October 31, 2011

Anonymous Posts (10.24.11-10.30.11)


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. :)

Hey y'all,
I hope that you've enjoyed our weekend content. (Weekend Content!? Weekend Content.) We're now open for business seven days a week--so be sure to check in on Saturdays and Sundays to see what our awesome writers have prepared for you. Since last Monday, we've also welcomed three (THREE!) new bloggers--be sure to check out our first ever grad student, Kate; the "clandestinely queer" Sara; and 2015er/first year, Mary Claire. [Oh, hey women!]

Cool stuff around the web: the girl scouts (the girl scouts!!) are welcoming a seven year old transgirl, after the troop leader originally turned her away. Gareth Thomas, the first ever openly gay male rugby player is retiring...but in the wake of his announcement, another player--the team captain (the team captain!)--has openly come out.

WLW is hosting a movie night on Tuesday; Blue Devils United (the masterminds of The Best Blog Ever) meets Wednesday at 5:30 in the LGBT Center; and next Sunday there is a performance at the coffee house (info tba).

And not specifically LGBTQ--but still freakin' cool--Duke Women's Soccer won the ACC Regular Season Championship (for the first time since 1994!), and is in the semi-finals of the post season ACC Tourney now!! [There is, however, an interesting, recent conversation about women's soccer/LGBTQ issues and Hope Solo vs. Abby Wambach here]

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

#1
I don't understand...why....?

#2
This probably sounds like a really weird question...but how does one go about getting plugged in to the gay community here? I feel like it would be awkward to just randomly show up at Fab Friday's or something like that because there's bound to be friend groups already formed. I feel like it would be different if I had a group of friends to join with me, but let's face it... I'm the only gay girl in the group.

#3
shameless plug-- the Obama campaign is launching its Youth Vote program this week, and we're having a kick off event at Duke--Wednesday at 6:30 in a common room in Few (FF 301). Everyone should come! ♥ Chris

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).

October 30, 2011

A Letter from Your Clandestinely Queer Daughter


[Editor's note: Please welcome our third newest blogger in as many days, Sara!]


Dear Mom and Dad,

You’ll never see this letter, but I make no promises I can’t necessarily keep. It doesn’t really matter; you would hear none of it. You’d refuse to see me, acknowledge me, let alone keep our precarious bond intact. It’d be shredded pieces of paper from a daughter that’s no longer a daughter to you, blood be damned. You’ll wash your hands clean of it, praying to God—you’d be furious with Him, albeit your loyalties made your bed, so lie in it, prayers and all—to give you the strength to go through this. You’ll smile, bear the burden of having raised some heretic that contradicts every inch of your stern belief system, occupy yourself with another daughter—she’s perfect, she won’t stray. She won’t break your heart in two, watch it go asunder, know it was of her own devices and still went through with it anyway.

If I were to open my hand, guide you through the many rooms occupying my thoughts, through each intricate, deeply concealed secret, my offer wouldn’t be extended for too long. You’d immediately shut the door before ever crossing over the threshold, and flee.

This is a story that may never reach you—you, the tragic heroes, and I, the villain who ripped the world apart.

Now it’s high time I’ve gotten some things off my chest. Because you won’t see this—assuming I’ll always remain the same meek, reserved child of ’95 frozen in time on the hordes of pictures stashed in some corner in your closet (oh, the imagery makes me swoon)—I am without reticence. I’m sad that reassures me more than when you held my hand on my first day of kindergarten, or when you held me close when I was wrecked of tears and unbidden cynicism, nineteen and angry and exasperated.

Mom. Dad. I love you. I also happen to not be straight.

I know, you’re wondering where you went wrong with your parenting. Actually, your parenting skills were incomparable, look how far I’ve come, how much I’ve accomplished? This isn’t you, not exactly. What is you, though, is what you’ll do with my confession.

So, I’m queer, if you haven’t noticed. I thought I was dropping some neon bright, anti-heterosexual sentiments the last time I was home; my adamant demands for the shortest haircut possible and my aversions on the topic of boys were definite givens. I’m attracted to both men and women, but I never equate physical attractiveness to sexual attraction; they’re two mutually exclusive things in my head, no argument there. Which is why for the longest time I thought I was asexual, since, y’know, I have intimacy issues—probably because I was touched inappropriately/coerced to perform sexual favors on my “friend” when I was seven-eight years old. Half of the time I identify as asexual, with convoluted explanations as to why I am and why I am not “strictly” asexual. But I’m absolutely positive I am not straight, sorry.

I am not, however, “out and proud”.

Remember that night, Mom, back in my first year? It was after the awkward ride back home when my older sister blurted out that many of my friends at Duke were G-A-Y. For a moment there I really thought the car swerved dangerously close to a conveniently placed ditch by the side of the road. Your knuckles were stark white against the backdrop of the steering wheel. The rest of the car ride continued in silence.

The next night remains seared into memory, leaves me sick to my stomach each time I replay the words that will forever and forever cause me to doubt the strength of a mother’s love for her daughter.

“If you ever,” you said, alarmingly calm, like the eye of a storm. I faintly recall that you gripped my hand and I heard bones creak under your fingers. “If you ever said you were a lesbian, Sara, I’ll disown you. I will disown you.” In the same breath, she asked me to join her in prayer.

My cheeks were burning. She placed my head against her shoulder, muttering a string of biblical verses against my forehead, rocking me back and forth: I was her little girl again, the one who hadn’t rough-housed with boys, the one who hadn’t walked straight to the menswear during back-to-school shopping, some ideal daughter I loathed with every fiber of my being. For the longest time that night she never relinquished my hand.

I remember my mother gesticulating in a booth of a diner, frustration lurking behind every word, as she relayed to my two sisters, my older sister’s husband, and me the rumors that claimed I was a butch, a lesbian, a dyke, a freak. My older sister glanced at me, as if she were searching for answers I didn’t have. Closing my eyes, legs trembling under the table, I took a shuddering breath as I burst into tears, hiding my face into my shaking hands. I couldn’t bear looking at my mother then, couldn’t bear explaining it to them. So I lied through my teeth, I’ve only liked boys, while in the deepest crevices of my heart, there lingered feelings for a friend who’s just recently passed away last month (September 9, 2011).

I love my mother, but…how can you be the best possible you for someone when your own mother — unbeknownst to her — denies a piece of you so fragile, so empowering, very much an integral part that makes you you?

Dad, I’ve neglected you for awhile. I don’t know you well enough to predict the consequences if I were to send this to you. I can’t say we’ve talked much about love, or about life, or about our lives as father and daughter. This does not invalidate our quiet bond. How could I, when we’re so similar? Sometimes, just leaning on you, my silent, impenetrable wall, offers me the greatest comfort and warmth. We easily slip into contentment. I can hear the ocean waves lapping against the white sands of Hawaii, long hair blowing in the wind, my heart full because I got the chance to sit there with my daddy, no care in the world, except for the worry bubbling in the pit of my stomach.

What would he say if he knew? What would he do? If you can’t even tell me you had a heart attack, how would you expect me to tell you I’ve had boyfriends, but I thought about girls, too, the ones who’ve rendered boys as mere candles next to her brilliance?

I want to tell my parents that I haven’t fallen in love yet—I’ve come close, but they all end up the same: I love the idea of a person I’ve fabricated and imposed on them, not the reality that sets fire to bridges between these infatuations, or they leave me first. (R.I.P, D.W.) Rarely with my family have we been on the same footing, which is becoming more and more evident in my third year at Duke. Lying is second nature now, something I never fathomed as a possibility. I was taught that lying was an ugly sin against your family. I was also taught that home was my sanctuary, my shelter, the center of a child’s universe. Sometimes home…isn’t safe. And that is terrifying.

I want to tell you, when it (eventually) happens, I’m head over heels for a person; they just happen to not be a man, and you won’t mind. When you meet her, I want to lean over and whisper, unabashedly and with no hint of irony, “She could be the girl of my dreams,” and you’ll grin and say, “She deserves you.” During holidays, when our fragmented family comes together under one household, the room lit up by your wonderful smiles and big, gracious hearts, I want my boyfriend—I want my girlfriend to receive the love I know you’re capable of giving. You’ll glance my way, say, “Welcome home, love, you’re always welcomed, never forget that.”

Unfortunately, I can’t have these things, not unless I tell you, and even then it’s not guaranteed. Not unless I unlock those secretive rooms floating in my head for you and you accept everything in stride could we be okay. You’ll say, “Thank you for sharing this with us. You won’t ever have to hide again.”

I will always love you, no matter what, you’ve once, twice, countless times, said.

I love you. I love you I love you I love you. Please, let it be true. (It won’t be.)

Sincerely,
the girl behind closed doors

October 29, 2011

WLW hosts "Gia" movie night this TUESDAY @7:30pm


Hi Duke LGBTQ/questioning women's community! Have you heard of Women Loving Women (WLW) at Duke? We are a dinner and discussion group for graduate and undergraduate LGBTQ-identified and questioning women at Duke.

WLW is excited to be hosting its second MOVIE NIGHT of the year this Tuesday at 7:30pm in the LGBT Center! We will be showing "Gia", a film about American supermodel Gia Carangi, who first identified as a bisexual woman, and later a lesbian, during her modeling career that was characterized by a rapid rise to fame in the 70s/80s.

*All LGBTQ and questioning identified women who are graduate or undergradute students at Duke are welcome to attend.* (We respect varying levels of "outness" with both our dinner discussion meetings, listserv, and informal events like these, and members of the group are not discussed beyond the event.)

Also, WLW is going to be having it's next monthly dinner/discussion meeting November 15th from 6-8pm in the LGBT Center, so mark your calendar and RSVP to colleen.warner@duke.edu! This month's meeting and every meeting is open to all LGBTQ and questioning Duke undergraduate and graduate women-identified students. (If you're not on our WLW listserv but would like to be, please email myself, meganweinand@gmail.com or Janie (janie.long@duke.edu) and we'll be happy to add you to the private listserv.)

See you there!
-Megan

Event recaps:
1. WLW hosts "Gia" Movie Night:
When: This Tuesday, Nov. 1st @7:30pm
Where: LGBT Center

2. November's WLW meeting:
When: Tuesday, November 15th, 6-8pm
Where: LGBT Center
Note: please RSVP to Colleen at colleen.warner@duke.edu with your meal
preference (vegetarian or non-veg.)
Also: TOPIC TBA-send us your ideas to meganweinand@gmail.com! y'all
can choose what we talk about!

Looking Back, Stepping Forward


[Editor's Note: Please welcome our newest blogger, Mary Claire!]

As a kid who grew up in the Bible Belt, my experiences with the LGBT community, until I arrived at Duke, were limited to rounds of “gay chicken” at the annual school camping trip, trolling the Westboro Baptist Church, and the clips of Queer As Folk my gender studies professor showed in a class I continue to wonder how I managed to enroll in at age 16. So, when the topic of National Coming Out Day surfaced during a BDU meeting, my first reaction was “What the hell is that?” To avoid looking like an idiot if anyone asked me about what it was (and definitely not to put off doing my wonderfully insightful and intellectually stimulating calculus homework), I turned to my good old friend Wikipedia for answers. After about four lines of text, it made immediate sense to me why I had never heard of Coming Out Day before-living in a state that bleeds red isn’t exactly conducive to organizing an event where members of the gay community reveal their sexuality to the community.

But why hadn’t someone ever even though of organizing a coming out day in South Carolina? Other than the Christian fundamentalism everywhere you turned, I couldn’t think of a good reason not to organize a Coming Out Day. Certainly, the LGBT population in South Carolina couldn’t just consist of my gay lab partner, and I was sure that everyone else was getting sick of hiding behind the guise of being straight. Maybe it was just circumstance, but it seemed like everyone at the high school I went to was straight-a strange occurrence I refuse to believe. Though, in retrospect, it was probably safer for anyone gay just to remain silent-after all, the school I went to had no support network, no Gay-Straight Alliance, and was rife with homophobic taunts from upperclassmen.

Things being as they were in my past life, I imagined the turnout for Coming Out Day at Duke would be pretty low. I didn’t have any doubts that at least a few people would take t-shirts, if nothing else, since I had spotted a few people wearing them all over campus before. That being so, I showed up to help out, expecting to spend an hour with nothing to do. Imagine my surprise when, as if someone had placed a bounty on any Duke student that wasn’t wearing one of the shirts, the tables were suddenly flooded. What also got me was that while I was volunteering, I could see no signs of an anti-gay protest. Back home, ignoring anti-gay protestors was just another part of life, but here, all of that was absent, much to my surprise, or at least hidden.

What happened, or, more precisely, what didn’t happen, set me to thinking. Why is South Carolina so different from its northern cousin? Is it because we’re at a university that we’re more open-minded, or is North Carolina just less judgmental in general? I always had my suspicions about South Carolinian intolerance, but had never really understood its full force until I left and could get a good look at it from an outsiders’ point of view. Once this horrible fact dawned upon me, I realized I had to do something…though after a lot of reflection, I was unable to come up with anything. Saying that you support gay rights, at least where I’m from, seems about as difficult to admit to as being gay yourself, so anyone who wants to make a difference is probably doing the same thing I did-hiding.

Maybe the key is for someone, anyone from South Carolina, to break free from the pack and really start something. And, for now, I suppose that would be small steps…you know, like starting out by getting your average Billy Bob to at least be comfortable with the idea of homosexuality’s existence, which would take no small miracle. Or maybe, what those tolerant South Carolinians hiding from the homophobic masses have to do is take a lesson from the evangelists crammed into my home state like fleas on a hunting dog-if you want other people to understand something intangible, such as God or acceptance, you have to be a living example of it for others. At least that, even if it won’t move mountains, could hopefully change just one other person’s mind about tolerance…a small victory, admittedly, but at least it would be a step in the right direction.

Don’t get me wrong-I don’t regret my southern upbringing. If nothing else, playing in the woods, four wheeling, and snake hunting have taught me to be adventurous and to respect the earth, and if not for the independent southern attitude instilled in me from birth, I wouldn’t even have had the nerve to apply to Duke. I just wish that someone else back home had the courage to say that it’s okay to be gay, though I guess if I can say it, that’s at least a start for South Carolinian tolerance.

October 28, 2011

Gay at the Div School


[Editor's note: Please welcome our first graduate school writer to the blog!]

My name is Kate Dembinski and I am a first year Master of Divinity student at Duke Divinity School.

I grew up in small town Iowa and graduated from a public high school with 35 others. I promptly went eight hours away to Hillsdale, Michigan, where I spent the next four years studying religion (i.e. Christianity, let's be honest) and classics. I learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. I became a pacifist.

I discovered I was gay.

Following Christmas break of my sophomore year I began practicing an intense Sabbath. I fasted for 30 hours a week from food, technology, and school work. I truly fell in love with Jesus for the first time in my life, and as a result of intentionally carving out time to listen to God’s voice I began to hear some disruptive things.

“You’re gay,” for example.

I considered myself a fairly staunch conservative at the point of this realization, and naturally I felt as though I was trapped. I had constructed a community of like-minded folks who would not have responded warmly to the news that I counted myself a member of the full-blown homosexual ranks.

But, as Hillsdale College's motto says, virtus tentamine gaudet, strength rejoices in the challenge.

I came out to one person at Hillsdale during my time in college. My motivation for silence was selfish: I was in a conservative department within a conservative school and I needed references in order to move on with my life. In searching for seminaries I desired a place that was orthodox and that would, at the very least, not openly despise me for being who I am.

I have only felt completely validated thus far. I know I am in the right place, surrounded by the right people, learning the things I love in a place that will challenge and support me academically, spiritually, and communally.

I cannot say that Duke Divinity is correct for all gay people, just as I cannot say that Hillsdale College is right for all conservative folks. For me, though, I am infinitely thankful (and dare I say blessed) to be at Duke. I've gotten to meet some wonderful people through the LGBT center, local churches, and (naturally) the divinity school.

Thank you for this opportunity, BDU. Y'all are lovely. (See, us northerners can appreciate the you plural also.)

/k

October 27, 2011

To Be (Out) Or Not To Be (Out)...


All clichés aside, this is actually a really important question. For those of you who came out to the Faculty/Staff-Student Reception at the center last week, I’m sure you can remember those wonderful speeches we heard about life as an LGBTQ student, professor, job applicant, etc. We heard about the challenges and fears those speakers faced, and still face, when coming out to their peers. For those of you who came out to the Our Lives discussion group last week, I’m sure you can remember how we talked about coming out experiences and how we go about deciding who to come out to and when.

The questions I pose to all of you, regardless of your “affiliation” with the LGBTQ community is this: Why do we decide to come out? When should we come out? Who should we come out to? Do we have a responsibility to come out?

Although each of us could easily give a million different answers to each of these questions, some answers are simpler than others. When should I come out? That’s easy- when I am damn well ready, of course! Well….maybe I’ll never be quite ready, so should I force myself to just start telling people? Maybe the who is easier- the people who matter most to me should know, of course! Well…what if they don’t approve? What will my family think? Will I get kicked out of the house? What about the why question? Easy! Because it’s who I am! I’ve already come out as smart and funny and friendly and blah blah I could go on forever—wait…this is different though. Maybe it’s not such a good idea… What about this “should” question? What the hell does that mean?! What do you mean “should” I come out?

Do you see where I’m going with this? None of these questions have straight answers (get it?!), because all of them force us to consider the consequences of coming out, no matter the situation.

The question I really want to focus on is the Should because I feel like it is this question that we are most likely to neglect. Let’s take applying for jobs as an example. Read this article and tell me it’s “no big deal” to come out on your resume or in an interview.

You might say, “I would only want to work at an LGBTQ friendly employer anyway.” To which I would reply, “Me too!” But in the back of my mind all I can think about is the bad economy and how I may not have the luxury of getting my first choice job. In this instance, it might actually be better to “play it safe” by “playing it straight”.

But then I have to ask the question; do members of the “community” have a responsibility to be out? How else are people going to be exposed to people who are different? If we don’t make an effort to let people know who we are, how can we expect people to change?

I’ll leave my opinion on this issue for a later post, but I’m interested in what you all have to say. So I'll ask again, should we?

October 26, 2011

The Real World?


[Author's note: I wrote this in a moment of frustration last semester. I spent the first month of my summer break professionally networking and found that it isn't as black and white as I first thought it was. That said, I think that the professional world-gothic wonderland dichotomy is something that many student readers of this blog will experience, especially as they get closer to graduation. Here is a look at the choices I found myself facing as I wrote my resume. Also, I'd be remiss not to mention that Kyle Knight (Trinity '08/Duke LGBT Network President/published Fulbright Scholar) and Todd Sears (Trinity '98/Duke LGBT Network board member) wrote an especially relevant column in last week's Chronicle.]

------------------------------------------------------
"Welcome to the real world," she said to me, condescendingly, "take a seat, take your life, plot it out in black and white"...They love to tell you stay inside the lines, that something's better on the other side...I wanna run through the halls of my high school, I wanna scream at the top of my lungs, I just found out there's no such thing as the real world, just a lie you got to rise above...I just can't wait til my 10 year reunion, I'm gonna bust down the double doors, and when I stand on these tables before you, you will know what all this time was for." ~John Mayer

At Duke, I surround myself with affirming, passionate, and eccentric individuals. Sure, we’re in the minority, but with the sheer number of absolutely amazing individuals in my life, I hardly feel that way anymore. In my communities, being a member of the LGBTQA community and identifying as a feminist are points of pride. Unfortunately, I have to start thinking about what exists outside of our gothic wonderland—I have to make myself marketable to future employers. And, depending on the type of job I’m looking for, those aren’t necessarily the keywords I should use to describe myself.

I don’t personally identify with a label like lesbian, gay, bi, trans or queer, but being a member of the LGBTQA community and as of recently, openly questioning, still has repercussions. I don’t ever want to have to feel like I have to choose between what I believe in (which is the foundation of my involvement in the Community, but more on that in a future post), who my friends are (who I love! Sound familiar?), and “making something of myself.” And yet, here I am, being forced to choose.

If I’m applying for a job in the progressive nonprofit world, I’m all set. They love feminists and queers. But if I’m applying for something else, something more corporate and capitalistic, I run into this problem of what to include on a resume and cover letter and what to “hide” or at least not flaunt.

I’m proud to be a member of the LGBTQA community and a feminist. I’m proud to be BDU Blog Editor. I’m proud to have been on the review boards for WOMYN Magazine and Unzipped (Duke’s Journal for Gender and Sexuality). I’m proud to write for Develle Dish and live in Women’s Housing. And damn it, I’m proud as hell to be fighting for equality and dignity for all people.

Really, it comes back to a fundamental question I’ve always wondered as an activist: should I work within the system, or outside of it?

It is better for me to submit a resume which makes it clear that I’m actively involved with the LGBTQA and feminist communities, maybe get over looked because I might be deemed ‘militant,’ but hopefully end up with something in the end, even if it wasn’t my first choice or the most lucrative or I don’t have as many options? I'd be standing up for my idealist principles, after all.

Or is it better for me to present myself in a way which is acceptable to those who are going to be hiring me, get my first choice job/have a lot of job options, gain a reputation, and then break out my rainbow superhero cape and feminazi bullhorn? Maybe that'd even make more progress, because I'd be in an environment where maybe feminism and lgbtqa activism wasn't the norm? But do I even want to work somewhere where that isn't the norm?

And if I take out my commitment to the LGBTQA and feminist communities, what do I have to even put on my resume? “This is Risa Isard…she spent four years attending classes and getting pretty good grades.”

Or maybe, I’m not giving the corporate world enough credit? Maybe they’d totally LOVE to hire “Risa Isard, unapologetic activist for all things gay and feminist!”

All I gotta say is…I hope they don’t google me (which they will), find this blog post (which they will, cause BDU Blog is awesome at search engine optimization), realize that my resume is only half the story (still to be determined), and end up judging me for the half I’ve left off, anyways. ‘Cause that’d sure be a waste of trying to present myself in a way that isn’t threatening to the status quo.



October 25, 2011

Weighing In


“I’m happy being single. I don’t mind it at all. Besides, I’m a senior. I’m not going to get into a serious relationship only to have it end a few months down the road.”

^That may be biggest load of crap I’ve ever let fall from my mouth. Is single life terrible? Nowhere near as bad as some people make it out to be. I’m not dying to be in relationship and I’m clearly functioning normally without a significant other. But am I truly happy? Not at all. I’ve rationalized to myself that I shouldn’t even entertain the thought of being in a relationship this year because I am a senior.

Here’s the truth behind it: I feel inadequate.

What do I mean by inadequate? Basically, think of any kind of insecurity someone can have. Chances are, I have it or some form of it. I’m very insecure about many aspects of myself. Biggest one: weight. This has been more of an issue for me in the past year or so and gets especially difficult around Halloween (which is why all of this has been on my mind).

For Halloween my freshman year, I was… a Chippendale stripper. Yes, feel free to fire any judgment at me you want. I had the bow tie, cuff links, short shorts, and everything else (nothing else). The only reason I was able to pull it off was because I was in the best shape of my life back then. I ran track for 3 years in high school and stayed active during the summers by volunteering at the local YMCA. My job was to play with the kids in the gym or outside. Staying in shape while eating whatever I wanted was never a problem for me. I could down 4 pieces of fried chicken, 2 whole corns on the cob, a hefty serving of green beans, large portion of fried okra, finish it off with a big slice of cake with ice cream and never gain a pound (I’m from Georgia. This was my regular dinner). Needless to say, that doesn’t work if you become less active like I did once getting to Duke. That, combined with the addition of alcohol into my diet, began to cause a steady weight gain and I haven’t been the same size since. Each year brings a few more pounds until Chippendale stripper becomes Theodore from Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Now, it’s not a far stretch to say that having a little more meat on your bones makes it difficult to find lasting relationships in the gay male community. When every other conversation is about how many calories you just ate or how you’re dying because you haven’t been to the gym in two days, it’s difficult to believe that people actually care about something other than physical appearances. I stand by and smile as though nothing’s wrong, but on the inside, I’m crying. I’m crying because I feel like I’m not good enough simply because of my weight. I feel as though no one will actually pay attention to me until I drop about 30 pounds. I cry because I feel like I’m in the minority of gay males who don’t place such heavy emphasis on the exact specifications necessary in a significant other (Oh yay! Another minority group! That’s just what I needed to feel like a regular member of society (-___-)). To make things even better, I get placed in a body type category which has its own stereotypes. Seems like everything in a gay man’s world is weight-centric and it pisses me off to no end. Don't we already have enough categories within our community already? Why do we feel the need to create more labels and more categories to further separate us? I don't understand why I can't just be a guy, and not a bear cub. That extra label tells you absolutely nothing about who I am as a person besides giving you insight into my weight.

I know this all a load of crap though. I know that I’m actually not overweight, like I’m actually a very average weight. It just really sucks when I look at other people and feel like I shouldn’t eat anything for the next month. It’s so hard to stay true to myself when society keeps telling me that I need to change. It’s even worse when people I’m around become physical manifestations of that force. It’s easy enough to give the big middle finger to an abstract concept, but when that abstract concept is personified in an actual person I’m interacting with, that big middle finger finds itself limp by my side. Part of me thinks that if I want to survive in this gay world, then maybe I need to adapt partially to it while retaining who I am at the core. But that’s not me. I don’t even know if that’s possible. I change for no one… at least, I hope not.

October 24, 2011

Anonymous Posts (10.17.11-10.23.11)


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. :)

Wazzzuuuppp, readers!?

I hope a ton of you were able to make it to the faculty/staff student reception on Friday! I was in DC doing research for my thesis and sadly was unable to attend. BUT, while in DC I was able to get to the new MLK Memorial, which was pretty sweet. I was sad to see that my favorite quote did not make the cut ("Our lives [woo! BDU BLOG! ha, jk] begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."), but there was something really special about seeing a ton of five year old Black children running around, smiling, and posing with the statue.

Other noteworthy things: Huffington Post celebrated "Ally Week" this past week, and featured a column by the founder of Athlete Ally. Elsewhere, the founder of Outsports commented on Rick Welts' (newly out, former Phoenix Suns President) hiring.

Even more noteworthy...Anonymous Posts below!

#1
I hate how cynical I have become about possible hate crimes such as the one at the NCSU GLBT-CA Center. The hoax this spring at UNC and this past summer at Iowa are two examples that have made it harder to instantly believe any new event that comes up. What is the best way to show solidarity and support while the facts are not yet known?


#2
In all the discussion following the repeal of DADT, I somehow completely forgot about this article, which I've always found fun: "Why Gays (as a group) are morally superior to Christians (as a group)" by Stanley Hauerwas. It can be found in the Hauerwas reader pg 519-522. Duke readers go here and type "519" in the upper right corner. Non Duke readers you can get part of, or the full essay, here, depending on how merciful Googlebooks feels like being at the time. It's a slightly satirical treatment of the discussion, especially directed against the Conservative Christian groups. It was written in 1993 by Stanley Hauerwas, a renowned theologian who currently teaches at Duke Divinity School. Perhaps it's a bit dated, but it certainly is thought provoking. The first part is probably the most pertinent to general readers of this blog; the second part tends to be of interest to Christians in particular. Anyway, thought I'd throw it out there for those who wanted a bit of a different perspective on DADT, and my personal opinion is that some of the general critiques Hauerwas touches on would be just as pertinent to Prop 8 and the North Carolina referendum coming up.
Shane

#3
A while ago someone wrote a blog post about coming out to god. This post really resonated with me because I am a questioning Christian mainly held back by the fact that God might not approve of homosexuality. The author of the entry seems pretty confidant that gay is ok...and so was I until I read 1 Corinthians 6:9. Now, I want to make it very clear I am not attacking anyone. I would just like to know how one could explain this verse and come to the decision that its ok for Christians to be gay. I just want to know so I can be myself (lately I've been stepping further and further out of the closet but also feel that God may be punishing me for it as my life has been significantly rougher recently) or come to terms with the fact that I might just have to stay single for life.



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).

October 22, 2011

Why Queers Should Care About the Occupy Movement


By the time that this blog post is published, the Occupation will have begun at Duke. That’s right folks, Occupy Duke will be showing its face on the Chapel Quad, right in front of the statue of James Buchanan Duke. For me, it’s something that is exciting, energetic and full of potential, but that’s not the case for everyone on campus. Over the past few weeks, the question I’ve kept hearing has been “So what’s the point?” I wanted to take this chance to write something that would help elucidate what exactly the point is, but more importantly, I wanted to write something about why the point of Occupy Wall Street and the point of the LGBTQ rights movement are at their very core the same thing.


If someone were to ask you what it’s like to be queer, what would you say? It’s a difficult question, but it is a question that is fundamentally important. For me, being queer is not something that I chose, it is not something that I opted-in to, it is not something that I brought about: it is the way that I was born, the way that I came into the world. And when I came into the world as the queer baby that I was, I came into a world that wasn’t going to make life easy for me. I came into a world where I was going to have to fight much harder in order to get to the same place as my heterosexual, cisgender friends. I came into the world already at a disadvantage, and that disadvantage was something that I had to work hard to get through. But I fought on: I fought hard to get through childhood, even though I knew that my queerness made me different than many of my peers; for a long time, I fought hard to seem like I wasn’t queer, I wasn’t different; I fought hard to be secure in myself and in my capabilities despite my queer identity and I had to work harder to achieve the basic things that made life happy for me. Many doors were shut in my face and I was barred from things that I thought everyone was entitled to—a date to the prom, a secure job, a happy marriage, a consistently loving and affirming family. Being queer made life harder.

And what about poverty? How you describe what it’s like to be poor? What would you say? I imagine you would say much the same thing. For those who are economically disadvantaged, being poor is not something that you chose, it is not something that you opted-in to, it is not something that you brought about: it is the way that you were born, the way that you came into the world. And when you came into the world as the economically disenfranchised child that you were, you came into a world that wasn’t going to make life easy for you. You came into a world where you were going to have to fight much harder in order to get to the same place as your affluent, economically privileged friends. You came into the world already at a disadvantage, and that disadvantage was something that you had to work hard to get through. But you fought on: you fought hard to get through childhood, even though you knew that your poverty made you different than many of your peers; for a long time, you may have even fought hard to seem like you weren’t poor, you weren’t different; you fought hard to be secure in yourself and in your capabilities despite your economic status, and you had to work harder to achieve the basic things that made life happy for you. Many doors were shut in your face and you were barred from things that you thought everyone was entitled to—a reasonable mortgage, a secure job, an adequate healthcare system, a living wage. Being poor made life harder.

It’s about time that the queer community wakes up. It’s about time that we, as the LGBTQ citizens of the world, stop seeing our movement as something that is separate from the movement against poverty. It’s damn well time that we stop seeing our struggle as fundamentally different from those of the poor. It’s time to recognize that privilege is privilege everywhere, and that all systems of privilege are immoral, not just the ones that disadvantage us. It’s about time that we, as a queer community, rise with our brothers and sisters in poverty, many of whom are queer themselves, and say that we are not only tired of homophobic laws, but that we are tired of a the heteronormative, racially discriminatory, economically divided system of privilege that engulfs our modern world. It’s time that we rise up as one voice fighting for a more equal society for everyone.

That is what the Occupy movement is all about. It is about working towards a more just, more equitable, and fairer world where systems of privilege do not perpetually disadvantage some and perpetually benefit others. We strive as a movement to create that world, and through our presence, to help others see the importance of it.

It’s time for us queers to join the Occupation.

In Solidarity,

Jacob

October 21, 2011

The Evil We Deplore


On September 14, 2001, the U.S. House of Representatives took up House Joint Resolution 64, giving President Bush broad authority to pursue those responsible for the attacks of September 11th. The resolution would pass the Senate by a vote of 98-0 and the House by a vote of 420-1.

During debate on the floor, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the lone dissenting member of Congress, rose to speak. Overcome with emotion, she managed to eloquently state her fear of the US rushing to judgment and urged the use of restraint. She concluded her speech with the line, “As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.”

I feel that rushing to judgment is a large problem within the LGBT community, especially at Duke. Don’t get me wrong, I love the LGBT community here. I was skeptical of pride, but ended up going and having a fantastic time. For me, events like pride and coming out day strip away social pressures and enable me to experience new and freer dimensions of my personality. Sure, I don’t share identical hobbies and interests with every student that identifies as LGBT. God knows how hard it is to convince someone to sign up for an IM soccer team let alone drag them to a Duke football game.

Yet too often I find myself using my own hobbies and interests to try to carve out my own sphere of privilege within the LGBT community, to drive a stake between others and myself. Even more so, I find myself typecasting other groups on campus in an effort to reaffirm my identity - to place on a pedestal the communities I choose to belong to. Stereotypes often carry some degree of truth, but by no means are they universal within groups of people. Believe it or not, not all athletes and Christians are homophobes and not all frat kids are womanizing monsters. Yet living at Duke, it becomes difficult to move past the shallowness of these labels. It becomes hard to differentiate between and relate to groups you aren't in daily contact with. Often, the stereotype is all that lingers as a result.

My capacity for empathizing has fallen victim to father time and my personal Duke experience. Hindsight bias really is a nasty little bugger. Today, it seems ridiculous that I didn’t like heights, sushi, alcohol, or the color orange. I have a tendency to take every game in Cameron Indoor Stadium for granted. This morning, I pulled up a political science paper I wrote freshman year and realized I’ve retained nearly zero of that information.

Quite frankly, the further I move into the future, the harder time I have placing myself in the shoes of my 18-year-old self, the more difficult it becomes to take off and clean the glasses Duke has placed upon me. I’ve been blessed with a rather laissez-faire, free spirited personality and perspective on life. Being out has enabled me to move past the taxing, introspective state of being closeted. But too often I use that as an excuse to turn the other way. The pressure to fit in with your peers, existing definitions of masculinity, the fear of being solely defined by your sexuality, and the simple fear of the unknown are issues that wreak havoc on Duke students every day. These are salient issues that are shared by all members of the LGBT community.

Students who are comfortably out are a privileged group at Duke. We should not forget that. For a community that preaches tolerance, acceptance, and unity, too often we preoccupy ourselves highlighting our differences rather than cherishing what we have in common. As I strive to become a better learner, friend, athlete, worker, and person, I need to stop diminishing the currency in which I trade. I need to prevent myself from becoming the very stereotyping and polarizing evil I deplore.

Duke is fantastic, but let us not forget those who remain silent, and let us not forget the younger versions of ourselves.

October 20, 2011

Can you see me now?


I am not gay. I am a boy who is attracted to and can fall in love with girls. I know this is a somewhat strange way to begin a blog post for our lives, but it is on this point that my post hinges. So you might be thinking, “What does this have to do with LGBT issues?” Well, as an answer to this question I will also say this, I am not straight. I am a boy who is attracted and can fall in love with other boys. If this first paragraph confuses you, please read on, this post is for you.

I am a bisexual male. I feel attraction to both genders, and have the capacity to form romantic relationships with both. One of the frustrations I have that I feel is unique to bisexuality is that as a bisexual you have a tendency to be “invisible”. What I mean by this is that people generally assume that you are either straight or gay, never in between. If I’m talking about a boy I like, I’m gay. If I’m talking about a girl I like, I’m straight. I will tell you, these misconceptions are very annoying. The same problem applies to the spaces I occupy.

Back at home, I was straight. There was no question about that. Granted, I was single for most of high school, but that didn’t matter. Though I only started to discover myself in my senior year of high school, by the end of the school year this was bothering me. It didn’t really help matters that I had a girlfriend. Even after I told my parents that I was bisexual, I was still straight. My dad actually told me once, “You aren’t really bisexual. I mean, you have a girlfriend and you haven’t dated or slept with a boy. So really, you’re bicurious, not biactual.” Now spellcheck is telling me that the words “bicurious” and “biactual” are not real words. Well, that’s because they’re complete loads of (words I can’t say on this blog). The fact that I haven’t actually slept with a boy has no bearing on the attraction I feel. But I am on the edge of a tangent, and that is a post for another day.

Here at Duke I seem to have the opposite problem. Since the atmosphere here is much more accepting and queer friendly, I’ve found the strength to come out and not hide who I am. The problem is, people don’t seem to understand who I am. Though I still do have to deal with the expectation of heterosexuality, at Duke I have been mistaken for gay several times as well. I do understand how I could be a bit misleading as I have a rainbow bracelet I wear daily, I fly a rainbow flag from my window, and I spend my free time on West Campus in the LGBT Center. This doesn’t change the fact that it bothers me to be constantly misread. I mean, how does one show that they are bisexual? Short of walking up to a boy and planting a kiss on him, then turning to a girl and doing the same, how can I avoid being misinterpreted? I do wear a bisexual pride necklace, but most don’t know what it is. (For the record, it’s pink, purple and blue. Ask me about it and I’ll show you, or use the magic of the internet.)

Though these misconceptions bother me a bit, I’m generally loath to speak up about it. Though I cringe when I get lumped into the “gay” category, I don’t like to speak up for fear of being annoying. I’m generally better about speaking up when lumped into the “straight” category, but that doesn’t happen to me as much anymore. (It’s a wonder what a rainbow or two can do) Contrary to some beliefs that I’ve heard, being bi is not “half-gay”. We are a completely distinct orientation, nuanced and varied like any other. It is time that we are seen.

(I understand that I haven’t really given an idea to avoid bisexual invisibility, because I’m honestly not sure. Any ideas would make awesome comments *hint hint*.)

October 19, 2011

WOMYN Wednesday


Hey, everyone!

I promised to keep you in the loop about WOMYN, so here's the rundown: Our Senior Layout Editor, Robert Kollenberg, has begun putting the magazine together. We're also working with an artist to create a unique cover design for the magazine, as well as a layout redesign. Finally, just as a reminder, if you're on the Review Board, please return your comments on new submissions ASAP - y'all are the ones who have the power to accept or reject submissions!

I don't know if y'all are interested in my eensy saga of grad school applications, but I'll keep telling you anyway. So, I decided to leave my LGBTQ-related activities on my C.V. without offering any kind of explanation. In most ways, it has been a non-issue, but there is one particular incident that was a little unsettling.

Some of you know that, in addition to applying to graduate school, I'm in the midst of the scholarship competitions for the Rhodes and the Marshall. In order to be an official candidate from Duke, I had to have an institutional endorsement interview, which works kind of like a mock scholarship interview and a constructive criticism session all rolled into one. As you might imagine, it was pretty stressful, and I was very nervous. The interview was more of a rapid-fire grilling session than anything else - I was asked about a range of things pertaining to my thesis and my personal statement. Some of the questions I couldn't answer (I don't yet know everything about the sixteenth century in France, unfortunately), which didn't really help. The last question, though, sent me over the edge. I was asked what the climate was like for LGBTQ people on campus, and whether that environment had anything to do with my involvement with WOMYN.

I was not in any way expecting such a question, and my experience as part of the LGBTQ community is not something that I enjoy explaining to a roomful of complete strangers. Nor is it a story that I should have to tell, especially since my interviewers are human, with their own notions and prejudices that could affect whether I continue in the competitions.

I got something coherent out before I started crying uncontrollably (mortifying). Now, let's be clear: there are certain questions that should never be asked, and the one I responded to probably falls under that category as well. My situation is a little different - because it was not a job interview, I don't think that there is any kind of legal issue at stake. However, I think that every interview should follow the same basic, ethical principles. One of those is that no one has the right to force you to come out (or to out you) in any setting. We still have to negotiate a world full of prejudices and injustices, and in many states (and other nations) we have no protection against discrimination for being LGBTQ. So, know your rights, people, and assert them if you have any doubt about a situation.

My story has a happy ending, or perhaps a new, happy beginning: I am continuing on in both scholarship competitions, which is very exciting. I don't know how much farther I'll get, but even being at this point is amazing.

October 18, 2011

NC State Vandalism

Around 9:20pm on Monday, October 17th, North Carolina State's GLBT Center was defaced. This marks the second time this semester that the GLBT Center at NCSU has been vandalized. The LGBTQA community at Duke and Blue Devils United stands in solidarity with our friends at NC State as they look for the person(s) responsible for this act and implement policies to protect their community from here on out. If you have any information about this incident, please email glbtca@gmail.com.



Coverage (links updated as we see them):

October 17, 2011

Anonymous Posts (10.10.11-10.16.11)


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. :)

Whew! What. A. Week. Coming out day was a HUGE success! The Huffington Post wrote about gender neutral rooms on college campuses. Apparently it's not just the private liberal arts schools anymore--state schools are moving in that direction, too. Come on, DUKE! I want to see more than just mixed gender apartments with single-gendered rooms. They also featured a column by Sir Elton John (did you know Lady Gaga is his son's god-mother?) about international LGBTQ rights (or lack thereof).

As a reminder, Blue Devils United is meeting this Wednesday at 5:30pm in the LGBT Center. Be there. Also, please note that the drag show has been postponed. We're still looking for performers, so please email Ari if you are interested! No prior experience necessary.

And now, notes from OC:

#1
The hardest part of a three way relationship is trust. My partners have been dating each other for 7 years. I've been dating both of them for one and a half, but I feel like I'm outside of their loop, like I'm still being tested. If I become frustrated with one, the other knows about it quickly, and it creates this uncomfortable power dynamic. I fell in love with the one right away; the other is a nice guy, but our connection doesn't feel like more than a friendship at its best. Neither has ever said that they love me; they both have buds on the side in addition to each other. I don't know how to tell them that I'm frustrated with how slow this relationship is developing. They both seemed really into me at first, but now it's like we're at some kind of plateau. The one that I'm more romantic with has said outright that I'm needy when I ask him why he isn't confident yet saying that he loves me--but the truth is, I DO have needs that aren't being met. The two of these guys are the most important people in each other's lives--they know they are loved by each other, but I don't have that security. I've moved twice to be with them, but it feels like I still have a greater responsibility to show my devotion to them than either of them to me, even after all this time. I have a feeling this is going to be over with soon.

#2
Is it bad that I want to hook up with other guys but I don't really see a long term relationship or anything formal like that? This probably sounds horrible, because you all are self-respecting individuals and all about the social movement of lgbt rights, which is great. But...I just want to have a simple way to mess around, blow off steam.


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).

October 16, 2011

In which I have some suggestions


Recently I've been getting a lot of unsolicited advice about my medical decisions, and it's reminding me of my experiences a couple years ago when I first considered becoming a little more butch, and my friends were deeply unhelpful. So I thought I'd put together a little guide to what I consider okay and not okay to say to a friend who is going through a life change.

It's okay to ask my how my transition is going! That's probably the way you should phrase it. This is a big part of my life, and one I don't have a lot of opportunities to talk about in detail - if you're genuinely curious, I'll probably appreciate the chance to talk about it.

It's not okay to give me advice on my transition, unless I've directly asked for it. Even if we're already talking about transitioning in general, it's just weird for you to start giving me medical advice. And if your advice is "wait until you're sure," it's not just weird, it's rude and hurtful. It's not like I'm going to drop by the mastectomy store and get my tits lopped off on a whim, like somebody getting a misspelled Chinese tattoo after a night out drinking. "Wait until you're sure" almost always means "wait until I am okay with it," which in turn pretty much means "wait forever." And that's not okay.

Along the same lines, don't suggest alternatives to transitioning. This one really baffles me - you're really not very likely to be suggesting something new. Or, if you do find something I haven't tried before, there's probably a reason I haven't considered it. For example, a well meaning friend suggested yoga to me, as an alternative to top surgery. It's true, I haven't tried yoga! And maybe I could learn to transcend my body. But, it's not like it will make my tits invisible - I'd have to keep binding, or people would still be calling me ma'am. "Try herbal tea before you try testosterone" is just another way to say "wait until I am okay with it," only it involves even less respect for my intelligence.

But, it's okay to ask me to answer your questions. Note the phrasing: please don't just start the conversation with "how do trans people have sex?" - start by asking me if I'll answer questions, and understand that I may not always be in the mood to do so. Also please make sure that your questions are actually questions - "Why not try hypnotism?" is just advice with a question mark on it. But in general, I want to help people understand. As long as you're making an effort, I'm not going to be offended that you don't know something, and I'd much rather have the chance to tell you than leave you in the dark.

It's not okay to mess up my pronouns. Yeah, when I correct you I'll probably tell you that it's okay, that I know it takes time to get used to it -- but what I really mean is that it's not okay, but I've forgiven you anyway. If you're having a really hard time, practice. I'm an understanding sort of person, but it hurts when you make a mistake, every single time. And I'm getting tired of pretending that it doesn't.

And finally, the most widely-applicable piece of advice: if I know I want to do something awesome, but I tell you I'm nervous about it, back me up. If I hadn't had so many people tell me not to cut my hair, I probably would've gotten a buzz cut at 15 and never looked back. Instead, I spent years going from waist-length, to shoulder-length, to chin-length, to a little bob, to a pixie cut - and at each stage, everybody I asked said I shouldn't do it. In retrospect, I'm a little disappointed in the sheer number of people who should have known better who reinforced mainstream expectations of femininity. People who never wore heels, or skirts, or jewelry, or makeup, or contacts, etc. nonetheless told me that I should keep wearing these things, even when I confessed that I hated them, because they made me so pretty. "Conforms to societal expectations" is not always the most important requirement for your friends' personal choices. Come on, be more awesome than that! Do things just because they're fantastic, and encourage your friends to do the same.

Anyway, because I'm in a little bit of a "trans 101" mood with this post, now is a great time to ask questions! You can argue with me, I guess, or ask anything that's been on your mind regarding trans issues. I'm pretty much never going to be offended by a question that's asked out of genuine curiosity, so don't be shy!

October 13, 2011

Gay Time


The past few months have been incredibly stressful for me. I was in a relationship, then out of a relationship, dealing with housing problems, adjusting to life off campus, trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, trying to figure out *if* I can do something with my life, the usual identity crisis that I never seem to figure out, and more things that perpetually swim around in my head. I've had my good times, my bad times, my amazing times, and times where I wanted to crawl into a cave and fade from existence. On top of it all, it's my senior year. I've got one more chance to do things right here, to get involved, to reconnect with old friends. So, I sat down with myself and asked myself, "Self, what do you want to do with yourself this year? It's your last year. You only get one more shot. What are you going to do?"

After first answering myself by saying that I'm going to Disney World, I thought for a minute and my big revelation: "Self, I'm going to be gay."

"Good choice, my friend."

I didn't start coming to the Center or LGBT events until my sophomore year. It was a very different time back then and decided that I didn't want to get involved with the community. I had my fraternity. I had my a cappella group. I had the FAC program. Gay was never a major identity for me anyway. I didn't need the community. I thought I'd be fine without it. As time went on, I would randomly show up at a Fab Friday or pop in to use a computer for 5 minutes but it didn't become a regular thing until junior year. Even then, I'd come to Fab Friday and that was about it.

And so, I just went through the first 3 years of my college career being openly gay but not being gay. I'd go to a gay club here and there but that was about the extent of it. And for a while, I was fine. I was happy having a short emergence into the gay world and then going back to my normal life. But, recently, things have been different.

I've had this gnawing feeling in me that something just wasn't right. Something was missing in my life and I needed to find out what it is. I got tired of my same old routine. In the midst of just going through the emotions of life, I lost myself. I didn't really know who AJ was anymore. I can tell you what he's majoring in, what music he likes, and what he's involved with on campus. But I couldn't tell you anything about AJ.

So the soul searching began. What in the world is wrong with me? What aren't I having fun with my brothers like I always used to? What am I doing wrong? I'm not doing something right. Then, it hit me.

Me. I'm not doing me the right way. I've always associated the Center with being a very flamboyant, overly radical, just super-gay gay. That's not exactly my style (I do have my moments, honey). I ended up just staying away from it. Finding friends outside of the Center. It took me all of this time to realize what I should have known all along: The Center is what you make it. Going there doesn't mean that I'm being extra gay. It doesn't mean anything. There were people that I once resented because I thought that they labeled me as not being gay enough or thought they looked down on me for not making the Center my second home. And I was wrong. I was drop dead wrong. I was basing my view of myself off of what I thought others would view me as. Just revealing my insecurities about myself.

And so, I chose not to really acknowledge who I am because of that. I knew and accepted my gayness but thought that my gayness was not the gayness that was at the Center. This stupid ideology led me to not really have many gay friends, thinking I didn't need friends like them. I wasn't one of those gays. I don't need to be surrounded by gays all the time. I have a life outside of being gay.

All of that came back to bite me in the butt when I realized that I was neglecting myself of a world of all these awesome queers and allies. I was rejecting my community and that simply just cannot be.

It's with that in mind that I've deiced to be gay this year. You'll often see me planted at a computer doing work (Facebooking) at the Center. You'll see me be one of the first people to show up at Fab Friday and one of the last to leave. I've decided to have regular parties at my apartment for the gays and allies. It's time for me accept the community that's been here for me all along. It's time for me to be gay.

October 12, 2011

My Life is a Stump Speech


It kills me that I cannot express emotion. In so many ways I feel desensitized to the world around me. For so much of my life I’ve subconsciously been driven by society to conform to a gender role that stifles the expression of emotion and frowns upon anything that contradicts traditional notions of masculinity.

Over the past couple of years I’ve become much more extroverted in my interactions with others. But just because I’ve become comfortable speaking up and filling space with words doesn’t mean my contributions are meaningful. I lived in silence for so long that I feel like I now have to speak up anytime the room falls quiet. I’m more than willing to intellectualize, to offer up my opinions of why a football team should have run a particular play, why a certain economic policy is bad, or why the special effects in a movie were horrible. But I have trouble expressing my emotions and relating to people on a personal level. So much of my existence operates on a very impersonal level.

I’m more than willing to step up to a podium and deliver a speech or talk in a large group setting. In many ways a larger setting enables me to be impersonal, to remove myself from what I’m saying. Or at least I perceive the collective response by the audience as detached. I hate my life on a micro level. I struggle so hard to sit people down and explain to them on a one-to-one basis how I feel. I struggle to comfort people in times of need, often having no idea what to say and what body language to use. I feel so vulnerable when sharing my emotions on a more private, intimate level. The ultimate fear of rejection becomes so much more real to me.

When you talk in abstract terms and theories and someone disagrees with you, they reject the idea you put forth. If you open up emotionally on a personal level and someone disagrees with you, in many ways they reject who you are as a person. And to me that thought is terrifying.

It kills me that whenever my parents conclude a phone conversation with the phrase “I love you,” I never respond in kind but rather reply with a mere “have a good night.” It pains me that this weekend, at a retreat designed to foster a safe environment, I wrote a letter to one of my best friends in order to explain to him how much he means to me, because I couldn’t tell him to his face. It’s humiliating to come out to your parents by texting them from an airport security line before leaving home for six months. To me that’s the definition of being selfish, impersonal, and unable to recognize the impact your words and actions have on others.

I’m sick of running from discussing my real emotions with those who matter to me most in life. I’m tired of always running for political cover. I feel so much of what I say every day is merely a stump speech - the inspirational and eloquent, yet utterly meaningless trash we see politicians spew out all the time. So much of what I say is just bullshit. My humor and my love of metaphor are important parts of my personality. Parts that I love and refuse to give up. But I need to carve out a chunk of space for a little bit of candidness, a dash of frankness, and an iota of pure, raw, truth. Figuring out how to do so, well, I’m open for suggestions.

~John

October 11, 2011

My Normal Approach


"Have the courage to date. If you want to get to know someone, ask him or her to a cup of coffee or a movie."

Those words were Dean Sue's advice to the class of 2014 at last week's Sophomore Commencement as a way to avoid and overcome the sophomore "slump." Sadly, I find myself in a relationship slump as opposed to a sophomore slump, where I find her advice more applicable for me.

I'm a very calculated person. I don't like to make mistakes. I'm a math and science person, so I appreciate universal and proven truths, but I also understand the beauty of experimentation and error to reach a result governed by natural law. If my data is valid, I've only come to one conclusion in my dating and relationship life: I can't use science and math to predict my relationships. There is no formula that I can use. Instead, I'm stuck with taking risks and making mistakes, with the potential to learn from them. One thing comes to mind:
I may or may not have a shirt with this on it...
It's a fact when I say that the LGBT population here at Duke is 1) much smaller than the heterosexual community at Duke and 2) smaller than the LGBT communities at other universities in the world. Does that make it a bad thing? Absolutely not. Does it effectively make the dating pool smaller if only on-campus students are considered? (You must remember, I am an introvert, off-campus is not an option right now) Yes, it does. I would perform a small statistics problem here to prove my point, but this post is already far too nerdy.

I've been in a rough spot for the past four weeks of being back at Duke. Analyzing my life, I've realized that I frankly don't know anything about relationships. I'm fortunate enough to have my career paths well-defined, which I find distorts my feelings on how relationships work. I calculate forming relationships too much, just like I have worked to form my future goals for my life, and I easily get discouraged when one doesn't work out (I call these failures, as my life is governed by a Bernoulli trial (sarcasm, but not really)). That feeling of "failure" then and manifests into internalized struggle and fear that is perpetual. I blame myself. I get angry with myself. It's unhealthy.

I hope to serve as a non-example for you. The failures that I cite above are certainly not failures, they are experiences. Did I make mistakes while trying to start some of the relationships above? You're damn right I did. Do I regret them? Would I do it all over again if I had the chance? Absolutely. Sadly, I do not have that luxury since my Time Turner is in the shop right now. But to quote Oscar Wilde, "Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes." I hope you embrace this quote, as I am working to make it my mantra. (It's not going too well now)

It hurts to hurt. It hurts to be wrong. But if I never got back up after I fell down in any situation, I'd be permanently implanted in the ground. We have to be strong and embrace our pain as a way to grow. Things don't always work out the way we want them to, and that's okay. Sometimes, we have to let the world work the way it wants to before she's kind to us. It's certainly not the end. We will not be Forever Alone. No matter what relationships work or don't work, there will always be one person who is always there for you, and that's you. I love myself. And no matter what happens, I am proud of who I am, and no one can take that away from me. If you haven't had the chance, take some time to form a better relationship with yourself. To quote Mr. Wilde once more, "To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance." Get in touch with yourself, so that you can offer your partner or future partner all you have to offer.

Once you know yourself, then maybe you can take Dean Sue's advice. I'm all about clichés and I love caffeine, so I think that her recommendation is important. Take the risk. Because if it works, great! If not, it's never the end.

Now only if I could take this advice and use it myself...

October 10, 2011

Anonymous Posts (10.3.11-10.9.11)

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, Community! Happy fall break!! It's a big, but shortened, week here on campus [am I the only one who thinks that the best part of break is not the days of but the subsequent shortened week?]: 1) My mom is visiting! So if you see a woman who looks sort of like me and is just as loud and energetic, be sure to say hi! 2) Our Lives Discussion Group is on Thursday at 6:30...and last but not least 3) COMING OUT DAY IS FRIDAY!! Get ready for rainbows and Love=Love shirts galore on the plaza. [Insider's tip: If you want to be guaranteed your color and size preference, consider volunteering for a one hour shift: 11am-noon, 1-2pm, 2-3pm. Email your name, shift time, t-shirt size (S-XXXL) and color (blue, black. kelly green, red, purple, pink, orange) to comingoutday@gmail.com...You may volunteer for more than one shift, but we can only give one shirt per person].

And now, notes from OC:

#1
I'm questioning and its getting to the point where its really bothering/confusing/upsetting me and I know that I need to talk to someone about it. The problem is I can't bring myself to talk to anyone because I'm embarrassed/ashamed and I feel like if I talk to anyone about it I'll be automatically labeled as gay anyways. How can I overcome this shyness?


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).

October 8, 2011

MOVIE NIGHT - "Frida" - Hosted by Women Loving Women (WLW)


Hi Duke LGBTQ/questioning women's community!

Have you heard of Women Loving Women (WLW) at Duke? We are a dinner and discussion group for graduate and undergraduate LGBTQ-identified and questioning women at Duke.

WLW is excited to be hosting a MOVIE NIGHT this Wednesday, October 12th at 7pm in the LGBT Center! All LGBTQ and questioning identified women who are graduate or undergradute students are welcome to attend. (We respect varying levels of "outness" with both our dinner discussion meetings, listserv, and informal events like these, and members of the group are not discussed beyond the event.) Wednesday's movie is planned to be "Frida" [Read about it here at Afterellen.com], which tells the story of the bisexual civil rights and women's rights activist and Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo.

Also, WLW is going to be having it's next monthly dinner/discussion meeting October 17th from 6-8pm in the LGBT Center. This month's topic is "Sexual Fluidity and Questioning", and if you'd like us to ask specific questions for dialogue, email myself (meganweinand@gmail.com) or Janie (janie.long@duke.edu) with your ideas for discussion questions for our meeting. Please RSVP to colleen.warner@duke.edu. This month's meeting and every meeting is open to all LGBTQ and questioning Duke undergraduate and graduate women-identified students. (If you're not on our WLW listserv but would like to be, please email myself or Janie and we'll be happy to add you to the private listserv.)

Event recaps:

1. MOVIE NIGHT - "Frida" hosted by WLW
When: This Wednesday, October 12th, 7pm
Where: The Center for LGBT Life
Note: There will be popcorn & beverages!!

2. Next WLW Meeting: "Sexual Fluidity and Questioning".
When: Monday, October 17th
Where: The Center for LGBT Life
RSVP to: colleen.warner@duke.edu
(please specifiy "vegetarian" meal if desired!)
Note: If you have a specific question that you'd like us to add to the list of discussion questions, please email Janie or myself (meganweinand@gmail.com; janie.long@duke.edu).

-Megan

October 7, 2011

Pink Procrastination

I have been struggling to find something to write about for a while but now I will cop out and write about my writers block, I know so meta right? I was absolutely drawing blanks of what to write about that has been somewhat related to my out life but all that kept popping into my mind was how much I hate japanese conjugation , how my new work study job at the Hock Plaza is forever away from my dorm room, how my three neuroscience classes have way to much reading, and how weight training class at 10:05 am is just to much masochism for senior year. Then I thought "'isn't this what I wanted when I came out' wait isn't this what I wanted when I graduated from high-school'" ( quote in a quote , so meta) . As I inevitably and subconsciously compare my curent senior year to my senior year in high-school, I begin to realize that my life is not so blasé and bourgeois as I as a non-party scene Dukie claim. During high-school I was so far deep into the closet I might as well have been Royalty of Narnia . I guess my fear was that my perfectly scripted face that I painfully developed as a socially awkward and anxious middle schooler would be harmed making life unbearable. Since I was little I have waned to be in academia and be a scientist so getting in to and going into Duke was a big check next to that box. Yet soon into freshperson year (I dislike the word "first year" for idiosyncratic and aesthetic reasons) that was not enough. Yet I didn't come out till sophomore year. So long story short ( read: saving fodder for another post) I had all those wonderfully awkward moments related burgeoning social self awareness , again. who knew coming to college meant re-doing middle school life development; and luckily my life did not become unbearable... too much. so in conclusion I would like to thank the Duke environment / life for letting me just hate (with a passion) japanese conjugation while coming out / being an out gay male.
p.s. デューク大学大好きですよ!