September 30, 2011

Esse Quam Videri

[Editor's Note: You may recall reading in this post that we will be featuring Faculty Bloggers this year! Thank you to Dr. G for agreeing to write for us, and welcome to the writing side of things. We've appreciated your past readership and support and continue to appreciate your outspokenness as an ally!]

Greetings to all who read the BDU Blog! My name is Michael Gustafson, and I am a Duke Alum^3 as well as a faculty member with the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke. I am also an Ally, and have graciously been given the opportunity to talk about what that might mean. This first post is a bit about the start of that journey.

I find it a somewhat amazing coincidence that 18 years ago I wrote my first-ever letter-to-the editor (of The Chronicle) entitled “Removing ROTC simply a quick fix.” I was arguing against banning ROTC on campus as a means of effecting change regarding policies barring homosexuality in the military. The coincidence is that my letter was published right about the time that the men and women enlisting in the military today were being born and just a few short years after the birth of Midshipman Pruitt – he of the “Repeal, The Question, and JFK” post published here on September 20th, the day Don’t-ask-don’t-tell expired. As a result, I have thought about what it means to be an ally, as opposed to just seeming like one.

In the spring of 1993, the Department of Defense policy in force was from a 1982 directive stating that homosexuality was incompatible with military service. In part because of this policy, several universities had already banned ROTC from campus, and the Arts & Sciences Council at Duke was discussing doing the same. I was a senior in the Naval ROTC program at the time and knew that the officers we worked for and students we served with were not the ones setting the policies. I also knew that ROTC units around the country were being re-sized – generally downward – and I worried that, if the Arts & Sciences Council moved towards a ban, the Department of Defense would waste little time closing Duke’s unit. I and several of my classmates in the program were able to afford Duke primarily because of the scholarships offered through ROTC, and I became concerned that a ban on ROTC would mean (1) that in the future people in my situation would not be able to attend Duke, and (2) that those same people – who perhaps were opposed to the ban as I was – might place the blame and their anger on the people they perceived as having taken away their ability to go to a place like Duke University. I thought the move to support students who were being barred from service might backfire given that none of the policy makers would be affected but potential future policy makers would. As it turns out, the Arts & Sciences Council did not have enough voting members on hand that day and, as far as I can recall, never did change official policy regarding the ROTC units.

Looking back now, I believe my letter was neither the worst, nor the best, beginning for an ally.

Not the worst beginning, because I – and you as well – can imagine letters far worse than the one I wrote being written about the possibility of an ROTC ban. If not, there are doubtless some soundbites you can glean from the interwebs regarding the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy and then timeshift to when under the law of the land it was not just talking about being LGBTQ that was seen as incompatible with military service but actually being LGBTQ.

And the letter was not the best beginning, because, frankly, it could be read as saying, “Well, it may be unfair for you as an LGBTQ person to be barred from receiving an ROTC scholarship or serving in the military, but if Duke imposes this ban, I would have to take out loans and stuff to go to Duke or pick one of the other several dozen excellent universities with ROTC programs to earn my commission!” If Chris Perry were still the editor here, I’m pretty sure he would be able to add the helpful #straightguyproblems tag that would well and truly indicate the relative importance of the issues. In stating, “I am personally opposed to the ban, but removing ROTC is not an effective countermeasure,” I was certainly seeming to be an ally – but without actually being one. In fact, I did not even have a concept about what being an ally would mean.

Fast forward a few years. I am at a conference with a colleague and several students. Somehow, one of the students and I ended up discussing the harassment that the student had suffered as a result of being gay: the verbal and physical threats. It was the first time that I had been told by anyone directly what they had gone through just for being who they are. It was the first time I realized that such a thing could actually happen at Duke.

Fast forward a few more years. I get a phone call from one of my best students. “What can I do if my parents disown me?”

Um… What?

Long story short, the student had finally come to the realization that the psychologically hellish dichotomy of being at Duke and its relatively more understanding environment followed by being at home and having to be Someone Else needed to be changed, and the way to make that change was to come out. The student’s fear about coming out was that the student’s parents would take away the one thing that had actually been a blessing and a comfort – the connection to Duke and with it the fellow students and faculty and staff who had been supportive and the environment in which a new life of truth had begun. This time I saw a blessedly different side of Duke – one I wanted to be a part of and see grow.

As for being disowned - I couldn’t even begin to fathom such a thing. And so I had to start learning what it would mean to actually be an ally. If situations like these had to be dealt with by these two students, there had to be other students in similar struggles. And if someone like me, sheltered as I’ve been from discrimination and prejudice, had somehow still managed to convey an openness to be approached on matters of discrimination based on sexual orientation, there had to be others who had experienced more and learned more than I and who could help me. And, lo and behold, there are!

(c) Matt Lyons
Used with permission
Presumably, you know that. You are, after all, reading this on a blog put together by and for students across the spectra of gender and sexuality. If you have been on Duke’s campus, you have seen the rainbow flags adorning random windows throughout the Gothic Wonderland and know that you are not alone – whoever you are and wherever you find yourselves in those rainbows. Hopefully you know that there is a Center for LGBT Life – and that the people there are ready to answer questions and offer support and all kinds of other things which, if listed, would get me into trouble with my editor for post length.

And if you have been by my office, or others on campus, you have hopefully seen the Ally sign members of the Ally Network put up to both show you our support and to mark our space as a safe one for you to be yourself.

For anyone reading this who is interested in being a part of the Ally Network, there are two training seminars this semester:
  • October 18, 5:30 – 8:30, Center for LGBT Life 
  • November 7, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Center for LGBT Life
You can reserve a spot for yourself at 

It is a real privilege to be granted space on this blog – and I hope going forward that I will earn the honor by being an ally rather than merely seeming to be one.

Esse Quam Videri.

September 29, 2011

NC Pride Wrapup

[Ed. Note: Last year, we started to recap BDU and Center events with pictures and firsthand accounts. This past weekend was the 27th annual NC Pride Parade, which began right here on Duke's East Campus! A friend of the blog, Chelsea, was awesome enough to share her thoughts with us. And a special thanks to Robert and Cesar for use of their pictures.]

Last Saturday, September 24th, I participated in my first Pride parade. Being what we call a “straight ally” and having lived most of my life in a country (Italy) where LGBT Centers are underground and the idea of supporters doesn’t really exist (and we also have the Pope? Minor detail), you can imagine how this opportunity had not made its way toward me in the past. But this weekend it did, and I immediately jumped on that bandwagon… But actually. I climbed on that float, lathered my torso in body paint, through my hands in the air and cheered on like there was no tomorrow.

Last Saturday, the sky was dull and it poured, but that didn’t faze us. Durham was vibrant. Durham was a bubbling melting pot of people of all different kinds of backgrounds, ages, sexualities and beliefs who stood as one while asking for a simple request: let us all be equal.

There are two levels on which one could experience NC pride: first, you had the more general aspect which entailed a herd of advocates for equality parading down the streets, as most Prides go. But on the other side, you had the Duke/Durham level, where one bonded with their community, home or home-away-from–home; where one lent a helping hand to a peer; where one celebrated while embracing their best friend, smiling at their RA, cheering with their lab partner, high-fiving their professor; where one could directly reach out to their neighbor, friend, significant other, relative, passerby and affirm, “This is for you”.

Going back to that day, I find a cluster of words and images whirling in my mind:
Swarms of smiling faces
Bright color
(SO MUCH glitter)
Insane hairstyles
“Work it!!”
Showers of hearts
Actual showers
Energy and Pathos

September 28, 2011

Coming out with God

[Editor's Note: I am incredibly excited to introduce you all to our second 2015 blogger, Jonathan! Please give him the same rousing welcome that you gave Kyle last week.]

So, lately I've noticed myself using the terms "before I was gay," and "after I was gay" to refer to before and after my senior year of high school, respectively. I'm still not entirely sure when or why I started doing this.

This seemed rather strange to me when I first noticed myself doing it, but upon some reflection I realized that there was a subtle truth in what I was saying.

Prior to my junior and senior years of high school (or thereabouts), I was heavily repressed. I knew that I sometimes thought about other boys, but I also knew that God would send me to hell if I thought too much about other boys. The concept of a gay person going to church was totally nonsensical to me. After all, why would they bother worshiping a God that hated them? Obviously, I never would have (or could have) considered myself gay (hence the "before I was gay" era). I couldn't be. After all, I was a good Christian boy, and God doesn't make you gay if you're Christian. Attraction to other boys is just something everyone has to deal with, they just never talk about it. Right?

Over the course of my junior and senior years in high school I began to reevaluate those statements. Through the help of a few good friends, a couple gay role models, and a handful of Christian theologians (Desmond Tutu and Gene Robinson especially), I gradually came to understand that the term "gay Christian" isn't such an oxymoron after all. For the first time in my life I was exposed to the possibilities that I could be both, and that I could be gay and not go to hell. What radical thoughts! My whole conception of myself and the world was blown apart. Suddenly, I could embrace that part of me I'd kept hidden my entire life. I didn't have to force myself to like girls anymore, and God would still love me? And thus began the long and difficult process of coming to terms with my sexuality and the beginning of the "after I was gay" era.

Sadly, I am well aware that I don't face this struggle alone. The struggle to choose between religion and sexuality is something all gay religious teens face. It would seem that the current religious climate in America simply doesn't allow someone to be both gay and Christian - you have to pick one. Many gay teens simply toss their religion aside, or worse, they do what I did, and repress their sexuality in order to keep God's love for them. It would seem there's something unfair, or rather, unnatural, about having to make that choice. As Dr Daniel Helminiak puts it, "To have to be afraid to feel sexual is to restrain that noblest of human possibilities, love. It is to short-circuit human spontaneity in a whole array of expressions - creativity, motivation, passion, commitment, heroic achievement. It is to be afraid of part of one's own deepest self.... So, in a profound and important way, for people to have to choose between religion and sexuality is to have to choose between religion and themselves. As we are coming to understand the matter today, it is to have to choose between God and human wholeness."

Choosing between God and human wholeness? Is that a choice God wants us to have to make? Is that really what the queer community has to spend their lives wrestling with? Is that the best God can do? Really?


God is greater, better, and more nuanced than that.

Of course, this doesn't mean we're getting off easy. We're left with the massive responsibility of finding a way to make our religion and our sexuality work. Although God will be with us along the way, working in both our religion and our sexual identity, we still face the very difficult question: How can we find some middle ground between the two? One thing that I've learned in my own attempts is that no one can give us an easy means to reconcile our faith and our sexuality. For those of us struggling to reconcile them, there are plenty of gay religious role models that can help point us in the right directions, but ultimately, our individual middle ground is something we have to work out with God for ourselves.

No matter what stage you're at in this reconciliation - questioning, afraid to question, conflicted, or confident - rest assured, God does not want you to hide from any part of who you are. After all, God made you, and there's no part of you that God can't handle. In recent years (mostly over the past century or so) God has been the victim of the most vicious case of slander ever to occur in the course of human history at the hands of conservative religious groups. These groups and the falsehoods they spread cannot comprehend the breadth and the depth of our God. They cannot understand and they cannot withstand the Good News that our God's love is for all of us, all the time, in all places, people of all faiths, and people of no faith. It cannot and will not be confined to any group which tries to claim it and monopolize it for itself. As the Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously preached, "Jesus said, 'When I be lifted up I will draw all people to myself.' All. All, all, all, all, all! Black, white, rich, poor, beautiful, not-so-beautiful. It's one of the most radical things! All, all, all, all, all! Gay, bi, so-called straight, all of us are meant to be held in this incredible embrace that will not let us go. All."

Don't be afraid to embrace part of who you are because you think God won't like it; God embraced that part of you a long time ago.

September 27, 2011

An Open Letter to the NC General Assembly

Dear NCGA,

Hey, it’s me. I don’t know if you remember me or not, but we used to be pretty good friends. Do you remember that awkward high schooler who stood at the dais of the Senate back in 2007 when he was a Senate page? You remember, the one who had just gotten a haircut because his father said that he should look presentable at the legislature. The one who had long, brown, curly hair before then. You don’t remember me? But I stood right at the front of the Senate sessions, just to the right of the now-governor Beverly Perdue.

Perhaps you remember me in a slightly different way. Maybe you remember me as the young, scared, closeted high schooler that I was; maybe you remember the way you made me feel then. When I sat in a question and answer session with Senator Jim Forrester, and he decided that the best thing to talk about with a group of pages was how frustrated he was that the Democratic leadership wouldn’t hear a bill on a referendum to ban gay marriage in the state constitution. Maybe you remember me as the kid who went home to my best friend Paige that night, the only person I was out to, and told her how angry you made me. Or maybe you remember the way that I timidly talked to the other pages about how frustrated you made me feel, but not so much as to give away that I was hiding something.

Or it might be that you remember me when I came to the legislature on a field trip with my high school, and after sitting down with representative Deborah Ross to hear from her about what it’s like to work in the House, I asked her why you couldn’t pass a law that protected people from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Maybe you remember the way that she looked at me with sad eyes and told me that other legislators are scared to support the LGBT community because they could lose their seats.

Or maybe you remember me from a year later. I could’ve sworn that we met at some point. That summer I was interning in my state senator’s office. It was only for a week or two, but it was really exciting for a high schooler like me to feel important in that way. You even gave me a staff badge so I could walk around on the Senate floor without getting in trouble. Didn’t you see me? I was that same, curly-haired high schooler that you saw running around to drop something off at a committee meeting or at a caucus. You probably saw me as I welcomed you into my senator’s office; I was the young guy sitting at the front desk, who smiled as he asked you to wait for a moment as he went to see if the Senator was in. Maybe you remember me as the intern who hesitantly came out to his state senator, so that his state senator might better understand why he should vote for a bill that stops LGBT kids from getting bullied. Does that ring a bell?

But maybe I made a stronger impression later in high school, when I was volunteering with Equality NC, and I went around to all of you and handed you all hand-signed postcards from your constituents telling you that they support having a law that protects LGBT kids from bullying. Do you remember the way that made you feel? Do you remember how strange it was to have a gay high schooler come around to your office and tell you to vote for a bill that would protect him and other people like him from harassment in school; that would protect his fundamental right to seek an education in a safe environment? Do you remember me? Do you?

Two weeks ago, you showed me that you don’t. When you signed into law a referendum putting my minority rights to a majority vote, you erased me from your memory. When you decided that my right to one day marry the love of my life was less important than your own political goals, you showed me that you don’t remember me at all. Two weeks ago, when you decided to denigrate my identity in our state’s founding document, when you decided to slander my pride and self-esteem in the most permanent, public way possible, you denied that we ever met. Last week, while you were on the house and senate floors rejecting my worth as a citizen and trampling on my human dignity, I was crying in the LGBT Center at Duke, lamenting the fact that you can’t even remember my face.

Given that you seem to have forgotten me completely, I’d like to take a brief moment to re-introduce myself:

Hello. My name is Jacob Tobia, I’m a gay North Carolinian, I am someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s future husband, and I am deserving of your respect.

Do you remember me now?


September 26, 2011

Anonymous Posts (9.19.11-9.25.11)

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, hate speech, or express or insinuate that one is at risk for hurting themselves or someone else. Please read this for an explanation of this policy and seek help if your or a friend find yourself in that position. With those exceptions aside, please feel free to submit your thoughts and questions. :)

What a week! The blog "relaunched" and welcomed its first 2015 writer, BDU met and is well on the way to doing great things, Dorothy Allison rocked the socks right off of my feet, and PRIDE happened!

College sports are finally "getting it." Northwestern University's AthleticDepartment released an "It Gets Better" video featuring the football(!!), softball(!!) and women's tennis coaches and men's and women's basketball and softball student-athletes. Seriously, Duke, Coach Cut, Coach K, student-athletes...What are you waiting for? Also, slightly outdated, but the NCAA recently adopted a policy about trans athletes! 'Cause, yeah, trans athletes need our support and recognition so that they can go on to REPRESENT THE US AT THE PAN AM GAMES. We see you, Keelin Godsey!

And now, for notes from Our Community (OC...#ThisWillCatchOn)

I'm a woman. I was (assaulted? taken advantage of? severely misunderstood by?) a woman at a party. She was cute. I was up for kissing and flirting, but not much more than that. Lots of drinking was involved. Pro tip: saying "I don't want to do anything you're uncomfortable with" and then going ahead and doing it without giving the drunk, confused person you're with time to process? Doesn't count as getting consent. I'm scared that no one will take me seriously because there was no penetration and no force involved. And, of course, girl-on-girl is hot. Someone who was at the same party and who knows her promised he would talk to her about it, and hasn't. It's been months. He's seen me crying over it, freezing up at parties/in sexual situations, on and on. And I can't shake the feeling that if it had been a guy, he would have been all over him the next day. I don't want vengeance or anything. I just want to be taken seriously, and for her to know that it wasn't okay. Mostly I want to stop hurting over this. I think I've processed the assault itself, but the lack of response aches. At party monitor training, they mentioned that men could be victims, but not that women could be perpetrators. It happens. It happened to me. And it wasn't hot. It was scary and confusing and it hurt me.

[Editor's Note: #1, Thank you for taking the risk and sharing your experience with us. If you are looking for in-person support, please see the resources at the bottom of this post. Also consider making an appointment with the Women's Center's Sheila Broderick, a feminist therapist who specializes in sexual violence. Sheila can also help inform you of what your options are when it comes to reporting your assault and seeking academic relief, etc. ]

This post is a little long, and a little rambling, but bear with me because I think my point is an important one. LGBT activists are driven to their activism because they see or experience discrimination first-hand and want to change the status quo. I would hope that no one has objections thus far. The passion that some activists take to their goal is both admirable and exemplary. I would like to highlight, however, that their dedication to their mission is produced by the effect that they hope to have on their own lives and on the lives of themselves, their friends, loved ones, and co-members of the LGBT community (I understand that there are straight activists. That's why I said "friends" and "loved ones"). Many LGBT people and straight people are not gay rights activists. THIS IS NOT A SIN. The people who do not attend parades are not anti-gay, nor are they sustaining the status quo. They have lives outside of the LGBT community (I do not mean a criticism of those who do, but I do intend to stress this point). Many of these people are intensely academic, on sports teams, or passionate about another aspect of their lives. They may be environmental or civil rights activists. They may be busy. These otherwise preoccupied people suffer inappropriate disdain from the LGBT community at Duke. I believe that this disdain is at the heart of the "heterophobia" that riddles the campus. I am writing this post because I want you to think about it. The battle for gay rights is not a "with us or against us" struggle. There needs to be room for a part-time supporter. For someone who will speak up when presented with inappropriate homophobia, but will not attend a rally. For all of you stuck in Duke's LGBT center bubble, I urge you to remember your straight friends. Are they really that bad?

Please remember that there are a number of resources available on campus and in the local community. These resources are available over breaks and throughout the school year. If you or a friend are experiencing thoughts or urges to harm yourself or somebody else, please reach out to the following resources: In an emergency, please don't hesitate to call CAPS at any time, including "after hours" at (919) 966-3820. Ask to speak to the advice nurse and tell them you are a Duke student. You may also call the Trevor Project, a national hotline specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning youth (college students included). Their number is 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

September 24, 2011

In which, like most physical entities, I must occupy space

I've been thinking a lot about gendered spaces lately.

This semester, I'm taking a class on women in comics. When the teacher commented on the first day that the class appeared to be all-women, I piped right up and said, "Actually, I don't identify as a woman!" It all went over well, I was pleased, and I mentally categorized the class as a neutral space.

But then, earlier this week, discussing multilayered identity, one of my classmates made the point that specific identities are often called to the forefront of self-perception based on context. "If a guy came into this room, for example," she said, "he'd probably feel a lot more aware of his gender!"

I was surprised how physical my reaction was, and how fast it happened. The classroom became a female space, and in an instant, my entire body tensed, and it felt like my fever had shot up several degrees. (I still had pneumonia at this time.) One of the other students looked directly at me, clearly expecting me to say something, but seeing the recognition in her eyes just made my throat close up. I literally couldn't breathe; it felt like my body was trying to will itself into no longer existing.

When I say I'm uncomfortable in female spaces, this is pretty much what I mean.

She didn't mean anything by it, of course, and if I'd spoken up I'm sure everyone would have agreed that the classroom wasn't really a women-only space. But it's part of a larger loss, for me; women's spaces used to be safe spaces, the places where I felt most capable of speaking up. Now, it's like going 'home' to my parents' new house in Arkansas instead of my childhood home in Kansas; I remember a sense of belonging and familiarity, but I don't feel it any more.

This is the part where I start to wallow in self-pity, because I don't feel any more comfortable in male spaces. I learned the rules of femininity very explicitly; my best friend in high school said she wouldn't want to be my friend if people kept making fun of me, so she taught me how to dress and act like a girl. It involved a duffel bag of example outfits, and more than one practice session. Nobody ever taught me the rules of being a man, so I'm always worried that there's some secret code I'm missing.

I'm not actually all that interested in following the rules of traditional manliness, since I'd much rather come up with my own queer, feminist interpretation of masculinity. I would be OK with being a too-feminine guy in a male space. But instead, I tend to feel like I am seen as an insufficiently-masculine woman, and it's even worse than being in a female space.

Put another way: when I think about entering a women's space, my womanhood doesn't 'measure up', and that's uncomfortable because it's always uncomfortable to be an outsider. But when I think about entering a men's space, I'm worried that my manhood is insufficient, and that's uncomfortable because holy fuck how can I even express how awful and scary that is?

As with all my anxieties, most of this is in my own head; I don't think I've ever had someone explicitly say to me that I don't belong in a certain space. But I've also never been successfully read as male, ever. So I prefer to dodge the question by occupying co-ed spaces as much as I possibly can.

In this way, my classmate was absolutely correct. My awareness of my gender is directly related to my context. In class, at work, or with close friends, I don't worry about fitting into a specific category, and sometimes I even enjoy being a little 'in between.' (A much cheerier blog post is pending on just this topic!) But as soon as I'm reminded that gender is apparently supposed to be a binary, I panic.

And that's where baby blog posts come from.

P.S. - Starting to wish for a neutral space of your own to explore your gender expression? Consider visiting Spectrum, a discussion group for "all individuals who do not conform to gender norms or embrace the sex they were assigned at birth, including those who identify as transgender, genderqueer, transsexual, intersex, gender questioning, or are reading this blurb and getting excited that there might be a place for you on campus." We are open to anyone who would like some support as they deal with questions of gender, with no policing, but please be aware that this group is not intended for allies. Membership is not publicised. Meeting times are on the LGBT center events page; email for more information. We are especially hoping to connect with those who fall onto the feminine side of the spectrum!

And if you're an ally who just wants to know more about trans issues, as always, feel free to ask me a question here or email me any time at!

September 22, 2011

Southern Hospitality

[Editor's note: Here at the BDU Blog we feel fortunate that Our Community (OC, anyone?) grows each year...mostly because it means we get new blog writers :-P just kidding! just kidding! Really, though, please welcome Kyle and stay tuned for more new faces in the next week. We're glad to have you!]

As a first year student here at Duke, one is always faced with some complicated choices. The first couple of weeks on campus are filled with a sort of identity crisis, where everybody struggles to create the beginnings of what person they want to be (or be known as) at Duke. As I’m sure many LGBTQ people would be able to relate to, I had another dimension to this decision. As a bisexual male, I had many options available to me, and I was unsure about which would be the best to take. Do I take my father’s advice and closet myself? Do I not go out of my way to act straight, but avoid affiliation with the LGBTQ community? Do I come out?

During Orientation Week, I decided to go to a few of the LGBTQ events that were being held for freshmen. These were nice, and I met cool people, but I’m substantially awkward in the initial phase of meeting people, so I didn’t really connect with the place. Then on the first Thursday of classes a friend and I decided to see how hard it would be to pull that most venerated of college traditions, (no, not beer pong) the all-nighter! We discovered at about 6:00 the next morning that this was not a fantastic idea. (Especially considering I had five classes that day) After my first class, I remembered that the LGBT Center had comfortable looking couches. Half asleep, I stumbled through the doors and mumbled a question, “Do you mind if I sleep on that couch?” The person (Jess, I believe) who answered just smiled and said, “Sure, that’s fine.”

Though this seems like a pretty minor thing, when I woke up I realized just how comfortable I was in the center. I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t feel the need to watch my mannerisms; I didn’t think people were “figuring me out”. I hadn’t experienced comfort like that since I discovered my bisexuality at the end of last year. That prompted me to go to a Blue Devils United meeting, which then prompted me to attend a blog meeting… so here I am!

So here I am, but who am I? To give you a little idea of who exactly it is that’s rambling at you through though the internet, here’s a brief overview of me. I absolutely adore music, though not mainstream music. I tend to gravitate towards the more unique stuff, and I have the biggest crush on Damon Albarn of anyone you will ever meet. If you aren’t sure who I’m talking about, look him up. One of my favorite things to do is act, especially in comedies. (stereotypical, I know) My other love is philosophy. I enjoy taking some quiet time every now and then to read works of fiction and philosophy and then simply thinking about them. As such, I imagine many of my posts will have some sort of philosophical tone. I also like to design and build things. I am a potential biomedical engineering major. I have desire to get some other certification as well (I waffle between a second major in philosophy or a double minor in theater studies and philosophy). I’m not terribly athletic, nor am I at all religious, so I won’t be a very good resource for readers with any of the potential issues that accompany those. That said, I’d welcome any conversation from people reading this blog.

A brief overview of my “queer story”, as it were, is as follows. I live in an area where LGBTQ discourse and activism is rare and very small scale when it happens. I spent most of my life assuming I was straight because I wasn’t aware of other possibilities. Around November/December of my senior year of high school, I began to discover myself. From there on I’ve been dealing with my sexuality, trying to peel away the layers of repression and internalized homophobia. I’m doing pretty well (as evidenced by me writing this blog post), but I still have a ways to go. Anybody who relates to this situation, or even anyone who just likes some of the things that I like, I’d love to hear from you. If you see me on campus, feel free to say hi. You’ll know me by my fauxhawk.

Until next time,


September 21, 2011

WOMYN Wednesday

First, I want to send a huge thank you to everyone who has submitted to WOMYN! Our next issue is going to be wonderful! We would still love to have some ideas for cover art, so if you want to help with that please talk to Robert Kollenberg, our Senior Layout Editor, or email as soon as possible. Finally, if you want to submit something but missed the deadline, please talk to me (Jennifer).

Okay, so that's pretty much it for WOMYN news, although we will keep you in the loop in the weeks to come! I would now like to offer a (tangentially related) personal musing. Read on if you wish.

Applications for graduate programs in my field opened on September 1. So, I've been working hard to whip my C.V. into shape, find professors willing to write references, and write a compelling personal statement. One thing I had to think about a lot was whether to disclose my involvement with the BDU blog and WOMYN - not because they're not important to me (because they really are!), but because it would mean coming out to more people, specifically the professors who are writing reference letters for me. Oh, of course it's not a blatant kind of coming out. Rather, it's the ambiguous kind that leaves room for so many awkward questions and assumptions.

I wouldn't consider myself super closeted at Duke, but there are some situations in which I don't think coming out is a useful or relevant act. My professors don't need to know I'm queer in order to write me a letter of reference, and graduate programs don't need to know in order to decide whether I'm a good candidate. Thus, coming out seems like an overshare. However, I've been fighting (with myself, with peer pressure, etc.) for years to be fully myself, and expunging all LGBTQ-related activities from my C.V. and things would feel like lying or going back in the closet. It's a weird situation for me. I've basically decided to leave that information in, but to offer no explanation. I would rather show my involvement with activities that are important to me and open myself up to questions and assumptions than erase them from the story I tell to recommenders and graduate schools.

September 20, 2011

Repeal, The Question, and JFK

[Editor's Note: Today marks the first day that LGBQ service-members can serve openly. Here at the BDU Blog we could not be more excited to celebrate the occasion by featuring a post by one of Duke's own LGBQ ROTC members. We've been waiting for this moment since your first year, Pruitt!]

Sometimes, I like to consider the legacy of President Kennedy to be one of my personal enemies. Folks who know me well might be able to tell you how quickly I can turn a topical discussion of current politics into an only-somewhat-related angry tirade against the former Commander in Chief. Now, there are all too many gripes I have with Kennedy that I won't bother writing here. Instead, I'm only going to address my biggest issue with the man: his most famous statement has ruined how we, as a people, think about ourselves and the nation. Every time I hear "ask not what your country can do for you…," a part of me cringes.

Now, I know, that's a fairly edgy set of political/philosophical/governmental statements for our less-than-edgy support/celebration/ community blog here, so allow me to clear up the association with an example. Anytime you get interviewed within the military, or have a friend learn you're in the military, or walk on a bus in uniform, there is a pretty solid chance that you'll get the Question. "So, [awkwardly leans over and reads nameplate], what made you want to join the Navy?" There's only a few different answers generally given in polite company, and it only takes a bit of time around military personnel and prospective to have heard them all. "I wanted to serve my country," or "To do my part," or "To help defend democracy," all get played out fairly quickly. I should think even just saying "Freedom," with enough oo-rah in your voice should get a fairly warm reception. The answers we give—the answers we're comfortable giving—are always about what we can do for our country. I like to think that people who have heard all the normal answers but still keep asking the Question (I'm looking at you, interview board for Congressional nominations to the Naval Academy) want a bit more of an honest, gritty answer so they can really see the muck and guts that form sailor's loyalties. After forty years on the job, they want to hear Real Talk about the money, the women, and the resumes.

The first time I remember getting the Question was from an interviewing Navy Lieutenant when I applied for an NROTC scholarship. I was at a residential arts school at the time and, since we couldn't have personal vehicles on campus, she had to come to the school to meet with me. I met her at the front admissions desk, her in prim, official Khaki and myself in some dressy get-up that screamed Art School Kid. I led her by practice rooms where a strand of Rachmaninoff was played and replayed every five seconds, a courtyard where a giggly gaggle of dancers arabesqued between us, and finally through a small library with more than half its shelves full of art history into a quiet meeting room. After sitting down, filling in the beginning of some Very Official Paperwork and opening a thermos of coffee, she laid it on me—Why? Even though she hasn't so much as glanced at my application yet or read a single entry under "activities," our Lieutenant knows I'm a far shot from the traditional officer candidate or enlistee. Even if she was paying attention on her way inside, LT probably wouldn't have been able to find our one American flag on campus—finding any Eagle Scouts, Varsity football stars, or JROTC Student Commanders would be even harder. I clearly belonged in a coffee house or an obscure (still hip) local art gallery, not on a drill field. So, she asked, why?

For her watching, it probably looked like I blanked and had not yet thought of a reason behind my newly decided career path. The truth is, I had the answer on the tip of my tongue, the slightly-selfish answer that could knock the dust right off of Congressman Barrett's interviewing board, the completely-left-field answer to startle the curious stranger on the bus, and the sufficiently-unique answer to get all manner of asterisks on my FITREPs. I wanted to toss the meeting room door back open and gesture at my absurd campus, saying, "I want to be more than this. I shape my own identity, and I refuse to be locked up in the Art Haus closets of so many from the LGBT community. I am so sick of all the spangles and glitter that blots out my sight whenever I see queer men in media, and I'm sick of the fact that's all the rest of America can see too. In five years, I want people to go to my commissioning and say 'That's what a queer American male looks like, and damn does it look fine.' I want to be one of the first openly bisexual men to be made an officer in the United States Navy."

Instead, though, I was stunned into silence. "Want to see the world, maybe? Call of the sea?" she prompted." I looked at her confused for a moment before stumbling over my words, that, yeah, call of the sea, love traveling, right. I wasn't even in the Navy yet, and they already had my first lie. On that day, just like every time turned aside and smiled at an off-handed gay joke, and every time I mentioned Sharon to my ROTC peers, and every time I dropped my last boyfriend's hand as we exited our dorm together, DADT had me lying and lying and lying. I tried to stay sane through other outlets: I gave a few anonymous interviews, I had a photo (courtesy Jeff Sheng) run everywhere from Newsweek to NPR along with their coverage of repeal, and I sank to dangerously dependent levels in an increasingly painful relationship that could have never have a public face. As of today, though, I don't need special outlets or mediums to be myself and stay afloat. So, while I can't officially give opinions on any military policy, I can say that today's repeal means I can finally stop lying and start giving real answers to the Question. More importantly, though, LGB servicemen currently on active duty can finally have some reprieve from Kennedy's cruel burden of national duty: for the first time in a very, very long time, they aren't being asked what more they can give to their country before it finally does something for them.

September 19, 2011

I Iz In Ur Blogz Changin All Teh HTML: So, like, remember me? My name is Chris Perry and I ran this Blog for a year and a half? "I'm pretty sure Risa has always edited this blog, who are you" —You.

That's my blog! Over there!

Anyhow. Whether you remember me or not ("Wait. You're the one with an unhealthy obsession with Glee, right?"), I still have All The Passwords. Which really just means that whenever Risa asks me to do something like change all of The Blog's colors and background and header image I can do it without hassling her for a password because of course she is doing a fantastic job and I'm so proud and there's nothing I would change on my own without telling her except for maybe putting spaces in between the title and content for the last fifteen posts or so.

But I wanted to explain this redesign a little bit because it's something that's been in the works for a while and we owe some thanks. The background was designed by a friend from high school, Chris Russo (you can see more of his work/hipster comics/insistance on drawing All Your Favorite Singers on Tumblr, his website, and Etsy) who did this completely free and on his own time because he is just an awesome guy and we all owe him a lot. Thanks, Chris Russo!

And whether you like it or not ("1,000,000 Strong Against The New BDU Blog" —Your New Facebook Page) I feel like we can at least agree it is an improvement over the old color scheme which was kind of bland considering the energy in Our Community. That color green we had should only be used as an ingredient in toothpaste (toothpaste ingredients: 1. water 2. fluoride 3. that green we had).

On the real though, miss you all tons and I'm so happy to see the Blog where it's at. Risa and the whole staff is doing an insanely awesome job. Just so very proud. I'll leave you with this image, taken from the list of pending posts. Get ready, folks.

Anonymous Posts (9.12.11-9.18.11)/Blog Happenings

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, hate speech, or express or insinuate that one is at risk for hurting themselves or someone else. Please read this for an explanation of this policy and seek help if your or a friend find yourself in that position. With those exceptions aside, please feel free to submit your thoughts and questions. :)

SUPER EXCITING NEWS, Y'ALL! You may have noticed that things look a little...shall we say, different, around here? Well, the BDU Blog is ready to spice things up. Get Hyped. The writers have been working hard to prepare some really amazing and thought provoking content for you. We've got new faces around here (please welcome all of our newbies!), new features, and a new look (duh) all coming your way.

Here's what you can look forward to:
Faculty Bloggers (What!? Did I say LGBTQ and Allied FACULTY?! Yessss!! [Hi Faculty! Email me if you’re interested].
Alumni Submissions (Hi, Alumni! Be on the lookout for an email from the LGBT Center calling for the meantime, send your submissions to and be sure to include your school, year, and a picture).
Grad and professional school student writers! Because we're all part of this Community.
"Throwback Thursdays" on the first Thursday of every month in which we highlight content from the now defunct first version of the blog,
An up-to-date calendar (finally! I know…)...see the right column.
Frequently changing banners (I mean, those posters from the anti-hate speech campaign are really awesome and all, but they’re from last November! [If you take pictures at BDU or Center events, please email them to me!]).
Senior Posts come spring semester (Hey 2012! Start working on them now! Spring will be here before we know it!)
and...well, this spiffy new background!

Whew! That's A LOT! Is anyone else tired after that?

Other sweet stuff happening this week:
1) DON'T ASK DON'T TELL ENDS TOMORROW. Yes, that's right. And what's the BDU Blog doing to celebrate? Well, what better way is there to celebrate than one of Duke's own ROTC members writing their very first blog post tomorrow? So be sure to check in...and then head out to Alivia's for the DADT Repeal party sponsored by outLAW (Duke's LGBTQ Law School Organization).
2) Kinky, working-class, feminist, queer woman Dorothy Allison is visiting Duke this week!! Be sure to make it to one of her many events (see above link for event listings).
3) Blue Devils United is meeting at 5:30 on Wednesday in the LGBT Center.
4) NC Pride is on Saturday!!
5) Grey's Anatomy returns with a two-hour season premier on Thursday! Can't wait to snuggle in my bed on Friday while watching.

Less cool things this week: we don't have any anonymous posts :(

Please remember that there are a number of resources available on campus and in the local community. These resources are available over breaks and throughout the school year. If you or a friend are experiencing thoughts or urges to harm yourself or somebody else, please reach out to the following resources: In an emergency, please don't hesitate to call CAPS at any time, including "after hours" at (919) 966-3820. Ask to speak to the advice nurse and tell them you are a Duke student. You may also call the Trevor Project, a national hotline specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning youth (college students included). Their number is 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

September 18, 2011

LGBTQ Female Role Models: Dorothy Allison [at DUKE!]

Who is Dorothy Allison?

To begin, Dorothy Allison is the feminist and queer writer who is COMING to DUKE this Friday, September 23rd to give presentations around campus! [See the bottom of the post for event times and dates.]

Duke acquired Dorothy Allison's papers September of last year, and was excited to bring her work to our Rare Books and Manuscript, and Special Collections Library (RBMSCL) here at Duke. Born in Greenville, South Carolina, Allison is a natural fit as a Southern writer who is one of the foremost queer and feminist American writers of the 21st century in her fields.

As the first person in her family to graduate from high school or college, Allison studied anthropology in Eckerd College on a National Merit scholarship, and pursued graduate studies at Florida State University. She held a variety of jobs, and later
moved to NYC, where she enrolled in The New School (a historically progressive academic college in NYC) and in 1981 recieved her M.A. in urban anthropology. While in college, Allison credits a feminist "collective" for introducing her to feminism and credits "militant feminists" for encouraging her to write.

Allison is both a non-fiction and fiction writer, writing novels such as Cavedweller, which brings up issues on class, sexuality, female bonds, domestic violence, Southern society, child sexual abuse, and non-fiction pieces such as "The Women Who Hate Me", which was a response of Allison to critics of her political and social activism. Winner of three Lambda Book Awards, the Lesbian Book award and the National Book Award (p.s. Alice Walker won the National Book Award too! Notice a queer women's authorship trend??) today she continues to write and is a visiting professor at Emory University and Davidson College.

Her social activism takes varied forms, and she is one of the co-founders of the "Lesbian Sex Mafia" in New York City, a LGBTQ women's support group that promotes safer sex regardless of sexual preferences and type of sexual act, emphasizing a woman's choice, unihibited gender and sexual expression, consent, and BDSM.

After realizing Dorothy Allison was coming to Duke-I decided to start reading her collection of semi-autobiographical short stories, "Trash", which has won the Lambda and Lesbian Book Awards. It's moving and powerful and vulnerability and strength all in the same text:
"There was a day in my life when I decided to live..."

"I became an escapee-one of the ones others talk about. I became the one who got away, who got glasses from the Lions Club, a job from Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, and finally went to college on a scholarship."

"Even now I cannot believe how it was that everything I survived became one more reason to want to die."

"I wrote out my memories of the women. My terror and lust for my own kind; the souts and arguments; the long, slow glances and slower approaches; the way my hands always shook when I would finally touch the flesh I could barely admit I wanted, the way I could never ask for what I wanted, never accept it if they offered....-all the stories of my family, my childhood, and the relentless deadening poverty and shame I had always tried to hide because I knew no one would believe what I could tell them about it."

"I write stories...I put on a page a third look at what I've seen in life-the condensed and reinvented experience of a cross-eyed working clas lesbian, addicted to violence, language and hope, who has made the decision to live, is determined to live, on the page and on the street, for me and mine."
-Dorothy Allison, "Trash" (1988).
Here at Duke we are lucky enough to have prominent scholars and leaders in various fields come to our campus, to give lectures to students, engage us, and allow us to ask questions that explore their works. Don't miss this chance to meet Dorothy Allison and discuss her works in person!

Where can we meet Dorothy Allison?
Thursday, September 22, 4:00 p.m.
Biddle Rare Book Room, Perkins Library

Dorothy Allison in Conversation with Students
Friday, September 23, 12:00 p.m.
Center for LGBT Life

Out in the South: Writers in Conversation Featuring Dorothy Allison, Shirlette Ammons, Jim Grimsley, and Minnie Bruce Pratt
Friday, September 23, 7:00 p.m.
White Lecture Hall, East Campus

[See the Duke University Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture in the RBMSCL website for more information, here.]

September 16, 2011

Love=Love Candelight Vigil Wrapup

[Ed. Note: Last year, we started to recap BDU and Center events with pictures and firsthand accounts. On Monday Night, Duke hosted a candelight vigil (Chronicle coverage here)to protest the anti-LGBT amendment that was recently passed in the N.C. state legislature (at the time of the vigil, the House of Representatives had passed it and the Senate had not yet voted). By clearing the NC General Assembly, the amendment will appear on the ballot in May. Read more about the bill here, and if you've registered to vote in N.C., and join the FB group to figure out what you can do to stop this bill from becoming a N.C. constitutional amendment. A friend of the blog, Sarah, was awesome enough to share her thoughts with us. You can read more about the vigil at Pam's House Blend. I also recommend reading Megan's remarks, watching Dean of Duke Chapel, Sam Wells's speech (see video below, text here), and checking out sophomore student and NC-native Ryan's reflection on what the marriage amendment means to him. Also, special thanks to Chelsea and Ollie for lending us the use of their photos and to Jess Evans and the student volunteers for coordinating the vigil!]

For my first vigil, the experience was subtle, hushed, but lifted me off my feet. It was like a breath of fresh air after being submerged in water for a slight period. There’s something heavy in the exertion as your chest burns with the contractions and expansion of your exhausted lungs. The burn came from my ignited candle, and that heavy something was indescribable in the wake of the moment. Though I had my mind half working on distributing candles and half catching the quiet, poignant, powerful words released into the wind and into the opened hearts of everyone participating, I could tell something shifted in me, around me. We are united; we don’t support this intrusion of one’s choices. Were we not a country opposed to such invasive cruelty? Was this country not incepted because select individuals refused to recognize our rights as human beings? Reverend Dr. Sam Wells put it quite eloquently: “Our nation’s Constitution doesn’t regard these qualities of our national life to be controversial, or even up for debate. It holds them to be self-evident. Self-evident.”

Monday night, we showed Duke University, we showed Durham, and in extension, we showed legislators of the state of North Carolina, that we cannot deny these rights simply because of these notions of marginalization. For many of us, North Carolina has allowed us to be ourselves, perhaps even for the very first time of our lives. And although I submit this in omission for various and personal reasons, know this: This state is my home, you cannot take that away from me. To see people rallying together against a bill that doesn’t take into the consideration of everyone here encourages me every day to be far more courageous than I was three, five, ten years ago. That night I felt overwhelmed, brilliant, like I belonged, like coming home.

Video of Dean Wells's speech begins at 3:00, courtsey of Pam's House Blend.

What the Marriage Amendment Means to Me

[Ed. Note: On Monday Night, Duke hosted a candelight vigil (Chronicle coverage here)to protest the anti-LGBT amendment that was recently passed in the N.C. state legislature (at the time of the vigil, the House of Representatives had passed it and the Senate had not yet voted). By clearing the NC General Assembly, the amendment will appear on the ballot in May. Read more about the bill here, and if you've registered to vote in N.C., and join the FB group to figure out what you can do to stop this bill from becoming a N.C. constitutional amendment. Below are Ryan's reflections on what the marriage amendment means to him. Ryan is a second-year student and a North Carolina native. You can read Sarah's thoughts on the vigil here and more about the vigil at Pam's House Blend. I also recommend reading Megan's remarks and watching Dean of Duke Chapel, Sam Wells's speech (see video in post above, text here).]

Good evening everyone. My name is Ryan and I’m a second year student here at Duke. I’d like to share some thoughts with everyone on this amendment, as a resident of NC, an LGBT identified man, and as a concerned citizen. To me, this so called “Defense of Marriage” bill is more than just a redundant amendment that only recognizes marriages between two people of the opposite sex. Instead, it will marginalize LGBT identified individuals who are already considered second class citizens. As you may well know, this amendment will guarantee that domestic partners will not be eligible for healthcare and insurance benefits. Even more so, it seeks to undermine what little progress which has been made to curve discrimination against LGBT identified individuals in North Carolina. As a resident of North Carolina, I can attest to the volatile political climate relating to LGBT issues.

While Duke and Chapel Hill are incredibly progressive and welcoming of LGBT individuals, my own observations of attending public school in Winston-Salem for 13 years were anything but welcoming. Sexual identity and health as it pertains to same-sex couples was never treated in the classroom. LGBT issues were never discussed as the topics were considered taboo. Friends from my High school wanted to create a Gay-Straight alliance, but were faced by such avid and open opposition by several members of the school’s administration that no teacher was willing to head the club for fear of losing their job. Attending such a school discouraged me from exploring my own identity as a gay man and prevented me from making a connection with what was a nonexistent community.

Coming to Duke, where rainbow flags hang from windows and nobody seems to care about who you love, my eyes have been opened to a potential world where I don’t have to be ashamed of who I am. To me this bill means more than being prevented by a law that is already in place to marry my future partner or even not being able to receive benefits from my partner’s employer. Instead, this bill means that North Carolina, the state in which I’ve been raised in and have called home for the past 17 years, no longer welcomes me. And I just won’t have that.

September 15, 2011

In which my father suddenly appears!

(I'm stepping on Dan's toes a bit, since his life is enviably ordinary whereas I'm totally flipping out, so make sure you read his post too!)

So lately, I've had pneumonia. Since I also have severe asthma, it's pretty much been the definition of awful. For one thing I can't bind, since I'm having enough trouble avoiding asphyxiation as it is. For another, I can't... do anything. At all. Awkward: asking your ex to do your laundry and empty your trash because your room smells and you have no clean underwear.

More awkward: complaining about this to your mother, and having her immediately book a ticket for your father to come nurse you back to health.

You guys, he's arriving tonight. At 11:41pm.

So I guess I can't put off the how-did-your-parents-take-it conversation any longer, huh? My mom's reaction, when I finally saw her in person a couple months post-letter, was that she couldn't stand to watch me mutilate myself like that, and she wasn't sure she ever wanted to look at me again. And anyway, I never liked cars or sports so I obviously wasn't a boy.

After three weeks of looking at me, she said she'd done some research and found out that more than half of trans people are estranged from their parents, and she doesn't want that to happen. So I should consider not being trans. But maybe after a decade we could get lunch.

But she also insisted that if I ever really, really needed help, I could always come home. Not help recovering from top surgery or anything, I'll have to find someone else if I want company convalescing, but I don't have to starve to death on the streets. So I do think she'll come around. I also think it will take a decade. It took six years for her to get from "you should consider not being a lesbian" to "have you been going to the LGBT center? It would be nice if you met someone."

My dad on the other hand wasn't interested in a showdown when I saw him this summer - until he suddenly showed up the night before I flew home. He seemed to think a decade was too long a timeline, and was surprised when I said I wasn't under the impression I was invited to Christmas. But then he asked me not to tell my brothers, and proceeded to tell a story about a coworker-of-a-coworker who transitioned from male to female, and... did not lose her job or her wife. I couldn't figure out why he considered it a cautionary tale, except that he used male pronouns the whole time and claimed that the receptionists felt weird finding a non-receptionist in the women's bathroom. (It was a CompSci department in the 80s.)

But... he did indeed get me an invitation to Christmas, and to Thanksgiving. And even though he's never really been the parent I talk to, he's also never been the parent I fight with.

When I came out as a lesbian he gave me a hilarious lecture about how no boy would ever date me again, and then he... let it be. My mom read my diary, read my email, snuck into my girlfriend's house; she woke me up to cry on my bed several nights a week; at one point she actually informed me that my girlfriend and I had broken up, and forbade me to see her. My dad... once drove me to a date.

So I want to be optimistic. But that's long-term! What the hell am I going to do with him here??

It says Lawrence Evalyn on my door decoration! Every person I interact with on campus will call me Lawrence! The composites on the wall have a hilarious serious of photos in which my hair gets shorter every year, and then suddenly my name is Lawrence and I'm wearing a tie! He's going to help me unpack and organize my stuff - he'll find my suit and ties! He'll find my pride flag! He won't find the condoms, I figure it's normal to hide those so I made my ex take them after the laundry-incident that spurred this whole mess. (Ditto the sex toys.) He'll find my trans T-shirts! He'll find my binding shirts! He'll find my queer fridge magnets, and I don't even know where those are so I can't hide them!

It's mostly a moot point, since the whole reason he's coming is that I barely have the physical strength to bend over and pick things up, let alone relocate a bunch of stuff to, I guess, a box in a friend's room. But my ex has been very helpful.

I don't plan to correct him when he uses the wrong name and pronouns, which in my book means I'm already bending backwards so far to accomodate him that I'm halfway to breaking. But I think it's fair to give him time. I don't want him to feel like I'm 'flaunting' my gender, but I think we all know how much opinions can differ as to what counts as 'flaunting' it! And it would be worse for him to think I've gone out of my way to hide it, since that would suggest I have something to be ashamed of.

I'm not going to ask my friends to stop calling me Lawrence while he's around. But I'm also not going to bind, thanks to my buddy pneumonia. Everything else is a huge muddle.

My binding shirts are underwear. The shirts and magnets and flag and so on will probably strike him as being too 'aggressive', and might give him the impression that this is the only identity I have any more - especially since I've hidden them all for his other visits, so he'll assume they're new.

The name on the door will be right in his face, fairly literally, the whole time he's here.

But... it's my name, here. Last year I didn't put a name up because I was in an all-girls hall, and I just went without a door dec. That bare door felt like a concession every time I walked through it. It was a real triumph, for me, when I told the RA that he had been given the wrong name for me. I fought hard for that.

But, should I do a queer-cleaning to tone it down inside the room to compensate for the name outside??? These are all battles that I've fought with myself over the last year - but which battles do I fight tomorrow?

As I said to Risa when I asked to post early: I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS. What do you guys think? Help me out!

My Boring Life

My mother (how I do love her so), recently told me in a text that she enjoyed my roommate's post, and was wondering if I was going to post at all this year. I told her, "Meh, my life really isn't interesting enough to warrant a blog post." To which she responded, verbatim, "how about the joy of having a boring life!...How many closeted kids out there do you think would love to have a "boring" life?" So, I'm going to take a departure from the usual heart wrenching stories posted on this blog (which are some of the most amazing stories I have ever read. If you're new to the blog, seriously, take a look through the archives. "Our Lives" >> Math 103 homework). I know the prospect of coming out and discovering who you are can be quite daunting. I remember thinking that coming out would shake my world as I knew it, and that I would never be able to lead a "normal" life. I hope to prove to you that some of Our Lives, the lives of out men and women at Duke, are quite...average.

Weekdays are pretty much all the same. I wake up at about 9 every morning. Eat breakfast on the way to class. Sit through class. etc, etc. We're all Duke students, we all know what the average weekday grind is.

Weekends are also pretty normal. Most Saturdays are currently taken up by band. I usually spend one night a week hanging with the same old people (either Round Table or band friends). Sundays are usually spend in Perkins, catching up on the work that I should have done earlier in the week.

President Broadhead sent us (the sophomore class, I'm not sure if Juniors or Seniors got it) an email at the beginning of the year telling us to break our molds and try something new. But, to be entirely honest, I love my mold. Call me boring if you want, but nothing brings me more joy than going through my routine.

I am single and content in being so. This is a post for another time, but because my sexuality is very low on the list of identities and labels with which I align, I delight in all of the other "boring" aspects of my life. In fact, the "gayest" thing about me right now is the flag outside my window, but that isn't even for me. That is for You. So that You can hopefully feel comfortable on this campus. I fly that flag with the hopes that You can, like me, find a mold in which You feel comfortable. And I certainly hope You know that You can be openly LGBT identified individual and still lead a perfectly normal, "boring" life.

September 14, 2011

WOMYN Wednesday!

Hello, all you marvelous readers!

I do not have a poll for you today. Instead, I wish to remind you of something much more exciting and momentous:

WOMYN is hosting a submission-writing party TOMORROW from 8-10PM in the Center. The deadline for submitting your ever-fabulous perspectives on being a queer woman at Duke is this Friday, September 16. But, writing those submissions can be very difficult, which is why WOMYN has decided to help create an atmosphere that makes writing fun and communal. Because, really, we are all part of such as strong and dynamic community, and WOMYN is a tangible symbol of that community. Therefore, it makes sense that we all share in the writing process - to cheer each other on, make suggestions, and otherwise provide a supportive environment. But wait! There's more! If you come to the party, you will also receive food, FREE with your attendance!

In the meantime, I urge you to keep spreading the word about WOMYN. When it comes down to it, WOMYN is both a record of our community and a conversation among community members. We need as many voices as possible to be included in that conversation. So, please take a WOMYN bookmark to give to a friend, send an email, share a copy of the first issue - we will all benefit by encouraging others to submit. Additionally, for the artistically-inclined, WOMYN is looking for an awesome new cover design. We want this issue to be as slick as the first! You can send your submissions (art and otherwise) to We look forward to seeing the wonderful things you have to offer!

September 13, 2011

Thug Boy

"Tha #1 place fa thug lovin'."

That's what the tagline to an ad for a porn site by the same name of this blog post said. I came across this ad while reading a terrible article about a black man who was killed by some drunk white teenagers. Turns out the black man was gay and had a partner of 17 years and a daughter. A wrongful death lawsuit is being filed, however, the partner of the deceased man cannot join in it because of Mississippi laws. Gotta love the Deep South right?

The article alone was enough to set me ablaze with rage, sadness, and disdain. While fuming over this horrendous injustice, I noticed an ad to the right of the article. It pictured two naked black men in a sexual position with the word "ThugBoy" written across the bottom. It was an ad for black gay porn site.

Wait. What?! Is that...? Does that say...? Really?! An ad of that nature next to an article about the brutal murder of a gay black man? Is that just not the most vile, disgusting, revolting, insensitive, offensive thing in the world to do?! Now, I'm well aware that some of these ads are just randomly placed in locations based on the subject matter but still. Did none of the editors of the website catch that and try to replace it? Why would they even allow ads like that on a website that is not a porn site?

Of course, this sent me just flying over the edge on my unicorn, my rainbow flag cape blowing in the wind. I began to smolder with disgust. Was this the normal portrayal of black men in the porn industry? As a black gay man, am I automatically labeled as a thug? Am I unknowingly a player in some guy's sick fantasy of being roughed around by some big black guy that spews profanity and racial slurs with less than correct English grammar and dropping or not fully enunciating the ends of his words? I had to dig deeper. This can't be how it really is. Can it?

I began to do searches for black gay porn. I'm not going to lie and say that I haven't looked at porn before, but it's never been black porn in particular. The results of my searches found several websites playing into this whole "thug" role. Normal descriptions included "hung black thugs," "black thugs on twinks," "black thug boys," "gangsta gays," and so on. Each one perpetuating the stereotype of black men being hyper aggressive, hyper masculine, spouting more profanity than a sailor could ever think of, speaking in a language that I could barely decipher.

It was disgusting. I was appalled, shocked, and offended. As a black gay man, I am incredibly offended by the common portrayal of black gay men in porn. Granted, it is the porn industry so I'm not expecting much class or taste from it, but this was just too much. How can we ever do away with these stereotypes if this is what millions of people see and, even worse, want?

That was the next part that scared me. Do people expect and want this type of behavior from me when considering me sexually? Am I just a part of their exotic fantasy? Considering the way some men have responded to me at gay clubs and bars, it would make sense. I felt sexualized. I felt like my entire being was reduced to the representation that was playing on my computer screen. For the first time, the interactions I had with other gay guys made sense: "You wanna (something to explicit to ever be repeated) to me?" "You're so sexy. Why don't you (ditto) me?" "I like it rough. I'm sure you can give it to me like that." My responses to each were either "Ew!", "No!", walking away or a combo of all three.

This over-sexualized persona represents everything I try to fight against in my life. I'm more than your sexual fantasy about getting laid by some big black thug in baggy clothes with a grill in his mouth. I'm more than some deep voice yelling insults at you while we're hooking up. Yet, this is what the porn industry perpetuates.

At the end of it all, I can't really be upset for people wanting what they want. I mean, I'm gay, I'm in the same boat (hopefully, with lots of sailors :P ). I love who I love and want who I want. I would just be really appreciative if there were more depictions of black gay male sexuality than thug, even beyond the porn industry. And this is not to say that being someone who would fit the thug or gangster persona is an awful person. This is just me crying out against the projection of this persona on me. Try talking to me first before you let what you see on the internet dictate how to interact with me.

September 12, 2011

Anonymous Posts (9.6.11-9.11.11)

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, hate speech, or express or insinuate that one is at risk for hurting themselves or someone else. Please read this for an explanation of this policy and seek help if your or a friend find yourself in that position. With those exceptions aside, please feel free to submit your thoughts and questions. :)

Happy Happy Monday Monday Monday!

There will be a candlelight vigil tonight at 9pm on the Chapel steps to protest the proposed amendment to the North Carolina constitution that would ban same-sex marriage (a state statute already does), as well as prohibit civil unions and nullify domestic partnership benefits. Let's gather to make our voices heard!

Also, SUPER EXCITING!! Both Spectrum (open to gender non-conforming, trans, genderqueer and genderquestioning folks...Tuesday, 6-7pm) and the Our Lives (open to EVERYBODY as a way to have face-to-face conversations about topics that appear here on the blog, as well as other things...Thursday, 6:30-7:30) discussion groups will be meeting this week.

Remember, Friday is the last day to submit to WOMYN, Duke's very own publication by and for queer women and their allies! Send in your poems, cartoons, photos, reflections, etc, to!

Andddd...this may be something to consider if you're one of the crazy-high-percent-here students who are pre-med.

I'm a gay-identified Duke alum in the military. My training right now looks a lot like college: I'm in a class of six who will be studying together for more than a year. On the second or third day of class, an Airman (and the only female in our class) says something at the end of a break, "If I didn't know you I'd swear you were gay."

DADT isn't officially gone until September 20th, but that will be far from the end of the struggle for LGB servicemembers (after that date, our struggle will just look a lot more like most LGBT people's struggles). So far, the biggest (and it is far from insignificant) challenge has honestly been the lack of a community or a place where I can just be open about myself.

Twice I've falsely admitted to being "involved" with women--I feel compelled to deliver an answer to the intended question: to guess whether their gendered references are intended as limiters (have you had sex with a woman?) or merely reflect their (usually heterocentrist) views (how many women have you been with?). I mentally change the genders (or not) appropriately and go from there. But those situations have lately been more vague than usual.

A conversation about a particularly flamboyant hallmate (I have several) while returning from chow led me to find that my battle buddies were tolerant, if perhaps not allies (both claimed at least to have no problem with The Gays). After commenting on this, one said, "you're pretty gay too though, #name," and I was surprised to find he wasn't entirely kidding. I tend to let the conversation act as though I weren't present in these situations, but it wasn't running itself dry, and it ended with something to the effect of "I'll have a question for you in a couple weeks" that came off much more open and curious than expected.

Whether naturally or by choice, sexuality has not proven to be a central aspect of my life and I do not imagine very many people here will come to know that side of me (as I said though, I will be here a very long time). All the same, I suppose I must prepare myself for the unexpected (though likely) questions. Speaking of questions, I am happy to answer any or "investigate, then answer" others, though it's hard to imagine there are very many to speak of. But I can provide one Soldier's/Blue Devil's/person's perspective.


/>Please remember that there are a number of resources available on campus and in the local community. These resources are available over breaks and throughout the school year. If you or a friend are experiencing thoughts or urges to harm yourself or somebody else, please reach out to the following resources: In an emergency, please don't hesitate to call CAPS at any time, including "after hours" at (919) 966-3820. Ask to speak to the advice nurse and tell them you are a Duke student. You may also call the Trevor Project, a national hotline specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning youth (college students included). Their number is 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).