November 30, 2011

Utah's Perfect Little Ally

So, Thanksgiving was pretty great. You don't hear this enough in the LGBT community, but I love my family so much. Yes, like all families, there was a bit of discomfort around the time of my coming out, but we've moved passed that. Whenever I'm home, I know I am around people who love and accept me for who I am. It is a rare occasion that people see pure, unadulterated Dan. But he rears his head quite often when I'm around my family. This is meant to be a short, uplifting post to help Us get through finals, and it goes out to my sister, Maddie.

Just a bit of background. When I came out to my Mom, I was an emotional wreck, and wasn't exactly quiet about it. Maddie overheard me telling my Mom some pretty earth shattering news. About 30 minutes later, I see a note slipped under my door:

"Dan. I heard what you told Mom. I'm totally ok with it. I still love you no matter what."
-Maddie
How adorable is that? She's pretty much the Greatest.

Do ya'll remember taking those required "comp-tech" classes in middle school? You know, the ones where they sit 30 kids down in a computer lab and try to teach kids about the Interwebz, when really all they are doing is trying to hack your site blocker and get onto addictinggames or facebook? Yeah, well Maddie is in one right now. One of their assignments was to make personal blogs. They were required to list some of the blogs with which they kept up and about 8 of her friends listed the BDU blog as their favorite. Yeah, thats right. Not only does Maddie (and my entire family for that matter, thanks Mom) read the blog, but her friends have started to read it too.

I brought her home a Love=Love shirt for a Thanksgiving present. Her eyes were beaming when I showed it to her. I could tell she couldn't wait to wear it around, not only repping Duke but repping LGBT equality. I also found out over break that Maddie has become a confidant to one of her LGBT identified friends, and I could not be prouder. My sister is pretty great.

I hope that the Duke loss and finals aren't keeping ya'll down. Put your heads down, #occupy Perkins, and power through. We're almost there.

November 29, 2011

WLW hosts "Set it Off" MOVIE NIGHT this Saturday @6pm!


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 third and last MOVIE NIGHT of the semester this Saturday night at 6pm in the LGBT Center! We will be showing "Set it Off", a film about four women who band together to fight the system in a radical, kick-ass, (and hilarious) way.

*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 and last monthly dinner/discussion meeting of the semester Sunday, December 11th 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 "Set if Off" Movie Night
When: This Saturday, December 3rd ; 6-8pm
Where: LGBT Center

2. December's WLW meeting
When: Sunday, December 11th, 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-Most likely an end-of-the-semester party! [Send us your other ideas to meganweinand@gmail.com!]

Theological Thanksgiving

I regularly find the time when one is expected to share what they are thankful for more than a little stilted. Oftentimes (I find this especially true in Christian households) it turns into a competition of theological one-upmanship, seeing who can most creatively be most thankful for Jesus this year.

With this in mind, this year I am without a doubt thankful for love.

I know, I know, you’re already having PTSD flashbacks to the lame Christian Thanksgiving, but hear me out; I’m desperately trying to avoid that.

In particular I am thankful for the love of a specific woman who, while making me remarkably happy, has also revolutionized the way I view God. As a wanna-be Christian theologian love is a profoundly and unavoidably theological concept, and it is unsurprising that I strain life-altering events (such as falling in love) through this Christocentric way of seeing.

I get it now.
This whole “Jesus loves me thing.”
It makes sense.

All of a sudden crucifixion for the sake of another’s wholeness doesn’t seem ridiculous because I’d do the same thing in a heartbeat.

God’s love is radical and irrational; it gives everything up and asks for nothing in return just because. God ceaselessly and recklessly chases after the ones He loves, destroying human conceptions of what “reasonable limits” mean in the pursuit of reconciliation and unity with His beloved.

I get it now.
I get it because it is my life.

It pains me that there are churches which believe this kind of love is destructive, sinful behavior. It pains me to think that this firsthand lesson in love, which I believe is educating me about theology and pastoral care more than any seminary course possibly could, automatically disqualifies me from pursuing ordination in a host of Christian denominations with whom I find a lot of theological accord … minus the gay thing.

Nonetheless I am thankful for the beautiful woman I get to wake up next to, who holds me when I weep and who thinks I am a culinary genius when I make spaghetti. God loves her more and more perfectly than I ever could, and realizing that has made my appreciation for His great love only increase. Recognizing His overwhelming, passionate, jealous love for us colors the way I view everything, including theological realities – e.g. the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection – which have taken on a meaning I could not have imagined prior to this soul-consuming adoration for a woman.

I get it now.
I am thankful for love.

November 28, 2011

Anonymous Posts (11.22.11-11.27.11)


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. :)

DUKE WOMEN'S SOCCER IS IN THE COLLEGE CUP! (That's the equivalent of the "Final Four," for those of you not so familiar with college soccer.) It's a big big deal, only the second time we've ever made it this far and the first time since 1992!! [/DWS Fanaticism]

It may have been Thanksgiving, but like Duke Basketball, BDU BLOG NEVER STOPS. (Hey Nike, can we get a massive sign to proclaim that, please?) We welcomed two new writers, Liz and Denzell, Jenn wrote about the decision to come out to her parents over Thanksgiving (which, according to Facebook, went superbly), Cameron taught us about muggle quidditch, and Megan and Lawrence wrote about being a trans ally and starting testosterone, respectively.

All in all, another good week here on The Blog! Hope your Thanksgivings were just as swell.

The LGBT Center is looking for a new home as a result of the West Union renovation. Student Affairs needs undergraduates' feedback in order to determine both the location and what the new Center will provide for undergrads. By providing feedback, you have a chance to help shape the next ten to twelve years of LGBT Life on campus. Be sure to take the online survey here, fill out a hard copy while you are hanging out in the Center, email Jess to set up a time to talk with a student action group member or attend a focus group early next semester.

See you at Duke Night at The Bar Durham on Saturday!

Elsewhere, the MLB added sexual orientation as a protected identity in to their collective bargaining agreement.

Now, notes from OC!

#1
Don't you hate when your crush--who might or might not be gay based on signals he's been giving you--suddenly shows up on your minifeed as "in a relationship" with a girl? So much for that hope.

#2
I miss her so much.

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).

November 27, 2011

In which I begin testosterone

On October 28 -- a month ago tomorrow -- I took my first dose of testosterone.

Since everybody always asks: it's a gel, that I apply to my shoulders. It comes in little packets. I take it every day.

Since nobody asks: it reeks of alcohol in a way that makes the whole process feel clinical and maybe a little alienating. I have to wash my hands afterwards and be careful not to touch my female friends.

Maybe I'm unusual in feeling this way, but I don't feel like I've crossed a milestone. I don't think transitioning has any milestones, not really. Well, there are milestones -- markers that show you where you are on your path -- but there are no thresholds. It's not a journey with a grand arrival, where you walk through a door and declare, "Today I am a man, whereas yesterday I was not."

I don't think it's even a journey at all, not really. I don't feel like I'm going anywhere. I've been here the whole time. I'm just putting my affairs in order. I can see alteration within myself, but no change from one clear category to another; it all just blends together into the process of growing up, the inevitable effect of time on a person's character. Starting testosterone is like declaring my major - a formalization of a longstanding internal shift.

And yet, it seems like testosterone has become a symbol for my entire transition in others' minds. There's a clear before and after in people's reactions. People comment on perceived changes all the time; to a certain extent, it's painful to have to say "no, you're imagining it, I don't have facial hair yet," or "no, my voice hasn't started changing," or "no, I haven't put on muscle" -- I really want to say yes to all of these things, and it's frustrating to be put in the position of denying them. Or, in some cases, I feel like I have somehow changed categories in the other person's mind, and they now think of me as being a transman 'for real'; people have started taking my transition seriously in a way that only reveals that they weren't taking it seriously before.

I don't want the tone of this post to be misleading -- in their own way, these are both positive things. It's great to hear that my friends perceive me as more masculine, even if their perception is based more on my changing attitude than a physical alteration. And it's great for people to realise that I am serious about my transition.

Moreover, I'm thrilled to be on testosterone. When I applied my first dose, I was so happy I literally cried. I was euphoric for a solid day. And now I can think about the future and feel excited about it. My 'dysphoria fits' do still happen, but they are always bearable, in a way they never used to be before. Even the decision itself helped me, independent of the testosterone; since I decided not to wait for my parents' approval for this choice, I've become a lot more independent in general. My relationship with my parents is more of a relationship between adults.

I just don't think that starting testosterone changed me.

This Thanksgiving, I went home to my family. Everyone knew I was trans, but no one knew I was taking testosterone. We didn't talk about it. And I had a blast, because I still love my family, and I still love spending time with my brothers. I was really nervous about my brothers in particular, because I was worried things would become awkward between us; the most valuable part of my relationship with them has always been how comfortable things always are between us. But we made each other laugh just as much as ever.

I hope my parents noticed how much fun this weekend was. If they do, I hope it helps them understand that my goal isn't to completely destroy my former life and to become a stranger -- my goal is just to grow up and become myself. Just like anyone else.

November 26, 2011

The Magic of Acceptance

As I sit home for Thanksgiving break, stuffing my face with all of the leftovers, I have had a lot of time to reflect on what I should be thankful for this year. If you remember my last post on the Sophomore Slump, I can definitely assert that it exists; I've been feeling it for the past few months. However, this post is not about that. This post is about what I have been doing to get over the Sophomore Slump. This blog is called Our Lives, and yet, I have not had the chance to talk about an extremely important activity in my life: Quidditch. Yes, I am referring to the wizard sport with quaffles, bludgers, snitches, and brooms from the Harry Potter series. Yes, it exists, and yes, it is amazing! Perhaps the most accepting community I have found in my time at Duke has been the quidditch community all around the world, but especially my team. I will get to my team eventually, but first I want to talk about how quidditch promotes acceptance and equality.

The International Quidditch Association (yes, it exists) has a very strong mission for inclusiveness and equality that I find admirable for an organized sport. While I can spend an entire post explaining the rules of quidditch (you can always ask me if you are curious), I want to emphasize our gender rule, which states:
"Each team must have at least two players [there are seven total players] that are of a different gender than the other players. The gender that a player identifies with is considered to be that player’s gender." -IQA Rulebook 5.0
Quidditch is the only organized sport which is required to be co-ed (to my knowledge), and as of 2012, this rule will be modified so that each team will be required to have at least three players that are of a different gender. This rule has manifested into a core mission of community building in the IQA called Title 9 3/4, which is a combination of Title IX and the train platform, Platform 9 3/4, where the Hogwarts Express is located (and with the new 3:4 ratio, Title 9 3/4 is too perfectly named). I sit on the Rules Council for the IQA, and I have just been so pleased with the IQA's stance on gender equality. Having men and women play in the same sport, in my opinion, helps to aid in the mutual respect of each other for their athletic abilities. Many of the toughest players I've seen have been women, and I know my views have been modified while watching quidditch grow and seeing how strong the players are, regardless of gender. In addition, I was very pleased when we added the second clause of the gender rule. To have this rule and have it be explicit written demonstrates the IQA's commitment to equality within the transgender community, and again, I believe this is unparalleled in any other organized sport.

In my time participating in quidditch for the past year and a half and now recently working with the IQA on referee development, I have had the chance to meet a lot of people from around the world that play quidditch. I cannot find one stereotype for these quidditch players: some are Harry Potter fanatics and others haven't read all seven books. Some played football in high school; others haven't played a sport before. Some are 6'5'', others are 5'0''. I have noticed that there are a fair amount of LGBT players in quidditch, which I have found to be uplifting. In general, many would agree that sports aren't always the most LGBT-friendly, but in my experiences, it is so different in the IQA. In fact, for Valentine's Day this past year, the IQA asked teams to submit quidditch couples, regardless of sexual orientation, and out of the 10 selected couples, I believe 3 of them were same-sex couples, which I thought was amazing! Perhaps J.K. Rowling taught us a lesson in equality and acceptance in the books that has permeated the sport. For me, I've always felt like the oddball growing up. I was never athletic and other than soccer, I wasn't really interested in sports, which made me different from most of my guy friends. Reading Harry Potter put me into a world where I wasn't that oddball and I was accepted for me, not the sport I played for muscles I (don't) have. I dreamed of playing quidditch while growing up, having the wind rush through my hair as I would fly through the air protecting my team from bludgers, and I only wished that would be reality. Due to the creativity of some people at Middlebury who also shared my dream, we now have quidditch. Many quidditch players feel the same way I did growing up, and when I'm surrounded by the sport, I don't feel alone in my sentiment, I only feel acceptance.

But mind you, I have only been involved with the IQA this year. Most of the time I have spent with quidditch has been with my team here at Duke, where I have felt the most acceptance. When I came to Duke last year, I struggled to find my place. I found it very difficult to get involved with the LGBT community at the beginning of last year, which was definitely disheartening at first. However, I found quidditch, and a group of friends that is by far my closest friends at Duke. Maybe it takes running around campus with brooms between our legs being mocked on campus to bring us close together, but whatever it is, it has worked. When I am with my team, I can truly be myself, something that I cannot say for many other groups of people here at Duke. Granted, being myself usually involves yelling at everybody since I'm the referee, but nonetheless, my team knows the real Cameron, and that Cameron is independent of any label.

Quidditch has been magical for me. My team, my best friends, made me want to stay at Duke. So this year, I'm thankful for the team. I've never had such a public forum to thank them, so thank you all. Our trip to New York for the Quidditch World Cup two weeks ago was by far one of the best weekends ever, and all of you made it wonderful. Thank you for dealing with my time constraints and my yelling practice after practice, and thank you for accepting me as one of the team even though I am the lone referee.

We talk about community so much on this blog, and we can spend so much time talking about the LGBT community, but we cannot neglect the other communities we associate with at Duke and in the world. My community may be different from your community, and that's okay, but let us not forget the support we have around us.

Duke Quidditch will be hosting the 2nd Annual Intercollegiate Yule Ball of the Carolinas next Saturday. Come and join us to be a part of the magic that I've been a part of for past year and a half.

November 25, 2011

Plans

[Editor's note: Please welcome our newest writer, Liz! We are so glad to have her contributions on the blog.]

Three days into my Duke experience, I walked through the Organizations Fair set up in the Plaza with my parents. My mom, knowing my utter ambivalence when it comes to seeking out human contact, diligently made sure I picked up flyers for a few of the groups, like the Arts Fair and especially CAPS. I promised to reach out to at least some of the groups, we went into the Bryan Center, said goodbye, and they left.

After the appropriate emotional flailing of being left on the East Coast alone, I immediately returned to the Plaza and went to the Center’s booth, which I had been unwilling to approach earlier.

After tinkering with the idea starting sophomore year of high school, I’ve thought of myself of bi for almost two years now. Most of senior year in high school was spent in an intermittent internal battle of whether or not to come out. I’d ask myself why it even mattered, what was the worst that could happen? I was leaving in the fall, and I wouldn’t have to deal most of those people anymore. I planned to tell my family and friends and let the respective rumor mills do the rest. I felt calm, assured. With a plan, I can handle anything.

Then I would ask myself why then would I bother coming out? Why not just stay comfortably where I was and avoid being known as the out kids were, solely by their sexuality? Parts of my very close extended family were not going to react well. It wasn’t like I was going to date anyone by the end of the year anyway; no one needed to be told. The plan became to come out to them while I was at college, where I would be safely many states away from any sort of negative or awkward fallout.

When I got accepted here, I did all the researching into the different clubs and activities, running through all the websites and Facebook groups. I found more than I could ever hope to join and talked nonstop about them to family and friends. I found this blog, and the Center, and Women Loving Women, all way before that fair on the Plaza, but they were the things I never mentioned to anyone. I followed this blog for most of spring semester and read the backlogs over the summer, carefully monitoring if anyone was around when I was doing so. I made more plans. When I walked up to the Center’s booth that first week at Duke, it was almost surreal.

Now that I’m in college and involved with the Center, I find my original plan of visiting home one holiday break, dropping my payload, and flying away to be less than ideal. My closeness with my parents has become a double-edged sword. I find the idea of simply telling them over the phone or at the end of one of my visits irresponsible. They’ve always supported me and given me great advice and I feel that I owe them more than that. I owe them a chance for us to sit down, for me to explain, and take their questions.

Easier said than done. I share everything with my family. On the phone, I’ll forget and mention I have a meeting later that night and they’ll ask what it is, not knowing this throws me into a mad scramble for a cover story. While I can explain away the rainbow flag in my dorm room as being a symbol of my support for LGBT students, Women Loving Women implies a different level of LGBT involvement.

So I’ve found myself at one of the most stressful times in my life (even without taking into account coming out) without a viable plan. Currently, I’m considering things like ‘playing it by ear’, which is a horrifyingly vague concept for me. But as bad as the idea of not knowing exactly how or when I want to come out anymore is, I’ve never been more grateful to have found the Center and the resources there or this blog. They all give me the security of knowing that whatever my eventual plan is (or lack of one), there are other people out there who understand and relate.

November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

[Editor's Note: I am pleased to welcome Denzell to our blog! Please give him a warm welcome in the comments section!]

Well first I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving for many reasons, not least of which is because it signals the date I can start decorating for Christmas. In my family we have this tradition of all holding hands and each saying what we are thankful for. Now you see how cool and innovative my family is. But this got me thinking, as a gay man what do I have to be thankful for, and in the larger sense what can our community as a whole be thankful for? Over the last year our community has faced certain setbacks (the proposed North Carolina Marriage amendment), but as a whole this has been a great year.

I personally have so much to be thankful for, because over the past year I came to terms with my sexuality, came out, and found a community that accepts me. I am thankful that at Duke I have a place to live freely and openly. I crack a smile every time I see a rainbow flag outside a window, and I feel at home whenever I see one of the many LOVE=LOVE shirts on campus. I am thankful for the LGBT center and every thing it provides. And even more than the physical center, I am thankful for Janie and Jess because their love and dedication fill the Center with a comfort that is hard to find any place else. I am thankful that after having to leave my church (and denomination) I have found a religious community where I not only feel accepted, but loved for who I am. This Thanksgiving I will give thanks because in the past year I have been saved from shame and self-torment. Last Thanksgiving I was plagued by the demons of my own inner homophobia, but now I am at peace. This is not to say that personally I have no problems. I still must come out to a homophobic extended family, and intolerant “friends” from back home, but in less than one years time I have made strides I once thought impossible. I am the happiest I have ever been, and I have excised inner demons that once gripped my life. For these things I am truly thankful.

Now enough about me…what about us!

This has undoubtedly been a monumental year for Gay rights, and the progress of our community. As a community we can be thankful that now all Americans can serve their country regardless of their sexual orientation. One victory you may not be aware of: we can be thankful that in August the Native American tribe of Suquamish extended full marriage rights to gay tribe members. While on the subject of marriage equality we should all be very thankful that in July marriage equality was extended to 19 million citizens through New York’s gay marriage law. That brings the total to 7 states where LGBT individuals have marriage rights. On the west coast while they are fighting Prop 8 in the courts (they are making progress) California legislators took another progressive step. California will now become the first state to require LGBT history be taught in public schools. We can rejoice in the fact that finally one state will teach about the importance of LGBT Americans in our history.

Pop culture- Yes we can always be thankful for Celebrities.

In February we had Justin Bieber give his support of gay individuals, for which I am sure we are all thankful. Justin was quoted as saying about gay individuals “ It’s everyone’s own decision, it doesn’t affect me and it shouldn’t affect anyone else”. Now the word “decision” was a poor choice, but he meant well. Oh, and FYI to all the Justin fans, he is coming to Cameron to watch the UNC game this year (maybe we can give our newest ally a LOVE=LOVE shirt). To everyone who is using an apple product to read this lets be thankful for Apple and Steve Jobs (RIP). On the subject of Apple there is another thing to be thankful for. The new CEO Tim Cook is not only a Duke alum, but also a gay man. I am hoping that means that the iPhone 5 will be available in every color of the rainbow and not just white and black. We should also be thankful for our Queer friends in the animal kingdom. Gay penguins “Buddy” and “Pedro” will, after much outcry, be reunited at the Toronto Zoo (but only after they perform their “duty” during mating season to propagate their endangered species). Finally, I would be remiss to omit the single greatest thing that we can be thankful for in the realm of pop culture…Lady Gaga giving us a new anthem! While “Dancing queen”, “I’m coming out” and “it’s raining men” are all great “Born this way” was a much-needed modern addition.

So while you stuff your face with turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie remember that in our community which faces constant oppression there is still much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

November 23, 2011

Life Can Be Scary

Greetings, everyone!

A lot has happened in my life since my last post, but I won’t bore you with most of it. You’re welcome to ask me about it, though. I will say that the most important event was getting my first girlfriend (Yes, I’m such a baby queer. It’s fine.). She’s great and wonderful and makes me very happy, so naturally I want to share that news with the whole world. The people I really want to tell are my parents, but as you may remember from my first post, my parents don’t even know I’m queer. (Or, if they do, they’re really good at denial.) My sister does, finally – I called her on Duke’s Coming Out Day to tell her, which went really well. My original plan for coming out to my parents went something like this:

  1. Graduate on May 13, 2012. Celebrate with my parents, sister, and extended family before and after getting my degree.

  2. Wait for the extended family to leave on Monday, the 14th.

  3. Pack my things, including a small, easy-to-carry getaway bag of essentials, and have a friend with a car on standby.

  4. Tell my parents I'm queer before getting into the car to drive back to Atlanta.

  5. Brace for impact.

Now, however, I’m tired of hiding and lying, and it’s getting harder for me to do it efficiently. Maybe it’s stupid (considering how much financial control my parents have over me), but I’d really love to let them know what their elder daughter is really like before Winter Break. And, considering how out I am on the internet now, it would be better for them to find out directly from me, instead of from someone else, or because they randomly stumbled across this blog or hacked my Facebook account. So, with that in mind, I’ve decided to write a letter that will be delivered to them after I get back to Duke this Sunday.

I honestly don’t know how they will react. I’m sure there will be at least some yelling and crying and awkward, painful questions. But I don’t know if it will last for 2 hours, 3 days, or 10 years. Nor do I know if they’ll do something like stop paying tuition, or refuse to let me come home for Christmas (or return to Duke in the Spring). I hope that none of my fears will be realized, and that my parents love me enough to reconsider some of their narrow-minded beliefs. However, the outcome is uncertain, and I’m pretty scared, so please keep me in your thoughts in the weeks to come.

November 22, 2011

Cisgender Privilege (Part I); Qualities of A Transgender Ally


[Note: Cisgender (adj). - 1. to describe those who identify with their biological sex, and (a simplified definition) 2. not transgender.]

As a white woman I have white privilege.As a cisgender woman, I have cisgender privilege.

I know the issues are both very different, but for me it is helpful to connect the two in my mind to help guide how I educate myself and how I react in situations. I didn't want to try and tackle cisgender privilege all in one blog post-so I'm starting this off with a part I that focuses on general privilege in my experience.

Privilege is an uncomfortable issue. (I'm interested to see how people respond to this post.)

It's so natural to be defensive and even in fact, actively defensive in order to pretend that privilege doesn't exist. As a white woman, I will be the first to say that many white people constantly create fabrications or remain oblivious (myself included) to mitigate this guilt. "Reverse racism" and "post-racial" society are both false terms that help mitigate white guilt about privilege; even though there is no such thing as "post-racial" anything and reverse racism can't exist, these terms are totally popular even among the most liberal and progressive circles.

Instead of defensiveness with privilege, developing myself as an ally was a better reaction to start forming in the past few years. Below is a combined summary of blogs (citation below) I've read lately. The first is a list of some possible traits of a white anti-racist ally that I particularly liked as I've read them online recently The second is using this first list as a good starting point to think of cisgender privilege/being a trans ally:

Qualities of a White Anti-Racist Ally:
1. "Is responsible for self-education about privilege, racism, and oppression; does not expect people of color to always teach them."
2. "Does not require people of color to prove the truth of their racial experiences or injuries."
3. "Responds to racist statements even when a person of color is not present or does not object."
4. Does not expect recognition or gratitude; addresses racism because it is personally offensive.
5. Recognizes that allies will always fail, and when they do should remain non-defensive, apologize, correct (if possible) and self-educate (see #1).
6. Recognizes that their other minority identities don't erase their white privilege. (And to quote another tumblr article, "do you think white privilege is ever erased, period?")
7. Recognizes their white privilege and actively works to maintain that awareness and act in response.

[Citation: #'s 1-4: Quelola (Tumblr) and #5: What Tami Said (Blogger)]

For me thinking about ways to be a white anti-racist ally is a good starting point for being a better cisgender ally, which I have only begun to seriously consider this year. Here it is modified a bit for possible qualities of a transgender ally:

Qualities of a Transgender Ally:

1. "Is responsible for their own self-education on transgender topics and does not expect transgender people to teach them."
-I've heard trangender friends tell me that they recieve questions about extremely personal and sensitive topics, like genitalia; it can't be the responsibility of the minority individual to constantly educate those with a privilege status.
2. "Does not require transgender inidivudals to "prove" their transgender identity."
3. "Responds to transphobic statements even when a transgender person is not present or does not object."
- Including using correct pronouns (which I will be the first to admit that I have definitely failed at sometimes), including when the transgender person isn't there, etc.
4. "Does not expect recognition or gratitude; addresses transphobia because it is personally offensive."
5. "Recognizes that allies will always fail, and when they do should remain non-defensive, apologize, correct (if possible) and self-educate (see #1)."
6. Recognizes that their other minority identities don't somehow "erase" their cisgender privilege.
-I think this one is so crucial. I can't tell express how many white gay men dominate entire conversations, never listen/acknowledge women or people of color, only to claim they are "feminist!" or "progressive!" or "gay!" and therefore able to erase the possibility of being an "-ist".
7. Recognizes their cisgender privilege and actively works to maintain that awareness and act in response.

I know this is only a brief list and that it also might be common or first-hand knowledge to many reading this blog, but I hope it sparks dialogue and that others feel comfortable adding to the list with experiences (as identifying with or being an ally of either community). I'm constantly blown away by how little I've known for such a long period of time when it comes to confronting privilege, and I'd be excited to hear what everyone else thinks about ways to recognize privilege and becoming better allies.

More links:

November 21, 2011

Anonymous Posts (11.14.11-11.21.11)


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. :)

WOOO!!! DUKE WOMEN'S SOCCER IS GOING TO THE ELITE EIGHT!!

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming...Dr. G, our faculty blogger, wrote a fantastic post on Saturday.

Sunday was Trans Day of Remembrance. I hope everyone got a chance to check out the posters in the Bryan Center and Perkins over the last week. HuffPo had some good coverage, too.

The sports world is eating up this Penn St. scandal...but not many people know that this isn't the first time Penn St. put winning above ethics and the welfare of the community and its students. This article is a salient reminder about Penn State/Rene Portland's homophobic past.

Finally, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd like to thank all of the writers on our staff, our anonymous post contributors, and our readers like you for making this blog possible and successful! So much BDU Blog <3.

Now, notes from OC!

#1
Janelle Monae (Motown-y, soul type singer) popped up on my iTunes shuffle today and I remembered the blog entry the other day about black queer women in pop culture. This is a quote from her in an interview. (Answering a question about if she dates): "I do. I think that love is very beautiful and it’s an energy that I love having. I do date and I do have someone that I love. Someone that understands me very well and encourages me to be the best person and artist I can be. I couldn’t ask for a better android." So playing the pronoun game, am I right? Or maybe I'm just wishing. But then again, she is pretty cagey about answering sexuality questions... This is her.

#2
Why do straight women gravitate towards flamboyant gay men? I'm openly gay but sometimes I wish I hadn't bothered to come out-- I honestly can't tell you how many times my friends (friends?) have asked me why I can't be more "stereotypical." I don't know if there's a niche for guys like me, and it makes me so goddamn frustrated.

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).

November 19, 2011

The Rules of Entrainment

It's time for my second column for the blog (actually, past time...heh heh...  Oops).  Alas, I now recall what it means to be in a sophomore slump. There are so many different things to talk about – and so many different questions to ask – that I am not sure where to even begin. Beyond that, there is a high degree of intimidation stemming from the notion that the experiences in my life are not abundantly useful when it comes to Our Lives. My words will be much more clinical (in the “scientifically detached; unemotional” sense) than the very personal and often moving contributions I’ve read here over the past two years.

And then I remembered – I’m an engineer! I can totally get away with “scientifically detached” and “unemotional”! So I should just start writing and see where it goes.

What I decided to write about is the idea of entrainment. In fluid mechanics, the term entrainment describes how otherwise non-moving fluid is compelled to move by virtue of the motion of the fluid around it and the connectivity among the molecules. The Dyson Air Multiplier fan is an example – high velocity air coming out of the “blade” pulls along the previously-still air in the room and makes it move. The net effect is that a greater number of molecules end up traveling together to a new location.There is a cost of course – the high velocity air exiting the blade loses some of its energy in bringing the rest of the air along with it – but the important thing is that matter which otherwise would have been perfectly happy to sit still was motivated along some new path by its energetic comrades.

From a personal perspective, the process of entrainment ends up being a very good description of how I got here.  It models what some of my students and friends, and this blog, and the Center for LGBT Life have done for my mindset and motivation.  The people who have been willing to share their experiences and emotions in this venue and others have done much to change me from a person who otherwise would have been perfectly happy to sit still to a person compelled to get going along a different path. I have been the beneficiary of others’ willingness to connect and to share, and I feel myself being moved accordingly.

Within society, however, I recognize that the costs of human entrainment are similar to those in a fluid system.  I can only imagine the physical, emotional, and – for those who believe the term has relevance – spiritual toll of the work done by Janie, and Jess, and all the students, faculty, and staff.  I marvel at the effort that is put forth by those who are working towards the expansion and protection of human rights and towards the recognition of equality and preservation of dignity for people all over the gender and sexuality spectra. Not to mention (only because I don’t have the words for it) what it takes to fulfill all the different roles of counselor, friend, parent, leader, listener, advocate, and so many others for so many people.

As examples, I have learned from reading a number of coming-out posts that, even when there are generally positive reactions from family and friends, there is still a great deal of anguish and doubt.  There is additional effort that must be expended to maintain (or repair) relationships. I have talked to people who still fear that who they love or how they present will somehow have an impact on their employment prospects. And I see in our own state that a sad majority of our elected “leaders” want to codify discrimination and put civil rights to a vote.

Given that, I think it becomes the job of an ally, once entrained, to figure out a way to add energy to the community rather than be a drag on it. We still need to be led – and taught, and corrected, and sometimes even forgiven – but we also need to be willing to take up the banner and use our voices and our privilege to promote understanding and acceptance.

As noted during ally training, we need to make a personal commitment to:
  • Knowing more about the LGBT Community
  • Recognizing what holds us back as individuals and as a society from being supportive and affirming
  • Speaking up in our everyday interactions to combat homophobia and heterosexism, and
  • Acting to make the lives of LGBT individuals better by working for change and continuing to engage in the community. 
If we do those things, we can strive not only to restore the energy it took to get us moving in the first place but also to serve as agents for change ourselves.

I hope that any of you reading this who celebrate Thanksgiving will have a wonderful holiday from whatever it is that you do day-to-day and get a chance to reflect on and revel in those things for which you are thankful. For me, that includes my family, my friends, my colleagues at work, the opportunities I have been given to work with the next generations of leaders, and the gift to learn from all of you who participate on this blog and in the life of the Center for LGBT Life.  Thank you for bringing me along!

November 18, 2011

Something Greater Than Yourself


[Author’s Note: I’ll try to keep the profundity of this to a minimum]

So, yeah. Coach K is pretty great. You know, 903, history making, the works. I’ll be there for 904 tonight (as well as at the women’s game at noon. Seriously though, ya’ll should check out our women’s team this year. Like, the men’s team is good and all, but our women kick ass WITHOUT taking names. We’re winning the whole damn thing this year, NCAA 2012 champs, calling it right now, so sue me. DWB for life!). This year, in the pump up video before every men’s basketball game in Cameron, a quote from Coach K comes up:

“The greatest pride of all comes from being a part of something you could not have done on your own” -Coach K

Our athletic teams are all playing for something greater than themselves, they play for each other, they play for Duke (you can make the argument that the Men’s basketball team plays more for Coach K and less for Duke, but that is neither here nor there).

Think for a second about religious places of worship (the Sistine Chapel, Masjid al-Haram, even the Duke Chapel). In which religious text does God (god? gods? Gods?) say to Us, “Hey, so like, could you guys build me a massive church? Kthx.” (Hint: none). For me, and for a lot of religious people I know, when you go to a service, you don’t consciously think of the building in which the service is held. You focus on the community, and on your faith. But subconsciously, the enormity of these structures reminds worshipers of just how insignificant they are compared to their community of faith. This may not be the case for all church-goers, but whenever I went (go?) to church, I was always reminded that there are things far more important and larger than I am.

When you look at the night sky at Duke, you don’t see much. Thanks, light pollution, you’re the best. But every once and a while, when I’m feeling less-than-stellar (which, I am displeased to report, has been happening a lot recently) I hop in my car and drive. I get away, far enough away so that I can see the night sky and all of its unbridled beauty. I park, and just gaze into the cosmos, and it reminds me of just how small I am. There is so much else out there; there are things much, much greater than I am. This isn’t nihilistic, it’s refreshing.

My first year at Duke, I was so excited to have a community. I came from a place that had nothing LGBT related, and I did everything I could to get as involved as possible. It was, to an extent, a little toxic. I didn’t allow myself to branch out and explore the other parts of me, of which there are plenty.

This semester, I have ventured onto the other side of the toxicity spectrum. I removed myself almost entirely from the center, and from most of my friends who identify as LGBT. There is some blame to be put on the marching band and vast amount of my time that I give to it for football season. But I could have made time to embrace the LBGT community, so my expulsion thereof was conscious and voluntary. After some self analysis, and a few meetings with Janie, I gathered that a good portion of the problems I’ve been facing this semester come from the relegation of importance I've given to the LGBT side of my identity.

I began to reincorporate myself into the center, and reassessed the value of community. I realize that, for me, much akin to religious buildings or stargazing, involvement within the LGBT community gives me perspective. Going to the center enlightens me, and makes me realize that the issues I am facing I am not facing alone. The collective sum of all Our struggles is more important than anything I can undertake in solitude.

Now, I realize that the center is not for everyone. I also fully acknowledge that my reincorporation won’t solve all (most?) of my problems, but it certainly helps. It’s almost always nice to gain perspective, and involvement in the LGBT community allows me to do that. I’m sure reintegration into the center isn’t what Coach K meant in his speech, but it sure has re-instilled into me a sense of pride and (I’m very pleased to report) quite a bit of Joy.

Also, seriously, support the women’s basketball team. Cameron, 12 Noon, be there. They’re freaking great.

November 17, 2011

Something To Get Excited About

So, in case you haven't heard, the Presbyterian Church (USA) announced in October that it plans on ordaining its first openly gay priest (Scott Anderson). The church's standards for ordination were also revised, eliminating a longstanding ban on gay ordination in the church. The Presbyterians (after the Episcopalians, the Lutherans, and those in the United Church of Christ) are now the fourth mainline Protestant denomination to allow gay ordination.

Of course, this has sparked a massive debate that will not be easily settled, and the Westboro Baptist Church recently posted on their website that they plan to picket the ordination. These are the actions of people that know they are fighting a losing battle.

The Presbyterian Church is a large organization, representing well over 2 million people. Although not all of these people agree with the official position of the church, that such a massive entity has decided to lend its support to the LBGT community is a powerful and hopeful message. The Presbyterian church's decision, however, is much more than a declaration of support and reaffirmation by a large group. It is indicative of a much wider, more fundamental cultural change, and that's what is really important.

The world is changing, and becoming more aware of and sympathetic to the LGBT community, and the decision of the Presbyterian church is just one more indicator of that. People are tired of their religion being used to spread intolerance, and they won't have it anymore. The Presbyterian church is leading the way into a new era, and will likely be the impetus for further cultural change. The LGBT community gained a powerful new ally this month, and it is likely to get many more in the near future due to the influence of the Presbyterian Church and the cultural change its actions represent, and that is definitely something to get excited about.

As Scott Anderson (the soon-to-be-ordained) said in an interview with Reuters, "Institutional religion has not always been a helpful conversation partner with the wider culture and my hope and prayer is that, with this action of the Presbyterian Church, we will increasingly become a more constructive player in the wider cultural discussion about gays and lesbians."

November 16, 2011

Familial Equilibrium


This post is going to be more of a story than my previous posts, so bear with me if it’s a little boring. I’m not very good at emotional revelations, but enough avoiding the point, time (as the wise Graham Chapman always said) to “get on with it”.

I was one of the people that was always out of the closet. In fact, until my senior year of high school I wasn’t even aware that there was a closet to come out of. Once I had settled my own mind on the matter (enough to be sure that I was in fact bisexual and not just a bit curious), I decided that I had to tell my parents. Of course I knew that this was technically not my responsibility to share if I didn’t want to, but my parents and I have a very open relationship so I really wanted to tell them. Also I kind of assumed that they would provide a solid support base for me as they had always told me that they would love me no matter what.

Well, as you may be gathering, it didn’t exactly go like that. My mother was a bit confused at first and had no idea what to say, which even though it was pretty awkward was pretty understandable. My father’s reaction, though it wasn’t explicitly negative, was not at all supportive. In the couple of weeks after I came out he expressed various concerns to me and told me a number of things that nobody who is trying to adjust to their new (and fluid) identity wants to hear.

I’m going to go through some of the main ideas and outline my issues with them, though it might seem a bit obvious:

“I’m worried about you coming out in college. It’s a place to reinvent yourself and I don’t want you to get labeled as the queer kid.”

Ok, yeah of course college is a place to reinvent yourself, but what if that reinvention is partly that I want to finally be myself? What if I want to be open about all parts of who I am, instead of hiding and repressing myself? And finally, I AM a queer kid. As my father I hoped that he would support me being myself. Oh, and as a follow up to this, he told me he wanted me to “really think about” whether I want to be a part of LGBT life here at Duke. I did, and you can see what I decided.

“Being openly LGBT could really ruin your job prospects.”

This one’s pretty simple. I know that. Also, I’m just entering college. I don’t need to hear about the various ways that who I am could ruin my life. Finally, I’m really not interested in working for a company that isn’t cool with me being Bi.

“But you don’t even like the flamboyant gays. And they make up the majority of the gay community, so they’ll also make up most of your male dating prospects. So why even bother?”

Firstly, don’t speak for me. Sure, I’m an introvert and don’t mix terribly well with extroverts, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. Secondly, false false false false FALSE! “Flamboyant” gays are not the only members of the gay community, there is such a wide spectrum of people in this community that such a demeaning generalization quite ignorant and offensive. Furthermore, even if I never actually meet a man I connect with (I’m not looking for one now), why does that mean my identity is irrelevant? Which leads into the next thing, a return from my previous post:

“You aren’t biactual, you’re bicurious. I don’t have to deal with it until you actually have a boyfriend. Then I’ll believe it.”

Ok, yeah. Because I would totally expose myself like this if it were just a curiosity. I understand the desire to dodge dealing with your own homophobia, but seriously? Don’t put that on me. Especially when I’m at my most vulnerable.

(After describing something as gay and me saying something): “What? You never used to get offended when I said these things. Do I have to change the way I live for you?”

Well actually, I was always offended when you said that kind of thing, I just never said anything because at first I just thought it was part of the common slang and then I thought it would be suspicious to say things against it. Yes, I do want you to change “the way you live” because its insulting and demeaning. But if you seriously consider that a part of the way you live, you have a serious problem. Changing offensive slang is not that hard. (I know this because you have changed how you speak recently)

Ok, so now for a little caveat. About a month ago my father sent me an email to tell me that he was very sorry about what he said and he finally realized how offensive this is. Ironically he made this realization while watching “some asshole from fox news” (<-direct quote from the email) talk about how Americans don’t realize that the homosexual agenda is the most dangerous short term threat to America. He said he got angry, and then realized how I must feel hearing the same kind of thing. Then, he made the jump from this guy on fox to some of the comments he made. So he decided to be the father I remember and apologized to me. Then he asked me to set up a meeting with Janie in the center so they could talk to someone about how to be supportive to me. I have to say, since the meeting on parents weekend they have been more than supportive. They’re everything I wanted them to be in the first place.

They’ve been great since. Really open and supportive, and most importantly they are willing to discuss LGBT issues with me. I had an email conversation with my father this week about my church’s stance on the LGBT community (You like how I foreshadow future posts?), a conversation that wouldn’t have happened even two months ago. My parents have finally adopted LGBT rights as human rights, as they now have a face to put with it. Mine. Judging by some of the statements made above, you can really see how far they’ve come. I guess this is my own little it gets better story. Life sure isn’t perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better now that I’m not worried about coming home. Yeah I wish they had reacted more positively initially, but the world just isn’t that simple. So everybody out there who is worried about coming out to the parents: It’s really your choice, but if you’re confident in who you are and are sick of hiding it, the only way to get that acceptance or at least arrangement is to just come out. It might take a while, but eventually you’ll reach a comfortable place as long as you don’t burn any bridges.

Disclaimer: I know this isn’t applicable in all circumstances, like if your parents are extremely homophobic or your relationship with them isn’t very good. In that case, I’m certainly not pressuring you to do anything that might be dangerous or you’re uncomfortable with.

November 14, 2011

Anonymous Posts (11.7.11-11.13.11)


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. :)

Blog bluh blog blog blog: wazzup? Just kidding. That's my job. So, I'll tell you what's going on.

First things first: we celebrated our second birthday last week!! There will be no terrible twos around here, though--only Terrific Twos.

Ebony and I wrote blogs poststhis weekend. They're awesome. Read them.

The Toronto zoo is breaking up its gay penguin couple and breeding them. It's not so awesome. Protest. Or something.

A pro soccer player who is a native of Winston Salem (and played at Carolina for two years...hey GLBTSA friends!) came out last week.

And because I'm a little behind on Grey's Anatomy, Callie Torres also came out last week to her dead ex-husband's Catholic mother (wow, this show might be more of a soap opera than I ever realized) and dead ex-husband's Catholic mother was seemingly okay with it! We're making fictional progress, Community!

The really awesome student group behind this really awesome blog is meeting on Wednesday at 5:30 in the LGBT Center. The Center is also hosting Trans 101 today from noon to 2pm and Women Loving Women tomorrow (Tuesday) from 6-8.

Now for the awesomest part of this blog...notes from OC:

#1
For those of you who speak French and want to know what's "gaying on" in the gay world outside of America (get it? gaying on... going on... haha... I owe the rights to this term) and more precisely in France/Europe, check this out. It's the website of the popular LGBT French magazine Têtu (which means "stubborn"). Its "actualités" section (aka "news") is pretty awesome, kinda like Queerty.com, except more Europeanized. Practice your French and learn a thing or two (or ten) about gay life in Europe (like that gay bashing happens in generally-pro-gay-and-more-open-minded-than-America France too, unfortunately...). Some sections, without being pornographic, may still not be safe for work (like the cover boys section). Lots of cool tips and cuteness (for guys AND girls! yes, you girls too!). Enjoy!

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).

November 12, 2011

Just Because


Disclaimer: I’m writing about “romantic” relationships, not necessarily sexual ones. Also, I’ve overused parentheses… again.

Ryan’s post inspired me… well, I guess “inspire” isn’t really the word I’m looking for, because I’m definitely taking my post a different direction, but his made me think about my past choices and my thoughts began to focus on one of two things about dating/relationships that have the ability to make me bitter. (So, I guess you can call this post "Bitter, part 3" ...which means we need just 20 more installments to beat R. Kelly's record.) What is it about my romantic life that makes it different from the romantic life of my heterosexual counterparts?

This isn’t a post about probability and statistics of me finding a relationship. The world is too nuanced for any of those simple models to apply to my equally nuanced life. But, there is one thing that I’ve noticed and think a lot of LGBTQ individuals have experienced, possibly (probably?) more than heterosexual individuals have.

It’s something I like to call the Just Because relationship.

You know, when you date someone Just Because he/she has the same sexual orientation as you do.

Now, again, I’m not saying heterosexuals don’t do this too. Most of the relationships I saw people in middle school and the early part of high school partake in were Just Because relationships. He asks Her out and She says “yes” because, well, “why not? She’s never dated anyone before.” But, I haven’t really seen my heterosexual friends do that a lot, lately. Maturity and responsibility kicked in (omg, finally), and suddenly, I usually see them building meaningful relationships: She finds out He’s really into the same music as she is. And then He finds out that She’s actually an avid Dr. Who fan and would LOVE to watch B movies with him for the laughs. And then they move from friends to “something more” and it’s endearing, and magical, and romantic.

While I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in LGBTQ relationships, (and this is where Ryan’s post comes in) I see that the process is much different, more cautious and experimental, and at times less “magical” in a romantic way. It sort of has to be that way, unfortunately.

What often comes first isn’t the building of the relationship, it’s the “Is he or she gay or not?” And after that’s found out, sometimes we get a little ahead of ourselves, and a little impatient. “FINALLY, I’VE FOUND ANOTHER GAY! FINALLY, I CAN DATE SOMEONE! NO MORE FOREVER ALONE FOR ME!” I’ve done that before, multiple times; like, Her identification as a queer woman is all that matters. Well, it’s not—and it’s discouraging and wearing. How tiresome it is to yet again break up with someone because you realize your similar sexual orientation is actually ALL you have in common, despite your hopes for more. It gets you down, makes you pessimistic, or (dare I say) bitter.

And what of the online dating method many LGBTQ individuals have to utilize to increase our choices and avoid having that whole Ask-someone-who’s-not-queer-out-only-to-get-turned-down-and-feel-awkward-about-it-forever situation. Again, the process is different, something we have to LEARN, not something that just happens. And I think there are so many facets to online dating that (since I could make a completely different post about it) I won’t elaborate on. But, my point is, online dating could be the biggest/most popular way to get into Just Because relationships merely because of how the “search” process is set up.

I’m not proud to say that I’ve been in multiple Just Because relationships, but I have, with men and women alike. And I realized what I was doing, and I stopped for a while… two or three years, to be semi-exact. And I figured it was odd to, at my age, not be in any sort of relationship for that long (insert lolz about me not realizing how CLEARLY “indifferent” I was and how ignorant a thought like that is in general, because there’s nothing wrong with not dating for long, extended, periods of time). But after the coming and going of strong feelings for a female classmate/acquaintance over the summer of 2010, and a few months of getting accustomed to life here at Duke/being out of the closet, guess what I did? Jumped right into a Just Because (I liked his beard/good hair and I wanted to try dating again because I was in college and clearly that made EVERYTHING different) relationship. (Oh, and if you wanted to see, this is me being ashamed of that decision) Like all Just Because relationships, it was brief and dissatisfying.

So, it isn’t simply the “statistics” that Ryan (and I guess, Kory) spoke about. I think it also comes down to the process/method, your level of comfort, and your patience. There are bumps along the way, and our pathway to happiness and successful relationships is more experimental and uncertain than that of our heterosexual counterparts, but that doesn’t mean it should get us down and we should just feel around blindly, scrambling for whatever we can find that fits. There’s (almost) nothing more “bittering” than dating someone you didn’t really have feelings for or connect with in the first place.

The Best Part of Questioning

I spent a lot of years hating, really hating, the fact that I was questioning my sexuality. A lot of that probably has to do with the reason why I was questioning, because I really wanted to feel the things that I was “supposed” to be feeling as a high schooler and college student (read: having crushes, experiencing sexual attraction). But I also just really wanted an answer. I wanted it now and I didn’t want to talk about it until then. A year ago, you could never have convinced me that there was an upside to this process. So if that’s where you are right now, I get that, and I won’t try to convince you otherwise.

But as I’ve grown more comfortable with myself, with other people knowing and finally being ‘out’ for some time now, I’ve realized there is at least one really fun thing about questioning: ambiguity. I just really like playing with the ambiguity and flexibility of it all.

It’s fun to hang out in the LGBT Center and make comments with sexual innuendo towards the same sex. And it’s fun to make similarly risqué ‘straight’ comments in other spaces. I get to go to gay bars and play up the potential that I’m gay/bi/queer, basically trying on that identity, if you will. But I also can easily go out to a place like Shooters and interact with men with the possibility of it meaning something, in a way I couldn’t in an LGBT space. Dancing with men is not limited to ‘straight’ spaces, though. There are few things more fun than playing heterosexual in LGBT spaces. I love dancing with gay men because these experiences are as pressure-free as they come. Dancing with guys at Lav Ball, for example, allows me to play the conventional social role of a woman without worrying about the “what-ifs” of the dance. And even better, there is no need for me to get down on myself when I’m not attracted to my dance partner.

Finding the freedom to explore and play with sexuality and traditional gender roles is just that—freeing. It's not just liberating, though. Pushing the bounds of conventionality and inhabiting this ambiguous space as someone who is questioning is actually quite fun.

November 11, 2011

PDA and Powwows


[Editor's note: Please welcome our very newest blogger, Ye'tha'thne. We are thrilled to have her! Ye'tha'thne is the first Native American writer for this blog.]

I took her to my hometown and she met my family – as my friend, of course. We were careful to remember that our hands shouldn’t touch and that we shouldn’t stand too close to one another. I forced myself not to look at her for too long, thinking that this might help to temporarily weaken the natural pull between my body and hers. Anyway, everyone loved her. Every room she walked into got a little brighter and a tad warmer than before. She was a conversational artist able to talk to anyone about anything, and her smile… her smile was like an all-access pass to the best stories and funniest jokes we had to offer, and she drank them all in. I kept thinking, How would they feel about her if they knew?

It’s such a strange feeling to be elated about something that some people won’t want to hear about. The very thing that makes you ecstatic becomes a secret that you keep for someone else. Suddenly she was this beautiful spectacle that I could watch and hear, but only from an “appropriate” distance. It’s as if someone had taken everything I want and put it in a museum with a “Please do not touch” sign and guards standing watch. I literally had to clasp my hands together at times to keep from reaching out for hers, and I hated it. At times it felt like my heart was pounding out of my chest, and it probably was, just trying to get me to get closer to her.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, but I’m still not used to it and I don’t ever want to be. Everywhere we go, I wait for cues as to whether or not it’s a safe space. By safe, I mean a space where we both feel comfortable about being ourselves and being publicly affectionate. Neither one of us is big on PDA, but it’s more about this captive and weirdly instinctive feeling that you have to monitor your emotions and expressions in certain places. That feeling usually triggers a lot of other feelings and thoughts for me. For instance

Why am I playing this game? So what if some people are uncomfortable? I’m SO happy, and so is she. Why should we have to mute this amazing feeling to save someone else from their awkward moment? Why does discovering one of the most important, beautiful and liberating aspects of my identity automatically put me in a place that I have to “come out” of? It’s ironic that we both want to change the world, but we buy into its stupid unspoken rules depending on the situation. I get it though – sometimes it’s not easy and/or safe for someone to be “out” at a job or in a certain social arena. But you know what? She’s the kind of woman that makes you want to tell everybody what color really looks like and how music really sounds. She makes me want to sit down and have the talk I never thought I’d have with my small-town, sweet, southern Mama. She inspires me to be as strong as my Native name says I am. I’m not sure how much longer I can contain all of this...

We’re going to a powwow together this weekend, and a lot of people from my Native community will be there. Most of them don’t know that I’m attracted to women, and most of them probably wouldn’t be okay with that. I keep imagining what it will be like to introduce this beautiful, incredible woman to so many people as my “friend” when I really want to tell them how alive she makes me feel. I’m dreading that lonely distance that we’ll keep from each other, the inhibiting hand-clasping, the nervous eye aversions…

But what if I didn’t do any of that? I live by a lot of little sayings and mantras, but one of them has become especially salient as of late. Don’t apologize for how you feel. As humans, love and emotion are the most organic, genuine, worthwhile, and purposeful experiences we can have. Why would I apologize for actually being able to feel something that some people never feel in an entire lifetime? I only get one shot to live my life and do it the way I want to do it. And honestly, my happiness and her smile are most certainly worth a little discomfort.

November 10, 2011

Why You So Bitter?


Let's all just face the truth here. We live in a bubble. This is college everyone. 99% of us are in our late teens/early twenties. Let me show you what this means in concrete mathematical terms. *Disclaimer* I’m an English major so bear with me here!

Horny teenagers/young adults in their sexual prime + confined, homogenous (in terms of age) environment = shit show = college = Duke

Okay, so I used loaded abstract terms thrown in with some mathematical notation; big deal I already said I’m in Trinity, give me a break. My liberal arts ignorance aside, you get the point.

There are so many wonderful people here to look at/drool over/wonder if they're straight or not/get upset at when nobody approaches us.

Many people BECOME sexually active in college, and many of us here have only known the "market" that currently exists around us. There are Duke students and more Duke students, and that's about it. Yeah, you can venture over to UNC or some other school, but let's be honest, it's pretty much more of the same.

My point is this: It's so easy to be bitter because a lot of us are just starting out, but it's also understandable because we don't know anything else. (Did any of you find "love" back in high school? I know I didn't!) Duke is a truly awesome place, and I love it here. I love many of the people I've met in my three years here, and have hated others, of course (insert your “favorite” frat-star or that annoying guy/girl from your freshman seminar here), but I have to step back and admit to myself that this isn't reality. Yes, Duke is obviously a real place where we experience real joy, real sadness, real pain, and real hardships. But this is also an incredibly artificial environment. Good luck making up your own schedule when you get your first job; There is no ACES, there is only your boss and his/her expectation that you will have your shit together every day. Didn’t get your assignment done? Sure you can go ahead and turn it in late—right after you clean out your desk, that is. Unless you go straight to grad school (and even then you probably won't live on campus), all of you--all of us--will have to move on to the real world after we leave the Gothic Wonderland.

Out in the wilderness that is the working world, there are no such things as LGBT centers and Fab Friday’s at which to scope out the, uhhh “talent”, or frat parties where you can try to play “guess the gay”, and realize well before you brown out that it isn’t gonna happen tonight. The ratio of your age group to old people will be very different than the 30:1 you have grown accustomed to here. It will no longer be attractive for you to show up to social events wearing a pinnie you made from a t-shirt that always seemed one size too small on you….At some point, sexy will no longer be how often you go to the gym, but how often you go to work, and without having to wear your sunglasses all day to hide the shame of the night before.

The real world is different because the situations are different, but so are the people. Think back to your first day of high school. Who were you then? You were you, of course. But maybe you weren’t quite as open minded then. Maybe your friends were a little less ambitious than the ones you have now. Maybe you weren’t as secure in your sexuality then…maybe you didn’t even know what sexuality was! “People never change” is a term we seem to hear a lot, and I think it rings true to some degree—I was Kory yesterday, am again today, and probably will be tomorrow. But even though I haven’t changed, I know that each day I pick up something new—some new experience, some new observation—that becomes a part of who I am. Slowly, you begin to think differently as all of these experiences start to stack on top of each other. Maybe people don’t change, but what I know is true is that people develop over time. What we think about ourselves in ten years will be different than what we think now, and how we think about other people will surely change as well. There are always wonderful exceptions, but chances are that the person you can’t get enough of right now will make the future you want to throw up.

I would argue that all of us are on some level pretty immature. No, don’t get defensive, I don’t mean childish. I mean that most of us are still pretty inexperienced romantically. Ever think you were in love? Well, ya weren’t. Love isn’t something you think, it’s something you feel. Trust me, I’ve been down that road before. My first romantic encounter was with someone I really really liked, but definitely not the kind of person I could now see myself with for the rest of my life. It’s easy to think that we lost out when we don’t know anything, or anyone, else. I only came to this conclusion after dating more people with vastly different personalities, values, character traits, etc.

I’ll concede the fact that the gay pool is also far smaller than the straight pool, because it just is. It also sucks that statistically we have to place everyone we meet into the straight category by default. Only when told otherwise can we even begin to feel like this is someone we could approach romantically, and even then that’s a whole ‘nother battle in and of itself. But I categorically disagree with the notion that these facts make it harder for us to find that one special person with whom we will end up. I had an AP English Composition teacher in high school give the class some rather colorful, but still excellent, advice about how to write a quality paper. She told us that she didn’t care how long our papers were as long as we made our point, adding, “I don’t want to have to search through a pile of monkey shit to find the gem.” I loved her analogy so much that I’m going to use it here to help me explain my position. Whether you believe in fate or not, your gem is out there, no matter how large or small the pile is. You’ll have to go through the pain of searching through that pile like everyone else, accumulating a lot of shit along the way. If you are a good person, you will find someone out there who completes you. If you don’t, I promise you it’s not because you’re swimming in the wrong pool. The LGBT community is just as diverse as any other no matter what its size.

Your situation will change. Your responsibilities will change. It doesn’t matter how hard you fight it, these changes are going to affect you in a tangible way.

My advice: Don’t panic over what you can’t control. Don’t panic over what isn’t even relevant right now. Don’t be bitter; just be you. After all, it’s the latter that someone is going to fall in love with.

November 9, 2011

The First Two Years


[Editor's Note: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BLOG! In honor of our second birthday, I am pleased to bring you the one and only Chris, the metaphorical mother of our current site.]

[Author's Note: Right. So. This has been scrapped and re-written at least three times. I still think that it's kind of zzzzzzzzz at times and definitely longer than necessary, but who knows. Maybe this'll resonate with someone. Like I said in my first pseudo-personal post, my respect and appreciation for the 50 writers who've consistently written beautiful, kickass columns over the past two years is through the roof after going through this arduous and nervewracking process (of writing, uh, one blog post). Love and miss you all.]


When I arrived on campus for orientation week four (four!) years ago, I’d already been comfortably out for almost three years. Mom and Dad knew (this happened), as did anybody who was interested, I guess, at my high school. I was one of 3,000 students and it was a pretty diverse place, so no one cared. I was never bullied or teased. There were so many out guys at school and I knew all these others in surrounding districts.

Which I feel is now the norm experience for the current first through third-year white gay Duke youngins (I’m working on my graduate condescension). These guys have been out since, like, second grade, and I think entered/are entering with the same mentality I did, which was that everything is wonderful and we’re just about at the end of the gay rights movement. “What is an ENDA?” – Us.

Which I guess is sort of great on one level? That we’ve come to a point where at least some in the LGBT spectrum have awesome experiences have never felt other? “Gay” was about as high on my identity list as “white” (which, for the record, is very very not high). I’d probably more readily identify as a Yankee fan. That’s cool! Good work, Everyone These Past Forty Years.

But as such I had a pretty skewed understanding of what The State of The Homosexual was in 2007. I thought homophobia was, like, Selma, 1960’s shit and no longer A Thing. I knew of one lesbian in high school and bisexuality was just a phase to me. I’m pretty sure the only trans person I’d ever seen (if they even were?) was the villain in Silence of the Lambs.

Anyhow. How problematic and wrong all of this was is for another post — the point is that I was worried about a thousand other things more than my sexuality. I mean, I did have my stigma about North Carolina; for Long Islanders, like, Pennsylvania is The South to us. I would say there are actually places latitudinally north of us that we consider The South (sorry, All of Upstate New York :/). But Duke was just so pretty when I visited mid-April and anyway I told myself that I was going to school to study, not to procure a boyfriend.

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.

* * * * *

I think the first thing that becomes apparent to a lot of gays is that they have to adjust their gaydar for Duke. I wasted so much time swooning over pink-polo’d peers before I realized that bow-ties and pastels were just things that straight men wore if they were wealthy and sort of a jerk. I was just so out of my element — there really were all these flamboyantly dressed guys and yet no out gays.

I remember you used to be able to browse Facebook networks by various parameters, and when you searched “18-21” + “Men” + “Interested in: Men” for Duke, uhhh, five? results came up? Like, for the entire school. And that was including me. I mean, if I could search “Interested in: [blank]” + “Number of tagged photos: >1000” I’d get much more accurate results (amiright?), but still. The message was clear: I could count the other gays at Duke on my fingers.

That’s right — only four years ago, it was possible to feel like you were one of only five out gays at Duke. I’d like the current sophomores and juniors reading this to take a second and let that sink in.

And my first year just sucked. The entire year. I was unhealthy and I didn’t sleep or shower or eat and my grades were awful (CHEM 21) and I had so few friends. I rarely left my room on the third floor of GA and I developed a reputation among the other men on the hall for always being on the phone (I called my mother every day without exception for my first two years at Duke). They developed a reputation among me for saying some of the most racist, homophobic and sexist things I’d ever heard. I don’t think many others had the same experience — like, I think I was just unlucky in terms of where I lived.

Despite the introversion, I was constantly looking for other gays on campus; after a while it wasn’t really as much about finding a boyfriend as it was about finding empathy and similar interests. But going to the LGBT Center was just out of the question. My utopian high school experience and socialization led me to attach a stigma to the Center, which was based on three [horribly flawed] premises:
  1. Those who frequent this space all have “gay” as number one on their identity list, and there is no reason for this (what an arbitrary thing to define yourself by!). Unless sex means so much to these people and their life (how does their sexuality affect them at all outside of the bedroom?).

  2. Those who have “gay” as number one (or even top three) on their identity list are all just The Most Flamboyant and cross dressers. I remember this Chronicle article from that September profiling the Center, specifically the quote:
  3. While some have taken to analyzing a Missy Elliot track, most have gathered around a long drawing table – the artists inside of them pour paint onto posters of purple Blue Devil icons, unicorns with heart-shaped eyes, and slogans like "Duke Allies" in eye-catching, multicolored text.
    Right.

  4. Flamboyant and genderqueer people are all vapid and unintelligent.
Oof a little bit, First-Year Me. I’ll get to how I eventually came to visit the Center (and ultimately work there last year) later, but I feel like I should address these misconceptions now. This is what I learned very quickly:
  1. Not everyone who frequents The Center has “gay” as number one on their identity list. For me it is. And it is not because my life revolves around sex, but because, like, you can be fired in 20 states for being gay without legal recourse.

  2. The diversity of the LGBTQ Community at Duke (including those who visit the Center) is staggering. There are film buffs and athletes. Students who are turning gender on its fucking head and students who are questioning. Fierce activists and those who, eh, just don’t really care all that much. Fraternity men, Greek women, people who don’t like Lady Gaga, Yankees fans, Tampa Bay fans (whatever), Catholics, Jews, and two one Pratt student (but seriously). I will say that in terms of race, gender and sexuality, the population is skewed toward gay white men. This is a situation that is always improving, and We’ve made huge strides in the past several years.

    The point is that fear of not “fitting in” should not keep anyone from visiting the Center.

  3. Flamboyancy and genderfuckery are not inversely proportional to intellect. This is just just a duh thing and I’m a little embarrassed that I ever thought otherwise. It’s no excuse, but in retrospect, the only truly queer or superfeminine gay men I knew of were those I saw on television and they weren’t exactly paragons of intelligence. It took actually meeting some genderqueer guys IRL (and being subsequently awed by how smart and insightful they were #Duke) that I realized how wrong (sexist and homophobic) I was.

The Second Year

I resolved during the summer that I was going to do everything different once I got back to school. I was going to be extroverted! I was going to introduce myself to people! I was going to drink maybe!

Most of all, though, I was going to not do any of these things!

I developed an insane crush on this Duke gay that summer, and it’s pretty comical how gung-ho I was about meeting (marrying) him. I still had, like, nine social anxiety disorders and awful self-confidence. My fear of being out of control of myself and affection for Diet Coke kept me from drinking (all four years, it would turn out. Ask me about that unintentional social experiment sometime). I still had zero friends that would take me out even if I wanted to.

So. Okay. This is kind of fucked up and embarrassing, but when I got back I would to go to section parties alone and sober just hoping to bump into this guy. He was someone who raged on the weekends and I was so socially inept that I thought there was like ONE party that just everyone went to each night. If you were going out, that’s where you’d be.

Mhm.

I did this about three times in September. I’d just quickly scan the halls and rooms, not interacting with anyone. I don’t think there’s any way this wasn’t illegal in some way – like, this is the definition of stalking.

It eventually became apparent that this was kind of stupid. My pragmatic half understood that statistically it just wasn’t going to happen. Also, years later I realized that I didn’t really have a plan if I did actually run into him.

Me: “Hey! I’m Chris. I’m introducing myself, because this is just a thing I do all the time.”

Him: “Hi, Chris! I’m almost definitely in the middle of a conversation that you just interrupted because there’s no way I’m just standing alone against the wall like the middle school dance scene that you always imagined this being. I’d tell you my name, but it’s obvious you already know it. How’re you doi –”

Me: “Will you marry me?”

Him: “Of course! Why didn’t you ask sooner?!”


My moral compass apparently still thought this was an appropriate amount of energy to spend on one person. I just needed to try something different.

And then the most perfect thing happened.

Chris Purcell, the Program Coordinator at the time, sent out this message to a Facebook group I was a part of soliciting help for Coming Out Day on Thursday, October 16. And get this: I knew that someone who knew My Husband would be there, and if I could just meet him, then I might as well start picking Our Song (just kidding! I already knew what it was!). So I volunteered to hand out tee shirts on The Plaza.

Yes, my first visit to The Center was purely for hormonal reasons.


It was just the greatest day, though. Everyone was really sweet to me and I had tons of fun. Coming Out Day is an awesomely affirming event, and its progression to the huge party it is now is testament to the strides this community has made over the past several years.


I should mention that as well as everything went, I did not meet My Husband’s Friend that day. In fact, I didn’t even meet the guy I had a crush on until my senior year. (This, it turned out, was for the best.)

Actually, that night of Coming Out Day, I randomly added someone on Facebook that I would go on to date for a year and a half.

#Life.

But yeah. Once I started going to The Center, I was just infinitely happier. I met all of my best friends there – people I now consider family. I’m not saying that every LGBT person will definitely have the same experience or that they have to go, but it changed my life in a lot of ways. Just sayin.