March 26, 2012

Anonymous Posts (3.19.12-3.25.12)

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. :)

So I guess y'all know what this intro blurb is going to be about! That's right, that big festivus out on the plaza to get Duke voters involved in the upcoming election! As I'm sure you're aware, May 8th is going to be kind of a big deal for us. So if you haven't registered to vote yet, you may want to consider getting on that. We've got an amendment to kill!

But yes, Lav Ball was also this weekend. It was a hot mess, in the best possible way. It was great to see the Doris Duke Center packed with OC, props especially to the Allies who came without dates. All in all, it's great to see that kind of involvement.

Now without further ado, notes from OC:

#1
I am a white queer person, and one of the reasons that I have stopped going to the LGBT Center at Duke is because it frustrates me that the community is not doing enough to reach out to LGBTQ(A) people of color. There are a few people in the community aware of this problem (and I thank them for working against the white privilege in the Center), but the Center is not doing nearly enough. I am frustrated at the other white people in the community for not recognizing or trying to solve this. Some of them do try to actively work against it, but the Center is NOT doing enough. Please recognize this, and if you are a white person in this community, start thinking of ways to actively engage with topics and individuals of LGBTQ students of color at Duke. It is not a student of color's responsibility to attend Center events to try and change this. It is the responsibility of the Center and the white-dominated community to ACTIVELY self-educate and actively program and reach out to students of color. Acknowledging and being aware of this problem is the first step (and many do not even acknowledge it yet!). The second step is then to actively work again the white privilege in the Center and to program events and reach out to communities of color constantly and with all events as possible.

#2
I cannot even begin to explain how much the gay men talk down to me as a woman or how much they seem so self-absorbed. And we wonder why none of us women go to the Center.

#3
Today I came out to someone I was really nervous about coming out to. When I told her, she smiled and told me she already knew. She said "I'm happy for you! And I hope you have a great time at Lav Ball!" I don't think she even realizes how much she made my day! It gave me such a boost of confidence to know that my friends love me for who I am, not for who I thought I was coming into college

#4
I feel like gay women really get the short end of the stick and I'm fed up with it. My straight friends always try to change me (give me make-overs, have me wear dresses etc) and it's like I'm not your damn project, stop trying to change me. You don't see people making the gay male friends adhere to more masculine stereotypes. Even my gay male friend who you would think understands that gay people don't necessarily follow gender stereotypes insists on me dressing up "fancy" (aka in a skirt/dress looking miserable with my hair down). He says I look prettier that way, but it's his version of pretty not mine. Hell, I don't even want the word pretty to be used to describe me. At this point I'm left wondering if the friends I have that keep trying to change me really are my friends.

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).

22 comments:

  1. No doubt both posts are valid, but I wish #1 and #2 would be more specific.

    #1 - which programs aren't inclusive? What would inclusive programming look like?
    #2 - what happened? What has been your experience?

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  2. 1- I agree. I rarely go to the Center and I think one of those reasons is because the lack of PoC and the whole (super white) atmosphere. I also think there's definitely a lack of awareness or even acknowledgement of intersecting identities. And there's a lot of active turning a blind eye as well. And trust me, we (PoC) have tried to encourage discourse about things that affect us (and I've seen it, time and time again get derailed and dismissed or ignored by our white LGBTQ peers). This is not to say that I don't like my white friends at the Center, this is to say that my white LGBTQ friends and I have very little in common, and when I make an effort to talk about these things it seems to always be a problem. For example, if I were talking about coming out to parents with a white person there's the clearly shared experiences/possibilities, like parents are really religious or conservative, but as soon as I throw in the, "Oh, also my parents were born and raised in a country where they jail and possibly kill gays" there's a HUGE divide on understanding and it's like the culture shock is much too strong.

    3- That is fantastic! :)

    @Chris: I'd argue that ALL of the programs aren't inclusive when they don't explicitly say "Race and Sexuality" or something to that nature because the experiences of PoC are RARELY discussed. (Honestly, I'm afraid the closest the Center has gotten to exposing white LGBTQ people to important differences in culture and race was a WLW movie night, which clearly wasn't open to the entire community. There was also an event at the CMA about this topic, but guess how many white people from the Community showed up to that?) Just how most spaces are heteronormative, the Center is "white-normative" (these kinds of terms, I hate them so much, but they're useful). While I don't think programming solely for PoC is the best thing, I think it would be a great way to cultivate a stronger PoC community (because I would love to meet more LGBTQ people who share similar experiences) and then that community can, with a stronger presence, help cultivate the necessary discourse at other Center programming and MAKE it more inclusive.

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  3. ^ Word. Thanks for that, Ebony. That's a lot more helpful (at least for my own understanding) :)

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  4. OK, so. I'm going to play Devil's Advocate/Myself here. One of the things I've liked most about the Center is it's lack of focus on race. It's meant to be a central location for PEOPLE of any queer identity and allies to get together. I've never really felt like there was a lack of people of color, or even noticed it. I mean, we go to Duke. There's not a terribly large amount of people of color here in the first place. And so when you take a small number of people and try to find a subsection of that population, aka queer people of color, you're going to get an even smaller pool. So not seeing a large amount of queer people of color at the Center or Center events seems to me like a normal thing.

    Also, I feel like maybe this would be something more for the Mary Lou or CMA to undertake. I look at it as an identity kind of thing. Like which identity is more important to you or which one do you feel is not being fulfilled? For me, while I identify as black, I don't really feel that I'm missing out on something by not being around other people of color. I go to the Center because I feel like my gay identity is the one that I sometimes don't pay attention to. Maybe the Center can partner with the Mary Lou or CMA but I feel like it shouldn't be a total Center effort.

    Just my thoughts.

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  5. original anonymous poster #1:

    we're not post-racial, post-gender, or post anything. not talking about race ignores the enormously important role it plays in societal dynamics. "lack of focus on race" to me equals "ignoring race"

    to answer your question Chris-my problem is that other white folks almost NEVER seemed to notice the lack of PoC in the Center when I was there. I also went to the race + queer talk at the CMA co-hosted by the Center and the number of white people there was terribly dissapointing. it was myself and like one other person. And its not even particular Center events that are the problem (although why on earth there is a man's group BEFORE theres a group for people of color blows my mind), but the real problem is the way People of Color seem to be treated. At Fab Friday (or any event even) I've watched people of color be completely ignored, while similar white people don't seem to be treated the same way. Or going to a discusion/event and watching other white people not letting people of color talk in spaces! Instead these white people just blindly blabber away and contribute their experiences while always contributing to conversations, never listening. These are subtle daily problems, not giant events that need restructuring.

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  6. @AJ: While I understand what you're saying, you're definitely missing the point of intersectionality and kind of contradicting yourself. The Mary Lou is just as equally responsible for queer identities within the black community as the Center is for black identities within the queer community. But the reason why this isn't happening goes back to the whole "culture" thing, because let's face it, you should know more than anyone one else that the black community doesn't seem to support LGBT rights as openly as the white community--it's simply easier (or so I assume) to start a discourse on race within a queer community than to start a discourse on sexuality in a black community. So yes, I agree with you 100% that it shouldn't be a total Center effort, but the Center will have to be the starting place, and if the people involved are comfortable with it, these other centers can be involved.

    (Side note: this line: "I don't really feel that I'm missing out on something by not being around other people of color"... I take issue with it, but perhaps we'll talk about that later, not on the blog. :P I don't want to derail the conversation).

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  7. original anonymous poster again #1:

    I agree with what Ebony said, thats a great point. also "I don't really feel that I'm missing out on something by not being around other people of color"." I am floored by this, I feel we ABSOLUTELY miss out on something when our groups are not diverse. in fact that is the entire point of this anonymous post. unless we're talking about separatism (which the Center isn't doing, or if it is, thats news to me), diversity is richness and neccessary.

    the whole point I was trying to get across though, (which is interesting because besides Chris it's only been people of color responding to this) is that it should NOT be the responsibility of people of color to engage in racial consciousness raising or race+queer dialogues! yet the same thing is happening here. Where is the white concern over the lack of people of color/racial dialogue in the center? As a white person I DO feel like "I'm missing out on something by not being around other people of color" and I am just asking that white folks in the Center at least raise conciousness of this issue, talk about it, and challenge the status quo. Just like it shouldn;t be queer person's resposibility to ALWAYS bring up queer issues in non-queer spaces, so too should we have active allies challenging white, male, straight oppression.

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  8. As a person of color, I thought I'd chime in to this conversation. I come into the Center pretty often, and not only do I feel like my identity is celebrated in its variation from what people perceive to be the "Duke norm," I also feel like the Center is one of the few places on campus where I can discuss how LGBTQ issues intersect with other identifying factors such as race and SES. One of my favorite things to do at the Center is to discuss these issues, and I'm surprised that others have felt that their identities have been stymied by others in the center. That isn't to say that the person who wrote the anonymous post, or other commenters, don't bring to light important points that I think are valid, I just feel like this is a different reality than my own experience at the LGBT Center. I believe that any center on this campus has the obligation to discuss the intersectionality of other identity factors, not just the LGBT Center, and I'm surprised that some people feel that just because something is "easier" for the LGBT Center to do, then it is not up to other centers to bring up the same discussion of LGBTQ people within their own communities. To the original poster: I'm glad you're bringing this issue to light, because if others feel this way, then I think it would be great to hear how these issues can be improved in the Center. I wish instead of not coming to the center anymore, perhaps you could have stuck around and really made a difference, instead of feeling like others here were not worth understanding your cause.

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  9. #2 and #4 - As a queer woman, for me over time, I've just gravited to mainly women's communities. I maintain friendships with gay men if I feel they respect me as a person, but the ones that respect me are much smaller in number, so naturally my friend group has evolved to include less men. the ironic part is that these men never even notice their own privilege or recognize wha they're doing. sexism lives in the queer community, too, clearly. I hate it when gay men play the "but i'm not straight and i don't abuse women or sleep with them so i'm not sexist". nope. male identity/presentation in society gives you prvilege, and you STILL opress women, sometimes even more.

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  10. " I wish instead of not coming to the center anymore, perhaps you could have stuck around and really made a difference, instead of feeling like others here were not worth understanding your cause."

    I used to hold the attitude that it was a good idea to try and change spaces and shape them into more diverse, accepting communities, but after years of putting up with the same -isms in that space (among others), I don't think it can be expected of someone to stay in a space where they are literally always fighting back against hurtful, oppresive comments. i think it is important to find spaces that are filled with people who actively understand (or at least try to understand) privilege/oppresion dynamics. sometimes we need spaces where we can just take a sigh of relief and stop constantly fighting oppresion, rather engaging with people who understand. always fighting the systemic oppression 24/7 makes you really tired. 24/7, and I don't think its fair to ask someone to stay in a space or "stick it out" where they must constantly fight oppresive comments, views, etc.

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  11. 1-It's a trend on the blog that when someone mentions race, only PoC seem to want to talk about it. (And this is what you're talking about. And I am not making this up, click the "race" tag and look at the comments.)

    @Anon 4:39: Well it's certainly good that you've had a different experience and hopefully other PoC can have that same experience you have. While I said it was "easier" for the LGBT Center to bring up these discourses, I never said it was "not up to other centers to bring up the same discussion of LGBTQ people within their own communities." In fact I said the opposite, which aligns with what you've said.

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  12. @Ebony: You raised some great points that I was not thinking about before. I totally agree with you.

    Also @Ebony and @#1: I did not phrase that sentence properly. It's meant to be a personal statement about my point of view as a person of color. It was not meant to say that I don't like other people of color or don't find any value in creating connections with other people of color. I simply meant that I like making connections with people who have had different experiences than I have. And for me, that means not being around people of color all the time. Up through high school, all of my friends were people of color. Now that I'm in college, I wanted to branch out and meet other people.

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  13. You're absolutely right that people of color are the ones that respond to these kinds of posts. I'm just as guilty as anyone in that regard, but I guess my problem is I never feel like I have anything to add. It's a similar thing with women's issues, I know that there are serious problems, I really don't like it, but when someone talks about their experience as a woman I have no reference point to relate to it. I honestly wish I knew what to do. I understand that I have the obligation in these situations, being a white person who presents himself as male, to take an active role in fixing these problems. I just don't know what that even looks like.

    The self education part is pretty easy. Keep an open mind and ask people of color about issues that affect them when it seems polite. But from there, where do I go?

    I guess the question I want to ask is, what I do to demonstrate the consciousness I believe I have of these issues?

    (maybe I'm not conscious of them, and if so please tell me)

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  14. Kyle I am glad you commented and asked that question. You are right; it is hard sometimes to relate to a group, which you are not apart. But when you think about it, its not really that hard at all.

    This is the way I try to relate to women's issues for example. When thinking how a woman feels faced with a sexist, or male dominated situation, I think about how I feel when faced with a particularly heteronormative situation, or a racially insensitive group of people. While it may not be the exact same experience, I have found that the feelings are similar.

    So when your trying to relate to how it might feel to be a PoC in a predominately white environment, think of the last time you were in a overwhelming heternomitive environment....A frat party, shooters, anywhere where bro's congregate.

    You have white privilege and we both have male privilege, but we can all relate to each other because for the most part we all have been on the receiving end of oppression, because we are queer, black, female, etc.

    I think the main thing is we need to have discussions as a community in regards to both Race, and Gender. I think that when it is all said and done, we can all relate to each other easier than we might have originally thought.

    Our community is so diverse that we often times have more friction, than other minority groups. But we are better because of it, we are a Rainbow of diversity...and we all know that Rainbows are the most beautiful thing in nature :)

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  15. I think you bring up a really good point about trying to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, Denzell. Kyle, I too have struggled with understanding what I can do to help overcome this problem with “isms”. I think the first step is being aware of it. Think about sexuality for a second. For all queer men out there, regardless of race, how does it make you feel when you go to Shooter’s and are literally surrounded by heteronormitivity? Honestly, I feel pretty intimidated in those situations, even though I know that probably zero of these straight people are trying to leave me out of what’s going on. I could imagine that PoC and womyn and anyone who isn’t a gay white male feels similarly when s/he is in the center.
    Sometimes it’s the small changes that can really add up to something meaningfull. For example, I’ve used the term “you guys” to address groups of people my entire life, regardless of the gender-makeup of these groups. This is just something I’ve grown up doing, so what’s the big deal, right? Well, imagine how you would feel if you’re a man in a group with only other womyn and someone says, “Hey gals, what’s up?” You’d probably be pretty confused, and understandably offended. Imagine, then, how a female would feel in a similar situation being referred to as “you guys”? You’d probably feel marginalized or left out. After hearing many womyn tell this story, I realized that I’ve unknowingly been part of the problem for years. I would certainly not identify as a bad person, but that doesn’t mean that I never make mistakes. As a white male, I have a good amount of privilege that follows me around no matter what I do, and being aware of that is the first step in the process of bringing about change.
    As for the anonymous #1 (and anyone else, of course), please please please tell us what we can do to get this change started. In my opinion, the LGBT Center should be a place where anyone should be able to go for safety, for solidarity. Womyn should not feel oppressed there; People of color should not feel marginalized there; trans students should not feel unwelcome, etc. This dialogue is a great first step, and I think we could make this work on a larger scale. Looking over these comments, everyone is contributing something. Nobody is being put down or made to feel unwelcome for his/her opinions. Personally, I think the “community” has this same potential, so let’s make it happen.

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  16. Is it possible that a remark such as "Instead these white people just blindly blabber away and contribute their experiences while always contributing to conversations, never listening" could have a chilling effect on white people contributing to this discussion?

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  17. while I don't wish to undermine to attempts of these posters, I have to call attention to a rampant use of sweeping generalizations. I have seen little, if any actual specifics/examples. More importantly I see lots of criticism...lots and lots of criticism. Unfortunately, this criticism isn't constructive in the least bit. You do a good job at pointing out the problems. But don't in any way point out what might be the underlying issue of the problem nor do you offer any possible solutions. In effect, your words are trivial musings. You just circle around a few points with no critical engagement possible solutions. If I were a professor, I'd give most of the arguments something on the B range. Why not offer me some real solutions or at least go further and identify the seeds of the problems so that others may find possible solutions.

    For instance, what exactly do you mean by the center doesn't attract lgbt people of color? Is it that we have such a white population that black people are intimidated. Do you suggest perhaps programs geared at bring men of color to the center and then easing the two communities together? Are we not doing a good job at advertising our events in black circles (i.e. black people are just unaware of what is going on in the center)? Do you feel there is an underlying racism at play, in which case we need to take efforts to make white members more tolerant? What exactly do you identify as the problem? If you can't at least give me that, then don't expect a solution.

    As for the women, what exactly do you mean that sometimes gay men are worse than their straight men counterparts at subjecting you? How is this so? (the "how" in this question does not operate as a way of denying your claim. rather, it seeks to understand in what way do gay men do this). What are the things gay men say and do that turn you off to them as a lesbian? And can someone clear up for me the connection between: gay men don't acknowledge their privilege and thus they reinforce the subjection of their lesbian peers.

    This last point is the only one I deny any credence. I feel as though lesbians have a much easier time incorporating themselves into society than gay men. Gay men are always looked on with suspicion. Lesbians.....not so much. People are more wary of or uncomfortable with gay men. Gay men form their own sub-culture and interact with each other because interacting with the heteronormative culture is not a real possibility for the large part of them. Moreover, I only ever hear this from lesbians. Straight women, at least in my experience, love a gay men. Why do you think lesbian women feel assaulted by gay men and straight women don't.

    tl;dr don't just identify the superficial problems; identify the underlying problems or offer solutions

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  18. @Denzell: No, YOU'RE the most beautiful thing in nature.

    @Kory: I'd warn against appropriation of struggles, but you're definitely on the right track. My experience is not really one of intimidation, but of annoyance, and slight frustration.

    @Anon 1:24, possibly, which is unfortunate. :( I think the main thing to take away from that is the "listen" part. As Kyle said before, there is a bit of confusion as to what white people can contribute when in a conversation with PoC, and listening is crucial. And offering others an opportunity to speak is crucial as well. Acknowledgement of contributions is also a really big deal, in my opinion. I don't like saying things and getting blank stares, it's so uncomfortable. lol and that's any situation really, not just when having conversations in the Center.

    @Anon 5:17, have you considered that possibly Anon #1 doesn't have a solution? I don't exactly have one myself, and while you think it's trivial, I believe it's monumental that someone noticed this problem and pointed it out. Bringing it to the larger community brings us one step closer to the solution. It's somewhat frustrating when someone points something out or criticizes something/someone and hurt parties begin to cry, immediately, (without any thought! without a moment of reflection) about how it's "not constructive" and how it's the criticizer's job to offer solutions for the one criticized. It might be more meaningful to people if they look at problems people have pointed out and try to find a solution themselves before immediately demanding solutions from others.

    Also, instead of awarding yourself the undeserved title of Blog Professor and handing out arbitrary grades you shouldn't really be handing out, you should probably take a less condescending approach (kind of how Chris and Kyle did earlier). It was not only uncalled for, but tacky. And it definitely turned me (and probably others) away from reading the rest of your post.

    #4: I'm actually kind of confused as to what you've written. It's really difficult to compare experiences of large groups as a whole and that's why a lot of people would avoid doing that. There are way too many factors to account for. If anything, it would probably be a good idea to just bring this up with your friends, let them know you don't appreciate their behavior and that you'll have no more of it because it frustrates you.

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  19. "@Anon 5:17, have you considered that possibly Anon #1 doesn't have a solution? I don't exactly have one myself, and while you think it's trivial, I believe it's monumental that someone noticed this problem and pointed it out. Bringing it to the larger community brings us one step closer to the solution. It's somewhat frustrating when someone points something out or criticizes something/someone and hurt parties begin to cry, immediately, (without any thought! without a moment of reflection) about how it's "not constructive" and how it's the criticizer's job to offer solutions for the one criticized. It might be more meaningful to people if they look at problems people have pointed out and try to find a solution themselves before immediately demanding solutions from others."

    Completely spot-on. Thank you.

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  20. @ebony way: Thank you for pointing that out; I definitely want to make sure I don't come across as assigning feelings to others. While I personally feel intimidated in certain situations, that is certainly not the only feeling worthy of attention.

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  21. Though anonymous 5:17 may not have worded their post perfectly, they did bring up a good point that I'm curious to see what people have to say on.

    - "I have to call attention to a rampant use of sweeping generalizations. I have seen little, if any actual specifics/examples."
    I'm also curious about this. I'm sure that these statements must come from experiences, so I'd like to hear some examples (this academic year preferably)of what this kind of privilege looks like. The entire paragraph that offers potential problem areas is also really relevant. A specific problem area would go a long way towards focusing on a solution (privilege is such a large concept).

    @Ebony Way:
    ". And it definitely turned me (and probably others) away from reading the rest of your post."

    I agree that a poorly phrased or somehow demeaning line can often drive people away, but we ought to at least try to get to the bottom of what each other are saying. We can't really have a conversation otherwise.

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