May 31, 2011

LGBTQ Female Role Models: Sheryl Swoopes


Hey! So I know we're still trying to keep the blog active this summer (if you want to write, talk to Risa!), so I thought I'd talk about a wonderful LGBTQ female role model who has been in the news a little bit lately!

When legendary basektball player Sheryl Swoopes came out in 2005, she was the second WNBA player to do so in history.

Over the course of her career, Swoopes has won 3 Olympic gold medals, is a 3-time WNBA MVP, 4-time WNBA Champion and a 3-time winner of the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year award. The player who has been referred to as "the female Michael Jordan" (or maybe Michael Jordan is just the "male Sheryl Swoopes"), she is most famous for her 10-year career with the Houston Comets, and has also played for the Seattle Storm (2008). Most recently, in March of 2011, at the age of 40, Swoopes returned to the sport after a hiatus due to injuries, to play with the Tulsa Shock.

In regards to her sexuality, Swoopes says, "it doesn't change who I am. I can't help who I fall in love with. No one can. ... Discovering I'm gay just sort of happened much later in life. Being intimate with [Alisa, her partner] or any other woman never entered my mind. At the same time, I'm a firm believer that when you fall in love with somebody, you can't control that." Nevertheless, Swoopes doesn't want her LGBTQ identity to become her only identity that people acknowledge: "I don't want people to just focus on me coming out and that part of my life, because there are so many other aspects to who I am. As a strong, black, female athlete, and as a single parent, there are so many different parts of my life that could really influence someone else's life."

In
a 2006 interview with ESPN, Swoopes explained why she came later on in her career, rather than earlier: "It's not something that I want to throw in people's faces. I'm just at a point in my life where I'm tired of having to pretend to be somebody I'm not. I'm tired of having to hide my feelings about the person I care about. About the person
I love." She also mentions that she didn't always identify as a queer woman: "I didn't always know I was gay. I honestly didn't. Do I think I was born this way? No. And that's probably confusing to some, because I know a lot of people believe that you are. I've been married, and I have an 8-year-old son. Being with a man was what I wanted. When I got divorced in 1999, it wasn't because I'm gay. I'm three years older than my ex-husband, and I matured a lot faster than he did."

When Swoopes went on a cruise with Olivia crusies in 2005, a LGBTQ women's cruise line, she was approached by the CEO, Amy Errett, and asked if she would like to become the face of Olivia cruises, to which she agreed: "Amy came out to L.A. when the Comets were playing the Sparks, and we talked. She asked if I would be the face of Olivia. I was like, 'Wow, that's big.' Martina Navratilova endorses Olivia. Rosie Jones endorses Olivia. But I had to think about it. A few days later, I called Amy back and said yes. It's funny, when I booked the Olivia cruise I didn't even think about people seeing my name on this list full of lesbians. I guess I didn't care. I just felt like, if I'm going to do the cruise and I'm going to be the face of Olivia, why not just come all out? I mean, you have Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O'Donnell, but you don't have your well-known gay African-American who's come out. Not to my knowledge. I know it's not accepted in the black community. I know I'll probably take a lot of flak. But in all honesty, that's not my biggest concern."

(Swoopes with her partner of 13 years, Alisa Scott)

In addition to being an advocate for LGBTQ individuals in sports, she is also an advocate for changing the face of women in sports leadership positions: "There is definitely a need for good female coaches. In the WNBA and in college, I see teams leaning towards former NBA players — and men in general — as coaches, and that is a slap in the face, because there are so many quality, qualified females out there that should be given the opportunity to coach." She is also an advocate for the American Lung Association and most recently has become a role model for her come-back to the sport at the age of 40, earlier this year: "I may be older, but the competitive fire is still there and I'm excited about the possibilities. The only reason why I'm doing it is because I still love the game. There was the misconception out there that I retired after the 2008 season, but that was never the case. I wasn't done with basketball yet, and I'm still not done."

May 30, 2011

Anonymous Posts (5.24.11-5.30.11)


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. :)

I'm finally back home in the 602 (hi, Phoenix readers!)!! And let me tell you, there is nothing like spending quality time having quality talks with quality people.

THE JEWISH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY JUST ORDAINED ITS FIRST OPENLY LESBIAN RABBI!! Rabbi Rachel Isaacs is actually the first openly Lesbian, Gay, Bi or Trans rabbi to be ordained by the Conservative Movement of Judaism. #QueerWomenVictory

I hear there is going to be a contingent of Dukies at NYC Pride next month (which is, uhh, basically this month). So stay posted for more information.

The blog's been slow recently (as if you didn't notice), but we're working on it. I promise!

Also, shout out to Duke Track & Field who are still busting their butts to represent our school well. Ten athletes (the most ever) have qualified for nationals!

We don't actually have any anonymous posts this week :( But please remember that there are a number of resources available on campus and in the local community. 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).

May 23, 2011

Anonymous Posts (5.16.11-5.23.11)


Every week, we collect anonymous entries sent in using the link on our sidebar and post them all on Monday. We post anything as long as it doesn't contain personal attacks, 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. :)

Hey yo.

I'm currently kickin' it in Bend, Oregon but I've got Joplin, Missouri on my mind. Oy.

I hope you all are having fun and adventurous summers. CEO and President of the Phoenix Suns came out last week!! This might be the best thing to happen in American sports in a really long time.

Yo, 2011: Don't think that This Community doesn't need you anymore, because we do!! The BDU Blog (this thing you're reading right now!) needs you to write our first ever set of senior posts! Reflect on your experiences at Duke and over these past four years for as long or as short as you want. You can sign it however you want, including anonymously. Find me (Risa) on facebook or email (rfi@duke.edu) if you're interested (which you are!).

And, if you're on campus, remember that the Center is open Monday through Friday, 9am-4:30pm.

#1
I admit it. I'm falling so, so hard for a friend of mine. I've lived my whole life as a straight guy, and I know that I just fall into the "closeted frat bro" statistic now. But I don't know what to do. I can't reconcile my feelings with my identity, and I feel like there's no one I can talk to to feel better, even among my best friends who I know wouldn't judge me. I feel like everyone I know is slowly finding out, I'm just shifting between freaking out and feeling so low, and I don't even know what my experiences with my friend say about me. I just feel trapped in my situation with no way out. How can you "come out" if you don't know what you're coming out as? Why does Duke make it so hard to exist without a label on my forehead?


#2
Just wanted to share this and this. I've read some incredible stories on this blog, and I encourage anyone who's up to it to submit!


Please remember that there are a number of resources available on campus and in the local community. 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).

May 16, 2011

Anonymous Posts (5.10.11-5.15-11)


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. :)

Hey y'all. I've spent the last week traveling between Philadelphia, southern New Jersey (pronounced: "joysie") and NYC. Mostly, I'm interviewing family members (grandparents, great uncle, another great aunt and uncle) for a personal oral history project. Interestingly enough, when I asked each of them what some of the defining moments in their life were, they all included getting married. Of course, internally, I'm like freakin' out because what I'm hearing is that marriage is this big life changing deal that comes to define people and most LGBTQQ people in this country can't have it!

In New York I met with some really fantastic people at the NBA/WNBA headquarters, including lots of Dukies! More on that in an upcoming post.

ConGRADulations to 2011 on receiving your degrees this weekend! That is a huge accomplishment and we're all tremendously proud of you. But don't think that This Community doesn't need you anymore, because we do!! The BDU Blog (this thing you're reading right now!) needs you to write our first ever set of senior posts! Reflect on your experiences at Duke and over these past four years for as long or as short as you want. You can sign it however you want, including anonymously. Find me (Risa) on facebook or email (rfi@duke.edu) if you're interested (which you are!).

Now, for the reason you really came here--anonymous posts!

#1
Just wanted to share what I found to be a great message...
MaryBSide video!
[Editor's Note: Sorry for posting a link and not embedding the video. It wasn't really cooperating.]


Please remember that there are a number of resources available on campus and in the local community. These resources are available over summer, too! 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).

May 9, 2011

Anonymous Posts (5.3.11-5.9.11)


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. :)

Hey y'all. Sorry these are getting up so late. I've been traveling all day...but let's be real, you're all in Myrtle and so you haven't even noticed that these weren't up 12-hours ago.

And, while we're being real--can we just talk about Grey's Gay's Anatomy for a minute? And the amazing social commentary in the last episode? Even if you don't watch the show, if you care at all about gay marriage, I recommend tuning into this past Thursday's episode.

Reason #2710823 why Dr. Miranda Bailey is a totally bad ass and amazing strong woman who speaks nothing but The Truth:

"Okay, first of all, you do not need the law, or a priest, or your mother to make your wedding real.

And the church—the church can be anywhere you want it to be: in a field, on a mountain, right here in this room…anywhere. Because where do you think God is? He’s in you. He’s in me! He’s right here, in the middle of us.

Now, your church just hasn’t caught up to God yet. Your mother, she hasn’t caught up to God yet, and by the way, she may not ever catch up. But it’s okay. It’s okay.

If you are willing to stand up in front of your friends, and family, and god, and commit yourself to another human being—to give of yourself in that kind of partnership, for better or worse, in sickness and health, honey, that is a marriage. That is real. And that’s all that matters."

*swoon*

Also, 2011ers: The BDU Blog (this thing you're reading right now!) needs you to write our first ever set of senior posts! Reflect on your experiences at Duke and over these past four years for as long or as short as you want. You can sign it however you want, including anonymously. Find me (Risa) on facebook or email (rfi@duke.edu) if you're interested (which you are!).

Now, what you really care about, anonymous posts!

#1
While studying for finals, a group of fratstars comes by hoping to find a place to study. They can't find a table, and so one says "Hey, let's be really gay and just make a circle with the chairs." I'm already taken aback, already agitated by what he said. But his friends didn't hear him, and so he repeats himself, same hate and all. They sit down, and another of the group's friends comes by and one says "Wow, you fruitcakes! You really have no idea how gay you look right now, sitting in that circle all gay" I'm so angry. Here I am, trying to study for finals, and all I can think about is how I absolutely loathe the culture that fraternities seem to breed on this campus. I know, they probably didn't "mean it that way" and that there are "tons" of gay males in fraternities, but in all seriousness, this derogatory language seems to be disproportionately used by members of Greek organizations on this campus and it frustrates me to no end.


Please remember that there are a number of resources available on campus and in the local community. These resources are available over summer, too! 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).

May 6, 2011

The Best and Worst Semester of My Life


Four months. Dozens of drinks. Hundreds of tears. A thousand smiles. And so many meaningful relationships formed. This has been my semester at Duke and it has been the worst and best semester of my college experience.

Why do you do what you do? This was the question I posed on my first blog post. The most uncomfortable part about being at Duke this semester was my inability to answer this question and others: Why did you act in that way—that is not you so why do you care if they like you or not? Why did you hook up with that guy—do you really like him in that way? Why are you involved in this organization—do you really believe in the work you are doing?

It has been the worst in many ways: I continuously struggled with being in love but knowing that I have to get over him; I witnessed self-destructive behavior and interpersonal violence in the forms of binge drinking and sexual assault; I dealt with extremely low self-esteem and guilt over being (what I thought of myself as) an unfit son, brother, and friend. I was dropped into new social circles and was left awake at night thinking, “I wonder if they like me or not…they probably don’t…” (it felt like my first-year of high school and college all over again); all of these things made me feel even more isolated and uncomfortable around people who identify as LGBTQ as I felt like I had to act in certain ways to fit in; many stereotypes regarding gay people were reinforced for me this semester…

It all kind of collapsed one night on the rocking chairs in the Plaza. I was a mess, and didn’t feel like going to bed because I was so tired of not wanting to wake up in the morning and face the world. I spilled out all of these feelings to my best friend, and he helped me by saying this: “Look, you may not want to get over some of this, but you have to—look to the future and what makes you excited, what makes you happy.” Duke necessarily wasn’t the reason why I felt like all of this, but it definitely was hard to be in a new environment with new people dealing with some old/new issues. I decided to go for a run that night (Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, right?) and underwent a pretty awesome catharsis.

That night was important because I drew from my past, assessed my present, and then ran towards the future. That run was a little more than a week ago, and has allowed me to think about the how my semester at Duke has been the best in countless ways—and though the negative parts of my semester were attributed to things that went beyond my semester at Duke, the positive aspects of my semester were rooted in the Blue Devil experience:

I made SO many AMAZING friends and built upon my existing friendships in meaningful, loving ways; I dived deep into my coursework and it has been the most enjoyable academic journey of my life; I relied on myself for things that I hadn’t previously; I broke down so many stereotypes about this place, especially in regards to Greek Life; I confronted my issues with not feeling like I “fit in” in this college gay culture and tried to even determine what gay culture was at Duke and at UNC to begin with; I was single for what felt like the first time during my college experience and, though it was hard, it was rewarding; and, finally, I realized how comfortable I was at Duke—how great it was to be able to walk to class and see a familiar face, or having friends to call and get dinner with! What a joy it is to have these experiences…

I see now that these are things that I will remember from my semester at Duke. Thus, here are my lasting thoughts, inspired by this quote I read in an article (can't remember the name of it...):
"We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware—beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one."
Regardless of being a student at Duke or UNC, you can get down in the dumps about a lot of things happening in life. The solution: find the beauty around you—whether this beauty is in the people you meet and the relationships formed, your classes and any knowledge gained, or the trees, flowers, and buildings that populate our universities. Challenge yourself to embrace the uncomfortable, but don’t do so in a way that forces you to detach from what makes you most like you. For me, it was my family, my friends (from Carolina and Duke), and swimming.

Even though it is a bittersweet end as I leave Duke to return to Carolina in the fall, I am so excited that there are so many opportunities for me to maintain what I experienced at Duke.

Cheers to a paradoxical semester—the best and worst four months of my life, each second spent learning about myself and others, cultivating pluralism along the way.


See you on the lighter (and arguably better) shade of blue,

A Tar Devil

May 2, 2011

Fairy Tales


UM. Long time no talk, Readers. Risa has been doing a great job since she took over about a month ago. It's actually been pretty easy giving over control of This Blog that had been part of my daily routine for a year and a half knowing that it's in such good hands. I mean, there've been moments:

Me: "That disclaimer at the end of every anonymous posts post is a really smart idea but kind of long, Risa."
Risa: "Really? I disagree."

And that's that. Haha. But if that's the biggest complaint I have a month in, I think This'll be alright :)

I've been focusing on, uh, graduating on time. It's been rough, y'all. But I'm also, like every other senior, realizing that my time left here is minimal and assessing what I have yet to do. And since I finally went inside Biddle last week, my biggest thing now is that I've never written a real post on this site.

That is kind of weird! That is kind of weird. I mean, I've written close to 90 posts, but they weren't very personal (as impassioned as my outing of Bert and Ernie was). I've watched 38 (!) other columnists share their thoughts and experiences since November 2009. And they've gotten rrreeeaaallll while I've just sort of complained about Steel.

So that's my goal for the next two weeks or so. My story is far from The Most Compelling, but maybe it'll resonate with someone. Who knows. But if you know me, you know that I can't fit all of It in one post, so I'll just start with this one.

* * * * *

In the summer of 2009, Carpe Noctem, Duke's comedy magazine, came out of dormancy and I was asked to write something for it. I wrote the following piece on my childhood (and quickly mocked up this layout) and sent it in, only to get it back with about 4,000 edits. Meh. I'm not very good at being edited, so I just rescinded the thing and it's been sitting on my computer since. (If you've ever read Carpe Noctem, you also know that my story wasn't nearly sexist, homophobic, racist or transphobic enough to fit in anyway, amiright?)

Click to enlarge:

I guess while I'm at it I might as well post this video, because it fits in with the story. I was one of the first grandchildren born in our huge Italian family and they just loved putting me in front of a camera. This is another great example of classical conditioning, where I'm not quite The Gayest Thing yet (I'm three? four? years old) and there's still a bit of straight in me (see: Power Ranger moves, gun miming) but I'm discouraged from expressing it. "Are you gonna sing or what?"

I feel as if it is important for me to say that my mother is my best friend no doyoyoyoy and no matter how much of a pageant mother she sounds on this video or how much I tease, she really is The Greatest. She drove down here from LI for Lav Grad, y'all. That's love. And pretty fuckin awesome.


I literally can't even watch this video anymore, haha. Let this be a big thanks to Everyone for so courageously baring themselves on This Blog for the past year and a half :)

Anonymous Posts (4.25.11-5.2.11)

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. :)

LDOC came and went, and was rather anticlimactic for me. But you know, the whole not having class anymore thing is sort of cool. Not to mention, I have a feeling that END OF THE SEMESTER BRUNCH AT THE CENTER (TODAY! 11am-1pm!) will be less of a disappointment.

Oh, and Glee was also not disappointing this week. I don't actually watch the show--I think I've only ever seen one full episode (gasp). But, I am a Gaga fan, so I made sure to watch their rendition of Born This Way. I just love that song. And Janie's Lav Grad mash up, "Cause baby, you were born...or socially constructed!...this way."

Also! Durham Queer Women's History Trivia: 10 points to anyone who can tell me what TALF stands for. [Full disclosure: I had a hand in creating the website to which that link takes you.]


#1
A good friend of mine goes to Villanova, a Catholic University in Pennsylvania. Over the past three years, she's worked to develop a strong gay community and support system at Villanova and has become a campus leader in more ways than one. Her most recent project was It Gets Better: Villanova, a video inspired by the national It Gets Better Project. She and a co-director worked for months to get this video together, and I couldn't be more proud of her. The video is beautiful, and resonates especially with those struggling to reconcile their sexuality/gender expression with their faith. Please check out the video (it's long, but absolutely worth it) and spread the word!



Please remember that there are a number of resources available on campus and in the local community. 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).