even if you don’t intend to? Do you not believe you dress in a “lesbian” way, even if you wear jeans, Converse and t-shirts every day? Do you think that the whole concept of “dressing like a lesbian” is ridiculous, outdated and sexist? What stereotypes pertain to how bisexual and queer women dress? Are they radically different? Finally, from your experience how does gender expression differ from culture to culture?

XOXO
Veronica

A Lunchtime Conversation with Activist and Openly Bisexual Legislator Kyrsten Sinema

Interested in politics? Learning about the ONLY campaign which defeated an anti-same sex marriage initiative? Talking with an openly bisexual public official? Learning about how to build coalitions to advance an LGBT-friendly agenda? Want to talk about growing up in a conservative, religious family?

Then join Blue Devils United and the Center for LGBT Life for a lunchtime conversation with bisexual state legislator and activist Kyrsten Sinema!
NEXT MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22 @ 11:30 AM in the LGBT Center (02 West Union)
Lunch is generously being sponsored by the Center for LGBT Life and Blue Devil’s United (please RSVP to Risa Isard at rfi@duke.edu)


Raised in a conservative Mormon home, Kyrsten Sinema is openly bisexual and serves as a member of the Arizona Legislature. In her third term as a member of the House of Representatives she has declared her intent to run for the state Senate in the forthcoming election.

One of her most notable accomplishments was chairing the 2006 campaign called Arizona Together—the first and only successful effort in the country to defeat an anti-same-sex marriage ballot initiative. Currently, she serves on Obama’s national healthcare reform group. Kyrsten is the Board President of Community Outreach and Advocacy for Refugees and also serves on the board for the YWCA of Maricopa County. She is the recipient of awards for her political leadership, including the NAACP Civil Rights Award, AZ Hispanic Community Forum Friend of the Year, Planned Parenthood Legislative CHOICE Award, Sierra Club’s Most Valuable Player, and the AZ Public Health Association Legislator of the Year

Kyrsten holds both a law degree and a Master’s degree in Social Work from Arizona State University, and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in the School of Justice and Social Inquiry at ASU. She is an adjunct professor in the School of Social Work at ASU and practices law when not in session. Kyrsten also serves as faculty for the Center for Progressive Leadership, teaching tomorrow’s community leaders about the political process.

Kyrsten’s first book, Unite and Conquer: How to Build Coalitions that Win and Last, was released in July 2009 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Lunch is generously being provided by the LGBT Center and Blue Devils United.

Her visit is made possible by Blue Devils United, Duke Democrats and Duke NOW.

February 13, 2010

A Champion All Around: Super Bowl XLIV Champion is Gay Rights Advocate

Every other Wednesday I will be writing about LGBT Issues in Sport. Between each regularly scheduled post I may chime in with more posts if something comes up and/or I have the time. I have a serious academic interest in sport and in this column I’ll be highlighting current events, sharing resources, reflecting on complex issues and sharing athlete’s stories among other things. For more about me, you can read my first post, here. Please feel free to email me with thoughts or if you come across something you’d like me to include on the blog.


I know that the winter Olympics kicked off last night, but before we get too far removed from the Super Bowl, I wanted to highlight a few things. Ideally, I would have posted this last weekend or very early this week, but things got away from me. Sorry! I do, however, still think these issues are relevant and interesting and I hope that you will, too.

Now, imagine that you’re sitting in Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida last Sunday. The “big game” is about to kick off. The PA announcer’s voice booms and echoes through the speakers: Starting [ing, ing, ing] Linebacker [acker,acker,acker] for the New Orleans Saints, Number Fifty-Five and gay rights advocate…Scott Fujitaaaaaa.

Gay rights advocate? Nobody would blame you if you did a double take. I mean, with the exception of the inherent homoeroticism (you know, men wearing spandex, passing a ball through their legs and slapping each other’s behinds) competitive football hasn’t exactly been the greatest ally of the gay rights movement. Those locker rooms and practice fields are filled with all sorts of anti-gay slurs by players and coaches, a like. And during a game, you can be sure that the fans hold their own in homophobic heckling.

So what’s this all about?

No, Scott Fujita’s introduction didn’t go quite like that. But it might as well have. Saints star Fujita first made a big splash when he publically endorsed the National Equality March this past October (if you know of a public statement or action Fujita took prior to this in support of gay rights, please correct me!). In an interview with The Nation’s sports editor and host of Sirius XM Radio’s “The Edge of Sports,” Dave Zirin, Fujita spoke publically about his position on gay rights.

An Arkansas initiative which would have restricted single parents from adopting resonated with Fujita—himself, adopted. In his interview with Zirin, he said that “the way I read that [the Arkansas initiative] and the way that I translated that language was that only heterosexual, married couples could adopt children. As an adopted child that really bothered me. I asked myself, what that is really saying is that the concern with one’s sexual orientation or sexual preference outweighs what’s really important, and that’s finding safe homes for children, for our children.” [1]

He hopes that his status as a professional football player helps to advance the movement saying, “I think for me it was a cause that I truly believe in…For me, in my small platform as a professional football player, I understand that my time in the spotlight is probably limited. The more times you can lend your name to a cause you believe in, you should do that.” [2] It seems that Fujita has made a habit of using sport for “bigger” things. He reportedly signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2006 because he believed that “this could be bigger than football [referencing the post-Katrina rebuilding efforts].” [3]

Fujita rejects the notion that he’s acting courageously by speaking up about these issues. He says he’s simply “standing up for equal rights…It’s not that courageous to have an opinion if you think it’s the right thing and you believe it wholeheartedly.” [4] His humility is admirable, but I do think that taking the measures he has constitutes as courageous—that is, he’s overcoming a lot of social pressures to engage in a way that does not really benefit him personally and that actually threatens his popularity.

Since he doesn’t identify as gay, bi or queer (more on this below), with the exception of my and your respect and a “more just” society, he doesn’t have anything to personally gain by speaking up. To my knowledge he isn’t getting paid for making these statements. On the other hand, he has a lot to lose. His profession is partially based on popularity and speaking up about these issues isn’t always popular (though, I suppose he’s more popular in my book for doing so). In short, I believe there is a reason that so few athletes have publically taken a stand on the issue of gay marriage—it’s divisive. Most athletes don’t want to alienate a portion of their fan base. Professional athletes also have their images to worry about in a way that you and I don’t. While you and I both know that speaking up about gay rights isn’t indicative of someone’s sexual orientation, others often conflate the two. I’m not suggesting that being gay or being thought of being gay is bad in any way, just that many people (especially straight) go out of their way to avoid this ‘reputation’ because it’s socially difficult. I admit that I think it helps that he’s already an established veteran.

During his interview with Dave Zirin, Fujita mentions in passing that “just because I’m in favor of gay rights doesn’t mean that I’m gay or doesn’t mean that I’m some kind of ‘sissy.’” He hopes that others will step up and realize that it’s okay to talk about these issues without feeling threatened. Indeed, Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens wrote an op-ed in April of 2009 for the Huffington Post entitled “Same Sex Marriage: What’s the Big Deal?” Fujita’s activism came six months after Ayanbadejo spoke up, so it’s safe to say that Fujita’s public comments didn’t influence Ayanbadejo, but together they’re paving the way for other athletes—especially for those who play “macho” sports.

Though he volunteers that he is not gay, I don’t get the impression that he’s parading around reassuring everyone that he is straight. As I mentioned above, it is common for individuals (outspoken allies or not) to feel the need to proclaim their heterosexuality (“no homo,” anyone?). Zirin asks him about this issue, explicitly, saying “Do you have any concerns that teammates, fans, people will say Scott Fujita may be married and have kids, but maybe down low he might really be gay?” To which Fujita responds that is not concerned about that “whatsoever.” He explains that “I know who I am. My wife knows who I am. I don’t care one way or the other Dave. I imagine that when some of this gets out guys in the locker room might give me a hard time…[but,] I’m used to it. I can take it all.” [5] ‘All,’ in this case, includes being called the “Pinko Communist Fag from Berkeley.” [6]

Even with that locker room talk, Fuijita challenges our stereotype of the NFL being homophobic. “By and large,” he says, “the players are more tolerant than they get credit for. It’s not a big issue. Some guys will think you are crazy for believing one way, but they’ll still accept you.” [7]But would they embrace an out athlete? Jim Buzinksi, co-founder of outsports.com, is confident that there are gays in the NFL but since no active player in the NFL is publically out, it’s hard to know the answer. [8]

In the end, Zirin sums it up pretty well: “You have to get your head around the idea that Scott [Fujita] is a bad-ass linebacker for the New Orleans Saints and that he speaks his mind in support of gay rights.” [9]



1. Fujita, Scott. "'Why I Support the National Equality March': NFL's Scott Fujita Speaks Out for Gay Rights." Interview by Dave Zirin. Edge of Sports. Dave Zirin, 6 Oct. 2009. Web. 12 Feb. 2010.
2. Zirin Interview.
3. Kilgore, Adam. "Solid backing by Saint: Fujita unafraid to support gay rights." The Boston Globe 3 Feb. 2010: n. pag. Web. 12 Feb. 2010.
4. Lapointe, Joe. "The Saints Linebacker Who Speaks His Mind." The New York Times 3 Feb. 2010: n. pag. Web. 12 Feb. 2010.
5. Zirin Interview.
6. Zirin Interview.
7. New York Times by Joe Lapointe.
8. Buzinski, Jim. "Openly Gay NFL Player Will Come but It’ll Take a While." Editorial. The Washington Post 17 June 2009: n. pag. Web. 12 Feb. 2010.
9. The Boston Globe by Adam Kilgore.

February 11, 2010

Stereotypes

I'm going to get right to the point: stereotypes annoy me. All kinds. Yes, sometimes they are applicable to people, but I dislike when people automatically assume things.

For instance, the night of the Super Bowl, my common room was filled with people watching the game. I had so much homework, I only dropped in occasionally, but when the Saints had won, I was overjoyed. I had been rooting for them from almost the start of the season. Then, a friend of mine came in disappointed. She had been rooting for the Colts. When I told her I was happy for the Saints, she said "What do you know about football? You're gay." I'm sure she meant it in a joking way, but then I spent five minutes showing that not only did I know a lot about football, I'm also an athlete and have been one for 10 years. People don't bat an eyelash when I tell them I sing and love musical theater or Project Runway, but I tell them I'm into sports and suddenly that's so surprising, just because I'm a gay man.

The same has happened to some of my lesbian friends. One was talking to her ex on Facebook and showed us a picture of her. This woman was very attractive, and one of the guys in the room, on seeing her, turns to my friend and says "SHE'S a lesbian? Damn, you can't even tell anymore." I turn to him, incredulous. No, believe it or not, you can't. In fact, you couldn't tell previously. Contrary to what I'm afraid is popular belief, outward appearance is not a good indicator of sexual orientation. I have met incredibly "feminine" straight men, and I've met gay guys that are more "masculine" than most straight ones. It just annoys me that people will typecast others just from looking at them. It's not fair. Another story, my friend Alicia from high school and I were at the mall, and a guy from our school came up and was hitting on her. She told him she wasn't interested, she liked girls. He says "You're a lesbian? But you're attractive enough to get guys."
...
...
I would've been really pissed off at him if I wasn't feeling so sorry. He picked the WRONG lesbian to say that to.

Just because people are homosexual does not mean you can immediately ascribe characteristics to them. Everyone is different, that's that. You shouldn't assume things about them. It's not fair.

Real life lesbians faring better than their TV counterparts

February 9, 2010


Lt. Dan Choi Called Back to Active Military Service: Sources are reporting that Lt. Dan Choi, who has become the face of the fight against the discriminatory DADT policy, has been called back into service with his National Guard unit, despite the recommendation that he be discharged, made by a military hearing eight months ago.

Albanian Parliament passes anti-discrimination law: (Pam's House Blend) The law provides strong protections for all people against discrimination based on: gender, race, colour, ethnicity, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, political, religious or philosophical beliefs, economic, education or social status, pregnancy, parentage, parental responsibility, age, family or marital condition, civil status, residence, health status, genetic predispositions, disability, affiliation with a particular group or for any other reason.

While the Albanian parliament decriminalised homosexual relations in 1995, more than a decade later gays and lesbians are still heavily stigmatised, and a majority hide their sexual orientation, fearing that if it is discovered their safety will be endangered.

Human rights reports on Albania concede that ingrained attitudes among the public leave Albanian gays and lesbians on the fringes of society. AHRG reports that Albanian homosexuals face "intolerance, physical and psychological violence - often from the police - and discrimination in the workplace."

February 8, 2010

Anonymous Posts
(2.1.10-2.7.10)

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 :)

At the moment I am sitting in my concrete class, which is a real class that I am taking in real life. I am the only one with a computer open and there is really no legitimate reason why I would need my laptop, but I feel as if the professor and I have a mutual understanding where we both agree that this lecture is about concrete and I am any human with an attention span.

Anyhow! You all met my challenge to send something in this week, which is so awesome. These are some really interesting posts, too. The Community's girls are certainly stepping up :)

#1
I've been out to everyone in the universe as a lesbian since I was 15, but yesterday I came out to one of my friends for the first time... as possibly trans. I was so terrified and miserable leading up to it, but she was amazing, and I woke up this morning feeling happier than I have in years. I feel like I want to tell everyone!

I can't, of course, for a lot of reasons. First off, I'm not even sure what I'd be coming out AS. I still have trouble figuring out where I've going. All I know is that things as they stand aren't right. I've been binding while I do my homework in my room, and last week I even ate dinner with friends boob-free. With my friend to support me now, I think I can cut my hair soon. Every step I take is so exhilarating!

I just wish there wasn't this undercurrent of terror. Most of my friends already thought I was weird as a lesbian. And I wish I didn't feel like I was making everything up as I went along. I can't be the only one! Right? Where is everybody?

[Ed. Note: Wow, this is pretty much the coolest thing. Thanks for sharing! The trans community is severely underrepresented, and we don't here from them nearly enough. I think we all are undereducated on trans issues (if you haven't watched this yet, do so now). You cannot be the only one, you're right, and hopefully Everybody shows up in the comments section below. Keep us posted on everything!]

#2
I've identified as a bisexual girl/woman for years--out to my parents, out to my friends, happy to argue with strangers about LGBT issues, everything. But I've only been in relationships with men. I'm about to enter into another one (I think?), and I can't help feeling like I'm somehow betraying the community. I don't know what to do about this guilt.

[Ed. Note: Thanks for the entry, Anonymous. I think that people who identify as bisexual or feel that they don't fit into the much-accepted binary model of sexuality aren't heard from enough, either. I don't think that you should feel guilty at all, and you should simply do whatever feels right (look at Captain Obvious Advice over here). Whuddya have to say about this, Readers?

February 5, 2010

"Boys Don't Kiss Boys"

Over Thanksgiving break I relished in being able to see my friends from high school as often as possible. After having successfully wolfed down two turkey drumsticks, sweet potatoes, squash pie and of course, hummus (what a meal would be like without the Middle Eastern staple at my house, I shudder to think) I went over to my friend Brit’s house in order to partake in some late night debauchery, where I am always assured to be welcomed by her mother and six-year-old brother, Blake.

Brit and I were just having a conversation, when Blake happened to walk into her room. At that point I decided to play with him while I continued having my conversation with Brit, although understandably, we had to temper our topics of discussion. I took part in games such as “Big Meal Café” where he takes my orders and shuttles between rooms to serve me my requested meals (future husband, are you listening?), looked up different cars on the internet and talked about different breeds of dog he wanted his mother to buy him. He loved playing with me so much, he wouldn’t let Brit and I have any true conversations of our own. As I spent time with him, however, I couldn’t help but admire Blake’s precocious nature: his inquiring mind constantly questioned the nature of things around him, and all too often, his grasp for complex issues never ceased to impress me.

When we finished playing I gave him a pat on the back, but he quickly winced with uneasiness. I had seen his sister and mother do the same thing though, how was what I had done any different? It couldn’t be because he felt uncomfortable with me. Not only have I been in Brit’s home more times than I can count, but we just had the greatest time playing “Big Meal Café”, perhaps the greatest restaurant-simulation game ever invented (© Blake Lippman). At that point, he looked at me and said “Do you know why Adam Lambert got in trouble on the TV? It’s because boys don’t kiss boys! I don’t let boys touch me”

Well, I can confidently say that what I had done was not predatory in nature, and at six years old, he doesn’t know that I am gay. Blake followed his quip with, “You know, if a boy in my class said he was in love with me and he wanted to kiss me, I would say to him, NO!”
To evince the matter, I wasn’t expecting a resurgence of kindergarten gays and allies to pop up and give a clear explanation as to how being gay, for lack of a better term, “works”. However, it made me realize that no matter how precocious Blake may seem, he still lacked the knowledge to understand how some social norms are revealed to be more complex than originally taught.

Can we really explain away Blake’s comment as child homophobia? Of course not. But his quick response begs the question, how do we, as liberals, progressives, allies, gays, however we like to describe ourselves, expect children to understand the intricacy of homosexual relationships? In a country that is increasingly tolerant of gay people on their neighborhood streets and on their television sets at home, is it fair to try and make children understand such a complex issue at such an early age? When does childhood naïveté end and homophobia begin? The slippery slope of trying to change a child’s current understanding of the world, as it seems to make sense to them, poses questions of whether trying to teach the term “gay” is important in ensuring that the term is not only ubiquitous, but also, socially understood. When we hear conservative pundits pose the notion that we must “protect our children from the increased toleration of the homosexual agenda from our children” is there really something here to consider? This question creates a bigger issue for those of us who plan to have children of our own.

I don’t suppose Blake will be “homophobic” for too long, especially in the household he grows up in, and especially if I have anything to do with it. It is interesting though, to see how a more understanding society will cope with the increased visibility of gay people in all facets of life and how this acceptance will be reflected in children. As for now, all I know is that those lessons will not be taught at this year’s Super Bowl. For that, you will still have to wait.

February 3, 2010

LGBT Issues in Sport: An Introduction

Welcome to my column! For lack of a better, more creative title I’m simply going to be calling this feature “LGBT Issues in Sport.” I don’t proclaim to be an expert in these issues, but I like to think I’m a little more knowledgeable and aware of them than “Joe the Plumber.”

So if I’m not an expert on this stuff, then who am I and why am I writing about it? To answer these questions I’m going to dedicate this first post to an introduction. I’ll be writing every other Wednesday. Some may be more news-like, other posts may provide resources, and still others may be something completely different. I glean a lot of blogs and sites, but I will certainly miss some things. So if there is something you’d like me to address, please email me at rfi@duke.edu. Just indicate in the subject line that it’s related to this blog and I’ll do my best to include it here.

But first, let me introduce myself. I’m Risa and I love sports. Obviously, that’s not the only thing that defines me, but it really is a large part of who I am (just ask my friends). Over the years my passion for sports grew from being a participant to being a fan and an athlete to being a fan, an athlete and an academic. Let me explain.

The short version of it is that I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t playing sports. I’ve played on local YMCA teams, with my older brother and dad in the street, for a rec league, for my high school and now for Duke. I’ve been involved with a lot of different sports in varying capacities: soccer, track and field, cross country, basketball, ultimate frisbee, dance, gymnastics, and rowing (not to mention countless hours of catch and/or pickle). In first and second grade I remember playing basketball and soccer with the boys at recess. Throughout all of elementary school I lived for every third day when we got to have PE and always looked forward to field day. In middle school and high school I was that annoying girl who was super competitive in PE. Somewhere along the line I also started following some professional leagues. As time continued, my preferred pro league and team became the WNBA and my hometown Phoenix Mercury, respectively. As I became a more and more devoted fan I started becoming interested in the behind the scene components—like marketing and salary caps, etc. Around eighth grade I started thinking that I might like to go into sports business (lots of other eighth graders were deciding their future careers, too, right?). In the middle of high school I felt conflicted between wanting to pursue one of my other passions—social change—but also loving sports. At the time, I didn’t see how the two could work together (you know, how do you reconcile “changing the world” and the nonprofit sector with the multi-billion dollar sports entertainment industry?). Then I realized what a powerful platform sports were and began developing a personal philosophy that sport has the power to change the world. I figured I could use sport to create positive change by becoming a big powerful executive and then partnering with organizations and colleagues to develop varying initiatives. I started reading up on organizations that did this sort of work and ways in which sport has been a medium to push society forward. During this effort I stumbled across a network of academic blogs, journals and resources which I continue to follow and read in my free time. After spending a lot of time thinking about the issues the blogs raised and the work this academic community was doing, I realized how excited it all made me. Before all of this I never knew that “sport sociology” existed—but now it’s all I want to study.

In reading lots of these blogs and journals, I’ve found that I’m most interested in issues of diversity within sport (race, gender, religion, culture, etc). I am also really intrigued by the relationship between sport and culture—how sport is a reflection of society and/or how society is a reflection of sport. In this blog, I’ll be focusing on LGBT issues (if you want to talk about other things, though, hit me up!) like homophobia and gender expression and identity and athletes’ coming out stories, etc.

As it relates to Duke, I’m a regular at volleyball and women’s basketball games. I also get to a handful of men’s and women’s soccer games each season and the home track and field meets. I’ve, of course, been to football and men’s basketball games (including last year’s Carolina game) in addition to a few field hockey games and even a fencing match.

More than just a hobby, I spent a summer working for the Phoenix Mercury’s PR office, a sports marketing firm and last school year as a manager for the women’s basketball team. I’m currently a member of the crew team.

Lastly, the disclaimer: the views expressed in this blog are only mine (unless otherwise noted). They do not reflect Blue Devil’s United or Duke University or any other entity with which I am or have been affiliated.

gAy D (H) D

This is more of a random assortment of ideas that were too small to be a full blog post yet something that I really wanted to share.

Well first tangent is a moment of disbelief, a moment of awesome, is because of Henrietta Lacks’ contribution to science. Ms Henrietta lacks should probably have here name sewn in on the AIDS quilt. Her flesh literally is responsible for advancements in AIDS research. This prodigal woman died in 1951 of cervical cancer. Before she died, this black woman from the south had a biopsy of her cervical cancer tumor taken without her consent. Her cells are still alive, well actually they are by all scientific and medical standpoints, immortal. Now referred to as the HeLa cell line, they were the birth of the modern biotechnology industry with over 60,000 scientific papers published due to research on her cells. Companies have been producing , growing, and selling Ms. Lacks' flesh in high volume to laboratories for such research. The life cycle of HIV was studied in death with HeLa cell lines. Well that's enough on Henrietta - click here and here for more info.

I have to say I there have been a lot of LGBT coverage in the media lately. From Clair Bennett’s "it's complicated" lesbian-ish relationship with her roommate Gretchen on Heroes; the premier of RuPaul's Drag Race season 2; the Super Bowl ad for Mancrunch that was pulled (read more here and here), to President Obama’s State of the Union declaration to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (read more here). On a side note, the last novel I read was the latest installment to the Stardoc series by S. L. Viehl (read her blog).

Third tangent: the series could be described as Grey's Anatomy/ER in space crossed with super cheesy romance movie like The Notebook and some mixture of Star Trek and Star Wars. What's interesting is that unlike other sci-fi works where the romance is obviously heterosexual or implied as such, Stardoc has homosexual relationships and gender bending and alternative families. *Begin spoiler* The main character is the feminized clone of a mad geneticist who almost rapes her to impregnation *end spoiler*. There is also a species of humanoid that link biochemistry with their mates to marry for life, opposite marriage of course. Yet one of the male folk of said-species falls in love with another man, a human bird hybrid; so excommunication ensues. A whole host of other things happen like interplanetary slavery and inter-dimensional stepmothers that try to rewrite your memories for the fate of the universe. (I know that makes it sound like a B-movie SF flick but it is one of my favorite series a if this was a sci-fi blog I would have a full critique in praise of it.)

That's all for my tangents. (Now would be a great time to lay off the caffeinated products.)

February 2, 2010

February 1, 2010

Anonymous Posts
(1.25.10-1.31.10)

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 :)

For the second time since we launched on November 9, we've gone a week without receiving any anonymous entries. That is not a bad average, and pretty impressive when you think about it.

But okay, Readers. Just these two times. Let's get something sent in by next Monday, alright? Alright.

In lieu of the posts, here are links to our columns and features from last week that may not have gotten the LOVING (comments) that they deserved. Let's fix that!


What We've Got

Let me preface this post by admitting that I am still fairly bitter about the fact that Duke, in all it's wisdom, decided to NOT cancel classes today. That's not to say that I can't deal with a little snow, but the problem is that DUKE can't! 11am this morning and still nothing paved and hardly any roads plowed, all of us left to fend for ourselves to get where we need to go. It's times like these when I wonder at the reasoning of the Powers That Be. What exactly is going on up in those lofty heads of theirs?

On that same token though, I suppose I count myself fairly lucky. For while I can't always decipher the logic behind some of Duke's policies and decisions, for the most part I can feel fairly certain that they have the best of intentions (if not a little misguided). I feel as if there is at least some blurred sense of fairness and justice that guides many of these resolutions. This is no more apparent to me than in the manner in which Duke administration has approached LGBT issues. Has it been perfect? Not nearly. Has it always been informed and just? Probably not. And yet, in terms of policy, I would bet that the Duke of today would shock and surprise that Duke built off the grease of nicotined donations.

Unlike some schools with conservative and religious backgrounds, Duke has surpassed these modes of thought to open its policy (if not its atmosphere) to more liberal endeavors. We are recognized here as a community, as a protected minority. Duke's policy is striking in it's commitment to at least maintaining the semblance of acceptance. The same cannot be said for all our American Institutions. The struggles of the students at Notre Dame University to gain even this modicum of recognition reminds me of what Duke could be. As an institution founded upon religious understandings, Duke certainly had the potential to remain mired in conservative religious thought.

Just last week students marched to the President's office to demand that Notre Dame allow a gay/straight allowance on campus AND add sexual orientation to the nondiscrimination policy. It is so relieving to know that if I were to go to Notre Dame (which isn't completely improbable, as I come from a deeply Catholic family and attended nine years of private Catholic school), I wouldn't be granted the basic rights that even our national government is starting to recognize. Not to mention, Notre Dame is amongst the top 20 of our American universities and yet LGBT students and their allies are still not allowed the freedom to gather as a recognized student group.

Regardless of religious doctrine, Notre Dame is first and foremost an educational institution. And when religious doctrines start to impede the safety and the learning of its students, a university is obligated to address this discrepancy. So while at times I am disappointed with the manner in which Duke chooses to respond to our needs, I find that I must continue to remind myself how far we have come. Lack of Snow Day and all.

Interracial Lesbian Relationships: A Swell Endeavor

Hey yall! I'm Veronica Ray, the newest addition to the roster of bloggers at Our Lives. I play rugby, do HIV counseling and aspire to be a power lesbian when I grow up. My future posts will probably deal with race, economics, business, international news, fashion and art.

“Wouldn’t it be cool to have interracial friendship cards? Like a little white girl kissing a little black girl on the cheek and inside it says something like “Thanks for being such a great friend!” ?

Race is a popular topic at Duke. I feel like any post about race can quickly fall into the trap of rehashing the same ideas and grievances without really getting anywhere. With that disclaimer I hope I can begin an article that offers a personal perspective on my experience with race in the gay community.

My preference for black women has become a running joke with my friends both in and outside of the center. If I innocently tell a friend that I met a cool girl named Chantel, chances are she’ll reply “Oh….you WOULD be friends with a girl named Chantel.” If I tell you I’ve met a girl “of the hue that I seek” it means I’ve met a special African-American and I won’t be surprised if you joke that I’m mess for getting so worked-up. Though I am currently flamboyant about my love of black women, I didn’t acknowledge my preference till after I graduated from high school. I never wanted my interest in black women to be simply “jungle fever”- objectifying women as exotic objects who I thought fulfilled certain sexual stereotypes.

The first time I told someone that I was interested in black girls she replied “Hmm…I can’t exactly agree…black girls are so ghetto.” I found this comment strange because I have always been interested in educated, accomplished women regardless of their ethnicity. Where I grew up many people, including me, were mired in ignorance of the black community. Some friends in high school would throw around the N word in an attempt taunt my best friend, who is part black. After she went off on me for asking what part black she was when we were 14 I considered race an off limits topic. I secretly looked down on her for not fighting back against racist comments. I felt like I could tell her anything about my sexuality and I hoped she wasn’t keeping any of her thoughts from me. I realized after telling my best friend about my preferences that race was never an off limits topic for us. When I described race relations at Duke to her, she revealed that she identified with white culture. It was then I realized that our whole life I had put her in a box she never felt comfortable in.

Though I had “come-out” to myself about my preferences, I was still intimidated by the prospect of approaching an actual black woman. Before I left for college a friend scared the shit out of me by saying that she didn’t think black lesbians dated white lesbians. It seems ridiculous now, but I spent a lot of time finding examples of interracial lesbian relationships to prove my friend wrong. I thought no black girl I met would want to date me. I now know that some people are equally worried that I wouldn’t be interested in them because of their race! The many revelations I’ve experienced are a testament to how naïve I was when I entered Duke. Even after growing up among Mexican Catholics and with a family full of different ethnicities black America was still a dark continent. After being at Duke for a few months my interest in black woman remained theoretical. It wasn’t until I started telling the queer black women I met that I was interested in black women that I started getting the attention I was looking for. It was not as difficult as my friends back home led me to believe! I don’t think indicating my preferences was necessary, but it took away the lack of confidence and tension I felt due to the myths I heard growing up.

I am still sometimes amazed at my own ignorance. I read the book Hair Story at my girlfriend’s recommendation and afterwards we watched the hilarious Chris Rock documentary Good Hair. When it comes to black hair, instead of a dark continent I now see a dimly lit path. I don’t need to be a black hair expert to know that doing my girlfriend’s hair is bonding time that I look forward to each week. It’s not like my girlfriend and I talk about race all the time (though we might talk more than usual due to my academic interest in ethnic conflict, international relations, and urban studies); she just can’t help noticing things that I don’t. We joke about how a PDA-loving interracial lesbian couple is a unique sight on Duke’s campus and a rare one in the media. In addition to making interracial friendship cards, I’ll expand my business to interracial relationship cards. A simple drawing of a short white girl kissing a tall black girl is all I need. So I can say “Look! That’s us!” and mean it. As I like to say: when it comes to people, ghosts, chocolate, clothing and tea, black makes everything better. The only thing that black doesn’t improve is tenting.