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"?


  1. #1. I'm so glad this blog has made a difference in your life.

    #2. I wish I could help but I'm not sure how I could. Best of luck to you.

    #3. Hang in there. I wasn't sure how my family would react to me coming out, but I knew they would still love me, much likes yours would. Please keep us updated on how your coming out goes with your family. I wish you the best!

    #4. Counterpoint: Can you convince me why you hold on so fervently to words or phrases such as "you guys" or "freshman"? You live in the south now, ya'll is more than acceptable (and it's only 1 syllable) and first-year isn't that hard of a change.
    Granted, "you guys" and "freshman" don't offend me personally. I know that, to some, these words are a source of discomfort. For their sakes, I switched to gender neutral language. It's not that hard, and it's courteous.

  2. #1: I'm glad that you found some help in this blog =)

    #2: Hey dear, I don't know what to tell you. I've been there before, just hopelessly hung up on a guy (or in your case, girl). I don't want to just tell you that you need to let it go, but you can either go for it an take a leap of faith or try not to put so much emphasis on it and let it dissipate if you are so discouraged by your relationship with this person.
    Sorry I can't help more =/

    #3:Coming out is so so difficult and more importantly, it's a process. Don't get discouraged by the fact that you don't think you're moving fast enough. When you're ready, you'll tell them. Take only the steps you are comfortable taking.

    #4: Also to follow up on Dan's point about gender neutral language, if you consider yourself tied equally to the entire LGBT community, then just think about the fact that by saying titles such as chairman/woman would be a little hard for transfolk who may not identify as either.

    By not using gender neutral language you (although, assuming best intentions, not on purpose) exclude the existence of transfolk in general

  3. Just wanted to mention super quickly in response to swati, it's really genderqueer folks rather than your straight-up transfolk who "may not identify as either". Trans is a big umbrella and genderqueer-type identities get bundled under that umbrella but we really don't all approach gender in the same way. I am uncomfortable with a blanket statement about "transfolk" that really only applies to part of the trans community; there is a lot of diversity and plenty of us are quite comfortable with the gender binary!

    So, I would say that striving for neutrality is critical for inclusiveness for the folks under the T umbrella who don't identify within the gender binary, and that insisting upon gendered languages erases these members of our community, but I wouldn't describe that group as "transfolk" -- I'd go for "non-binary-identified" or some similar specification. It's a quibble about precision of language but, well, this is a conversation about precision of language!

  4. #3: You'll come out when you're ready. Coming out to my parents is probably the hardest things I've done, even knowing they'd be accepting. After sitting my mom down to talk about something, for instance, it took me literally a minute of silence and heavy breathing to get out the implication that I was gay. I could never even say the words "I'm gay." I still have trouble saying that phrase to anyone...

  5. #4: I think this piece changed my mind the most.

    It was important for me to hear that no, by itself, "you guys" may not be offensive, but a more macroscopic view may reveal where it fits in a larger puzzle. I think the birdcage analogy, though simple, is brilliant.

  6. If I say address a group of all girls as "guys," it might offend some, or more likely, it'll go completely unnoticed.
    And yet if you call a group of 15 girls and 1 guy "ladies" there's some expectation of correcting yourself, i.e. "Oh...AND gentlemen...sorry Eric."
    It's this contradiction that reveals how language caters to males.

    So for me it's just not wanting to be so default in my thinking and day-to-day interactions. It's about being more conscientious as a teleological end more so than avoiding offense.

  7. #4, and other posters: While I agree that the distribution of language and pronouns upholds an unfair gender hierarchy, I don't think a forced policing of language in line with political correctness is the most effective way to combat prejudice.

    Firstly, the term 'you guys,' for example, is a regionalism -- people in the northeast say 'you guys' in place of 'y'all' in the south. In practical use, the gendered content of the term has been erased. On its own, this is a weak argument, however...

    Developing a new standard of language in which sexism/heterosexism MUST NOT BE SPOKEN does not eradicate sexist and heterosexist behavior; it privatizes and represses it. At is extreme, "political correctness" merely establishes new norms of linguistic conformism. That's not to say we shouldn't question the terms that we use. Actively call someone out if what they say makes YOU uncomfortable! Reappropriate and redefine sexist/homophobic language -- remember what that word "queer" used to mean? Be outspoken (which most of you folks are clearly doing).

    Anyway... rather than being language cops, let's be iconoclasts and neologists -- why spend so much time forcing conservatism into a cave, comfortably out of sight, when we could be making difference as visible as possible?