February 28, 2011

Goodbye, Part 1.

I had an incredibly long conversation with a good friend on Saturday night. I won’t get into what we discussed, because well, that's her business. But there was one particular part of the conversation that stuck out from the rest of our discussion:

“Oh [Insert My Legal Name], I’m glad you called me, I just don’t think I could talk to any of my guy friends about this. I just don’t trust them.”

To preface this, I am not out to this person. Thus, in that moment, I wasn’t disappointed at the fact that my friend had completely disregarded my identity. But the more I thought about what had happened, the more upset I became.

Though I talked about all the wonderful reasons why I am transitioning here, I never really mentioned the more agonizing decisions that had to be made. One of the biggest ones is going through this process while knowing that with each step, I am losing the sisterhood that (most) women share amongst each other, and furthermore, the trust that most women have for other women.

Even though I've always realized that I could never truly identify with being female-gendered, some of the greatest and most life changing moments I've had has occurred in spaces designated just for women. Just to preserve the intimacy of these moments, I won't go into every single time I've felt this way. But the point is, the thought of not being able to exist in these spaces any longer is something that didn't hit me until a few weeks ago. And quite frankly, I'm going to miss it.

It wasn’t something that I realized I had been taking for granted until I began to slowly change my appearance. The more masculine my look became, the more my relationships with other women began to change. Once, I had enjoyed the freedom of entering a restroom without receiving suspicious gazes. There was also a time when I would walk to blue zone, and a woman wouldn't cross the street because she suspected I might harm her. There was also a time where I wouldn't be pinned as a misogynist because of my continual discussion of my attraction to Rihanna (which, I have been talking about since the beginning of my time at Duke….but now, I’m objectifying her?). The more and more that I come out, the more that I notice the relationships with some of my female-identified friends, whom I formerly found to be fairly close to, are slowly becoming distant over the “issue” of my transition.

Then on top of that I’ve personally added the guilt of leaving the tight knit queer women’s community and crossing to “the other side”. Though I realize that this pattern of thinking is completely irrational, it's a bit difficult to get over when leaving such a community changes everything about your life: who you date, what spaces you are accepted and welcomed to, and even what you can say.

I know, I know, it comes with the territory, and I should “man up”. But as someone who identifies as male, but yet still physically possesses all of the traits that come with being born with two X chromosomes, getting used to living in this in-between has been brutal for the past few weeks. It’s as if I’m expected to know everything there is to know about being male within the span of 2.5 months, and then act appropriately. All the while, completely disengaging who and how I was raised to be socially over the past two decades.

Though my guy friends have been more than welcoming and accepting of my transition (I even received a lesson entitled “How to date as a man, 101” last night- which may turn into an entire blog post in and of itself), I’m not going to front and pretend that I am 100% secure in my male identification. Granted, I know this is why it's a transition and not an event. It’s a process, and during that process, you become more accustomed to the gender you identify with, and more comfortable leaving the gender role you were told to accept since birth.

Honestly, I know that to assume that I can’t have the same loving, trust filled relationships with women because of transitioning is not the best way to think about this transition. I also know that the relationships that really matter will always be there no matter how I identify. However, knowing that the dynamics of my existence as a social human being are about to change is frightening. Hopefully with time, I’ll get over this fear.

Anonymous Posts (2.21.11-2.27.11)

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 :)

Risa here. [Ed. Note: Thanks for filling in for me this week!]

So, if you haven't heard yet, Lady Gaga's video for Born This Way came out (I'm punny) today. Before I'd heard it, one of my friends told me that it was "basically an anthem for the LGBTQ community." Given that the music video opens with a pink triangle and a unicorn, that friend just might be right. I must confess that (my loneliness...oh, wait, wrong pop artist), my favorite line is "don't be a drag, just be a queen." And we have some fabulous drag queens at Duke, if I may say so!

In other (more important) news, women's basketball beat Carolina (sorry GLBTSA, friends) last night and clinched a share of the ACC regular season title. We have the top seed in the tournament, which is this upcoming weekend in Greensboro. Thanks to all of you students who burned benches to celebrate. Not.

That's all I got for now. And now for our anonymous posts, folks!

Oh, and I know it's midterms and in your mind you're already at the beach or on the cruise, but keep your submissions coming!

I have learned more about myself in the last semester than I have in my last couple of years. Most of that is thanks to Common Ground and the LGBT community at Duke. I have always kinda known that I was bi, but this last semester has really made me want to explore my bisexuality more. I feel like one of the reasons that it is so hard to come out of the closet as a bisexual is because you really can get by only being attracted to one sex. I often think that it would be dumb to put myself through all the struggles that non-straight people suffer when I could just appear to be straight. However, seeing other bi-sexuals (well one) at CG and just hanging out in the LGBT center has really helped me be more comfortable with my sexuality. Its even gotten to the point where I discuss going to gay clubs with my straight friends and have come out to numerous (well 2) people. But now I’m kinda on a roll and all I want to do is tell more people. Its so amazing that my experiences at Duke in the last semester alone have inspired so much confidence in me. I wish I had been a part of the LGBT community all along.

February 27, 2011

My Queer Secret

At first Queer Secrets seemed to be written in a foreign language. Demisexual. Cisgendered. Panromantic. Genderqueer. Intersex. Dysphoria. These words, which initially seemed pedantic and clinical, came alive as secret makers attached them to their stories. Some people didn’t yet have words to describe themselves. Some loved labels, some rejected them. Queer. Questioning. Asexual. Dapper queer. Dapper femme. Sub. Dom. Genderfluid. Transmasculine. Words of pride. Words of inclusivity and exclusivity. Words that defy the status quo, both heteronormativity and homonormativity.

I’m in my friend and cultural soulmate Hilly’s room (background: half white, half Hispanic, no one believes she's Hispanic, grew up in suburban southern California) , talking about a monologue I just wrote for next year’s Me Too Monologues.

What am I? is a theme of this monologue. I reflect on my gradual whitening since arriving at Duke. I wanted to finally express what word fit me, what experiences were similar to mine. Is my cultural and ethnic ambiguity a disappearing mirage or the symptom of an unchanging quality? I knew that “culturally Hispanic” was no longer cutting it. I’m culturally mixed not culturally Hispanic. And ethnically white? That’s a statement of fact, even if I’m not comfortable putting White on government forms or dating sites. So I’m culturally Hispanic/white, ethnically white. In that order. Like a heteroromantic asexual or a female-bodied genderqueer, right?

My body passes for Hispanic. My experiences pass for Hispanic. My pain and fear and anger and observations pass for Hispanic. The reason why no one ever “finds me out” is that at my core I’m not 100% white. There’s nothing for me to hide. Hispanic cultural and social events are not an opportunity for observation and cross-cultural education (nothing wrong with that, it’s what I do at other cultural and religious events) they are an opportunity for me for feel alive and connected to myself and others who share my values and cultural background.

If someone assumes I'm a recent immigrant or my first language is Spanish I'll correct them. The myriad other assumptions people make are so subtle I don't know if they're in my head, and if they involve culture (not ethnicity) a correction isn't actually needed. Blurting out that I'm white would just create distance and uphold the ridiculous idea of a monolithic whiteness that must be asserted at all times. It's like saying "That dude looks nice, no homo" or that I'm a straight ally.

Why do I feel torn about not correcting people? Eventually someone from Duke will meet my parents (who are quite culturally and ethnically white) and know what's going on. And an ethnically white person who identifies as anything other than white is just not cool.

The ability to navigate different cultures, to be accepted in different countries, to pass for different races is a privilege. A white privilege. A white person who adopts the cultural practices of a non-white people for fun, entertainment or street credibility is engaging in cultural appropriation, and it’s not cool. The key difference is that my Hispanicness is not a front or a phase. When I went to London I didn’t talk in a British accent or dance “whiter.” When I go home to San Antonio I don’t put on a chola tear and a bandanna and eat rice and beans every day. My Hispanicness is not mired in stereotype, irony, fascination or choice. It's not mentioned in contrast to my whiteness, nor is it trumped by my whiteness. It’s just me. All day every day, expressed in subtle ways.

Some people appropriate LGBT culture for fun, entertainment or street credibility. But not everyone who isn’t strictly L, G, B or T is engaging in appropriation. What about the pansexual person who has only been in heterosexual relationships? Polyamorous people? Bigendered, genderqueer and gender-non conforming humans? An effeminate straight dude? Straight people who pass for queer? Heteroflexible folks? A heteroromantic asexual? People who reject labels? Though they aren’t always accepted by the LGBT community, they live in the rainbow tree house. They, along with the entire LGBTQQIA diaspora, keep our community humming and relevant.

I’m not a one-off. Think all the children who have been adopted transculturally/ethnically/racially. The Colombian grad student who was adopted into a white family. People so ethnically/culturally/racially mixed they don’t know who they are, where they came from or where they fit in. Hispanic Afro-Caribbean people. The white guy who was Valedictorian at Morehouse.

Hopefully when we start posting our own queer secrets the words will appear.

My queer secret would say:

I'm culturally Hispanic/white, ethnically white. It's not a phase or a front. I'm not comfortable with the White greek scene at Duke or at nearly all-white events. I don't fit conventional white beauty standards. (But who does?) I talk with a Spanish accent. I'm told I don't dance like a white girl...every time I go out. Sometimes I have to represent Hispanic culture because I can't deal with ignorance and racism. When I embrace my mixedness I feel alive, but also guilty. People like me are supposed to be bad people, or at least the butt of jokes. I'm culturally queer and sexually queer. If I think about this too much my head will explode.

February 25, 2011

"Fab" Friday?

I invite you to stop by Duke's Center for LGBT Life today from 4-6 for "Fab Friday." But I think you should know that the Center is frequented by more than just the fab*.

Among the regular attendees of Fab Friday and other events at the Center are:

Sports enthusiasts
Sorority sisters
(Future) Politicians
Blue Devils
Potential friends.

So if you have preconceived notions of the types of people that go (or don't go) to the Center, I'd advise you to come by this afternoon. I think you'll pleasantly surprised.

*Not that theres anything wrong with being fab, of course.

February 23, 2011

Surprise! Surprise!

So, if you've been following my blog posts, you'd know that there's an LGBTQ men's discussion group starting soon. And by soon, I mean we're having our first meeting tonight (yay! and omg I'm so freaking nervous, anxious, and excited all at the same time). In preparation for this initial meeting, I've decided to focus this post on something that all members of the Community face but one that I believe men especially struggle with:


Well, more specifically, acceptance from their social peers, especially those considering joining a fraternity or those currently in a fraternity that fear what coming out could do to their social life.

I believe that I am one of the most fortunate guys in the world. One reason for this: my fraternity brothers. The amount of acceptance I receive from them is incredible. But at one point not too long ago, I began to shy away from the fraternity. I began to feel that they would never be able to understand me or understand what I was going through. And so I began to hang out with them less and less, to the point that I was basically only in section to sleep. I'd find any excuse I could to not be around. I skipped events. I missed meetings. I got very out of touch with what was going on. Then rush happened. So I forced myself to once again be thrust into the fraternity life. I went to rush events. I went to meetings. I began hanging around my brothers again. But it still didn't feel the same.

One night, I was up late having a deep conversation about the current state of the fraternity with about 3 other brothers. We began discussing how people interacted with each other. We discussed things we could improve on and what each of us can do to make it better. The conversation turned to me and someone said that I was very emotional and I tend to withdraw from people when I feel hurt instead of talking it out with the people that are supposed to be closest with me. And he was right.

Some kind of way, I let the negative stereotypes of fraternity men enter my mind. The seed of disdain began to grow because I wasn't talking it out with any of my brothers. All I kept saying to myself was how my brothers wouldn't approve of me going out to a gay club instead of hanging out with them. The thought that my brothers would never understand why I was pushing away raced back and forth in my mind. They could never understand why I was deciding to room with my best friend who is not in the fraternity instead of with any of them. And so I began to grow resentful towards them. I burned every time they would ask me if I wanted to go to Shooters with them. Looks of death permeated from my eyes whenever they asked why I wasn't at the party last night because "there were so many hot girls." It became overwhelming. So that's why I decided to take myself out of the picture for a while.

But then, that all changed. I was spending what was becoming a rare weekend night in section. One of my brothers asked me about my best friend (the one I'm rooming with next year).

"What's going on with that.. you know... how should I address her, I mean him?"

Yeah, one of my besties and future roomie is transgender. I was first taken aback when he asked. I just stared at him in shock for a good minute. And he goes, "I don't want to get it wrong or offend... him when he comes around again." My friend had hung around section with me a little before beginning his trans process. My friend and some of my brothers were already/had become facebook friends and they noticed the change in how I referred to him. Still dumbfounded, I explained to him the situation and what it means. I tried to stay away from most details but he would only ask me about it. Is this real life? Is one of my fraternity brothers really asking me about what it means to be transgender because he's legitimately curious and wants to do the right thing?! Needless to say, my faith in my brothers was immediately restored.

To my surprise, it happened several other times from other brothers. All with the same motivation: "I want to say the right thing and not offend him." They now always refer to him as a male and use his male name. If they know that I was hanging out with him, they'll ask how he's doing. The fact that they have taken a general interest in him almost brings tears to my eyes.

Since that night, I haven't worried about discussing the concerns of my "gay life", as I would call it, with members of my "frat life." I thought most of them would be awkward anytime I brought up anything in relation to the LGBTQ community, but instead, they asked me about it. When I would choose to leave out details, they would push to know more. When asked how my night at the gay club went, a simple "It was fun" would not settle for them. They would push to know every detail. Usually, I hate when people push to find out details about my personal life, but this time, I was ecstatic. They weren't asking because they wanted to see if they too had hooked up with the same guy. They weren't trying to find out the latest gossip on who had hooked up. They were asking because they were interested in my life, even the parts they can't relate to.

I guess that I'm saying all this to say this. My fraternity brothers accept me. And more importantly, they accept my best friend. They took the time to find out what is the proper way to address him when they could have easily ignored it and continued to treat him as a female. But they didn't. I'm not saying that accepting someone who is gay or transgender is some miraculous feat. I am saying that you should give your friends, your brothers, your sisters more credit. They'll probably surprise you just like mine did to me.

February 22, 2011

Can Slurs Be Redefined?

HEY…before I say anything…watch this video. Don’t worry if you don’t understand Spanish, I’ll explain what he said.

That was a Chilean ad against machismo (stereotypical male chauvinistic and violent tendencies of Latin American men against women). The commercial's slogan is: "Maricón, el que maltrata a una mujer." (A faggot is one who mistreats women.)



I found this video in a post on The Latin Americanist while searching for recent LGBT related news in Latin America. Basically, the Chilean Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs is trying to redefine the use of the anti-gay slur faggot, associating it instead with men who engage in violence against women in an effort to decrease domestic violence. If you read the post on The Latin Americanist, you’ll see that the author refers to the ad as “powerful”.

The only power I see in the ad is its ability to perpetuate the use of a word that is discriminatory and harmful. Heavily prejudicial, well-known slurs—such as faggot and nigger—can never be successfully redefined. The association between the term faggot and the LGBT community is far too strong. That being said, in my opinion the real meaning of the slogan translates more to something like this:

“If you’re a man who beats women, you’re no better than a faggot/gay man.”

The stigma attached to the term faggot is not going to disappear. It doesn’t make sense to me to use an anti-gay slur (or any slur for that matter) to label a group of people, regardless of what they do. It appears to me that they’re fighting machismo and domestic violence at the expense of their LGBT community.*

I find this ad to be degrading. What do yall think? Do you think anti-gay slurs can be redefined for a purpose like this? Or even generally?

*While I recognize the fact that the Chilean government is not very accepting of LGBT rights—unlike many other countries in Latin America, Chile does not recognize same-sex relationships, does not allow same-sex marriages or adoptions, etc.—I don’t think they should be promoting derogatory language. Assholes.

February 21, 2011

Anonymous Posts (2.14.11-2.20.11)

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 :)

Not much to say today - just that Trans 101 Training is tonight at 5:30 in the Center! I've been looking forward to this all semester. See you there!

I know it's been said before, but can I just say that the flags all over campus are really empowering to those of us in the closet working up the courage to come out. It makes me smile every time I see one, and they seem to be popping up more and more.

A lot of people on campus think I'm queer, but I'm not. I don't do anything to correct this, and I feel like I'm doing my part to challenge norms, even though I'm cis and straight.

In which I pass for a girl

[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.]

My post is a day late because last night, I was still in Washington D.C. with my mom. She and I spent the weekend together for my birthday, exploring museums, eating amazing food, and having "girl time."

I actually had fun. Like, a lot of fun.

I was panicking a lot before I left. I had intended to come out to my family long before now, and hadn't seen my mom since before I started going as Lawrence pretty much full-time on campus. (I'm out to two of four professors now, and to my boss. Possibly this is also why I was panicking; I was pretty emotionally drained.) I resolved to be myself as much as possible, though, and only packed my most masculine clothes. I also got my hair cut just a few days before leaving, so I was as butch as I could get without binding.

And... it was fine. She didn't say anything. Last time, I got some flak for cutting my hair so short-- but this time she just talked about how happy I seemed these days, and how glad she was that I was finally enjoying my life. She asked how things were going with my girlfriend. It was the kind of experience I've always wished I could have with my mom, but never really did. It was also completely surreal, because it was so different from being at Duke but it only took an hour in the air to get there.

The strangest part was that I didn't even mind when strangers called me ma'am, even though it happened all the time. All last week, it was like little ma'am-meteorites were smashing into me and cracking me into a million pieces; I came out to a lot of people in a desperate attempt to get it to stop.

I think the difference is that in DC, I wanted them to read me as female. I mean, I didn't want it, but I also didn't want anyone to out me to my mom. They were accurately reading the gender cues I was trying to give them, so it was all right.

Of course, I'm back on campus now, and back to wishing people could get it right. I'm already struggling to remember how I felt yesterday, because I've sunk back into being Lawrence. I couldn't find the binder I wanted this morning, so I'm keenly aware of my breasts under my polo shirt. For just a few days, I was oblivious to this feeling, and although I don't think I could have maintained that facade for too much longer (it was just as psychologically uncomfortable, in entirely different ways), it was nice to take a bit of a break from my usual crises.

As always, I love getting questions in the comments. What's on your mind?

February 20, 2011

"In a relationship with ______"

I know it's not my day to post (sorry!) but I just had to write this short entry. Hopefully, you'll enjoy it enough to not be annoyed that I've broken the schedule. Anyways, on with the post:

I've always been wary of Facebook and have been cautious with the information I put on it. The reasons for that range from the fact that I don't want people to know so much about me without even having a conversation with me, to the issues of privacy and selectivity in who gets to see what about me by way of the internet. Facebook currently has somewhat limited information about me and I kind of overuse the security options.

One thing that causes common discussion in regards to Facebook amongst the LGBT community is the "interested in" field. However, I suggest we turn our attention to the "relationship" field. Did anyone else notice the new options in that field? Or, perhaps they're not really new and I've only just noticed them.

"In a civil union"

"In a domestic partnership"

Regardless of how new these options are, I think there's something to glean from their existence. What do you all think? Perhaps this is a step forward for the community? Would you (and will you) take advantage of their existence if they were applicable? Or perhaps you think they're a step back--just another way for us to unfairly be told "Hey, you can't get married, but at least you have these options." Are these new options a slap in the face; an unwanted reminder? To be honest, I'm still trying to decide myself whether or not my initial happiness at seeing these options was justified.

February 19, 2011

Why Do You Do What You Do?

When I was deciding whether to contribute to the BDU Blog, I asked myself the question that I always ask myself when I am deciding to do new things or need to reflect:

Why do you do what you do?

After much reflection, I came to a conclusion: I want to contribute to the BDU Blog because I love cultivating pluralism.

I love listening to different stories, and believe that the pluralism that is cultivated from doing this makes me a more understanding and educated individual.

Maybe my own story would help you understand what I mean by “cultivating pluralism”:

Even though I am a Tar Heel, I visited this blog a little more than a year ago, at a time when I was cultivating my own courage to come out to my friends at UNC.

Chapel Hill is a very accepting environment and, though I didn’t entirely realize it when I first came to UNC, expressing your identity and feeling comfortable in your own skin is embedded in the Carolina Way.

Even so, I decided to explore via the nifty interweb the LGBTQ resources at Duke. As a first-year, I knew I would be spending a semester at Duke during the spring semester of my sophomore year. Thus, as I was deciding whether or not to come out at Carolina, I wanted to make sure I could also be comfortable with my identity at Duke. My search led me to the BDU Blog.

The blog was amazing…I spent the entire night reading all the posts—I laughed and teared up, feeling so passionate and connected to the strangers who were courageous enough to share their stories to the world.

I decided that very week to come out to my friends at Carolina, and it was one of the most challenging and best decisions I have made in my entire life.

Now, as a sophomore spending his semester at Duke, I look back and look at the importance of this blog to people not necessarily involved or connected with the Duke LGBTQ community. This blog is full of stories, and the sharing of stories gives people hope…it gave me hope a little more than a year ago when I was making a tough decision.

I look back and see how these stories made me feel safe at a time when I was really afraid, and how they made many of my friends and allies at UNC more aware of the LGBTQ environment at Duke.

I look forward and see how I will share these stories with my family when I cultivate even more courage and come out to them, proudly introducing my mom and dad to the support systems in place for members of the LGBTQ environment, a support system they could be a part of.

Finally, I look at the stories I have in the present as a sophomore, one who is proud of his identity and honored to be among those contributing a collective of stories that are reaching communities within and outside Duke.

Through my blog posts, I hope to use my Tar Heel lens to reflect upon by experiences as an out member of the LGBTQ community at Duke; ultimately, I hope to share these stories to people who are willing to listen. (it should be fun, thrilling, and uber exciting—if not any of those, it can give more reasons for Blue Devils to resent us Tar Heels)!

I kind of already have my first story imagined…so get excited!

Till then, be amazed and be amazing, while cultivating pluralism along the way—

Yours truly,
A Tar Devil

February 18, 2011

Speaking of Religion... Anne Brown, producer of "Incompatible with Christian Teachings," will be joining us for a screening of her movie and a Q&A session tomorrow night at 5 in the Center. The documentary details the stories of clergy and laity, and LGBT and straight allies. Dinner will be served! More information here.

February 15, 2011

LGBTQ Discussion Group Tonight! Hey all. Just a quick reminder that we're meeting tonight in the Center at 6:30. After looking at the results of the poll, we'll be talking about dealing with family. Even if this is not something that you struggle with or want to know more about, come to share how you've dealt with this in the past (successfully or not). Let's do this!

February 14, 2011

Anonymous Posts (2.7.11-2.13.11)

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 The Grammys were last night and boy were they just great. Great work, The Grammys! Lady Gaga showed up in an egg (NBD) before performing the hell out of Born This Way, which came out (lol) last week.

Listen. I know there are mixed feelings about BTW.

I just don't quite understand them. "It sounds too much like Express Yourself." Well, sort of. Yeah. But you know what's a great song? Express Yourself. If it has a child and that child is sung by Lady Gaga then I am okay with this.

The whole CHOLA/ORIENT thing is a little weird though.

Anyhow. There was also an Aretha tribute that included Christina, JHud and Florence. Thank you, Grammys. That'll do! That will do. And of course Arcade Fire nailed it. But I think Janelle Monae impressed me the most with this. Right though?

Dr. Dre was there, despite being a not very good hip-hop artist (did they forget HOV came out with an album this year?) and so was Gwyneth Paltrow for some reason. The Smith that is not Willow made an appearance on stage with JBIEB 4EVR <33333. Bob Dylan's body was exhumed for the show.

But yeah. I'm sorry for blowing up everyone's news feeds last night with every thought ever (one read "LMFAO LMFAO" after this exchange). I'm sure it won't happen again tomorrow night during Glee.

Anonymous posts, yo.

I don't know if the post belongs on this blog. I think I'm hetero, for better or worse, though I like to think of my partner and I existing more in the realm of androgyny than opposite genders. But we are allies, and I've identified with posts on this blog more than any other I've ever seen. So I've thought to myself that maybe its not so out of place. I've almost posted here so many times. I just start writing as a comment to someone's post, and end up highlighting and cutting it out with a single stroke of the backspace key.

This time I hit "command + c" & "command + v" (or "control" for all you PC users).

This time it was Summer Puente's post about how not to come out. I've always thought her to be one of the strongest, most beautiful, and smartest individuals I've had the chance to briefly meet - I'll admit to an small brain-crush. Reading her post about her father making an effort to make everything okay made me cry a little and ask myself, "If I don't have the nerve to post as anonymous on a blog, how will I ever tell my parents?"

I have had a relationship that my parents don't approve of for a little over 3.5 years. I started out by trying to be honest with them. I told them I was excited about this new relationship. That even though it seemed like a bad idea, that it felt more appropriate than anything I had ever done. My partner and I sat at my kitchen table and tried to argue why, even if it were irrational, why we should be together. We all yelled an cried, my mom told us we were clinically insane. Then, a few weeks after it began, they wouldn't let my partner in the house, and my mother asked me to go to counseling at CAPS.

I've never understood why my parents hated my decision so much. They talked a lot about how I should be single going to Duke, how my partner was holding me back. Maybe it was true. Maybe we held each other back. But I had never met anyone like that. My partner is unique, from a different time or a different place, I don't know. But I refused to give up on the chance of getting to know this extraordinary individual. So I had the fights. It got petty. A few members of my family took to calling my partner "Fugly." I found ways to not go home. I found ways to cut them out of my life. Except for my dad, who stood up for me in every way he could that wouldn't destroy his marriage. My dad and I actually grew closer - as long as we didn't talk about my romantic life.

Two years after that, my parents said if we didn't break up, they'd stop contributing to paying for anything in my life: from my college education to health insurance. I was shocked that my liberal parents, who've offered to adopt my homosexual friends, were about to disown me. I was abroad at the time, I skyped the Duke Financial Aid Office and I found out that Duke wont maintain an undergrad with no financial backing. So, after a long fight, we decided to go underground. We've been secret for almost two years.

It's odd, being secret made things easier between us. We no longer had to talk about the fact that my parents didn't approve. I didn't have to fight with them any more. What they never tell you about having a rejected relationship is that every little argument a normal couple has turns into an argument about how best to deal with the hate directed at you. But, as a secret, we are together, not divided. Just secret. We cannot hope for approval, so the secrecy is a wonderful reprieve.

The hardest part is actually the internet.In the physical public, we can live pretty freely, we look like we don't belong at Duke (one time the people at the Link asked if my partner needed to be escorted out of the building) but that never hurt my feelings. No hate speech, no particularly funny looks, no fights with drunken strangers defending our love. We can walk around freely and pretend everything is normal. Because we don't have to hide from everyone, just from a small set of people.

But the virtual public is another case entirely. If Facebook is where our memories are stored, then my relationship would fall so deep into oblivion it could not be recovered.There are two photos tagged of us together. One is of a cup, the other, we are standing 3 feet apart. It may seem shallow, but it hurts so badly when some mechanism deep inside of Facebook clicks and suggests that I "get in touch" with the person I've been in love with for the past 3.5 years. This blog post will be the first publicly published admission of our relationship, and even this much makes me nervous because I know I will be recognized. But I'm trusting to chance that my parents wont see it. I feel like I owe it to someone, maybe just myself, to admit in some open forum that my relationship exists.

Now that I'm about to graduate, I simply don't know what to do. In college, it's easy, they don't know about my life. But if we live together, don't I eventually have to tell my parents? Or will I keep having nightmares of my partner hiding in bathrooms and closets, behind shower curtains and winter coats? What do you do when you love your parents even when they hate part of your life? How do I tell my dad, who has been a fairly innocent bystander for all this, that I've been lying to him for years?

I guess that is about enough of my first-world problems - I don't have to hide from the whole world so it can't be too bad. But then, why do I feel so fake when I laugh all this off?

I don't label myself because I don't know what that label would say. Not gay, not necessarily bi, and definitely not straight. Queer seems like a good word. I know what I like when I see it. But trying to explain that, or trying to define it just seems to take me in circles. I'm still questioning, and I often wonder where I fit in here at Duke. How do you get involved with LGBTQ activities when you're still so closeted? But if you're still hiding that part of yourself, how can you ever expect to find someone, right? I'm tired of being lonely.

At the beginning of high school, I never really questioned my sexuality. At the same time, I'd never had a boyfriend, but I'd always been physically attracted to boys. It felt good and normal. And then, sophomore year, I got really close to one of my friends, and for one reason or another I kept craving more and more time with her. It was what one might call a "girl crush" or perhaps a "personality crush" in my case. We were affectionate, but that wasn't abnormal for my group of friends. I may have realized I was attracted to her, but I didn't think much of it until, at a party, a gay friend of a friend (male) asked us if we were dating. Immediately, we both got freaked out and quickly answered no. The affection began to stop, as did our friendship. At points, I fooled myself into thinking I had/still did love her. I realize that wasn't true at all, but afterward I began to see women as more attractive. I had mini crushes after that, which I of course classified as all "girl crushes" which meant nothing. After a while, the feelings for women wore off and I was relieved to feel "straight" again. I dated a number of guys and had a strong connection to one of them.

Coming to Duke, however, I have started to feel an attraction toward women again. As much as I'm supportive of LGBTQ individuals (my best friend from home is a lesbian), I can't bring myself to honestly address my feelings. It's not that I don't like men, I definitely do. What is confusing is that I'm trying to decide whether I identify as bisexual or not. I don't know if it's just the "excitement" or "danger" of being with a woman that entices me or if it's something else. I worry that no one will want to date me if I'm bisexual because I "swing both ways" or may be "more prone to cheating" or whatever. I feel that, if I come out as bisexual, women wouldn't actually be interested in me and I would just put myself through judgement for nothing. Sometimes I feel as if I need an experience with a woman to decide for sure, before I label myself. But it seems that there's no way for women to know I'm interested if I don't identify as bisexual. Any advice?

I’m a closeted, junior male. Until very recently I was pretty much committed to living my life as if I were straight and just marrying a woman I found myself compatible with and who I thought would be an enjoyable and productive partner to spend the rest of my life with. So to a degree I never really accepted to myself that I was gay; I felt like it didn’t matter because it wouldn’t be worth the hassle to be ‘out’ and have relationships with guys. Over this winter break I guess I would say I ‘came out’ to myself, even though I pretty much had known for years that I was gay—I said it aloud and typed it in a word document. Then I came back to campus and found myself thinking about guys a lot and wanting to come out to friends. I was really surprised how much my outlook changed after affirming to myself something I had known for years.

So now I guess I’m at the point where I want my friends to know, but am afraid of that information changing the dynamic of our group (I know they’re not gonna hate me or anything, but I just love what we have so much, I don’t want it to change in any way). At the same time, I’m not sure I would find being out at Duke to be particularly rewarding. I honestly can’t see myself becoming that involved in the lgbt community, because of a combination of not wanting gayness to define me and fear of not fitting in. I’m pretty quiet and don’t make friends easily, and I think that going to some sort of Center activity would be very stressful and uncomfortable for me. I like the idea of having a boyfriend or a guy I hook up with but don’t know how I would meet him/get into that sort of a situation when I have no connection to other gay community.

So basically I want to be convinced that being out at Duke would be worth it… and I guess my apprehensions go beyond life at Duke. Life being openly gay just seems so much more complicated in ways that I don’t want to deal with when I have a lot of other goals. I guess I’m just not much of a romantic, but I feel like everything is a trade-off, and if other aspects of my life would be better if I remained closeted, then maybe that’s the better choice?

I almost got outed during the dialogue after the Me Too monologues. That would have been funny. It would have been an appropriate time, albeit a bit ironic.

I went to a party the other night. I tried flirting with a guy. I don't know how effective it was. I think I come off as flirtatious with everyone. But I thought this one guy was attractive and cool. I stayed until he left.

I wonder how I come off to people. Do people think I'm gay? Do people think I'm straight? Sometimes I assume people think I'm gay (if not gay, then asexual, but who's really asexual?). That might be an insecurity. The only having a brief girlfriend once. The close platonic friendships with girls. The lack of stereotypical machismo. And yet, some people talk about how I'm a straight, white male. I suppose I should correct them.

Two years ago I had a big crush on a guy. We became friends, I enamored with him, him oblivious to my feelings, I presume. I sort of came out to him before that semester ended. Subtly. I just sent him an email, sort of in honor of valentines day, trying to express the emotions I had or have. I'm pretty much over him.

I emailed the guy I met at the party the other night.

I'm trying to put myself out there.

I Got A Big *Ahem* Ego.

Let me preface what I’m writing today with two things: One, I’m always excited to see the multitude of transguys that exist on sites like tumblr and youtube, and I have nothing but love for them. Two, I realize that talking about body issues and transgender individuals is always a touch and go subject, but this is my experience. If any harm is caused, I meant nothing of it.

I spend a lot of (read: too much) time on tumblr. If you didn’t know, tumblr serves as some sort of virtual hub for trans people to connect and share their lives. One day, I bumped into a blog that claimed to focus specifically on the FtM community. Upon first finding this blog, I was pretty damn excited. However, the more posts that I saw, I found that I was slowly starting to feel worse and worse about myself. Though this was supposed to be for the community, I found that the portrayals of transmen were this consistent pattern of white, fairly skinny, indie/hipster looking transguys that popped up in my feed.

It’s not that I’m not a fan of (or not attracted to) this population, but when you are constantly bombarded with images that are supposed to be “you” that actually look nothing like you, a disconnect occurs. PARTICULARLY when you are transgender and you spend the better portion of your life living in the gap between what your body naturally presents itself to be and who you are on the inside.

So my acceptance of my transgendered self exited stage left, and the questions set in. What if I lost weight? What if I ate a bit healthier? Less? Will I finally look the way I’m “supposed” to look?

Would it be possible to exist as a non-skinny black transguy, and will I ever be content being this way?

So for a few weeks, I found myself doing the self-hate shuffle. For those of you not familiar with how this dance goes, there are several key moves. There was the “I don’t fit in a size smedium” shake, which progressed into “the only six pack I’ll ever have is the case of PBR on my floor” twist, which was followed up by the “ I’ll probably spend the rest of my life alone because girls don’t like non-skinny dudes, especially ones without a penis” cha-cha.

3AM two Mondays ago, I was in my room, consoling my friend who had just been rejected. I went on and on, preaching a sermon to my friend on self-love that John the Baptist would have given me a standing ovation for. I continued to tell her that her curvy physique made her no less qualified than any of the other duke women in the dating pool. Finally, at 4:30AM, she cracked a smile.

“Xavier, I get your point bro. Chill”.

What she failed to realize that instead of me expending my energy trying to convince her of her self worth, I had actually been talking to myself- through her problems.


You see, us transguys have a lot to be insecure of. For some of us, its our chests. For a lot of us, it's the lack of that organ in between our legs. For some of us, it's the inability to pass as male in the eyes of the people around us. During the past few months I had the pleasure of dealing with all of these insecurities, so this tumblr situation wasn’t helping.

After that conversation, I kept thinking about what had happened. As I sorted through everything I loathed about myself, one question kept coming back to me: Is this issue really going to make me any less of a transman, or further more, any less of a man?

The more I sorted through my insecurities, the sillier I realize that they were. Instead of focusing on the negative qualities about myself, I began to see that perhaps my physical attributes were something to be celebrated. I mean, do you really want indie hipster boy fighting for you during the zombie takeover?

So lets discuss all the things I love about this body. (This one is especially for you, ladies.) I’m fairly tall, and I can grab things pretty easily without the assistance of a ladder. I’ve always had a bit more muscle mass than my other female-bodied counterparts, so I can move lots of things: bags of laundry, furniture, even you. Stature wise, I’m a bigger dude, so I can go toe to toe with any guy who is giving you trouble, and at worst case scenario, I can deliver a pretty mean belly flop(though I do not advocate violence- peace all around, dude). I’ve never had someone leave my bedroom unsatisfied with the results of our interaction. Last, but most certainly not least, being a bigger guy means I’m a great cuddler. Chances are there is a lot more of me than you, so during those cold winter nights we can put away those blankets, and instead I could keep you warm ;)

To wrap this monologue up, this one is for my bigger guys out there (or anyone who doesn’t fit the physical profile of who we are “supposed” to be). Love yourselves. Chances are, those you meet will be more impressed by your kindness, your humor, your love, and your sincere nature than they will be of any physical “lack”. To put it a bit more succinctly, in the words of the honorable Kanye West:

Coulda let the dream killers, kill my self esteem,
Or use the arrogance as a steam that power my dreams.

So yeah, I got a big ego. And if we ever meet, you might even get to see it in action.

February 13, 2011

In which I don't want to talk about my feelings any more

[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.]

Hey there. So, last week I came out to one of my professors. I also got called ma'am approximately eighty-four thousand times. And I confirmed with my mom that next weekend we're gonna go to DC for several days of solid "girl time." So, last week, I was exhausted; this week, I just have nothing more to give.

So, rather than rely on my utterly-depleted emotional resources for a post, I'm just gonna fact-dump on you and talk about binding. I assume somebody will be interested, anyway; I feel like a lot of people want to know The Details but very few ask. Caveat: this is very much about my experiences. I'm pretty sure things are a little different for everyone.

The first time I bound my breasts, it for Hallowe'en. My senior year, my gay ex-boyfriend was Belle, my best friend (female) was the Beast, and I was Gaston. My girlfriend helped my best friend and I bind in the morning before school, with duct tape. The critical thing with duct tape is not to put it directly on your skin! We took control-top pantyhose and cut off the legs and crotch, and used the waist part as a sort of tube-top. Then, starting at the top, we wrapped the tape around and around over top of the hose. I actually just stood there with my arms up and let my girlfriend do all the work, because I wasn't exactly shy about having her touch my breasts; I think I got much better results that way, because I didn't have to worry about twisting around and potentially dislodging things.

The results were quite good, and not too uncomfortable-- while they lasted. Duct tape, it turns out, doesn't exactly breathe! I started to sweat underneath the binder, and the whole tube started to work its way lower and lower on my torso. Suddenly, in the middle of Scripture class (really!), my boobs popped free over the top of it, and I had to sit through the rest of the class with a duct tape tube hanging loosely around my waist and bare breasts jiggling under a flimsy shirt. Luckily, I had lent my ex-boyfriend one of my bras to hold his fake breasts, so I didn't have to go the rest of the day bra-less, but I did still have to get the binder off. Which meant... cutting it off. I had to borrow some heavy-duty scissors to have a hope of cutting through the multiple layers of duct tape, and it was still a slow and sticky process. A slow, sticky, process happening immediately next to my skin. And my boobs. For that reason alone I could never recommend binding with duct tape regularly: when the scissors get stuck in the tape, and you're trying to force them out, there is no safe course of action. You just have to be lucky.

I tried Ace bandages next, the three-inch-wide ones that I already owned due to my weak ankles. This was years later, and I was binding in order to explore my own gender identity. I was never satisfied enough with the results to leave the room with them on, though, so I ordered a binding shirt from Underworks. The first one I got was basically just a long tank top made of nylon and spandex, and I really liked it. To put it on, I have to step into it like it was a skirt and then work it up my body (it's really right!). It's an awkward process but eventually I'm able to put my arms through the straps and then reach into the shirt to arrange my boobs. The compression is really powerful and the shirt smooths everything out and doesn't show under clothes, so I really love it.

At least, until it starts to roll up... the bottom of the shirt is supposed to be near my hips, tucked into my pants, but dude pants aren't exactly tight around the hips so the bottom often rolls up to my natural waist. The thick roll of bunched-up shirt is quite tight and uncomfortable, and I always feel like it emphasizes my natural hourglass shape. (If you've ever seen me fidget with my shirt a lot, or "go to the bathroom" several times for extremely short trips, I am probably trying to fix this. It hurts!)

Sometimes to pre-empt this problem, I put the shirt on and then immediately pull the bottom of the shirt up to my chest (as if I were going to turn the shirt inside out and take it off) and wear it with two layers over my chest. I feel like it's hard to describe-- I roll the bottom up over the main shirt, so the hem is at my collarbone. Of course, from this position it can slide down, bringing me back to the same situation as before, but I find it easier to tug it back into place before catastrophe strikes when it's doubled up.

The best solution to the rolling problem, though, is the version of this shirt with little shorts attached to the bottom. I step into it and pull it on the same way, but because the bottom is actually attached to something that can't move, there's no rolling. There's no need to fidget with it, so it's so comfortable I forget I'm wearing it at all... until I have to pee. To go to the bathroom, I have to undress completely. This is extra-annoying if I am wearing a suit. So many layers! It gets in the way of enjoying myself because I'm always worrying about whether or not I'm going to need to pee.

I've been getting more frustrated with my Underworks shirts lately, and less willing to put up with their drawbacks. So one night, when I'd left both binding shirts at my girlfriend's by mistake and needed to wear a suit, I tried binding with the Ace bandages again. Unexpectedly, I was really happy with the results.

I used two three-inch-wide, several-yard-long bandages of quite nice quality. (Most transmen online recommend six-inch-wide bandages but I'm using ones that I already had for my ankles.) Starting as high as possible, and pulling tight, I wrap them around my torso. I don't wrap too far past the end of my boobs (which about where my ribs end, thanks to the squish factor) and when the second bandage runs out, I tuck the end up underneath the bottom of the binding. I've never had a problem with the bandages slipping down like the duct tape or rolling up like the binding shirts, but I trade those for the problem of... potentially causing myself serious harm. I'm pretty sure men have actually fractured their ribs, binding too hard with Ace bandages. To reduce the risk, I breathe in deeply before I start wrapping and try to keep my chest expanded the whole way through. I also make sure not to pull the bandages to the very tightest they can go. It can sometimes be uncomfortable, and look lumpy under a thin shirt (especially if I'm sloppy), but with the multiple layers of a suit it doesn't show very much and I've grown to like it, because it's not fidgety and it doesn't make me feel like my entire body is encased in a cocoon.

I'm gonna go ahead and open the comments section up to all your questions, especially any you might have about the practical aspects of transition. If you're curious about transwomen, my girlfriend has agreed to answer questions as well. And if you're embarrassed, you can always comment anonymously! I love to hear from you.

Singles Awareness Day

I write this for me and all of the single people out there who are being sad this Valentine's Day. And by sad, I don't mean upset, mopey, or any other synonym; I am referring to Singles Awareness Day. (People in relationships, you may read this as well, I guess.)

It's that time of year when we despise the color pink, eat chocolates that we bought for ourselves, and peel petals off roses, saying, "he loves me, he loves me not," and always ending up on an even number of petals. Or if you're a math nerd like me, you draw a polar rose on your TI-84 Plus Silver Edition calculator to give to yourself. (Try it out, you have to go to polar mode and type in r=a∙cos(kθ) for integral values of a and k. But I completely digress...)

I've been single for every Valentine's Day. I may have had a "girlfriend" in elementary school for the day, but I mean, I wouldn't say that exactly counts. More importantly, this is my first Valentine's Day being out, so I guess this could have been a special day for me, but sadly, 'tis not. But I make the very astute observation about my dating pool that has an impact on how Valentine's day works for me:

It's small.

Naturally, my dating pool is approximately a tenth of a straight person's. Being stuck on a college campus makes that smaller. So what am I to do in a situation like this? Well I often take out my anger in being single by blaming myself. I blame my looks, my personality, my nerdy awkwardness, my everything, and my little downward spirals do not help my esteem any further.

Allow me to offer this advice, to myself and everyone else: Don't blame yourself. You are absolutely wonderful in every way possible, and being single is great! To quote one of my favorite playwrights, Oscar Wilde, "To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance."

So celebrate Valentine's Day with yourself because Oscar Wilde says so, and he surely cannot be wrong. And if you still don't believe one of the great playwrights of the nineteenth century, then believe him:

So to you couples on this Valentine's Day, enjoy yourselves, and have fun! But to those of us who are too busy, on parole, hunting, or free agents, let's all be SAD together! Our time will come, we just have to wait.

February 11, 2011


So I was at Shooters II a few weeks ago (withhold your laughter, judgment, and/or concerns for my safety) and something happened. Something that caught me off guard.

In addition to creepy old men, an elevated cage, and probably enough bacteria to be considered a biological weapon, Shooters II has a large mechanical bull adjacent to the dance floor. For $5, you can be thrust back and forth in front of the crowd until you fall off. As you may have guessed, the bull is often used while intoxicated.

Male/female couples and female/female pairs often frequent the bull. Thus I was understandably surprised when the man operating the bull turned down the request of another man and I to ride. We had waited in line, we had $5 ready, and as you may have guessed, we were intoxicated. We asked why and he gave a completely unconvincing response about a weight limit.*

Seeing our disappointment, he quickly reminded us that we could still go one at a time.

C’mon, Shooters-Man. It obviously wasn’t about the bull ride.

I didn’t write about this immediately because I figured it was an anomaly, the exception to the rule in (mostly) accepting central North Carolina

And then this happened. If that’s not a wake-up call, a cold reminder that things are still really not okay, then I’m not sure what is.

Living in the Duke bubble had lulled me into a sense of complacency. Duke’s campus is, to a large extent, accepting of sexual minorities. In an environment where being gay is, in my experience, a nonissue, I had forgotten that homosexuality is still not exactly kosher beyond the University walls.

Do better, NC.

*What the man said about the weight limits may be true, and I may be reading too much into this. But trust me; I’ve seen some big girls** on that bull.

**Not that there's anything wrong with that, for the record.

February 10, 2011

In which I am a little exhausted

[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.]

Hey there, what have you been up to? Doing okay? Great, great. Oh, me? I've been knowingly making myself miserable, but what else is new?

So, every month, I do this thing where I start running low on birth control pills. I wake up and say, "Only five pills left! Better call in the prescription!" -- but then I don't. So the next morning I wake up and say, "Only four pills left!" -- but I still don't call. I don't call in the prescription until long after the pills are gone. I resist and resist, until PMS sets in. I can't describe how terrible PMS is for me. (Well, I can, but I deleted it because it's super gross.) And yet, I knowingly bring it on myself -- more than once a month, since lately I've been getting sloppy about taking my pills even when I'm not running out!

Or, this semester I've been doing this thing where I kind of don't go to class. Well, I always attend my grad class. And I pretty much attend Romanticism, because that dude is a hardass about late homework, but if there's nothing to turn in, I don't bother. King Arthur, though-- I think I'm literally 50/50. And Astronomy... last night I was up until 5am marathonning recorded lectures in a desperate attempt to prepare for the quiz today, because I haven't shown up since the last quiz. I wish that guy kept track of attendance; I might actually go. I like these classes. I like these professors! I'm actively curious about the subject matter. And yet-- resistance.

I know what I need to do, to make myself happy, and it even lines up with what I'm naturally inclined to do, and yet-- I resist. So I just end up stewing in my unhappiness and my bitter knowledge that the whole thing is my own damn fault.

Except-- the resistance isn't my fault, not completely. I resist taking my birth control specifically because it feels so wrong to put fucking estrogen in my system. And I resist going to class because it's the only place where I'm still in the closet. The closer I get to making my life look the way I want it to look, the harder it is for me to endure the parts that still don't match.

I wish I could just dodge the question for a little while, to take a break, but the world we live in doesn't allow for that. People make judgments about my gender before they even ask my name, so I'm fighting an uphill battle from the beginning. I can only choose to correct them, or let the lie stand. And when my teacher starts with "Yes, the girl in the back-- sorry, I don't know your name," there's no way I'm going to respond to that by saying to the whole classroom, "It's Lawrence."

I had to choose between outing myself to everyone in all my classes, and shoving myself back into an increasingly-agonizing closet every time I wanted to learn something. Being closeted is hard to bear, and genuinely impeding my ability to learn, but coming out would have to be such a production, it would surely get in the way of my classmates' education, too. I don't want class time wasted on people's double-takes, or on clarifying my identity, or on anything to do with me. So until there's a chance that anyone, ever, would look at me and consider the possibility that I might be male, this is what I'm sticking with.

Which just leaves me feeling like this whole thing is so unfair. I have to choose between having my identity acknowledged, and learning during class time. But I've been a little sick lately, and I'm stressed out because my car broke down, and I don't want to go through that kind of emotional turmoil to learn how to predict lunar eclipses. I just want to go to class and do my homework like a normal student. And I can't.

Usually I like to open things up for trans 101 questions in my posts but I think I'd rather not, this week. Right now I'd like to focus on all the other things in my life, rather than letting this one aspect define me.

Instead, I'd like to ask all of you to do me a favor. Don't assume you know someone's gender until you've at least asked their name. Actually try this. When you get dinner tonight, don't think about the girl in line ahead of you who is taking forever-- think about the person ahead of you. Self-censor your own gendering instincts as much as you can. And I guess, let me know how it goes. It'll probably be harder than you expect.

February 9, 2011

Come On, Guys

So, do you remember my blog post from a long time ago (this one) where I voiced my concern about not having a space to have open, thoughtful discussions about what it means to be a gay male on this campus with other gay males? Well, it's happening!

Yes, you read that correctly. There will be a new discussion group starting in the very near future just for LGBTQ-identified men to get together and discuss the issues that we face in our lives. Now, I know that there was some controversy over having a men's group but I feel that this a great, necessary step to take in order to pull our community together and maybe even welcome more into it. I'm going to tell you exactly why I feel like this is so necessary just so maybe those of you who are skeptical can understand where I'm coming from.

Guys, we don't talk. We never talk about the important things. We can easily have a 2-hour discussion about Glee or the classic divas of our time (omg don't get me started), but what about the things that matter. What about talking about how we interact with people who don't conform to gender norms? What about having a discussion about trying to break away from those age-old stereotypes of masculinity that concerned so many of us about coming out? Can we discuss how sometimes we can feel pressure from our friends to be more masculine? And how about the way we interact with the women, trans-folk, and those not conforming to either gender? Oh and don't forget about how we just interact with each other in general.

We never talk about any of these things and it's time that we do. It's the only way for us to be an actual community. It takes more than just being visible and social. We have to realize that in order for us to be able to help the greater Community, we have to fix ours first. I know that we are individually close to each other but as a men's community on the whole, we're worlds apart.

I've never gotten a real sense of unity from the men's community. It's always seemed like everybody did their own thing and never really came together except for special occasions and a trip to Vespa. Is that all we are fellas? A social factor in the community? I certainly hope not. I want to sit down and be able to talk about all the things we are going through because you can't deny that each of us isn't going through something.

Also, we always say how we want more people to feel comfortable coming to events. This could be the perfect place for men who maybe aren't so much into the social scene to come and express ways we could help them feel more comfortable. I feel as though there is an entire segment of the gay male population that is just not being satisfied right now and this could be a step in the right direction to making sure that everyone is welcome.

Simply put: We can make our community better. We can foster stronger, closer bonds between all of us. All it takes is talking.

February 8, 2011

Oh Mother...

So my mom is coming to visit me in April and I’m hyperventilating already. I’ve made a mental checklist of things that need to be removed and stored until she leaves. By things I mean items that will scream, “Hey lady…your daughter is so gay.” This includes multiple posters, signs made by my ex and I for NC Pride, my flag (ugh I love that flag), my BDU bracelet, rainbow earrings, etc.

While this is my initial, personal reaction—to de-gay my room—I can’t help but compare it to my straight roommate and how she behaves when her parents come to visit. I recall many a hurried times hiding our alcohol at a friend’s or under our recycling bin outside even though we’re both of age. That was her biggest and only concern, from my perspective, because her parents don’t condone drinking. When my mom gets here, we won’t have to touch a single bottle be it in the freezer or on top of the fridge. Shoot, we’ll probably all have a drink together. However, I do plan to take a chunk of my identity and hide it away like a guilty pleasure (probably in my roomie’s closet). I know how my mother feels about homosexuality and I’m not ready to cross that bridge. Whether that should elicit shame or self-loathing I’m not sure, but that’s where I stand right now.

Ironically, my mother is coming to Duke to celebrate with me. A program I intern with is having an exhibit to showcase all the hard work we have done. My mom is coming to support me and show how proud she is. I can see her now: standing in the audience, looking right at me, tears rolling down her face, and clapping/whistling like crazy. But she’ll be staring at only half of her daughter; she’ll be celebrating with only half of who I am. The other half will be lurking in the depths of a laundry basket somewhere.

It’s difficult for me to see how much I have progressed/transformed/developed as an individual, a woman of color, in my sexuality and as a whole during this school year only to realize where I’ve fallen short so harshly. I want to be better than fear, however, I also recognize my limitations at this moment. Recognition doesn’t make it hurt any less but it’s a start. At least I know where I’m headed.

February 7, 2011

Anonymous Posts (1.31.10-2.6.11)

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 :)

Super Bowl XLV was last night, Everyone. Is it just me or was it very zzzzzzzzzzzzz? Granted, I am from Long Island and have absolutely zero invested in a game between the Steelers and Packers, but even the commercials were especially lackluster? I expect lazy objectification of women in beer commercials (although also eek, GoDaddy.com. Eek.) and non-sequitur car commercials, but there's usually at least one other funny meme. And this year it was just slapstick and men getting hit in the groin. Hahaha, that had to hurt! Great work! 2011!

But then, of course, we were saved.

MMM. You know me too well, Glee. What're you doing "Whatta Man" next week? #amiright? This was a solid episode, if not clearly tailored to the residual Super Bowl audience that has never seen Glee before (the "there can only be one extra-curricular you're involved in because of how high school works" conflict is kind of tired). But OH MAN, Karofsky. That kid. So exhausting! And yet so Awww (he's in Stage 3 :/). I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I'm really hoping that Karofsky soon realizes he was Born This Way.

Valentine's Day episode tomorrow, You Womens, which will certainly feature a song with Blaine and Kurt. RIP Me, I guess. Good knowing you, Me!

Anyways. Other quick hits:

- Like these pages for The Center and This Blog on Facebook. Do it.
- We're looking to get photos of BDU/Center events online (like, on the FB pages), but don't want to picture anyone who's not comfortable with this. So I'm keeping a running list of people who are willing to have their photo up - email me (bluedevilsunited@gmail.com) if this includes you?

Mhm. Alright! Anonymous Posts! #yessir!

From a slightly advanced vantage point:

Four years out of Duke I was surprised when I saw a reference to this blog while browsing The Chron, procrastinating crunching numbers for a bank. The funny thing is that while I never would have guessed that such an infrastructure existed at Duke, I was not at all shocked to read the linked posting in which a closeted frat star verbalized the internal conflict that he was experiencing while trying to balance liking dudes and his self perception as a "normal guy" (nay, a badass).

I look back on my time at Duke with no regrets, and the thing is, Duke is a weird place. As a homo who can pound a handle and who predates a well known gay KA who actually opened up a lot of peoples eyes, I feel compelled to post and offer some perspective, because my life changed when I graduated (for the better). Gone were the booze fueled, drug induced late night section romps with a select few (some of whom, to the discredit of Duke and broader southern culture, are now married). I struggled with those, not knowing what to think or feel or why I valued them or how to make myself blase about the possibility of another, and another, and another. Although it seemed like it at the time, I was not the only one who was actually into it, and certainly not the only Dukie who felt alone because I and everyone I hooked up with were to cool to care, to scared (of themselves, but really of others) to be honest, and too wedded to an ideal to acknowledge the possibility of others. Its not trivializing anyone's experience to say that at 25 in NYC, in a crowd of gay bankers and consultants and lawyers, many of whom can bench press you before drinking you under the table, its kind of a running joke how macho and closeted and hollow a lot of Duke experiences are.

Like 99% of the population, you have to adjust, and you have to make choices. My choice has been to stop hanging out with all the Dukies, to make friends with guys who went to *gasp* BC, to put myself in positions where I never thought Id be and that aren't 100% comfortable, in order to maintain an identity of someone who is smart, cool, good looking (OK, Ill stop), and private. And a 'mo. And you don't believe it now, but trust me, if you compromise your Duke indoctrination which is largely based on insecurity anyway, open yourself up to being friends with people from different schools, places, and industries, you will not have to compromise your masculinity, your interests, your friends, or your level of comfort with your own sexuality. I promise. And thats an easy promise to make, because organic self development will take care of half the battle anyway.

I hope Duke changes (and while the freshman Dukie in me says its lame, this blog is an awesome start), but that embarrassing conflict is its challenge. The things that make Duke great are the same things that drive you crazy. With respect to social culture, I think thats fairly unique. My Georgetown LAX friends, my homo Chicago and Williams friends, my Australian athlete friends are in NYC and have no problem with whoever you want to love (or just bang). So four years out, my unsolicited advice to the individual in question: get over it, and get to it. The world you hate yourself for wanting, the promise youve already dismissed, the social circle youre too scared to hope for exists, and is waiting for you. Maybe not with open arms, but since you're a rockstar with the balls to post on this blog while there are 20 more like you just lurking, something tells me youll be just fine.

Well, I just got back from Wednesday Night Shooters. Funny thing is, I had the option to go back with either my sort-of-boyfriend-ish-person or my roommate, whom I'm in love with. I picked her. She's now asleep, and obviously doesn't give a shit that I picked her. Or maybe she does; I just would never know it, and probably will never know it. He doesn't know it either, but he'll probably always play second fiddle to her. Neither of them knows. This is my own little secret, and I'm worried I'll carry it to the grave.

All guys want is sex...that's it. I thought I was a gay girl for the past two years but then I started falling for this guy...until he told me he wanted to be fuck buddies. No feelings involved at all. Me being my dumb self said no but the next day I still went to hang out with him at his room. "Maybe he'll still fall for me" I thought. We made out and did other things and at the end he said "Now don't let your feelings get involved." It seems like all guys are like this, I can't handle it. Girls are different, right? Or am I just fooling myself. I don't want sex, I just want love.

I've only been out for about a year, and I'm already frustrated at being gay at Duke. The number of gay men here on campus is so small. There are a few guys I'm attracted to, and a few I've hooked up with, but all they're interested in is sex and the superficiality of it all makes me want to dissociate from romantic endeavors entirely. I know it's unfair to expect to find my soul mate within a population that hovers around 75, but I don't know how to expand into the triangle other than by signing up for some sketchy site online (which doesn't appeal to me). Only a few people from unc and ncstate visit duke, and as far as I can tell only a few people are involved in the lgbt club at unc, so attending their events isn't too enticing. The gay clubs I've been are always relatively empty or frequented by the same people each night. I know UNC has to have more options for me--it's almost 3 times the size at Duke--but I have no idea of how to engage with the less mainstream gay population there that hovers under the radar. I suppose I could just hop on the roberston, find a corner on Franklin street, and gaydar each guy as they pass, but that seems inefficient. Anyone else out there feel constrained by how small our community is, and anyone have some tips? I would really like to be in some sort of a relationships at least by next semester...

February 3, 2011

Uh, Can We All Talk About How Awesome This Is? So N.C. State posted their "It Gets Better" video online today and they just knocked it out of the park. I may actually be a little jealous right now? I may actually be a little jealous right now. We are all Wolfpacks (did I do that right?) today!

So yeah. Who's got a camera?

February 2, 2011

How Not to Come Out to Family

So I’m like really really horrible at coming out. My first verbal expression of “I have something to tell you” was over a year ago to my Dad. In order to muster the strength/energy to do so, I worked myself up into an emotional frenzy. You can read about it here but what’s pretty crazy is how rotten of a job I did to deal with the rest of my family.

Living a life of secrecy and hidden love is nothing new to me. In fact, nearly two and a half years of my time at Duke had been spent in this melodramatic heart-wrenching, heart-breaking relationship that caused so much pain to so many people that it is hard to think of myself as the same person. One thing that always stuck with me through all that was a complete loss of how to be transparent and truly honest. It is through these means that honor and pride manifest themselves.

So I vowed: No more secrets. No more bullshit. Let’s do this.

Except it’s really hard. I certainly don’t want to blame this on my recent history of secrecy since I was in a period of re-thinking my self image, my gender expression, and the true manifestations of love (I even shaved my head, damnit), but I didn’t have many clear examples of what to do.

To my own credit, I did come out to both of my grandmothers, but the talking stopped there. The thing about my extended family, is that they’re really a lot more like immediate family. We all live within a few minutes of each other, and my grandparents live next door. So it’s not a once-a-year kind of family, it’s a most-nights-during-the-week kind of family. I knew it was my responsibility to tell everyone myself, for my sake, and those who were holding and suffering from my news. But also for Hilary’s sake. The silence of a partnership—however it’s employed—is suffocating, infuriating, and never, ever okay.

I failed her. I failed Hilary and myself. I was crushed by the pressure and withdrew from taking action. Quite possibly the best example of proving love: to announce it, to celebrate it, to be honest.

So the night before Hilary and I flew out to San Diego together, my dad sat my family down, and told them the news for me because I hadn’t done it yet. It might work for some people to come out this way, it gets a lot of conversations done quickly. But my family refused to meet her.

Now, my family is the kind of family that will like all go out to one of our favorite restaurants to welcome a new friend, or my sister’s boyfriends (& her girlfriends since they didn’t know they were girlfriends). So it was a sinking, sick feeling. Dinners are like the ultimate expression of welcome and acceptance. Also a great opportunity to tease, and to test, and to talk about poop.

But Hilary didn’t get that. Not yet anyway. Because I fucked it up. I hope we can someday. It certainly isn’t a rejection of her as it is a rejection of a shocking truth told second hand and with less than 24 hours to react. I can only blame myself.

I know my grandpa cried when he found out. The only other time that’s happened is when he found out that I got into Duke, and he said, “I can’t believe a Puente is gonna go to Duke.” He’s a quiet hard-working man who I love dearly. I wish he could celebrate my love with me.

But my dad, who has sat with this news for over a year, COMPLETELY kicked ass. He had an awesome family dinner with my siblings and Hilary. Then after she left to return to Durham, he took my little brother, my sister and I to a GAY THEATRE. To see a GAY PLAY. Isn’t that the craziest shit you ever heard? He even knew the reputation of the theatre, and all this gay culture stuff in the city. It was clear that he had been doing his research, and the fact that he would plan a family outing with gay themes (sex included) for my 15-year-old brother to see, is a huge step for him. So back home, I felt more simultaneously accepted and furious at myself than I have in awhile.

Now—on to the step that, for me, is infinitely harder and oppressive than coming out: the follow up conversation. How the hell am I gonna conquer that one?