January 31, 2011

On Transition.

[Ed. Note: This is Xavier's first post, Everyone (Great to have you writing, Xavier!). Show him some love?

In addition to all of our awesome visible and identifying columnists, we also have some awesome anonymous columnists that for one reason or another must use apseudonym not their full name (and pseudopic?). Details on anonymous columnists here.]

Sitting across from me was my best friend of over 7 years. This is the same girl would sing bad renditions of songs from RENT with me in high school during our lunch period. This is the same girl that would throw donuts at people out the window of my car to cheer me up when I was down. She was also the one who I confided my attraction to women to during my freshman year at Duke.

I came out to her not by the name for which she knew me, but as Xavier. She noticed the name change on Facebook, but she didn’t know I was coming out as a man and I was beginning the first stages of transitioning.

Her response was what I expected from someone who loves you too much to risk hurting you. She was shaken, but she tried her best not to show it.

Whenever I get into these coming-out predicaments, I always flip the switch that turns me from Xavier into a transgender awareness superhero. So off I began in the middle of a small Baltimore café, giving my best friend a trans 101 lesson. The lesson ended, but her concern wasn’t resolved.

She understood what it meant to transition, but she didn’t understand what it meant to me, and why it was imperative that I do it.

My mind begins to flip through a series of old memories from my childhood. The scolding I got from my mother at age five when I decided I wanted to walk around the house shirtless like my older brother. Or when I couldn't figure out why I was never successful at peeing while standing up. Accompanied by these are more painful memories as well; the utter disgust in my grandfathers eyes when I opted for baggy shorts and NBA jerseys during middle school. The time I got beat up in a girls bathroom and was blamed for it by a school administrator (“Well the way you dress brings more attention to yourself…..”). The time I cried myself to sleep because my science teacher wouldn’t let me sleep in the tent with my best friends, who so happened to be guys, during my 8th grade camping trip. Forced counseling. Puberty. And last but not least, when I decided to attend an all girls high school in a last ditch effort of being “cured” of my desire to be anything other than the gender identity expected of those born to the female sex.

In every transgender individuals’ life, there is a moment where you realize that you are standing at a crossroads; to continue existing in this life as the person that you were told you were since the moment of your birth, or to undergo transformation – to transition- into who you’ve always known you were. There are many people that don’t get the option of picking what road they truly want to take, upon penalty of isolation, discrimination, or in a worse case scenario, death.

So why is it necessary for me to transition?

Because I want a chance to live this life, not merely exist in it. It’s the desire to finally feel that the person – the man – who has always existed inside of me is reflected outwardly as well. To stop fighting the conflict of knowing that who I seem to be on the outside is not who I truly am. To finally have my soul, my brain, and my body in the same place. For me, to finally have the opportunity to look in the mirror and not feel betrayed by the direction my body decided to take at the age of 13.

Are there moments where I have hesitation about my decision? Certainly. There isn’t a day that goes by where my thoughts are bombarded by the possible negative effects of transitioning: How will I explain this to future partners? At what point do I disclose being transgender to people that I just met? What effect will hormone therapy have on me? How on earth am I going to pay for gender reassignment surgery (which is not covered under Duke Student Health, btw)? Will I be denied a job because a potential employer learns that I am transgender?

My friend flicks her straw at my forehead, and we both proceed to laugh as it bounces off. “I know you’ll be fine kiddo - I just want to be able to sleep at night knowing you're doing it for the right reasons”. I go to bed every night, a little more confident and hopeful that finally, I’m working towards being the person I’ve always known I was. Despite my worries, my fears, and my anxieties, I know that I’ve made the right decision. I’ve only had the last 21 years to think about it.

Anonymous Posts (1.24.10-1.30.11)

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 :)

So rush is finally over, which makes me so happy. This is consistently just the most self-serious and arduous process filled with stress over whether you said goodbye to every person at Trivia Night after Skiing in Paris or something. I would also imagine that not getting a bid anywhere is kind of a frustrating blow to one's confidence that nobody who is taking more than zero classes at Duke needs. But whatever! I am clearly a jaded, introverted 80 year old that will go back to watching 60 Minutes (Andy Rooney *swoon*) while eating Butter Pecan ice cream and sitting with All The Cats Ever.

Anyhow! A project that we're working on for The Center/BDU is to get albums of events posted on our Facebook pages/websites. We want to make sure that there are only photos of people who are comfortable being pictured at LGBT events, though, so we're having people sign off on a release of sorts. Send me a quick email at cjp14@duke.edu if you're okay with photos of you going up and I'll add you to the list :)

Aaaand don't forget that today (from 3-4) women-identified students are invited to The Center to watch the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Anonymous posts, y'all.

Everyone should read this. (link)

Some inner turmoil...

I've been out as bi since April of my junior year in high school. I am now a freshman in college. Yet, I have only talked to my mom twice about this (and hardly at all either time) and not at all to my dad. all my best high school friends know and a few of my new college friends. Is this really "out"?

After I first came out I felt immensely relieved, as if a weight had been lifted off of me. But now, I more often doubt myself. I think, "i haven't been into a girl recently. maybe I just THOUGHT I was bi" and then two days later its "wow that girl... i just wanna...". So I'm confused. I wonder if this is normal for people who identify as bi. Do you really feel "bi" or do sometimes you like women and sometimes you like men?

I think I never feel "bi". I don't know what that it is. I just am attracted to men one minute and women the next.

I think I should go to women loving women dinner but im scared and i keep missing it.

What do you think about this? I'm now boycotting Chick-Fil-A and I'm thinking we should make this (link) happen at Duke.

January 30, 2011

In which I backtrack from last week's bravery

[In addition to all of our awesome visible and identifying columnists, we also have some awesome anonymous columnists that for one reason or another must use a pseudonym not their full name (and pseudopic?). Details on anonymous columnists here.]

I did not come out to my parents, everyone. I didn't even come close! My mom derailed everything right from the start by handing the phone to my dad instead, and while I love my dad he's totally different from my mom conversationally and I wasn't expecting that. Then, last weeks' "how is the LGBT center?" conversation was totally not revived, contrary to my expectations; instead, he asked about classes and then said he was watching the game (what game? I have no idea) and needed to go.

So. I've been fluttering around dealing with the rest of my life while wondering how I'm going to handle this.

I only named myself Lawrence a little while ago (October 16). Even that is kind of a long time, really, since I started coming out en masse to people pretty much as soon as I was settled on the name. Three and half months of being absolutely sure who I am, down to my very core, and living that out-- it's starting to feel more solid. But every time I comb through my history, trying to pin down one single day when I finally knew... it's like there's this whole huge chain of causality, and it just keeps stretching further back.

I knew my name on October 16 of this year. But before that, I spent six whole weeks this summer wearing exclusively dude clothes, as a treat to myself. And before that, I had my fraternity composite photo taken in a suit, because I knew how I wanted to look immortalized on the wall. I met with Janie February 9 last year, to tell her I was pretty sure I was transgendered (the first time I used to T-word to describe myself to someone else!). But even before then, I knew what road I was on. I was terrified, but I knew. I bought myself a binding shirt October 18, 2009. Almost exactly a year before I knew my name, I knew that I was going to bind my breasts often enough that I should invest in something better than Ace bandages. And it was November of two thousand and eight-- more than two years ago!-- when I first confided in a friend that I was uncomfortable with the way that people reacted to my gender expression, and that I wished people would use male pronouns to refer to me.

And now that I think of it, it was at just the same time that I started planning to create a male online pseudonym to write under, who would gradually take over the writing of my blog until I was able to retire my female pseudonym. In the end, I stopped blogging entirely rather than follow through with this plan, for reasons I couldn't adequately explain to myself at the time. But I was going to name that new pseudonym Lawrence.

I usually tell people that I should have known for years, that the evidence should have been obvious, that I did all kinds of things "for reasons I couldn't explain to myself at the time". And that's still true, I think-- there is surely another chain of causality stretching back from that Skype conversation in 2008, and who knows where it leads-- but I also think that really, I did know why I was doing the things I did. I was just afraid. Pretending I didn't understand my own reasons allowed me to do things I desperately needed to do-- like bind-- without facing my fears before I was really equipped to handle them.

This is where I whine about the fact that I saw three different therapists over those two years, and if one of them had been halfway competent they could have shown me that I really had no reason to be living in fear of myself-- but I have made it out the other end regardless.

I guess this is really just another kind of pep talk for myself, trying to accumulate proof to use as armor (or weapons?) in the showdown against my parents... and trying to remind myself that in every case, for two years at least, as soon as I conquered the fear I discovered that there had been nothing to be afraid of after all. So although I am still terrified that my parents will disown me, prevent me from seeing my brothers, refuse to pay for my study abroad this summer-- I know that really, even if it doesn't go well (which it doesn't always!), it can't be as bad as I fear. And I will be glad that I've done it.

Hopefully after a few more weeks of using the blog as public therapy to psych myself up (sorry, folks!), I'll actually have something to report here... in the mean time, I'd like to remind folks that I'm always up for questions, no matter how basic, and that I love email! So you can comment here or email me at lawrenceevalyn (at) gmail (dot) come and you'll pretty much make my day.

January 29, 2011

Across the Atlantic

Thursday, I saw news of this:
On January 26, 2011 a Ugandan gay rights activist was beaten to death near his home.

It took me back to 2009, when Rachel Maddow completely destroy Richard Cohen on her show (which can be found here). He was the man who was lobbying anti-homosexual sentiments to the Ugandan government through a book he wrote—the government was very close to passing a bill that would’ve led many homosexual Ugandans to their deaths.

Africa, as a whole, is not known to be the most gay-friendly continent. I will confidently say that if you’re gay in certain parts of Africa, your life is in danger.

Approximately 3200 miles west of Uganda is a small West African country that I happen to have direct ties to; Sierra Leone. My parents and family hail from this country that is rich in culture and varying social dynamics.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world. The country also has one of the lowest life expectancies and literacy rates in the world. To counter these “underdeveloped country traits”, Sierra Leone is ranked as the most generous country in Africa and ranks amongst the top 12 most generous in the world—which is saying a lot for a country that suffered civil war during the turn of the century and is still recovering from the widespread death and destruction. I’m sure many of you have seen the film “Blood Diamond”.

The previous paragraph (sorry about the social studies lesson there!) was to give you a bit of info on the country that I claim as my second home. Needless to say, it’s very different from the US.

Every now and then, I allow myself to wonder what it’d be like if my parents hadn’t immigrated to the US. I allow myself to imagine who I’d be and where I’d be, if I had been born in Sierra Leone. I would’ve grown up, attending all girls’ Catholic schools in Freetown, having my uniforms sown before school started in the late summer. My skin would be darker, my body thinner, and my accent thicker. I probably would’ve had more siblings and I certainly wouldn’t be at Duke—I’d be attending the local Fourah Bay College.

I would also be hiding my sexuality. Despite the fact that the life imprisonment sentence is only for homosexual males, it would still be unsafe for me as a queer woman. There is no legal protection against discrimination, hate crimes go unpunished, and the general public lacks tolerance, acceptance, and/or understanding.

In October of 2004, the founder of the Sierra Leone Gay and Lesbian Association, was found raped and murdered in her office. Since then, the organization has been renamed the Dignity Association—this association has struggled with government support, was refused NGO renewal by the government, and has had fairly low membership (120 people as of 2007).

Living in America, despite the fact the LGBT community here has had so many set backs and so many struggles, I do appreciate how open I may be about my sexuality. My sexuality had always been a difficult thing for me to accept, as a first generation American in my family, and I’m sure that it factors into the somewhat strained relationship I have with my parents. Where they’re from, homosexuality is regarded as one of the worst things you can do (I’m not saying top 10, but it’s up there), and I can see how hard it is for them to shed their old views and assimilate into “American” culture. My parents are tolerant, but not entirely accepting (as I’ll explain in my “coming out story” post, whenever I get around to doing it…)

I’ll end this post here with the hope that there is some discussion of culture and sexuality, especially in the immigrant (1st, 2nd, etc. generation American) population, especially with all the race-talk on the blog recently (because, experiences differ not only for different people, but for different types of people). How much do you think culture or environment affects openness about sexual orientation?

January 27, 2011

A Call for High School Stories

So normally, I'd tell a story or two about my life for my bi-monthly posts, but this time, it's all about you guys and your stories. Seriously, BLOW UP the comments section with all of your stories.

So I'm currently working with Duke Professor Brian Ammons in the education department, and we're going to be conducting a basic LGBT-issues training for student teachers in the education department. For the LGBT-issues training, we want to have real-life stories of positive or negative experiences that you guys have had in schools. Whether that be a peer using homophobic language class and a teacher failing to respond, or a teacher who went out of their way to be inclusive of LGBT-identified individuals in the classroom, we want to hear it.

So what are your stories?

I'll tell you one of mine.

My favorite moment at my high school graduation was when my friend Evan got his diploma. At my high school, one of my good friends Evan was transgender, and transitioned from living as a girl named Sarah to living as a guy named Evan throughout the course of high school. His parents were not at all supportive of his transition, and made things really difficult for him at times, but he had a supportive community at our high school through the Gay-Straight Alliance. When the time of graduation came around, he was having a hard time, because his legal name was still Sarah, and that was to appear on his diploma, but it wasn't really his name anymore. It was like someone else was graduating, some figment of the past. So the big graduation day rolls around, and my favorite teacher, Mrs. Klein (who also happens to be the advisor of the GSA, and an academic dean) is calling out the names for people to walk across the stage and get their diplomas. As Evan walks up to the stage, I hear Mrs. Klein's voice booming over the microphone, "EVAN McMillan." It may have gone somewhat unnoticed by most other people, but it was the highlight of my high school graduation. It's that kind of affirmation in schools that LGBT people like me never forget, simply because it is so rare.

More of my stories about education to come in two weeks, but in the meantime, WHAT ARE YOURS????

January 26, 2011

Me and Maury

Ok. So it's confession time. I have a teddy bear that I sleep with every night. His name is Maury Povich. Let me explain briefly how Maury came into my life and why he's named Maury. I promise this has a point. Just "bear" with me (lol get it?).

So it was the day after Halloween last semester. Two of my brothers dressed up as robots. Their costumes were made out of cardboard boxes and aluminum foil. They decided to keep the costumes for a while and use them as decoration in our common room. While cleaning up the common room, we find this random teddy bear. It was white with a little bow around it's neck. It had a cute brown nose and a random string coming out of its back. We had no idea who it belonged to so we just left it in the common room thinking that if someone really wanted it, they would come looking for it.

Weeks went by and no one claimed it. Eventually, Thanksgiving rolled around and still no one claimed it. One day, someone thought it would be funny to put the teddy bear in one of the robot costumes and face it towards the tv as though it was watching it. I stared at it for the longest time. It seemed to be looking back at me with a smile on its face. So I took it up to my room and kept it for myself. And I've had it with me ever since, except over winter break when I left in too much of a rush to grab him off my bed. I originally just called him Teddy but it didn't seem to fit. So I changed it to Franklin. But that made me think of the cartoon turtle. So I asked my brothers what I should call him. During finals week, I would sit in the common room with my blanket and my teddy and just watch tv. Our favorite show? You probably guessed it: The Maury Show. So they said I should call him Maury and Maury he's been ever since.

So, now, the real reason for this story. Why in the world would a 20-year-old that has never slept with a stuffed animal before all of a sudden feel the urge to do so? Why is a child's toy so important to me?

Well, honestly, for a while I had no idea. I didn't understand how an inanimate object could mean so much to a little child. But then I sat back one day and thought about it.

I've been going through a lot these past few months starting back probably at the beginning of the semester. As I've stated before, I don't like to think of myself as having one main identity followed by others that rank in importance. Every group that identify with is just as important to me, no one more so than the other. I love that about myself. But it's also caused me so many problems. Sometimes, it seems like one of my identities doesn't necessarily mesh well with one or more of the others. And so I'm left in this sort of identity tug of war. For example, let's take my multiple identities and see how they react with each other: gay, black, greek.

Now, just looking at those, if these didn't apply to me, I would say that they never work together. Well, they do or they can at least most of the time. But, these three identities don't always make life so easy. As Xan beautifully pointed out in her post from yesterday, black and gay don't always get along. For me, this clash often forces me to choose who to hang out with and how to act when around certain groups due to certain repercussions that are bound to happen. And I hate that! I hate that with a burning passion. I hate being fake. But I also hate evil glares and cold shoulders, especially from members of groups that I identify with.

Now, let's take a look at gay and greek. We all know this can have its issues with worrying about being accepted by your greek brothers or sisters. I can honestly say that I have never faced this and I know that I am so fortunate for that. But I'd also like to point out that sometimes, some members of the LGBTQ community don't always make it easy to be greek. I remember being told by a few members of the community that I need to stop pretending to be "fratty" and "embrace my gayness." I don't know if I've ever been more offended in my life. The sarcastic or condescending tone of voice some people use when asking me if I'm hanging out with my fraternity just makes the wound bleed even more.

Lastly, black and greek can actually work very well... if you're in a Black fraternity. Well, I'm not. So when talking to other members of the Black and I mention that I'm not in a historically Black fraternity, well, let's just say you can cut the tension with an imaginary butter knife. I become shunned from conversation and almost treated as a traitor.

So, I've been feeling like a partial exile from each of these groups and it makes me feel splintered. I haven't felt like a whole person in a very long time. Couple this with the stress of school, dealing with family issues, trying to salvage what little of a relationship I was having with this guy (and ultimately failing), I've been having some crappy months. I put on a brave face when I'm out walking around but on the inside, I'm falling apart at the seems. I just wanted something to grasp on to that would never leave me. Something that would always be there for me.

And that's how Maury came into my life and became so important to me. Maury is always there with open arms and a smile, ready to give me a big bear hug whenever I feel my world slipping away from me again. Maury is always there to catch my tears as I'm trying to fall asleep at night. Maury is there to be my company when no one else is around. I love my Maury.

This Is Why I love My Home Town

This post is mainly a visual one, so I'll keep the text short.

The classiest "religious" organization in our great nation, the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), decided to make an appearance at the Sundance Film Festival, held in my home town of Park City, Utah. This "church" is renowned for their homophobia, antisemitism and funeral protests.

Some of the students at my high school organized a peaceful counter-protest to let the general public know that the message of the WBC is not tolerated. This is the actual description of the event, and here are a few Facebook links to pictures of the protest. Oh and here's a video. If you cannot see these links, please post a comment and I will work on making them visible to you. They are a must see!

While I cringe every time is see the signs of the WBC, I feel warmth in the bottom of my heart. For every one follower the WBC convinces, thousands more realize how radically wrong their message is. Counter-protests like these exemplify how the nation is slowly changing their views on issues of sexuality. We WILL get the equality entitled to us, just give it time...

January 25, 2011

No Gay Black Males Allowed

[Please let this piece develop before judging.]

There is something to be said about how an individual identifies and as a result where that individual feels the most comfortable. I identify primarily with my race and everything else falls into some order that I don’t care to really enumerate. What is important, however, is that my sexuality just recently became an identity for me and is probably high up on that un-enumerated list. I didn’t venture into the LGBT center until the spring of my junior year. Before then I didn’t feel as though I belonged there. My issue now resides in the fact that even though I accept my sexuality as an important part of my identity, I’m still not sure how much I fit in at the LGBT Center.

Why? Oh, well because I’m black.


Now, no…it’s not just because I’m black and no I’m not saying the LGBT Center isn’t supportive of all ethnicities. Janie/Jess/Peg/and the rest of the crew love us all. What I am saying is that the LGBT Center is not always my go-to place for comfort or security because I don’t necessarily identify with that community first and being a minority of a minority (being both black and gay), understandably, can make it difficult to decide where you fit in.


However, the bigger issue I’m trying to address is the flip side of how black culture doesn’t necessarily accept LGBTQ-identified persons, especially black males/those who identify as black males. Black men in the LGBT community at Duke may not feel comfortable or identify closely with the black community due to this lack of acceptance. I’ve been sitting around complaining to my black, gay female friends about how the overlap of my identities isn’t met at the center while failing to consider how our counterparts feel about their needs being met.

I’ve come to realize that I have the luxury to walk into a predominantly black, straight party without receiving stares or snide remarks. Get this…I can even dance/make-out with another female with minimal backlash (not that I give a frog’s fat ass what someone says—sorry Chris Perry, I couldn’t resist). When I inquired as to why I don’t often see black males from the LGBT community at predominantly black parties, I was informed that it was too much of a hassle. I was told they don’t want to feel the pressure to monitor their actions or the worry of being judged. Some don’t want to deal with the threat of a physical fight or verbal altercation. Now this is not to say that all gay, black males feel this way but no one should have to share those sentiments.

While the club scenario is only one minor example of how the black community has excluded gay, black males it stands to reason that regardless of the specifics—be it a party, organization, or center for black culture—this needs to stop. How you choose to place value on your identities isn’t really important but feeling that you have a community to affirm you in each of your identities is.

It’s like this for me…At one point there were signs outside of establishments that read: No Colored Allowed. Now it seems the black community has placed it’s own sign up: No Black Gay Males Allowed. We could go into a whole discussion on the history of black culture and why this may be but who cares? It's wrong. Does anyone care about the rationale behind the Holocaust or the African slave trade? That question doesn’t even warrant a response.

January 24, 2011

Anonymous Posts (1.17.11-1.23.11)

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 :)

Let's just get these up ASAP :)

Everyone on this blog and in The Center has been so helpful, supportive, and encouraging to me during my very rough first year, in which I began three transitions: from Seattle to Durham; from undergrad to grad; from female to male. Without The Center just being a place to go when I needed it, without the kind words and activism of everyone here, without the guidance of our wonderful staff and student leaders, I would still be lost. Thanks to all your support, I have found the strength to come out to my family, to come out to my friends and colleagues, to walk into that therapist's office three months ago, and to make the phone call this week to begin hormone replacement therapy. I know that you will be here for me as I continue my transition, in times both ecstatic and distraught. Above all, I am grateful that Duke's LGB community embraces transfolk as equal members, as part of the LGBT family; this reflects upon your openness, tolerance and acceptance in a world that often lacks those qualities. My success and happiness is a testament to the strength of this community and to the commitment of its members to making Duke a place where we are free to just be.

Thank you.

I keep seeing her around campus and I'm pretty sure she's my soul mate because I feel the strongest connection even when I just look at her for a second. But she has a boyfriend (hopefully she's bi) and we've only talked once anyways. I doubt she even remembers it.

I tried to convey to my parents and sibling that I wasn't attracted to women over winter break. The whole family was all together on vacation, so lots of family time. I wanted to tell them all at once. I was sort of ready, and waiting for the right time. But every time the right time came, I would miss it, or get shy, or not realize it until later. "That walk is so gay" "That man looks gay" "Lesbian women are less attractive" These would have been good opportunities. I don't want to sit anyone down and state the news. I want it to come up in conversation.

Days went by, and we were getting closer and closer to the new year. It was my New Years Resolution of 2010 to be open with my sexuality. I've made lots of progress. Last winter I said "I am gay" out loud to myself. The walls to my neighbors bedroom were pretty thin, but I don't think they were home. In August I actually told my other neighbor, when she asked. But that didn't really count, because that neighbor was a strange Durhamite (no offense).

I told some of my close friends in November and December. (No follow up on their parts, for some reason. Was I too casual? I'd sort of like to talk to someone about it...I mean, it's not a big deal--rather, I don't want it to be a big deal. But I want to talk about it.) I made out with a guy for the first time (not the best experience as I turned out to not be sexually attracted to him, sorry dude).

It was nice when a friend and I were driving in the car after shopping. The woman at checkout was attractive, I thought. And I was flirting with her. My friend and I were driving, and he commented how she was attractive. I concurred. He asked if I would follow up, or something. "I would if I weren't gay," I replied. "Yeah...(?) How long have you known that?" That was cool.

But anyway, vacation with the fam. December 31. I am looking for an opportunity to let it slip that I am not attracted to women. And then the opportunity arises. We are all gathering at the table for lunch. My dad is seated. I am seated. My mom is standing. My sibling is milling about. "Do you have an announcement to make?" My mom asked. All eyes were on me. This was the moment. How perfect! Casual, sort of funny, everyone would be told at the same time. "I submitted the application," I replied. Crap. They were so proud of me.

That night, I tried, almost desperately to tell them. It was 11pm, they were tired, and trying to go to bed. My dad was grumpy. I decided it best to tell them a joke, with the implicit punch line being "I'm gay." It didn't work, they were tired. I cried in the shower and decided to give up on trying to come out.

When I saw my friends from home, we didn't get around to talking about it. Maybe by then I had given up on coming out. I saw one friend who I had told over Thanksgiving. We didn't talk about it at all...Then back at Duke. Nothing has happened. No guys. No discussions. With the Duke community, I think I'm at the point where if it comes up, I'll come out. I'm not on the rally I was on at the end of last semester, where it was a fun game to see how many friends I could tell. But I'm at the point where I am still too shy to tell friends from home, but especially mom, dad and sibling.

The pathetic thing is I KNOW they would be loving and accepting. Even my sibling.

I called mom and dad early tonight. I told dad about my day, and laundry. He told me about their trip to Europe. Then I suggested my mom get on the line. I told them about my recent academic success. They were proud. I told them how I haven't been eating properly, because I've been so busy. "I think you need a girlfriend," my mom suggested. "No," I responded. "I don't want one." "Why?" My mom asked. "Too busy?" "No, I just don't want one," I replied. There was a silence. Not really awkward, but 3-4 seconds of silence. "Well we are so proud of you," my mom concluded.

Another missed opportunity.

Can anyone convince me that gender-neutral language matters? I'm not talking about slurs ("ho," "bitch," etc.) but about pronouns and the like. Does it actually offend anyone when I address a group of men and women as "you guys"?

January 23, 2011

In which I take everything too seriously

[In addition to all of our awesome visible and identifying columnists, we also have some awesome anonymous columnists that for one reason or another must use a pseudonym not their full name (and pseudopic?). Details on anonymous columnists here.]

People tell me I'm brave, for being so out. I've been hearing this since I started dating a girl, when I was fifteen years old, but I've never really been able to agree with the assessment.

A sense of honor is critical to my identity. Throughout this post I'm going to be using some pretty strong language to describe my relationship with honor, but that's because I really do feel this way; please understand that it's not silly to me. I can't be satisfied with myself unless I am able to think of myself as being an honorable person. Truth is the foundation of honor.

So, when I was fifteen and I realised I was totally in love with the cute girl in my math class, I broke up with my boyfriend of ten months and asked her out. And then I told my parents and my friends that I had a girlfriend. My friends were great, even if my timing was laughably bad-- two of the girls were actually topless at the time, what was I thinking??-- and my parents were terrible, but I didn't consider the results when I decided to tell them. If I had thought about their reactions-- well, I probably would have waited until all my friends had their shirts on, and I might not have told my parents at all. But I also would have been a little disappointed in myself for considering a lie.

Honor comes at a cost. I accidentally broke someone's headphones at work last month and they cost me $250 to replace, but that's an easy cost to pay. When I was fifteen, my honor cost me a lot more than that.

I refused to break up with my girlfriend, and I refused to lie about us. I followed every single one of my mother's draconian rules. I spoke on the phone with my girlfriend for 120 minutes a week and no more; I never emailed her; I received one good night text a day but did not send any; I only saw her in person with the appropriate chaperones (an odd number, three or greater) and went home as soon as one chaperone was ready to leave; I didn't even say "I love you too" if my mother could overhear our conversation.

I stopped eating, that year.

However, I am still much happier about that year than I am about the years that followed. When my girlfriend graduated high school, my mother declared that our relationship was over. I was seventeen by this point and exhausted. I decided that, apparently, all the honor in the world couldn't make me happy, and I started seeing my girlfriend in secret.

It didn't last long; it was always hard on her that we could spend so little time together, and her life was different as a college student. She tended to feel shortchanged by my unwillingness to confront my parents more. She started cheating on me, and after a month or so I found out and we broke up.

It hit me hard, because I felt like I had sacrificed everything I had for her. I had damaged my relationship with my family by coming out, and I destroyed it by lying. I couldn't look my friends in the eye any more, because I was so ashamed of having involved them in my lies. But the thing that hurt the most, really, was knowing that I didn't even have my honor. Maybe forcing the issue with my parents, and refusing to end the relationship, would still have ended in disaster-- but I would have been able to hold my head high through the fallout.

These days it seems like poetic justice, really, or perhaps just a fact of the world, that my girlfriend cheated on me; I colluded with her to betray my parents' trust in me, and she betrayed my trust in her -- if she had so few qualms about one betrayal, why would she balk at a second? I tried to learn my lesson from it.

Which is why, this Christmas, I finally finished coming out to my fraternity. I swore an oath to my brothers, and I take my oaths seriously. I had always felt a little uncomfortable with my place in the fraternity, as if I wasn't as honest with my brothers as I wanted to be, but I had no idea why I felt that way. As soon as I was sure that I was not the cisgendered woman I had been presenting myself as, I began to withdraw from the fraternity as much as possible, until I knew who I really was. It is always painful to be around people who misgender me and be unable to correct them, but it was unbearable with my brothers because I felt so keenly that I was forsworn. I couldn't stand to lie to them, but I didn't know the truth yet. I felt sixteen all over again.

So as soon as I had a name, I started introducing myself to everyone all over again.

Maybe it was brave. I'll never be able to think of myself as brave until I've told my parents the whole truth, unflinchingly. What I've done so far is only what I had to do. And it doesn't matter to me how painful it is to do the honorable thing; it is infinitely more painful to know I have chosen dishonor.

I think this has turned into a pep talk to convince me to tell my mother the truth, when I make my obligatory weekly call tonight. I was going to wait until it had been a year since I first put into words my desire to transition, which will be mid-April. I was going to wait until it had been a year since I chose my name, which would be nine months from now. I was going to wait until my youngest brother was away at college, a few years from now. I was going to wait... until I absolutely couldn't stand waiting any longer.

But I think that might be now.

I'm really fucking terrified by the idea, so I'm not going to commit and say it's definitely happening -- but if it does, I promise I'll post again.

Wish me luck?

January 20, 2011

Transgender Discussion Group: The Center now has a trans discussion group, and I thought I'd spread the good news! Can you believe this is happening, Seniors? High-fives and all around.

From the LGBT Center website:

Are you Transgender? Are you Genderqueer? Do you consider yourself transsexual? Are you female, but do not conform to gender norms? Are you male, but do not conform to gender norms? Do you believe you are a different sex than the one you were assigned at birth? Are you not sure where you fall in the gender spectrum? Do you dislike the gender spectrum? Are you annoyed by being forced to check the M or F boxes on applications? Did you answer yes to any of these questions? Do you feel we should be asking more questions?

The Center for LGBT Life is forming a group for all individuals who do not conform to gender norms or embrace the sex they were assigned at birth, including those who identify as transgender, genderqueer, transsexual, intersex, gender questioning, or are reading this blurb and getting excited that there might be a place for you on campus.

This group is for Duke students only. If you would be interested in attending this group, please email LGBT Center Program Coordinator Jess Evans at jess.evans@duke.edu

January 19, 2011

The Best Teacher

So it's Tuesday night and I just got out of my first class of The Laramie Project, which in case you don’t know, is the Matthew Shepard story. We’ll be performing in April if you’d like to see the show. We’ve got an awesome cast and if you’d like to keep up with the show blog check it out here.

As you can imagine, it’s gonna be an extremely intense experience. I’m exhilarated and terrified at the same time. But I’m not here to talk to y’all about Laramie. I’d really like to reflect soon on my experience going back home (ya know, the whole Hilary + my Jehovah’s Witness family), but I think I need a little bit more time and perspective before I write about it. So my first blog post of the year is gonna dig a bit deeper into my past.

It’s important for you to know that I went to a charter middle and high school for low-income kids, all of who will be the first generation in their family to go to college. It’s super intensive and amazing. I went to school early and stayed late everyday, for an extra class and extracurriculars, which meant I was at school for at least ten and a half hours a day. But during robotics season (betcha didn’t know I was team president!), we were building at school late into the night. Through all of this, the teachers were right there with us, devoting their lives and time so that we could compete in regional and national competitions. It was so incredibly bad-ass.

My first interest in robotics came early, but my dedication began after I moved out of my parents’ houses after a rough patch. So it was a tough time in high school and I was trying to spend as much time away from home life. I like to think that we all have like that one AMAZING teacher that was our light and our guidance and our friend and tough in the best ways. That teacher for me came through robotics.

He actually came out to me last June, which I was totally shocked/thrilled about. But a couple of nights ago told me that he has AIDS.

Now, if you were around at Duke in 2007, you’ll know that Chris Purcell didn’t fuck around with World AIDS Day. But honoring those lost was as real as it got for me. In our generation, we are fortunate to have access to more education and information and safety and health.

But a couple of nights ago, shit got real. This was a teacher who would fuck with us by offering extra credit on tests for spelling his complicated last name correctly, then write it wrong on the board that day. This was a teacher that would stay with us at school building a robot past midnight, who would take so many of us on our first plane rides, who showed us how we could make high school so much more than classes, who made it possible for me to learn how to write grants and how to be proud to be the first in my family to go to college. He was my rock in such a dark period of my life.

I feel honored that he could open himself up to me and say to me, well, no, I’m not doing too well right now. I am so grateful to know his story, or parts of it at least, because there is something horrible that hurts the ones we love the most.

Working on The Laramie Project is going to be really difficult for me. First, because I have very little experience with theatre. Secondly because I have such a deep, emotional dedication to the gay world. But mostly because of this teacher, the hate crimes he shared with me, the honesty he bared, and the path he helped me get on.

I am going to dedicate all of my energies in honor of everything that he has done for me, and in hope that we will overcome.

As always, so so so so so much love.

January 18, 2011

Relationship Oriented, But Not Narrow

After reading the top three essays in the Modern Love college essay contest (Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define; May I Have This Dance?; My Dropout Boyfriend Kept Dropping In), I wanted to add my personal experience to the dialogue about my generation’s conception of love, sex and relationships.

I consider myself relationship oriented. I find them simple. Straightforward. I don’t like starting my shivering walk of shame without saying goodbye. I don’t like getting hickies from over-zealous partners who don’t know about my “No Hicky” policy. I enjoy my rough, one-night-in-Vegas hookups, but I can't always stop myself from developing romantic interest afterward. Hooking up can be edifying, but is also as potentially lethal as entering a relationship.

Why am I like this, especially when avoiding commitment seems to be the official philosophy of my generation? The rules of the game are: Don’t ask anyone on a date. Don’t expect exclusivity. Don’t ask if you’re going to see someone again. But I do ask people on dates (I’m careful not to use the terrifying word date,) I do expect exclusivity (though this is not requisite for all successful relationships) and I do ask people if I’m going to see them again.

I don’t have a laundry list of interesting characters that I’ve done interesting things with. My post-college romantic life has been a sandwich: a couple of hook-ups buttressing a long, committed relationship. This relationship was the meat-substitute of my romantic life. I wouldn’t trade a million encounters in far-off locations or quirky stories for what I had with her. When our relationship ended I felt wounded. All last semester I was only able to hook-up. I rearranged my non-negotiables. I reevaluated my preferences.

In the midst of this, I asked a girl on a date off-campus. I was relieved when she said she didn’t want to pursue anything further. I didn’t see a relationship unfurling between us, nor the potential for a hook-up. My relationship-oriented brain didn’t calm down until it knew the other party had no interest. In my simple world, if you like a date with someone you go on another. And then eventually you are in a relationship. This narrative is hopelessly quaint. Impossible to achieve consistently, if at all. Did this really use to be my life?

I’d like to analyze the Malcom X movie with someone and make-out with them afterward. Someone I can go out to dinner with. Someone I can have amazing sex with. (Preferably someone who is into kinky shit but is also a sexual health nerd.) Someone I can go thrifting with. Someone with a car. Someone I can dance wildly with. If I met someone now who embodied all these qualities I would feel crushed. Like a butterfly in an exhibit. I don’t like the feeling I get after watching Malcolm X with someone who might hold my hand or fix my collar, but nothing more. I am frustrated by long, intimate, sexually tinged conversations with essentially straight friends. I feel alienated when I grind with someone I couldn’t converse with. This incompleteness is new to me.

The few queer girls I knew in high school rotated around me like a merry-go-round. In middle school I went to sites like Mogenic. In high school, I used Myspace and Facebook (Is anyone else disappointed that on Facebook you can’t search for people by sexual orientation?) My most epic moment was an awkward, groping kiss near the entrance of a Plano mall that was the result of a month-long long-distance online relationship. Then I met another girl who played World of Warcraft and sent me a (obviously fake) picture of her hot girlfriend in Iowa. We watched Brokeback Mountain in a theater (where she got asked to leave the women's restroom) on New Years Eve. She drove me to my house and we watched the ball drop with my family. Then she had to go home, ostensibly to feed her grandmother's cats. Another girl, the reason for the phrase "You looked better on Myspace", visited me at Vacation Bible School. Meeting people online still feels shamefully juvenile and desperate. (The origin of stories you don’t tell anyone, unless you write for this blog.) Over winter break a friend suggested I start using OkCupid. It has so far proved worthwhile; though I've already contacted or rejected every single gay female in a 25 mi radius.I think the more gay saturated an area is, the more the gay and straight youth converge in their attitudes on relationships. If I had more women to pick from, I might not feel the need to commit. (I could also be permanently relationship oriented, or value my relationship skills enough not to let then atrophy. )

I first meet someone in person, usually at school. We start talking. We start talking more and seeing each other more. Eventually someone makes a flirty comment. I’m nervous. I like this person a lot but don’t expect them to feel the same way. They do. We starting hooking up and going out, everything blurring together. Eventually someone pops the Facebook relationship status question. We’re official. In my narrative there’s no room for disappearing acts. If someone becomes unresponsive I imagine that they got busy. I wait. I don’t pine for them. No relationship, no problems. Then the cycle begins again. I don’t envision another relationship created by my dated high-school formula. Like the quadratic formula, it doesn’t work for every polynomial.

Blog Meeting Tonight!

There'll be a This Blog Meeting tonight in my room (Kilgo J210) at 9. While new writers are more than welcome, anyone who just wants to help out or has ideas to share should come! Everyone's invited. These are also consistently just The Most Fun.

See you tonight!

January 17, 2011

Anonymous Posts (1.10.11-1.16.11) Part I

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 :)

Hey y'all - a couple quick things. Wednesday is the first BDU meeting of the semester. We'll be discussing the Anti-Hate Speech Campaign, Spring Charity Drag Show (I'm... considering this), Lavender Ball, The Statewide Lobbying Trip and National Day of Silence. We also made a lot of progress on distributing flags this weekend ("Ugh! Finally!" -You. I know, I know.) and we'll talk about how this is going down in the next week or so.

Also! There's going to be a meeting for This Blog tomorrow night at 9 in my room (Kilgo J210). These are consistently just The Most Fun and cookie filled. Whether you're interested in writing or just helping out in general or just hungry, come! Come. Everyone's invited.

Ok. Anonymous posts. Let's do this.

As a christian my faith contradicts my sexuality...well maybe since I'm more in the questioning phase rite now...but anyways I was lookin at verses in the bible against homosexuality and hoping that I could prove them wrong. Well they all seemed pretty straight forward...no gay sex. But that brought me to believe what about gay relationships with no sex involved? I would prefer that anyways...I don't really wanna do anybody, boys or girls. But then I always have to wonder if I'm just being a bastard who dots her i's and crosses her t's but doesn't really do what's right. Maybe my nonsexual lesbian relationship could only occur in a perfect world. Until then, I know I sure don't like guys maybe asexual is the way to go?

The other day I had a conversation with a friend that really upset me, but I wasn't able to adequately express my frustration for some reason. She shared that she and a mutual friend of ours believe that my girlfriend is trans. Apparently they had come to this conclusion solely based on her appearance--neither of them have ever had a proper conversation with her. I was particularly upset by their assumptions because they are both part of the community--bisexual and trans--and should know better than to label people based on physical attributes. I struggled to express my frustration to my friend, however, because I didn't want her to misinterpret my taking offense. I wasn't offended that they think she's trans--that would imply that there's something wrong with being trans, which I certainly don't believe. My girlfriend, while she does have short hair and a mildly masculine build, is a beautiful, extremely feminine, lesbian woman. Period. Had either of them taken the time to get to know her they would understand that. So, I suppose I was bothered because I know how upset and hurt she is when people mistake her for a man. The entire conversation was extremely frustrating, and I think my friend still doesn't understand why I was upset. Our community is so concerned with breaking down stereotypes and presumptive labels placed on us by our heterosexual peers, but in reality, we are just as guilty--if not more so occasionally.

"I can guarantee a haircut will tell you nothing about a person's gender, who they love or how they fuck." -Andrea Gibson

She is an incredible poet, by the way. You should check her out.

She doesn't know that I'm crazy in love with her, and that I've been in love with her for longer than she'll ever know, and that the only thing I look forward to each day is the possibility of telling her someday how much I feel for her. But even this small possibility makes me happy.

[Part II here]

Anonymous Posts (1.10.11-1.16.11) Part II


“Stop living your life in a box, I mean closet,” she demanded. Never realizing I existed only in shadows of the metaphorical landscape, I began to wonder what it truly is like to live my life in a closet or maybe the accidentally too square space of cardboard. I imagine it to be rather dark and strangely secluded, and stepping into my bedroom closet helped to affirm this. There I was, closed up in a closet too dark to tell the distance between my face and the imposing door, too small for me to move, but sit there and wait, look down at the gentle light peaking in near my feet. To open the door suddenly I was flushed in clear air, the world surrounding me magnified several times. I was God standing there looking as though from the heavens at that closet, its door slightly cracked open covering the darkness of the space. I wonder what it would be like to step out of another, different box, the box of disclosure. If I told the whole world, maybe I could be a super-god delegating the space of secrecy of my confused, dark, closed-off past.

Yet, I have only walked out of a bedroom closet, and this is a closet of a different dimension. What if this psychological space clings to me regardless? I emerge as a washed up, just born alien relinquishing myself from the quiet familiar. My devilish hair drags in curls down sidewalks, slippery and thick coats of syrup tasting the salty gravel. People don’t see this weird specimen as it mulls about around them, but I experience them through windowed spectacles peering out into the “real” world matrix we call existence.

But I think I might be dreaming.

Who can say people that are not out to all those they know are suddenly these isolated, invisible, self-hating lurkers in the closet? How much power does this closet have to describe who I am and what I am going through? How much freedom is there from stepping out, bathing in the light of transparency, whether or not that openness be forced? When we come out of the closet, who is to say we aren’t just stepping into new ones, just with a little better wallpaper and a little more light? Is not the social stigma sometimes associated with sexuality another just as limiting box? The slippery slope of this metaphor can lead to a slight paranoia, as the box once is originally defined, can also morph and side step you on the corner of a new acquaintance. Suddenly when I meet a new group of people, I am once again thrown into the dark hole. Maybe a sign that says, “Legalize Gay” would impede the heteronormative judgment most of us face in first conversations and peripheral side-glances.

I find it troubling that the person who originally got me into the box happens to be out of the box, and never was really in the box in the first place. She is straight, although I only assumed it until she told me. I guess she was in the box about her sexuality too; yet, I can only imagine what that would be like since I’ve been living in symbolic isolation most of my life. Maybe she is in the box with me now with secrets we both know, but I don’t mean to rule anyone to such a claustrophobic existence. Who knows what life is like out there in the open fields of heterosexual and openly gay society? I seemed to have been prancing just fine on these fields until she told me, and like pressured air, I fell into a forgotten ditch, and then the sun set too quickly.

With this much fun playing around in the closet, I am saddened to acknowledge that sometimes metaphors can just be too black and white. As much as “coming out of the closet” seems a colorfully enrapturing experience, not only with the light taking over one’s eyes, but the rainbow flag now etched tight to one’s skin, it does seem a little lacking in complexity in some respects. It doesn’t help that the historical and etymological origins of “coming out of the closet” provides for rather precarious grounds to situate others and myself. It’s a mixed and mashed metaphor incorporating the Baltimore debutantes “coming out” with skeleton statues lying listlessly in the “closet”. Like stepping from death into life, not the other, more natural way around. Too bad I don’t believe in reincarnation.

Let’s work with “coming out” first. According to Chauncey, gay people in prewar years then did not speak of coming out of what we call the gay closet but rather of coming out into what they called homosexual society of the gay world, a world neither so small, nor so isolated, nor, often so hidden as “closet” implies. The Baltimore’s debutantes came out in the presence of hundreds of straight as well as gay and lesbian spectators at the public hall of the fraternal order of Elks. The glitz and the glam associated with debutante events seem a little much for my taste.

Match that up with “the closet”, and the darkness sets in again. Skeleton in the cupboard, or closet, is a colloquial phrase used to describe an undisclosed fact about someone, which, if revealed, would have a negative impact on perceptions of the person. The cupboard is more of a British term, and so I imagine it with shiny, fine tea cups and some liquor hidden to the side. No more these grand theatrical beauties, we are hollow skeletons walking the stage, the light enlivening flesh from tired bones. Not such a pretty sight, but quite fascinating to think about. We gays defy scientific logic; we have found the secret to life.

Beyond the simple opening and closing of doors, I presume my experience to more of a continuum along trails less defined. Moving from the idea of openness and closedness to a more complex set of contradictions, like the contradictions between expressiveness, verbal disclosure, directness, honesty on the one hand and concealing, indirectness, deception, ambiguity, equivocation, discreetness, and tact, on the other hand. This foggy trail, it leads into distance expanses vaguely forming and never just wood and timber cut at 90 degree angles. I am not a mime acting out spaces, powered face juxtaposed with stripes of black. I am not a voiceless prisoner of my own doing. I do not live my life in a box, I mean closet.

[Part I of this week's anonymous posts here]

January 16, 2011

As I Sit Here and Freeze...

It's midnight, I'm alone in my tent, and I'm a Floridian. Aside from what I will discuss, can someone explain to me the logic of living in K-Ville? Just saying...

As I sit here and freeze, I have had the chance to reflect on how my life has changed over the past year. Until this past year, I had always pushed my sexuality aside from my life, or as I called it, "focused on my studies." I've known for a long time that I am gay, but I didn't know what to do. I knew the stigma, and especially in high school, my objective was to avoid all antagonizing remarks. I was already a math-and-science loving nerd, so I just wanted to try and remain as normal as normal could be for me.

At the beginning of my senior year in high school, I knew that I had to come to terms with who I was, especially before college. It was already October and I was already feeling sort of lost, I had very little guidance, and I really didn't have anybody to ask for advice, and then I met my best friend. Without Raymond, my life would not be the same.

Now to be honest, if I didn't have a crush on Raymond, I don't know if I would've even approached him, given the randomness of such a conversation and my awkwardness. However, if I never summoned the courage to just say hi and get to know him better, we would not be as close as we are today. But he was able to be the guidance and support that I desired. Raymond knew my concerns; he had already been through the process of coming out, even though he is two years younger than me. He has such strength and courage that he was able to pass on and reveal in me as I began my coming out process. My new year's resolution in 2010 was to be comfortable with myself, and not lie about who I am. I can say that is the only resolution I have ever completed in my eighteen years of living.

As I sit here and freeze, I think about what resolutions I could potentially make that I would be able to fulfill (yes, it's the 16th of January, I can still make resolutions). Actually, this resolution didn't dawn on me until I started writing this post, but I think it's a good one: I want to be somebody's Raymond. I want to be helpful to anyone who needs help. Raymond has been there for me from the beginning, and I can't thank him enough.

Now I want to return the favor.

I have spoken with some of you, the readers, about your concerns with coming out to friends and family. I am more than honored, and there are many wonderful contributors to this fabulous blog who would love to help you out. Please, if I can stress anything about this post, and you ignore the details above, please know this:

You are not alone. You should not come out alone. There is a group of people, not just me, but your friends who want to help.

Just like Raymond is there to help me, we are here to help you.

January 15, 2011

The Nexus and Gender Progressive Housing

[Ed. Note: Hey y'all. Here's a plug for a SLG that I'm sure a lot of you will be interested in :)]

At the gender summit earlier this year, Jacob Tobia said something that really got me thinking: "If you don't ask for exactly what you want, you'll never get it."

He was referencing gender-neutral housing; the new policy (which allows for gender neutral roommate pairs in the two and three bedroom apartments on Central Campus) was a big step in the right direction, but what does it say about Duke University that, when changes were on the table, it stopped there? Only a tiny fraction of the available rooms at Duke are open for anyone who doesn't want a same-sex roommate pair.

Central Campus is fantastic, I love living there (the kitchen has proved to be a fantastic testing ground for complex vegan creations, and it's wonderful to have enough space to have lots of people over, not to mention not having to tote toiletries back and forth to an awkwardly shared bathroom), but until the front page of the Duke website has pictures of Central Campus, I'll have a big problem with the current policy. Central Campus may be in the middle, but West Campus is the symbolic "center" of Duke. It makes me sad that Duke says that if you want to do things a little bit differently, that West Campus just isn't the place for you.

When I look around Duke, there's a lot that I love, but there's also a lot that I love knowing I can help change.

And that's where The Nexus comes in!

The Nexus is a living group that I've cofounded (the premise is a society for intellectual discourse), and a community that I hope will be representative of the potential of Duke to be a place that is more welcome of differences. Working with many of my close friends to found The Nexus has been a huge part of me trying to make a Duke that I could love wholly, that I could love to love.

We'll be on Central Campus next year, and, excitingly, we get to be the first recognized group ever to formally allow for multi-gender roommate pairs at Duke, which I think is a big part of having a living community which is truly recognizes and supports all gender expressions and sexualities. Furthermore, the success of the Nexus could pave the way for rolling out gender neutral policies on more of campus!

Even if you've already determined your living arrangements for next year, we'd love to see you at our recruitment events--they should be a lot of fun!

To check out our calendar of events or to apply to be a resident, go to our website: tinyurl.com/thenexusatduke

-Elena Botella

January 14, 2011

The least interesting coming-out story you will ever read

This is going to be a short post, for all the right reasons.

Over winter break, I came out to the rest of my family. A few knew before, but now everyone is in the loop. I did it at dinner one night- I saw an opening in the conversation and jumped in. Everyone was surprised, but within a few minutes they had accepted it. Despite the suburban and conservative nature of my family, nobody had a problem, nobody asked an insensitive or insulting question. Conversation marched along, nothing different. I literally have nothing else to say about it, which is kind of awesome.

At first I felt gratitude at being accepted by my family. Then I remembered that it's the job of a family to accept its offspring. I began to question why I was feeling gratitude- if I was born this way and didn’t choose it, why should I be grateful for acceptance? If someone with brown hair is born into a family of blondes, should they feel grateful for not being turned out of the house? As a fiery young idealist, this thinking eventually brought me around to anger at those who don’t accept LGBT individuals, regardless of their reasoning.

Queer happens, get with the times.

As my wise friend Jacob Tobia once shared, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous- don’t fuck with us.”

January 11, 2011

Goodbye Dad

This is an abridged and slightly modified version of the speech I read out at my father's funeral on January 5th, 2011.

First, I want to thank everyone who is present today; the outpouring of support and love shown to John and our family has been incredibly touching. Thank you also to St Paul's for graciously offering the use of the cathedral for the service.

I'll keep this short, as there are just a few things I want to say that haven't already been said.

Essentially, I want to thank my Dad for the lessons he taught me about life and for what he gave me. From a young age he instilled in me a sense of wonder and of curiosity about the world. Dad, there seemed to be nothing you didn't know. You knew why planes flew, why the mountains were capped with snow, where the rivers ran and why the stars shone. You taught me never to stop asking why. You'd never shy away from the real answer either, no matter how long, complex or abstract it might be. You instilled in me the value of hard work, of motivation and for striving towards one's dreams. To say that I wouldn't be where I am today were it not for you is a gross understatement. You were superman. If I have even half the life experiences that you had, I will consider myself fortunate beyond words. You were so many wonderful things to so many people.

And I am so immeasurably sorry to see you go. I'm sorry that we'll never get to hike the Dart-Rees, or the Hollyford like we were always going to. I'm sorry that you'll never get to see me graduate. I'm sorry you'll never meet the man I end up falling in love with and marrying. I'm sorry you'll never get to see your sons again and share in the joy of their lives. I'm sorry you'll never get to see your grandchildren grow and experience all that life has to offer.

But I think the last lesson you taught me was the most important.

On December 28th, as I saw the life drain from your eyes as you lay dying on your bed; in that moment I learnt the most important thing that I think I will ever learn in my entire life. In that instant I learnt exactly how precious life is. I knew that I wanted to live, that I am more determined than ever to live my life to the fullest. But I don't begrudge you for choosing to go. I forgive you for what you did Dad, I forgive you because of what you meant to me, of what you meant to everyone here and because I want Tom and Chris and Michael and Matai and Kae and Mum and Rosemarie and Gra and everyone here to know what I know surer than anything I've known before - that life is fleeting and so very precious.

Goodbye Dad. I love you.

Anonymous Posts (1.3.11-1.9.11)

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 :)

Right. So. I'm currently at NC State right now because I'm taking a class here this semester. I have to use public transit to get here, so even though class isn't until 11:45 AM, I need to take a 7:57 AM bus from Duke and cannot leave State until 4:37 PM. Fine.

The problem is that due to the weather, classes that began before 10 AM were cancelled when I left Duke this morning. "lol see you in class" - This Delay. Whatever. I got on the bus (which was 15 minutes late) and 40 minutes later I stepped off onto the sidewalk.

And immediately fell.

State is covered in ice right now. Like, this is the most untraversable ground I've ever been on. I made it here to Mann Hall, though, falling only once more and slipping four times. And then I saw this "Wolf Alert" (really? Alright, sure.) relaying that my class had been cancelled. MLIAJ. So, yeah. If anyone from State is going to pass through the Mann Hall lobby in the next 6 and a half hours, feel free to say hi.

Thank god we have a blog about LGBT issues at Duke where I can complain about winter weather.

But hey! Welcome back, Everyone! Can't wait to see y'all. The Blog'll return to our regular schedule/volume on Monday, so look out for that. Also! Blog meeting the next night (Tuesday the 18th) in my room (Kilgo J210) at 9 PM. Cookies provided! All are welcome! Etc, etc.

Okokok. Anonymous postz.

I graduated last year and didn't know this even existed til tonight. I wish I had directed my friends who were questioning to it eons ago because I remember how alone they felt. It's one thing to hear you're not alone, and another to see a blog full of people just like you who feel the same way. Keep it up, guys and girls!

- lgbtq ally '10

I'm going abroad this semester and this community is the biggest thing I will miss at Duke. Not the Chapel, not my classes, not the basketball team, and not LDOC, but our wonderful, growing, accepting and loving LGBTQIA community.

Can't wait to read about you all via this blog. :)

Does anyone besides me find that talking all the time--I don't mean some of the time, I mean *all* the time--about LGBT rights is really boring?

I sometimes wonder if we would get more stuff done if we just did it instead of always talking about it.

January 5, 2011

"Little Black Rock"

[Ed. Note: So here's something different :) I'm really happy Steven Li emailed me this story he wrote (along with commentary) the other day - I think it gives The Blog an interesting dimension that we haven't seen before. Thanks, Steven! CG love.]

I've had this image in my head, for a while now, of two boys standing in the rain. And they're completely different--one is the image of athleticism; the other, short, scrawny, and incredibly shy. You would look at them and think, they'd never be friends in high school. But that's the thing about childhood, no one gives a damn about appearances. These two radically different boys were in fact friends, best friends maybe, and for one of them, their relationship meant a little bit more than just friendship.

I'm gazing upon myself, it seems. You probably don't need to guess which of the two boys I was. Growing up, my dad's work relocated almost every year, so we moved a lot. Before middle school, I've spent each year in a different school, in a different state. So it's safe to say that I've never had a best friend, because as soon as I made one, I'd have to leave him or her behind.

We had just moved to L.A., and the first night I couldn't sleep. I was homesick for Boston, and I hated change. So it was early morning, I was lying awake and hating life, and there comes a knock on the door. It was Ryan. His father owned the apartment complex we had moved into. Ryan asked if I wanted to play ball. I told him that I wanted to go rock hunting.

That's how I met my first best friend, and first crush. I guess that's where my inspiration for this little story came from. Friendships back then were so simple and easily made, and they seemed to expand inside you, filling you up with optimism. Love was simple then too, before you knew it was called such. Before all the complications of adolescence, and then adulthood, settle in, there was simply a magnetism that you didn't quite understand, but strong enough to bring together two incredibly different boys.

Since coming to Duke, I've learned a lot about love. I've become very optimistic about love, and I guess that's the second part of my inspiration for this story. I hope that I can share a bit of my optimism with everyone, through this little story. Love can be as simple as a childhood crush, as simple as two boys standing in the rain, waiting for the bus to come.

* * * * *

"Little Black Rock"

It’s raining. It’s raining, and we’re standing on the sidewalk after soccer practice. We’re still wearing our uniforms, the banana yellow jerseys and muddied shorts that say “Southwood” on them, and the soccer cleats. The rain makes little streams of dirt run down our legs. And we’re waiting.

It’s going to be ten minutes before the next bus comes and already the rain is pouring down harder than ever. I’m so wet I might as well be swimming. It’s cold and I wish I hadn’t forgotten my jacket at home. Ryan is wearing his; he never forgets.

I cough. Although I try to hold it back, lock it away in a little box inside my chest, it comes out anyways—loud and obnoxious. I’m so embarrassed that I stare awkwardly at the curb. I hope Ryan didn’t notice. He does notice, though, and reaches out his arm, his hand still in his jacket pocket. I stare at him.

“Come on,” he says.

I start to stammer. “I’m okay, really—”

He doesn’t budge. “Coach’s gonna kill you if you get sick.”

I give in and step under his jacket. He wraps his arm around me. Neither of us says another word, but words aren’t needed. Together we stand like that in the rain.

I’ve never felt my heart pound so furiously.

In that moment, everything felt so simple. It didn’t matter if the boys picked on me for being the smallest on the team. Or that I didn’t really like soccer, but had only joined because Ryan insisted that I try out with him. It didn’t matter that the bossy lawyer with the perfect comb-over hair was going to be at the house when I get home, finalizing the divorce papers so that my dad can live with his new family in Palm Beach.

None of that mattered because Ryan had let me stand underneath his jacket. I think how amazing it is that he let me be his friend. Ryan, the perfect athlete, the one that everyone liked. He had only been on the team for half a year and already they were talking about making him the captain next season.

Maybe it was fate, or probably just plain chance, that Ryan was my next-door neighbor when we moved here in the summer of my second grade. He had knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to play ball, and I said no, that I’d rather go collect rocks, so we went around rock collecting until the sun went down and Mom made me come inside. I’ll always remember that day because Ryan had found a cool, shiny black rock that looked like glass. I had really liked it, so Ryan let me keep it and take it home with me.

As we’re standing there in the rain, I can’t help but think of that piece of rock. It’s still sitting on top of my drawer after all this time, a little chunk of glass. It looks like nothing special, except when the light catches on the surface, it kind of ripples and when I look at it, I feel lost within its depths, kind of like I’m looking down into an endless well, about to fall off the edge.

That’s a little bit like how I feel now, like I’m about to fall off the edge of the world. It’s a scary feeling, because it means that I’ll have to come crashing back into reality, eventually. But for the moment, I’m content, waiting in the rain with Ryan, feeling weightless.

Feeling like I can fly.

January 3, 2011

Anonymous Posts (12.20.10-1.2.11)

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 :)

It's been a while, Readers. Last week we didn't get any anonymous posts :((((((((((((( but it looks like we're getting back on track just in time for the beginning of the semester (eek).

A couple things to discuss:

- The Center's facebook page has too few fans, y'all (especially considering the number of people who 'like' this (seriously, Those 5 Million People? Seriously.)). If you're not a fan yet, let's fix that now!

- Risa wrote her first post for our friends at Develle Dish (hi, Develle Dish!) today. Check it out here :)

- This is probably my favorite graphic of the break so far. (via my friend Chris Russo's (sweet illustrator and pokemon/Nicki Minaj enthusiast) awesome Tumblr)

- This NYT article has been floating around on Facebook this week. Not to knock Utah or anything, but wtf a little, Utah? These kids are so badass though, and this piece is filled with so many great moments, like: "Ms. Goddard has warned officials that such policies may violate the federal Equal Access Act— a law passed by Congress in the 1980s, mainly to protect Bible study groups in schools, that has become a prime tool for protecting Gay-Straight Alliances from arbitrary hurdles." That has to hurt a little bit.

Alright. I... think I'm good for now. Anonymous posts, yo!

You know it’s funny. Despite me being out to all my friends and my immediate family, I still have reservations about what I post on Facebook that could “reveal” my sexuality because of my extended family. Sure my sister’s own sexuality was met with support or indifference from members of both sides of the family, yet I still fill insecure about disclosing my own. College has really opened things up for me, and I feel more comfortable in my own skin and identifying my own sexuality. But I feel as if this new me is invalid when I’m around my parents or online. Maybe it’s the stigma of the gay stereotype, or my mom’s desire that I’m not as “loud” about my sexuality as my sister is. I know my family won’t mind and my parents have expressed their support, but it doesn’t stop these feelings.

Being at Duke has allowed me to be open about my sexuality. Coming back home for the holidays has kind of left me feeling smothered and choked--not only with my family (who aren't all that accepting) but with a few of my old friends who I considered very close before college. Whatever the case, I know I can't hide who I am and who I've become; a stronger, more confident and happy person. I'll be spending the day with two close friends on Tuesday. I'm going to come out to them then. This is something I wouldn't have EVER thought of doing before starting college.

Why is it that LGBT people have to come out? Straight people don't have to "come out" as straight. If it truly makes no difference that we're gay...why do we have go through a production of telling everyone?

And who should we come out to? I don't have time to tell every single person individually. I shouldn't have to... straight people don't have to.