[Editor's note: Please welcome Cameron T to the blog!]
Author’s note: I am by no means condoning the playing of/listening to Hannah Montana by referencing one of her songs in this post. I want to make that very clear.
Since my arrival at Duke, I feel as though I’ve been trying out. No, dear reader, I don’t mean I’ve been gallivanting around attempting to join every group on campus in a desperate attempt to satiate my need for social stimulation. I mean trying out for acceptance – both within and without the LGBT community. I came to Duke with many unresolved questions in mind – Should I come out immediately? If so, how 'gay' should I be? If not, then when should I come out? Was it possible to have the *ahem* beeeeest of both worlds – being open with my LGBT friends and yet maintaining some privacy with the rest of the world? #ThanksHannah. In retrospect, I see that those questions were downright silly. Since I wasn’t out in high school, I felt as though my transition into college life would be a defining moment for how I would live for the next four years.
Needless to say, I chose to rip off the proverbial Band-Aid and enter college as an openly gay man. My reception and continuing integration into the community has been interesting to say the least.
Community is a curious word. The dictionary defines it as a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists. The LGBT community at Duke is (or should be) about more than the mere fact that its members all identify as LGBT. Isn’t it supposed to be about supporting and loving each other?
One of the things I’ve noticed most about our community is a seemingly ever-present sense of comparison of between individuals’ ‘levels of gayness.’ I’ve heard of people being ‘too gay, ‘not even counting [as gay],’ and being ‘not gay enough.’ During a bus ride a few weeks ago, a member of our community glanced at me, turned to his female friend, and unabashedly stated, “If I ever get that gay, shoot me.” Another member of our community once told me that he reads the BDU blog just to laugh at it. When a community which claims to value diversity mocks its own, it has far-reaching implications. I would even go so far as to say that it gives tacit consent to be mocked by those outside of the community.
So why then is there such factionalism within our little community? If being part of the community is all about what makes us alike, then why do we tend to focus so much on what’s different? Yes, I understand that there is a need for everyone to be an individual, but I am unsure why (completely unmerited and ridiculously contrived) varying ‘degrees’ of homosexuality seem to be so heavily emphasized.
I have to reject the notion that gender expression and sexuality are synonymous. Actions (watching football or liking to shop for example) are not gendered, and do not, in and of themselves, say anything about one's sexual preference. The fact that we think of certain actions as being more masculine or feminine than others is a mere reflection of societal constraints on gender. We need to rethink our notions of what it means to be ‘gay’ – in a community that strives to be as inclusive as possible there’s no room for such internal bias and exclusivity.