June 18, 2012

Anonymous Posts (6.11.12-6.17.12)

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. :)

I've been talking to friends in high school about their college searches and, as much as I would like our community to grow, after my experience of Duke I just don't feel comfortable telling queer people (especially women and trans/gq people) they should come here. Is it ethical to "sell" Duke to a student who could go to Reed, Vassar, Berkeley instead - somewhere with a more accepting atmosphere and a strong queer presence, where they could find support, safe space, community, dates (lets be real)? Is it ethical not to, and to shrink Duke's LGBT community even more?

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


  1. I've been thinking about this a lot too and I decided that I'm just going to be honest with people. Even if you sell Duke, people will still know that places like Vassar and Reed are way out of Duke's league when it comes to LGBT community. I think the out queer female community at Duke [that you would see at say WLW] has a long way to go before it can be called ethnically diverse or sex positive. It's also so small. I think that people who don't fit the "straight acting" white male mold at Duke don't have sufficient community here (or sufficient access to sexual/romantic experiences if they so desire.) When I was 17 I was a big nerd and Reed didn't have a Computer Science department. Things like that was what mattered to me. Now that I strongly identify as a kinky queer femme- you bet I'm happy I only have one year left here.

    The only note I would add is that many places with a super gay reputation (ex. Smith) are almost exclusively white and are not friendly places generally for QPOC.

  2. #1- That's a good question. For the Duke community, it isn't the best thing to tell them to go elsewhere because that doesn't really help our LGBTQ community grow, does it? But it would be downright evil and selfish to influence someone's choices because it would be good for someone else and not for them. I think the best thing is to be completely honest about your feelings about the Duke LGBTQ community and let them decide.

    I didn't choose Duke for it's LGBTQ scene. And really, if that had been the deciding factor I wouldn't have come here (because as you said, Duke's LGBTQ community isn't the best for women, trans/gq people, and/or imo POC). So maybe your honesty won't completely deter people. And if the LGBTQ community IS the deciding factor for your friends, why would you want to keep them from being happy elsewhere or somewhere that would better suit them?

    I think one of the worst things that can happen to someone during their college years is realizing that they chose the wrong school/regret in school decision. It's a pretty stressful thing, so to avoid that it's good to get high school seniors and juniors thinking about what they REALLY want in a school and getting some real, honest, critical opinion from students and alumni.

    But, in the Duke community's defense, some people might have a genuine interest in improving the situation here for those groups that you listed but growth/improvement might not be possible without new people. It's the gamble of coming to Duke vs. the assured community at some other places. It really depends on what your friends want and what level of commitment and effort your friends would want to invest in an LGBTQ community. Things you should maybe get them to think about when having these conversations.

  3. My only frame of reference for this is an experience I had with the Jewish community at Duke. I didn't think about the LGBTQ community at all when applying to colleges, but Judaism was a BIG part of my life and I'd waited years to be able to go to college and have a strong, observant Jewish community (something I didn't have growing up...it's not so different from someone from a less progressive community waiting years to go to college to be able to come out/be an activist/etc). The people at the Freeman Center sold me on Duke's Jewish community, but I ended up being really unhappy with it once I matriculated. As a result, I felt really betrayed by them and like I'd been lied to. No, they never actually told me lies--but they presented the facts in misleading ways. Would I have still gone to Duke even if I'd known the truth about Jewish life? Maybe. There were still a lot of other things I liked about Duke and it trumped the other schools I got into academically (not unlike Veronica's interest in Computer Science being a deciding factor). But knowing the truth--and not just the PR--would have been nice. I'm still pretty connected to the Jewish community in other parts of my life and I face the same dilemma as the anonymous poster--do I tell people what my experience was really like? Or do I feed them the same facts that make it seem like Duke's Jewish community is thriving at the same rate as schools in New York? Now that I've graduated, having observant Jews at Duke doesn't make a difference to me, personally. But while I was there, it certainly would have. When it came down to it, I tried to be diplomatic. I didn't throw Jewish Life at Duke COMPLETELY under the bus, but I was honest with people. The biggest thing was understanding what someone was looking for in a Jewish community. If all they want is a place to be on the High Holidays or a Passover seder or a free shabbat dinner, Duke would be a really good fit for them, Jewishly. If they want more than that--the Jewish part of Duke probably won't fulfill their desires. Does that mean they shouldn't come to Duke? That depends on what they are looking for in a school and the order in which they've ranked such attributes.

    I think the same thing goes for LGBTQ students. Based on the information included in the anonymous post, it seems that the poster is making assumptions about what their friends who are still in high school are looking for in an LGBTQ community. Certainly, it's safe to assume that someone is looking for a place "where they could find support, safe space, community." But do you really feel like Duke isn't *safe and supportive* for LGBTQ folks? No question, the community is small (and it's even smaller for women, trans, genderqueer and POC) and dating is difficult, etc, etc...but I would have a hard time, based on my experiences, backing up that Duke isn't safe or supportive. Like "Ebony" said, "It [all] really depends on what your friends want and what level of commitment and effort your friends would want to invest in an LGBTQ community." And you can definitely help them to think through what it is that they want or envision and if Duke would fit that...for a lot of folks, Duke does.

  4. Your phrase 'let's be real' is important. It depends on how strong the individuals is, how good they are about making friends with the right people (either at duke or in the general area), etc. If it is someone who hasn't come out yet, they might not be ready for an environment like duke which tends to have a good amount of homophobia. If it is someone who is out and secure in their sexuality and they know how to handle homophobes, then I would say they could handle a place like duke. They could end up being a leader in the lgbt community too, which would possibly be more difficult to do in a more established lgbt network.

  5. Going off what Ebony and Risa said: it's so much about what people value and want.
    I am much happier at Duke than I would have been at a 90%+ white liberal arts college, even one with a much larger and more visible LGBT (ALL the letters) community. I am made up of many parts- Duke has been excellent for entrepreneurship and technology, financially supporting my summers in San Francisco and exposing me to lots of different people. But the LGBT scene is a cause of endless frustration, and I'm one of the most out and proud people you'll meet.

  6. Totally second Ebony's comments -- it just completely depends on what you are looking for! Of course, what you are looking for might change over time -- can't even begin to describe the number of people who come out to themselves in college or decide to be LESS active in the LGBTQ community overtime with the community. I suppose for these reasons, I applied to the top schools, and used LGBTQ as ONE factor, but not the deciding factor. I think it's valuable to point out that the LGBTQ community at Duke exists, can be supportive (depending on if you fit the G/white/male mold, etc.), but I think you're right in the sense it would be very unethical to lie about it and present it as endlessly accepting.

  7. I definitely came to Duke thinking it would be a lot different and more liberal in this regard, considering I wasn't out in high school and wanted to be in college, but coming here kind of squelched that a little bit. But at the same time I think about this question a lot and agree mostly with what the first anon said regarding being honest and framing it as you can be a leader at Duke because the community is so small and you can really make a difference if you are up to the challenge. I was not when I applied and when I came to Duke, and really wish I had either been able to be more involved initially so coming out would not be such a big deal or looked elsewhere for a better environment to come out in.

  8. Just to put another opinion out there, I really enjoyed my time at duke as a gay male. Granted I had some privilege in that the community is stronger for my demographic, but I thought if you sought it out you could find a good dating pool what with unc and raleigh in the vicinity.