March 23, 2011

Let's Get Real

Tonight is the second meeting of the LGBTQ men’s discussion group and the focus of tonight’s conversation will be on navigating the social scene within the community. So, I’m going to use this blog post as a jumping off point for discussion. Of course, these are only my opinions based on my personal experiences. I welcome any conversation you’d like to have about anything I say here (or you can just come to the discussion group meeting tonight at 6:30pm in the LGBT Center).

Anonymous post #2 from this week really struck a chord with me. I read that one and immediately became infuriated because this is a problem I’ve seen come up time and time again in the gay community, especially among the men. As soon as there is a rumor that there’s some new guy that is out or in the process of coming out, everyone just has to find out who he is and what it looks like. This sickens me to my stomach because this seems to be the only time when the men come together. Now, some guys do have honorable intentions like trying to reach out and make you feel welcome, whereas others, let’s just say, have less honorable motives. Why can’t we just let people live there lives and come out when they want instead of exposing them to everyone else? I know we love to welcome new members into the community but they should do that in their own time. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t we as community here to be there for those that want to join us? It’s one thing to go up to someone in the Center and strike up a conversation with them (but NOT going directly to discussing their sexuality) and it’s a completely different thing to approach them anywhere else and ask them on a date. The former of these is a friendly welcome while the latter is a stalker move.

Maybe I’m a bit overly critical, but I have reason to be. In high school, when I first began coming out to my friends, I asked them to not tell anyone because *I* wanted to do it and I had hoped to contain my little secret to my close group of friends. Well, it only took one person to say something to the wrong person and soon enough, the entire school knew. I began to get weird looks from people that I had only interacted with maybe once or twice. The three other openly gay guys in the school started approaching me and trying to get me to talk about my sexuality when they previously would not give me the time of day. So many people began talking to me only to see if the rumors about my sexuality were true. I figured that I might as well tell the truth since the unicorn was out of the bag. Thankfully, I mostly had positive reactions, but I was still upset that the people I trusted were so fast to turn their backs on me. I felt disrespected.

And that’s what this comes down to: respect. As a community, we need to learn to respect people’s privacy. Telling everyone about the people you’ve hooked up with thanks to the wonders of websites is not ok! How can we ever expect people to get off the internet and feel secure enough to reveal themselves openly, if we keep doing it for them? I think that’s one of the main reasons why we struggle to get new faces in the Center. They know that rumors spread like wildfires and if they’re not ready to be out to everyone, it’s easier for them to just stay in the closet. I, personally, don’t like everyone knowing all the intimate details of my life because I’ve been a victim of the rumor wheels and the little birdies. So, I keep a lot of things to myself or to people that I 1000% know I can trust, which is not many at all. If I want something publicly known, I’ll put it on Facebook or Twitter. Otherwise, it’s my business to tell or not tell as I so please.

If you choose to think of this situation as people just wanting to expand the community (which it honestly is for some people), that’s fine. But also realize that some people only care about expanding their hookup options. Part of navigating this gay social scene is being able to tell the difference between people that only want to get to know you and people that want to “know” you in the biblical sense.

I know that this isn’t the most optimistic, rose-colored view that many people debating on coming out want to hear, but it’s the reality of the situation. And while I love being optimistic, I have to keep it real with you. This community has its issues just like every other community does. Do what you feel is best for you, but if these problems bother you as much as they bother me, please join me in rectifying them. Don’t accept this as the standard. Come in and help change it. Let’s make sure that no one else has any problems like this again.


  1. <3 it! you are my favorite blogger ;)

  2. as someone who has recently come out, i think it's important to find a middle ground here.
    i don't want every gay guy at duke to try to find me and hit on me, but i also don't want everyone to act like my being gay is a secret, when i don't want it to be, because that just seems dishonest and counterproductive to getting to know people

  3. "And that’s what this comes down to: respect. As a community, we need to learn to respect people’s privacy. Telling everyone about the people you’ve hooked up with thanks to the wonders of websites is not "

    Can we start a poster campaign based solely around this quote? Thank you so so so so so much for writing this, its about time someone brought this up. No matter how uncomfortable it is for people to hear this, the fact of the matter is that there are many of us who are out here at Duke, but who feel like they would never be able to come into a space like the center because of the issues aforementioned above.

    I know some people will huff and groan over what you have exposed, but thank you. It may not immediately change the culture of the community, but perhaps it will get people thinking the next time they decide to discuss someone elses coming out.

    Thank you thank you thank you.

  4. Anonymous 9:10, I completely agree with you. As someone that is out, I certainly don't mind people telling others about my sexuality. I was more focused on those that aren't out or aren't comfortable with others spreading the word about their sexuality. If you're fine with other people knowing and talking about it, then that's completely ok. But, if you're not comfortable with people finding out by word of mouth from others instead of directly from you, that's a totally different situation. And that's the type of situation I was focusing on. I guess it depends on the level of comfort and that varies from person to person.

    Oh and thank you so much, Anonymous 6:04! That means so much more to me than you may realize :)

  5. I want to encourage people who may now be scared of coming out after reading this piece that--there IS positive and healthy dialogue at the LGBT Center and it isn't all gossip! As AJ himself pointed out, there's a men's discussion group tonight. There's also Women Loving Women for those not of the male persuasion, along with a multitude of other opportunities to meet people AND be respected, like BDU meetings and the LGBTQA discussion group. People respect privacy at these more formal get-togethers because it's stressed at the beginning of every one.

    So please, don't tar the entire gay community with this brush. The fact is, people will gossip about your sexuality whether you are dealing with straight people or people at the LGBT Center. The difference is that at the Center, there are other, more affirming and supportive options for you. Don't miss out.