April 27, 2010
April 26, 2010
Glee was incredible, etc. etc.
Let's just get to it.
I love being involved with the Center. Let’s get that straight. But another thing I want to get straight is this: I am straight. For some time, I’ve enjoyed being low key in the Center and showing up to events, even helping to plan some, and I LOVE the people who make up this community. But something inside me still keeps me from being 100% committed or involved. Something inside me pulls me so hard to get more engaged with the issues, to be an advocate for LGBT issues, to prove that things are looking up and with hard work here, now, we’ll get more people to be aware of these issues, too! And yet, I can’t bring myself to be fully invested. I guess you could say I’m not completely “out” as an ally. Or, maybe I am (I surely am proud to be an ally), but every time I bring up that “I’m hanging out at the Center” or “Yes, I’m participating in Day of Silence” or “Hey, come with me to this event, you don’t have to be gay or anything,” I worry that people still … assume. I especially worry about this with my co-workers. But why does that bother me? There’s nothing wrong with being LGBT … right? Is that why I feel the need to specify “straight” on my Facebook page? To qualify ally with “straight?” Then again, socially, religiously, politically, there still is something “wrong” with being gay, generally speaking. Is me being a straight ally then make the cause more valuable? More valid? Does me being removed from the “problem” give the cause more power? To a certain extent, I think it probably does. If someone is not affected by immigration issues, or healthcare issues, or minority issues, then the voices most loudly heard are usually people more empowered to speak – oftentimes, those not affected by these issues. Unfortunately, sometimes those calling for oppression are louder than those calling for freedom. But that is changing. Hopefully. Slowly, but surely.
So I ask myself again, why am I an ally? What’s in it for me? And then I think that if I’m asking myself that, then others sure as hell are asking themselves that, too. When I first started going to the Center, I felt like I was approached with caution, curiosity, and suspicion. To this day I still sometimes feel that, whether that’s truly the case or not. Do I do it to prove how “open-minded” and liberal I am? Do I do it just to get a reaction? Or, do I do it to prove that there are others like me out there, too?
After years of introspection, I think I’ve been able to start identifying the reasons I am an ally. I am an ally for the humanity and dignity and worth in you and in me. I am an ally because you deserve the same respect, consideration, happiness, protection, peace, and rights as anyone. I am an ally because I see the absolute beauty of perfect creation that you are, just as you are. No, this is not me up on a high horse. This is me exposed completely at my deepest core.
But, while these thoughts and feelings are in my mind and heart, I still struggle with openly expressing them. I still need help coming out as an ally and really not give a shit what people think – as long as it gets them to think about LGBT issues. And in that respect, I remain in solidarity with those who must question whether they can come out on a daily basis, for those who do struggle with LGBT issues and discrimination, and for those who question the power of their voice and presence.
I like to think of myself as an ally. I come often to Fab Fridays, I hang out at the center in my free moments, and consider many of the individuals within the LGBTQ community my friends. Though, I often question how good of an ally I am. Yes, I am strong on the social part- but I feel like I lack in the activism part.
Recently, DUU put up the "me too" chalkboards on the plaza. One night. As I was looking at the posts for inspirations, I saw someone wrote "I hate transgendered people." I inwardly thought how horrible that was. But that was it, I thought about how bad it was then moved on to another part of the board and wrote superficially wrote "I hate going to the gym." As I waited for my companion to write something on the wall, another ally who's a familiar face at the center saw the post- vocally said "that's horrible" and proceeded to cross it out. She rewrote "I hate bigots." Echoing in the spirit of the board, my companion wrote "me too" next to it. Now that's an ally. I was so disappointed in myself in that moment- at how passive I was. I felt like a coward. I realized how recently I've become more lax in how approach the various forms of "soft" hate speech around me. I used to be so vigilantly in questioning my friends who casually used "fag" or "retard." Now, I let words coolly pass me with an unreceived eyebrow arch to mark my disapproval.
In the weeks since, I've made sure to vocally question whenever my male friends say "no homo" or "i'm not a queer." I try to openly entreat them as to what that means- why are we denigrating groups people for the sake of humor. I think I realized why I stopped doing this before, it's not a popular thing to question privilege. You get stares, stammers, and sighs of frustration. But, it's necessary. All forms of silent (and not so silent) repression are connected and need to be attacked.
Still, I constantly question how good of an ally I am for all disenfranchised groups- whether it based on gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, etc. I feel like that I am not doing enough. I feel like awareness is not worth anything if you don't do anything with it. At this point, I feel like most of my stock is based on awareness.
Thank you to all the people in the Center, especially Janie and Chris. You make the lives of so many people on this campus just that little bit better, even if you've never met them.
I hate being stereotyped. I am a very politically conservative individual who hates being stereotyped as a gay-hater just because I'm conservative. I have no problem with LGBT individuals, but I do when they automatically assume I dislike them (And this was even before the DCR issue!). This is not a blanket statement, and most LGBT's do not do this, but a few here at Duke have branded me a homophobe just because I am conservative, even though I've given them no reason to think that.
I really want to be able to support the LGBT cause, but every time I run into someone who judges me, I have a hard time. It seems almost like they *need* someone to be against them, as it justifies them somehow. I know most LGBTs aren't like that, but please know that the best way to advance your cause is not through trumped up victimization, but rather just being who you are and not actively seeking out people to be against you (once again, not saying most of you do that). I feel many people would rally behind the LGBT community if that happened :)
I would like to apologize for my post last week in which I falsely claimed to have been diagnosed with HIV. I intended it partly as a joke, and partly as a means to encourage people to get tested. I hope that the latter did occur. I understand, however, that the post created a lot of distress and for that I am sorry.
I’ll probably just spend my time doing research and making websites and hanging out with people I already know instead of taking on the gargantuan task of assembling a cohesive LGBT woman-identified community. Though I’ve already broken down my task into manageable parts and sent some e-mails, I still feel sorry that I live in San Antonio and not metropolitan, livable, liberal, "we’re not really part of Texas", Austin (gag me with a fucking spoon.) I could commute one hour plus in horrid traffic to go to the discussion groups at the LGBT youth community center and the hipster lesbian clubs. I probably will just because I’m going to Austin anyway to work with professors at UT. Late-nighting will be difficult since I don’t have any friends who live in Austin (I don't want to repeat the Homeless Challenge.) Making friends in Austin is high on my to-do list.
Even if I volunteer at the few LGBT organizations and art spaces and go to the (male/straight/American Eagle butch dominated) gay clubs in San Antonio I doubt I’ll become a part of a legitimate community or find an acceptable hook-up. This is partly because I have difficulty talking to total strangers and partly because I rarely find someone I want to talk to.
I’m leaving Duke just as I realize that a great lesbian community exists in Durham. I have well-connected friends (ahem Summer.) And I might actually see the women I meet again. Though I’ve lived in San Antonio my whole life I have a paltry LGBT network. I semi-regularly communicate with two queer women. Maybe I fucked up in high school. I spent too much time doing math problems and not enough time getting to know the girls on the softball team. When I got pissed off that no LGBT youth community/resources existed I merely changed my Facebook status.
Now that I’m an anonymous college-age human rather than a wholesome youth I think I would have more options. I can go clubbing all I want but finding a hook-up isn’t as a mechanical, guaranteed process as it is for gay men. When it comes down to it, my desire to build community and serve the LGBT community has always stemmed from my desire for hot women. The more people I meet and the more involved I become, the higher my chances are of meeting a woman who fits my esoteric qualifications (non-white, butch-ish or femme-like, indie, artsy, conventional haircut, internationally-minded, certain piercings, intelligent, tall, fashionable, D&D free.) Though my interest has lusty origins, I can now say that being part of such a community has rewards beyond meeting people to hook-up with. The truth is that the women I’ve hooked up with don’t go to the Center. Some people don't feel the need to be part of the LGBT club. I admire their spontaneity. I can't leave my sex life up to chance. The cholos who used to hit on me on the bus are starting to look good. Maybe I should use this summer to squeeze the gray areas out of myself instead of trying to squeeze the LGBT out of San Antonio.
As I wonder what/who I’m going to do this summer, I can’t help but be bitter that I’m from San Antonio, whose motto is “Keep San Antonio Lame.” Sure, it’s better than being from middle-of-nowhere Iowa, but having to hunt for LGBT shit that’s open to women is getting old. I’ve promised myself that this is the last summer I’ll spend in San Antonio. I don’t care if Harvey Milk told me to “Stay in San Antonio and fight!” He probably never went there himself.
April 19, 2010
By now, most people have read this or this and are outraged. In order to channel this energy into constructive, informed discussion, BDU is holding a meeting tonight at 8:30pm in the Center for LGBT Life . Please come, ask questions, and discuss.
I’m frequently disgusted by my own arrogance, and little seems more egotistical than the self-masturbatory experience of a blog post. But I finally gave in in response to Summer Puente’s challenge that the boys “step up their game.” Here it goes.
In the last two weeks I’ve been coming to terms with the reality that I’m really, probably, most likely not gay. And that’s a tough fate for me to accept.
Then again, I never have been gay, or at least never commoditized myself as such—other people may have, and I don’t really mind. This has mostly been fine. It was only problematic once, when a guy I was hooking up with sort of vindictively told my girlfriend I was gay. I was shocked, only because I’d never used that referent, or attached it to him. In this context, it felt ugly to me. It was an accusation.
When I came to Duke,
April 16, 2010
Some of you may know that my favorite quote--a quote which truly changed my life--is by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He said "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." When it came time to apply to college, it likely comes as no surprise to those of you who know me that I chose the option to "create your own prompt" (I am, after all, the girl who applied for Program II).
Inspired by this quote, aware of the role it played in changing my perspective, and convinced it articulated my passion and forthright manner, I wrote that it was "the motto by which I aim to live my life." A line in my essay said something about how "For someone who is not afraid of death or dying, I'm awfully afraid of my life ending, at least as Martin Luther King defined it." I gave some examples of things I'm passionate about (Title IX; Girls for A Change) and things I speak up against (hate speech; an experience in Israel) before I concluded by writing that "When people don’t speak up about everyday inequities, regardless if it is they or others who are affected, it is dangerous and harmful to our society. That is what MLK meant. Our lives become polluted with injustices if nobody speaks out—if everybody is silent...That is why I can’t be silent. Not now. Not ever." [Thanks, Mom, for finding my essay on the computer at home!]
And yet, today, for the fourth consecutive year, dating back to my junior year in high school, I will participate in the National Day of Silence. [An aside: My first year, I was the only person I knew participating. As a senior in high school many more people took part (a trend for which I do not take credit). Coming here, though, from never having a community that participated, is really empowering and inspiring.] Surely, being silent today is not equal to being silent at other times in my life. After all, today is a day of not talking, not really a day of "silence." But there are still some weird opposing forces at play. Some LGBTQA advocates don't agree with the Day of Silence. Personally, it made me recall MLK's quote and my essay and about the seemingly contradictory messages, which are really not contradictory at all.
I’m silent to speak up against the bullying I’ve witnessed. I’m silent because I care. I’m silent because you deserve respect. I’m silent for your right to be you. I’m silent because you’re silenced every day.
I’m silent because you are my friend, my family, my classmate, my peer, my teammate, my mentor, my role model, my co-worker, my neighbor—a member of my community. I’m silent because I cherish you. I’m silent because I love you.
I’m silent because your fight is my fight; because your pain is my pain. I’m silent for change. I’m silent for progress. I’m silent for equality and I’m silent so there will be justice.
April 13, 2010
HIV does not discriminate. I know that as an educated college student who practices safe sex and who is not a drug user, I have felt removed from the virus. It is something I have read much about and am fully aware of the statistics, but I never thought that it would hit so close to home. I took the obvious precautions to be safe, but always felt that they were at times unnecessary.
It is extremely important that as sexually active individuals, we know our status and the status of those we are engaging in sexual intercourse with.
While I was sitting waiting for the results, my mind was racing. We were safe. We thought we knew each other’s statuses. We did everything “right,” yet here I was in a situation that was only supposed to happen to people who did “wrong.” While my test did come out as negative, my life has been forever changed. This has been one of the scariest weeks of my life and no one should ever have to go through this fear. I urge everyone who reads this to go out and get tested and continue getting tested for the rest of your life. There is no excuse not to and there is never a reason to stop getting tested.
April 12, 2010
This week we had a blog meeting, and tons of people came! It was pretty much The Most Fun and We've got lots in store for the rest of the semester.
Also! I have to plug the production of RENT here at Duke because I am responsible for keeping you up to date with Duke LGBT news. And this is Duke LGBT news because duh. The production is nothing short of amazing, and we were all blown away. I'm going again next weekend, come with me!
Anyhow. We got one anonymous post this week!
I have the most traditional values. I am a Black female who has been straight all her lives with straight friends and straight boyfriends. I have memories of experiences with 2 girls from my childhood. I am so attracted to other women that even talking about 2 girls kissing gets me so aroused.. it's not the same when I discuss heterosexual couples. Nobody I'm friends with would ever think I was anything but straight. But the truth is, I'm questioning. I don't know if I want a relationship with another woman, or how I'd handle it, but God knows that I really want to FUCK another woman. I put up an ad on Craigslist for someone like me... and I can't wait till I find her... so I can experience bliss: my dream of having sex with another woman using a strap-on.
[Ed. Note: Oh, hey, #1. I think all I can offer is to be careful on Craigslist. It can be kind of sketch. But so long as you stay safe, by all means you do you.]
I didn’t know this had happened until the first day of 7th grade when Catherine and her friends interrogated me about my “bisexuality.” Lacking any sense of self-preservation and with the knowledge that the damage had already been done, I told Catherine I didn’t care about whom she shared this knowledge with. One day I had a group of nerdy, conventional friends. Another day they all avoided me. The words fag, dyke, bitch, slut and whore followed me from advisory to the long bus ride home. I had been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder in elementary school. This wave of hostility brought out the worst depression of my life.
I came out to my parents around the same time. I had come home from school crying. My dad went to my room and asked me question after question. He asked me if I had a boyfriend and then asked if I had a girlfriend. When I answered yes, he told me I was too young to know and left the room. I tried in vain for months to convince my parents that I wasn’t too young to know. My dad, concerned about my safety, forbid me from telling anyone about my sexuality. Unfortunately, the damage was already done.
My new friends were potheads and punks, though I was too emotionally detached to be more than their mute accomplice during school. I had been a tomboy from a young age but slowly morphed into a feminine creature. At first I was grotesque. I wore too much make-up and thrift store clothes. Now I am completely comfortable with my identity as a femme. In 7th grade I managed to still make excellent grades. I was isolated but not without hope. By 8th grade I was barely passing my classes. The “girlfriends” I had in middle school only wanted sex from me or told the most vicious bullies about my sexuality. Everyday I faked sick or begged my mom not to take me to school. I was convinced that I couldn’t stay in school and had no future. The summer between 7th and 8th grade I only ate cheerios and nearly fainted in the shower.
Though I constantly felt like I wanted to die, I didn’t have a plan for how to commit suicide. I faint at the sight of blood, had no idea how to get a gun (I hope no one’s surprised that my Texas house was sans gun) and didn’t have pills readily available. I spent most of my time listening to avant-jazz and making crude drawings. When my parents and I met with the school counselor I spent the whole time hysterically crying and yelling at her. I was convinced that all the other kids in school were stupid. Though I don’t like to draw now, I became quite good at anatomical drawings. This one picture particularly impressed me and I was fond of copying it:
My privilege saved me from suicide. My parents had enough money to send me to therapy and put me on anti-depressants and cared enough to let me leave therapists who I felt weren’t supportive. The transfer to private Catholic school saved me academically and wouldn’t have been possible without my parent’s economic status. Though I was marked as the “weird lesbian girl” at my Catholic high school and wasn’t socially active, I did well enough to get into Duke. I am privileged that my family now treats my sexuality as a non-issue. As a result I can completely commit to being out to everyone I meet at Duke and can act as a witness to all facets of Duke’s social climate. I am not afraid of how people will react to my sexuality because I’ve heard it all. I still don’t know what it’s like to live somewhere where race and sexuality are not hot-button topics. While I intend to have this experience soon I am also grateful for the perspective I gained from being out at a young age in San Antonio, Texas.
This is part of a poem I wrote from my “dark period.” I sometimes chant the stanza to myself when I’m feeling down:
If god hates fags
You think that I would burn and die
My outside rubbing with my inside
Like they teach you to rub two sticks together
April 9, 2010
I just wanted to alert everyone about the Full Frame Film Festival happening this weekend in Durham (it actually opened tonight). This is The Festival's 13th year.
I was going through the list of featured films and saw some had LGBT themes. Here's a brief list I compiled with synopses (directly from the site) and their respective showtime information. Just to be clear, I've not seen any of these and I'm not "endorsing" any of them or their viewpoints. Though, hopefully some of you will be able to attend one or more over the weekend. Be sure to let us know what you thought of it! You could even write blog post review of the film! Tickets are $10 each...see this link for more information.
I don’t know if I’m considered part of the ‘in crowd’ or not, but I’ve definitely felt like part of the ‘out crowd’ before. There's been at least one occassion when I popped into The Center to see what was going on and left soon thereafter. In between, I stood uncomfortably and felt really out of place. As my Duke career has continued on, I’ve gotten more and more involved.
The first thing I did related to The Center was to stop by early on in my freshman year to see what they offered in terms of resources and programming and stuff. I met Chris Purcell, who showed me around and introduced me to Janie (who I still didn’t really know personally until this semester). I don’t think I went back until the spring (still a freshman) when I attended to an ally training event. At the end of the year, around this time, I helped table for National Day of Silence because it was something I did in high school and wanted to continue to do. I think I might have made an appearance at a BDU meeting or two last year, as well…but they weren’t particularly great experiences. It still felt like everyone knew everyone else and I didn’t quite fit.
This year, I made it to a BDU meeting at the beginning and made it to some (but not all) subsequent ones thereafter. I started blogging as a way to contribute to the community on my own time and I got really involved with the anti-hate speech campaign. Since then things have really changed for the better. I’ve even recently started hanging out in the back room during chunks of down time in my day.
I’m sorry for that long explanation, but I wanted you to understand the evolution and spectrum of my experiences with The Center. I haven’t always been around or involved in all the ways that I currently am.
From my limited experiences, the best advice I have, and this doesn’t necessarily apply to # 1 but may apply to individuals who are really looking to be involved, is to join a committee and work on a specific project. BDU meetings alone don’t really introduce you to people and don’t facilitate making relationships with others. However, working on a project for BDU, much like working on a group project for a class, gave me a space to get to know a small number of individuals on a more personal level. For me, it was less intimidating to be a newbie in that smaller setting. And, because I was working on something I was really passionate about I felt comfortable just being myself. Getting to know those individuals opened the door for me to get to know others. I don’t know everyone…I’m constantly meeting new people in the back room or at a BDU meeting, but I feel really comfortable in the space that The Center creates.
To #1, to address why you “should go”: I don’t actually think every LGBTQA identified individual has to go to The Center or be involved with BDU or whatever, so I don't really feel comfortable telling you that "you should go." I do hope, though, that The Center meets everyone-who-is-looking-for-that-kind-of-space-or-community’s needs. I, personally, really value having a community focused around something that is a part of my life. A comparable example is my involvement with the Freeman Center for Jewish Life. There, and at The Center, I can engage in activities and conversations that I can’t (necessarily) do/have with my friends in my block or from my freshman dorm or, to a somewhat lesser extent, my classes. Whether it’s campaigning against hate speech or celebrating the Jewish Sabbath, these are things I love to talk and think about and to act on, but that I couldn’t do on my own or with friends I may know from elsewhere. If you can have these experiences with your group of friends then you don’t need The Center to fill a void for you. But for me, it fills a really important void. Or, if you have no burning desire to have these experiences, then that’s perfectly okay, too! Lastly, I can’t say enough about the kind of individuals I’ve met through BDU and/or The Center. These individuals are quirky, passionate, original, genuine and down to earth--some of the qualities that I value most in my friends. They are real. I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer or knock the rest of the Duke population, but I haven’t found that anywhere else (if you disagree, please show me what I’m missing on campus).
[stay tuned for a sports related column soon...sorry!]
April 8, 2010
Viviana Santiago, Professional Baller: Today, Vivi wrote a letter to the Chronicle regarding the BSAI Step Off two weeks ago. Some things were said there that most definitely needed to be addressed. It is important to recognize though, that like Vivi says, her letter should not be an end to this conversation, but rather the beginning. (More on what happened that weekend coming soon).
It’s no secret that any community will have community “norms”—for better or worse. Norms include language, common interests, clothing style, you get the point. I think part of the reason some people don’t want to come to the Center is that they feel that they won’t fit in. Nobody wants to feel marginalized for not following the norm in larger society only to find that they are also outside the norms of a smaller community. Just as I had a preconceived image in my mind of what norms a sorority girl must follow, I think many students have an image of what queer life at the Center is.