January 31, 2012

Straight Until Proven Guilty

“Now imagine Y has a gorgeous girlfriend.”

‘A’ was setting up a joke over dinner, but before he reached the punchline. K, J, and I (me) had to stifle our giggles, somewhat judgmental giggles. The three of us know Y probably won’t be having a girlfriend anytime soon because he’s gay.

We were having a mini-awkward-fest on our side of the table while A continued the joke obliviously. I don’t mean to attack or accuse him, considering he had just met Y and didn’t know that he was gay. Rather, he is my jumping point to discuss what this implies about our interactions and what assumptions we make when we meet people. We tend to jump to the conclusion that people are straight, but such an assumption both indicates and reinforces the underlying prejudice associated with heteronormativity.

Heteronormativity, the idea that heterosexuality is the societal norm, can lead to a sense of mental segregation between straight people and LGBT individuals. Before I continue I will make one concession that probabilistically, any random person you meet has a 90% chance of being straight. That’s just the facts of the numbers. But consider that I am a part of the Asian population of Duke – there’s only a 22% chance that I’m actually Asian, yet anyone I meet will most likely be culturally aware enough to clarify that within looking Asian, I am actually Chinese. (It’s plenty funny when the odd person mistakes me for an Aztec Indian though. True story.)

What happens when we assume? We put people in awkward situations where they feel the need to explain their sexual identity. I would argue that this puts an unfair amount of social pressure on LGBT individuals to have to come out, therefore setting them apart (though I admit I can’t speak for how much autonomy we would like to inherently have as members of the LGBT community). Jessye’s post, “On Equality” does a good job of explaining the ways in which our society remains heteronormative and therefore, inherently having inequalities with respect to sexual and gender identities.

I believe that in certain respects, sensitivity towards LGBT can be treated the same way as racial sensitivity. When we meet someone, things go okay until we hit the awkward “What ARE you?” question. You mean, “What ethnicity are you?” or, “From what planet do you hail?” Going into a social interaction, most of us will keep in mind that our initial perceptions of a person’s skin colour, manner of talking, or clothes do not always tell us definitively where they are from and what ethnicity and nationality they belong to. We’ve reached a point where compared to some fifty years ago, the colour of your skin doesn’t matter that much. Stereotypes certainly exist, but on average we’re less predisposed to outright racism.

It’s much trickier since sexual orientation is not always as evident as something like skin colour. But part of being more racially sensitive is not just about having an understanding of what cultures are out there, but it is also keeping in mind that race isn’t something that should cause us to judge somebody. Similarly, we should not ignore the fact that not everyone is straight. There are two things we really need to do here then – first, we need to understand that for every person out there, sexual orientation is an additional and unique layer of identity and second, given a better understanding, we can then internalize sexual orientation as something that we don’t need to worry about in the first place (unless you fancy that person.)

Thanks to Chum Howe for providing this comic, entitled "Ethnicity."

January 30, 2012

SAVE THE DATE! LAV BALL 2012: "Miami Nights"

***SAVE THE DATE FOR....LAV BALL 2012!!!****

Lavender Ball (affectionately known as "Gay Prom") is a yearly dance & formal event held every year by Blue Devils United! This year Lav Ball will be held at the Dorris Duke Center in the Duke Gardens (classy!) and the theme is "Miami Nights". This ONE and ONLY LGBTQ-sponsored formal event at Duke is always a ton of fun each year, and it is guranteed to be one of the BEST nights of our semester...

....so be sure to SAVE THE DATE for March 23rd, Friday, from 10pm-2am!

We will have a keg, so we also need 4 formally-trained Duke Party Monitors. If you or anyone else you know has been to Duke's official Party Monitor training this year, we'd love to have you on board with the event as a Party Monitor; email Denzell (edward.faison@duke.edu) or Megan (mrw22@duke.edu). (Thank you so much!)

GET PUMPED FOR LAV BALL 2012!!!

Anonymous Posts (1.23.12-1.30.12)

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. :)

Hey all--It was a crazy busy week around campus and sort of slow here on the blog. Please accept my apologies. We've got another great week ahead of us: Man to Man and Ally Training are on Tuesday; BDU is meeting on Wednesday; on Thursday, Jewish Life at Duke is bringing the first openly gay Rabbinical student at the largest Conservative seminary; BDU is sponsoring a workshop on dating in a small community; and Sunday night is the first Athletes United of the semester.

Maybe most importantly, Duke Women's Basketball is playing UCONN TONIGHT at 7pm in Cameron. The team has some awesome AthleteAlly stuff planned, so if for no other reason than their support of Our Community, sure to come out and show them your support.

Duke Center for Civic Engagement is featuring Amendment 1 all this week--check out their facebook page and weigh in on the discussions.

This meme is sort of cool.

Also of note, a heated debate has started after Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City's "Miranda") told an interviewer, that for her, being gay "is a choice." What does that mean for The Movement?

Now, notes from OFC (Our Future Community)!!

#1
I'm a current high school senior, and an aspiring Blue Devil. Nothing would please me more than to get an acceptance letter this April. I've been questioning my sexuality for a VERY VERY VERY long time, and I feel as if I have gotten to the point where I'm pretty sure that I am gay. Even though no one knows this, my friends and family know that I am a staunch liberal, and they always tell me that Duke is "too Conservative" for my taste. This blog has totally proved them wrong. I used to be very concerned about how I would be treated at Duke, but now I couldn't possibly be more confident that Duke is the place for me. This blog offers so much insight into LGBTQ life at Duke and has also empowered me during my struggle with discovering who I am. So I guess this is a "thank you" post. Hopefully that big, fat acceptance packet will be sitting in my mailbox in a few months, and maybe I'll even be a blogger for BDU one day! Haha! Go Blue Devils!!!

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).

January 27, 2012

What I Did Over Break

First things first: This afternoon, from 4-6 in the LGBT Center, we will be hosting an Ally-themed Fab Friday. Come by and show some appreciation for all our allies, and have a great time with some cool people. There will be cake and free Jimmy John's too, just saying...

Now, for the other thing:

You might recall my last post, but odds are you don't, so I'll remind you. Over the winter break I became very frustrated over the constant need to hide massive parts of my life from my mom, so in my last blog post I committed to coming out to her before I went back to school. 

Well I did.

Now, let me give you some context: my mom is very, very religiously conservative. However, I also knew that she loved me, so I wasn't entirely sure how this would go, in fact, it took me two visits before I could work up the courage to tell her. I did, eventually, manage to work up that courage though. Her response? "I already knew. I love you very much, and God loves you."

How she knew or how long she had known are still unknown to me. Perhaps there's some magical insight mothers are privy to, I dunno. 

While parts of her response weren't perfect, it was by far the smoothest and best reaction I have gotten from any of my family members, and an excellent way to end the break. And I now have the added benefit of not having to hide my life from my family anymore, which is always a plus!

Although coming out to your parents isn't always an option for people, I hope those of you who are nervous about coming out to your parents can draw at least some strength from my story. I never would have expected that coming out to my mom would go as well as it did, but things often have a tendency of going very, very unlike how we expect they should.

January 24, 2012

The Elephant in the Room

I had a lot of [potentially ridiculous] expectations about what it would be like to come out. I desperately wanted to anticipate every possible reaction or question that I might receive before I actually talked to anyone in the hope that it would reduce my anxiety or somehow make things ‘go smoother.’ Ironically, the one question that I never considered was also the one question that nearly everyone I’ve come out to asked me—in fact, it’s usually the very first question they have.

“So when did you tell your family?”



Really? What on earth would make you think that I would have told my family? You know me. You know it took me forever to come out to you, even though both of us knew. How would I have come out to my family?

Now, I suppose my relationship with my family is different than a lot of people’s, so this is probably a perfectly reasonable assumption/question for most people. See, while I’ve always had a good relationship with my family, I would never describe it as being a particularly close relationship. I’m not the type to talk about my personal life with many people, least of which being my family. The closest that our conversations ever get to being ‘personal’ are when we talk about what I’m doing in school. And quite frankly, I’m perfectly fine with it being like that.

Since I’m not used to talking to my family about my personal life, it’s never really been an issue (for me) that I’m not out to them. I’ve never felt the need to inform them that I’m not looking for any Prince Charming to come sweep me off my feet. (No, there’s really nothing wrong with Duke’s dating pool—you can stop suggesting that I go over to UNC to meet a ‘nice young man.’) It’s just never been particularly relevant.

I’m sure that all of my friends assume that I would have told my family simply out of a desire for them to be involved in my life. But really, my family has been involved in my life. They have heard extensively about and/or met all of my girlfriends—even if they haven’t been aware of the extent of our relationship. I’ve never wanted to hide the people who are important to me from my family.

Recently, however, something has changed. The past few times that I’ve been home, it has been challenging, difficult, and even uncomfortable to be closeted around my family. My queer identity has become such a central part of my life that it feels impossible to ignore it when I am around my family. Perhaps that’s really the root of the issue—I never considered the possibility that I could so fully accept myself that it would be difficult to not talk about who I am with my family.

At this point, I’m really at a loss for what my family’s reaction will be when I do finally come out to them. I’ve been getting mixed signals about their level of awareness for the past several months—one day my mom starts using the term partner rather than boyfriend or husband, and the next she’s trying to set me up with the boy across the street. The level of tolerance within my extended family is a completely different question…I was informed over break that if I ever adopt a child of a different race, my grandparents would not acknowledge it as their grandchild. I wonder how they will react when I’m trying to adopt a child with my Lesbian Lover.

Regardless of how my family reacts, I feel much better now about the prospect of being out to them than I did a few years ago. Knowing who I am and feeling confident in my identity makes everything a little bit less scary. Best of all, I’ve realized that when the day comes that I get to marry the woman of my dreams, I will absolutely want to share it with my family.

January 23, 2012

Anonymous Posts (1.17.12-1.22.12)

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. :)

The Bar held a welcome back night for students on Friday, and I hear it was poppin. This week is also going to be POPPIN on campus. Are you ready!?

Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally, is speaking TODAY at 5:30pm. Women Loving Women (Tu, 6-8pm) and Spectrum (TH, 6-7pm) are also meeting this week!

ALSO BDU is working on an awesome new campaign that aims to bring visibility to and correct misconceptions around bisexuality and questioning. If you're interested in being pictured in a poster (you'll get to choose what it says), sign up here. We need people who identify as bi, questioning and ally!

Now, notes from OC!

#1
Respond!

#2
The last time I made the mistake of telling a straight girl I liked her, things got horrible. I will always have the story of how _____, that one straight girl, broke my heart. This time I was afraid of the same thing happening if a straight girl at Duke finds out I like her. Recently I told her I liked her and then came out to her a couple days later. She essentially rejected me, but it was probably the most awesome rejection I've ever gotten. She didn't flat out say no to me, she just told me about how she's dated girls before and it just wasn't for her and then told me how she's sorry she flirts with me a lot but that's her personality. It feels good to finally be out to one person at Duke. Now I have someone to talk to, but I just wish I'd stop falling for these dang straight girls all the time!

#3
I saw "Pariah" last week. I'll give a quick, reductionist summary: a withdrawn black teenage girl named Alike battles the obstacles that surround her as she explores her sexuality. She has a sister who knows she's a lesbian and constantly threatens to "tell" on Alike to their parents. Her mother is generally oppressive and suspicious of both Alike's fashion sense and choice of friends, including an out lesbian friend Laura who squires her to lesbian night clubs and was herself kicked out of the house upon coming out. Alike's father is mostly absent, avoiding his own marital problems and seemingly preferring to deny his daughters sexual orientation even if he recognizes it. I'm hesitant to call it a "coming out" movie because for Alike that milestone is pockmarked with uncertainty. She allows her dad to brush off his suspicions rather than reveal herself and break the spell. She refuses to wear the feminine clothes her mother buys her but avoids confrontation by changing into more tomboyish fare in a bathroom stall before school starts. And she desperately wants to feel the touch and love of another woman but whenever the opportunity arises, even if the attraction is mutual, Alike still refuses to act, scared of some invisible threshold, getting cold feet and retreating back into herself. It was that last emotion of ambivalence that resonated so strongly. For the longest time, I was unable to reconcile clearheaded knowledge of my homosexual preferences and actually acting on those desires, whether out of immaturity or fear. I know what it's like to look at a boy and feel pangs of love, or at least lust, and fail to act because you're too afraid of what even attempting the kiss symbolizes as a psychological milestone. I know what it's like to be in the closet, enamored with someone who is equally attracted to you, and just bury the feeling to go home with a girl because it means less questions and you can avoid yourself for at least another weekend. I know what it's like to be dating a girl and want nothing more than to lean the opposite way and kiss her male best friend. I know what it's like to kiss a boy for the first time in an alcoholic haze and shame yourself by forcibly separating every time someone else comes into the hallway. And I know what it's like to fall hard for a boy, make out in the middle of party, to finally feel free to hold hands in public and express yourself, only to have the same boy dump you for being "too straight." Still with me? Good. In "Pariah," Alike meets the daughter of one of her mothers co-workers. Bina turns Alike on to new music, smiles and laughs with her. When Bina plants a kiss on Alike, Alike freaks out, unsure whether to expose herself by kissing back and accepting gladly what she wants. Bina seduces Alike during a sleepover, and things move beyond kissing. But the next day Bina is frosty, to Alike's confusion. What she thought was a beautiful, genuinely tender moment is shattered when Bina says, "You didn't think I was actually all-gay, did you? I'm just doing me." Alike is, unsurprisingly, crushed and inconsolable. When I first began the process of coming out to my friends and family, I realized that what I thought of as just being me was a disadvantage when it came to meeting guys as potential romantic partners. My physical characteristics, how I dressed and spoke, what I enjoyed: nearly every gay man I met immediately assumed I was straight, was shocked even, when I would tell them otherwise. Clearly, stereotyping is not limited to just the heterosexual community. I initially took all this confusion as a point of pride. I never thought of my sexual preferences as a dominant part of my personality, so I refused to blatantly define myself as such, stereotypes be damned. Talking about sexual preference was simply out of step with my idea of decorum, straight or gay, so I would blanche at prying questions and purposely maintain the confusion in most cases as a matter of principle for my privacy. Straight boys don't have to tell their parents that they like girls in some big, cathartic exposure; why should I feel the need to announce to the world I like boys? I figured, "Why can't people just find out when they see me holding hands with or kissing another guy?" The selfish personal problem, I realized, was that by refusing to constantly out myself and make my sexuality common knowledge I seemed to be pruning the pool of potential mates. Why go after a "straight-looking, straight-acting" (UGH) guy if all you'll get is heartbreak? I found it necessary to reveal more of myself just to open the door for suitors to not avoid me for risk of embarrassing rejection. I was sacrificing a principle but gaining more of what I actually craved: attention and intense, albeit brief, romantic relationships with other men. Another digression, this time to another movie. "Weekend" is about a one night stand between tow gay men that turns into something more. My main reason for bringing it up is a scene showing the morning after Russ and Glen first spend the night together. Glen interrogates Russ for an art project about why Russ refused passive anal sex the night before. Without hearing a response, Glen settles on his own answer: "That would be too gay?" At the end of the movie they do consummate the relationship with penetrative sex, and it's beautiful. But as they kiss each other goodbye outside a train station, Russ in all likelihood publicly displaying his passion for another man for the first time, what he always feared in such a situation crystallizes when teens scream at the couple, "Faggots!" I don't really know where I'm going with all this, but: the first time I experienced passive anal sex was an incredible personal milestone. It initially felt like a culmination of my being and living a happily-out lifestyle as a gay man. With hindsight I realized the sexual experience itself was not the true impetus behind that sense of contentment. Rather, it was simply the physical manifestation of a deeper emotional revelation, that of my true desire for and capacity to, in the face of all sorts of societal disapproval and social pressure, to enter into an intense, loving, long-term relationship with another man. And what a wonderful feeling that was.


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).

January 22, 2012

On Equality

Equality. With Amendment 1 looming ever closer and the MLK commemoration ceremony last week , the issue of equality has been at the forefront of my mind. What does it mean to live in a country of equality? It seems to me that many of the arguments of equity revolve around the law. And despite the fact that winning equal rights has always been a struggle, perhaps guaranteeing a constitutional right before the law is the easier battle to win.

When we look at the major rights revolutions of the last half century we can benchmark progress: the Civil Rights Movement ended segregation and the Women’s Rights Movement of the 1970s gave rise to such laws at Title IX and the Equal Pay Act. But we are still fighting for that equality today. Nearly 35 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. professed his dream that his children would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” a CBS/New York Times poll taken before the 2008 presidential election showed that 24% of the country was not ready to elect a black president and that “five percent of white voters acknowledge[d] that they, personally, would not vote for a black candidate.” It goes without saying that equality is not merely defined in its legal sense.

The fight for LGBT rights is no different. It is not merely a fight for legal equity: for removing the fa├žade that marriage is a heterosexual privilege, for allowing gay couples to raise children, for fighting politicians to cease writing into law that same-sex couples are second-class citizens. At its core I believe that the LGBT Rights Movement is a fight to end the perception of a heteronormative world.

Heteronormative: “of, designating, or based on a world view which regards gender roles as fixed to biological sex and heterosexuality as the normal and preferred sexual orientation” (OED). This definition is accurate, but limited. Let me expand:

Heteronormative: that LGBT individuals both feel the need and are expected to come out; that LGBT individuals face discrimination and rejection not only in the workplace, but in their homes; that “gay” is an insult used in the school yard; that “gay” is used as a synonym for “stupid”; that religious community leaders feel that they cannot marry two people of the same sex, who love each other, for fear of losing his job, even though he lives in a state where gay marriage is legal; that “gay marriage” is not simply “marriage”; that people make a bigger deal about gender reassignment surgery than they do about any other corrective surgery; that people use sexual orientation as a description of one’s character only when the person in question is gay or lesbian; that all love is not equal in the eyes of the law or in the eyes of men.

Well I, too, have a dream: that one day we will live in a country of true equality. That we will cease to live in a heteronormative world and embrace a “normative” world: where people will describe someone as “straight” as often as they describe someone as “gay”; where people will not use sexual orientation as a place mark for the content of one’s character; where straight individuals will be expected to come out; where no one will be expected to come out; where children can bring home the person of their choosing without making a big deal of it; where being called “gay” is considered no more an insult than being called “straight”; where neither sexual orientation nor gender inhibit one’s ability to find work or to find acceptance; where all individuals have the freedom to marry the person they love and are not only recognized, but accepted by their governments and by their neighbors; where LOVE = LOVE.

I have this dream today.

First WLW Meeting of the Semester, this Tues. 6-8pm!


Hi Duke LGBTQ & allied community!

This upcoming Tuesday (Jan. 24th) from 6-8pm in the LGBT Center, we'll be having our first Women Loving Women (WLW) meeting of the semester! Women Loving Women is a monthly dinner & discussion group for undergraduate and graduate women with an attraction, or questioning an attraction, to women. (No labels!) The meeting itself (and listserv) are private in order to respect varying levels of "out"-ness of attendees.

This month's topic was suggested by a member (thanks!)...and it's relationships! How do we interact with queer women who we're friends with-vs. queer women we'd like to be in a relationship with? What about straight women (or questioning straight women)? And how do we interact with men we're friends with-vs. men we'd like to be in a relationship with? Do challenges ever arise-and if so, how do we navigate them based on our identity and the identity of the other individual? SO MANY QUESTIONS - yay for WLW this Tuesday to discuss it!! [Yes that is a picture from the movie "Saving Face"-best LGBTQ relationships movie EVER.]


If you have any questions you'd like us to ask at the meeting, feel free to email me at mrw22@duke.edu...and we'll throw it out there for discussion!

Be sure to email RSVP to Colleen at colleen.warner@duke.edu (with your vegetarian/non-veg. meal preference), and see you this Tuesday night at 6pm in the LGBT Center!
-Megan

January 21, 2012

An Open Letter to Queer Duke Women


Firstly, I want to let everybody know about the Bisexual/Questioning visibility campaign that will be happening on campus this semester. We'll be essentially creating posters to raise visibility about Bisexual and Questioning issues. If you want in on this, email me at kab67@duke.edu. Or come to our meeting today at 1:00 PM in Alpine Atrium. Now on to the meat of the post...

Dear Women in the LGBT Community,

Hello. It’s difficult to phrase what I have to say to you, but I’m going to try. It’s the least I can do. I’ve seen and heard many things about how LGBT men at Duke don’t give our women the same respect as they do our men, and what I want to tell you is that I support you. When I came here at the beginning of last semester as an uncomfortable first-year just coming to terms with what his sexuality might mean in the exciting and new environment of college, it was you that made me most comfortable. When made my first probing visit to the Center to see if it was you who spoke to me first. (Specifically, I’m talking about Jen) You struck up a casual conversation, and something about the relaxed tone of your voice and the body language which betrays an introverted nature made me know that I wasn’t alone. That I’m not the only queer person who prefers a book to a social gathering. I have to admit, I looked forward to coming to the Center whenever I could, hoping that you’d be sitting there. You made this place feel that much more like home.

You didn’t just make me comfortable, you made me uncomfortable in the best possible way. (Megan, shout out to you on this section) You made me think about how so much of what I do and think on a day to day basis is inherently sexist. You made me confront my prejudices that I didn’t even realize were sexist. You opened my eyes to the fact that many of my beliefs and actions were inherently sexist and I did not even realize it. You’ve forced me to think, and I can’t thank you enough.

You’ve done so much for me to make me comfortable and to help me progress as a person, so how can I stand by while I hear you express your feelings of alienation in the Community? My best friend is a queer woman, the person who helped me awaken my feminist side is a queer woman, and the person who made me feel most welcome in the Center is a queer woman. As such, it baffles me that some would consider you less valuable as members of our Community. Even more confusing is what I’ve heard from some people, that they don’t see women’s issues as particularly important on the grand scheme of things. Well, I want to tell you that I DO think that women’s issues are very important. I also want to say that I want your input not just on women’s issues, but on every issue. You deserve the same respect as every other member of this community.

Something that’s given me pause of late, however, is the question of how I can help. I know that I find something very wrong with the average treatment of women in today’s society, but I don’t know what to do to solve it. It isn’t your responsibility to have these answers, but I wonder, how can I help? I want to support you in any way that I can, but I’m curious, what should I do? This might just be part of me processing this new feminist impulse, but I’m kind of at a loss for where to go from here. Any advice as to what you would like to see from me, and other men who think like I do, please share.

As for us men, it’s time we stopped being passive about this. I know there’s a lot of us out there that are better than our more sexist peers. So maybe it’s time we stepped up and told people to shut up when they’re being sexist, and correct the incorrect assumptions. Maybe we can try to make it cripplingly uncool to objectify women as purely objects for sexual desire and conquest. That might just be a pipe dream, but I think it’s worth a try.

January 20, 2012

It's Like Mad Libs, Sorta

We’ve all been told to do it since we were small: watch your mouth. Of course, everyone thinks first of insults and slander when this phrase comes to mind, and admittedly, we’d be better off if those weren’t our problems. I think we should be careful because I believe that people become what we tell them they are, for better or for worse. Sometimes, even well-intended compliments can become a person’s measurement tape for him or herself. Let me share a scenario with you all that I’ve encountered a few too many times with that in mind. I will speak in first person in this next paragraph, combining a multitude of the tales I’ve heard (though I'll make a distinction and say I love it here when I'm not taking exams):

You tell me I’m smart, and I’ll smile and accept the compliment. After all, intelligence is what society values, and you really do mean well when you say it. But, on the inside, I know it’s not as much a compliment as an ideal that I can’t live up to. Even though I’m at Duke, and therefore had to be bright to get in, I forget that I really am intelligent because I’m surrounded by other people more intelligent than I am, people who are cheating, and people who have dropped back a course level to get an easy A. In the grand scheme of things, my average grades might still be impressive to a graduate school because they know how rigorous Duke University is. This makes me feel like I’m being wronged, because if you’re average at Duke, you could be smarter than students from many, many other schools, and you’re likely still well-qualified, so it seems unfair to be given such low grades. I’m especially mad because I have taken college courses before and know that I could be a straight-A student at those colleges. Because I’m only average here, I don’t feel as smart as I used to, so your compliments are completely meaningless to me. In fact, all they do is remind me that something I once had is now gone. Maybe that’s why I party-I’m trying to forget how much I’ve lost and my constant questioning of just what, exactly, I’m even doing at Duke University, if I’m just “okay.” Maybe I should transfer out and go somewhere else. Maybe I won’t try to get into medical school anymore, if I’m not too qualified to do it. Maybe I’ll just stop trying, if even my best effort isn’t good enough. Someone else will do it, but not me. But I can’t tell you any of this, because being smart was something valuable to you and me, and I am too scared to let you know I’ve lost it. Part of me is too proud to admit that I’m just average, after I’ve been told I’m a genius my whole life. And part of me is terrified of what will happen if you find out that I’m not what you want or expect me to be. So I’ll just smile and take your “compliment”, but on the inside, I wish I could reject it.

So, what does this rant that sounds like it came straight out of an emo 15 year old’s diary have to do with LGBTQ issues, you might ask? Replace a few words and see if there’s an issue that resonates with you.

Imply that I’m straight, and I’ll smile and accept the compliment. After all, being straight is what society values, and you really do mean well when you say it. But on the inside, I know it’s not as much a compliment as an ideal that I don’t live up to. Even though I’m at Duke, and therefore had to be a good person to get in, I tend to forget it because I’m surrounded by other people who tell me that gay people are worthless, that they are going to hell and should be second class citizens. In the grand scheme of things, my homosexuality probably won’t impress anyone since someday, it won’t be the primary basis on which people judge me. This makes me feel like I’m being wronged in the present, because if people knew, they might not treat me the same way as I am treated now. I’m especially mad because I have seen someone else that is homosexual treated poorly by my friends and people I hold dear, and that I’m fully aware of the rights and privileges I have because people think I’m straight. Because I’m actually gay, your implying that I am a better person because I am straight actually hurts, and I don’t see it as much of a compliment at all. Maybe that’s why I’m becoming a bit colder to you-I have internalized all of this, and I’m starting to question my value as a person, if being straight is the ruler I am judged by. Maybe I should leave the life I currently lead behind and move somewhere else that will accept me. Maybe I won’t try to go for a big job anymore, if I think I’m going to get shot down because I’m gay. Maybe I’ll even give up on life, if I don’t feel that things will change in my lifetime for me. Homosexuals in the future might be able to thrive, but I don’t know if I can. But I can’t tell you any of this, because my being straight was something valuable to you and maybe even to me, and I don’t want you to know that I’m not. Part of me is too proud to admit that I’m part of a historically oppressed group, after I’ve been privileged and maybe even homophobic my whole life. And part of me is terrified of what will happen if you find out that I’m gay-you could ruin my job prospects, my family life, and perhaps even my own self worth. So I’ll just smile and take your “compliment,” but on the inside, I wish I could openly reject it.

Moral of the story (or the tl;dr version of this post): even if other people you know aren’t members of the gay community or BDU, remember we are all human, and we all judge ourselves against a standard society has created for us. Life isn’t about arguing whose grievance is the most important and whose grievances are not important at all (or perhaps even deserved, in some people’s minds), but about realizing that at heart, we all face the same challenges. Let’s not consider the straight people around us that aren’t allies outsiders because they wouldn’t understand a gay person’s struggles. Because really, in many ways, and whether or not they realize it, they do. Maybe you’ll use this as a campaign idea, maybe it’ll make you think twice before you tell allies that they just don’t get it, maybe you won’t do anything at all. But I hope it at least made you think.

January 19, 2012

How I Told My Mom

Remember that last post about me trying to figure out how to tell my mom about my girl? Well I did it. =)

Babygirl bought me flowers the day before I went home for winter break (for no particular reason, might I add – she’s just sweet like that). I thought they were beautiful and didn’t want them to die while I was gone, so I packed them up in wine bottles and drove home with them riding shotgun in two console cupholders.

“What are you gonna say when your mom asks you where you got the flowers?” she asked.

“I’m gonna say you gave them to me.”

She was pretty proud of herself for creating the centerpiece for the conversation that was about to go down. She also seemed just as anxious/excited/nervous as I was, and kept telling me to call her “when it happens”.

When I got home, no one was there. I breathed a sigh of relief and began to rehearse “the script” while I arranged my flowers on the desk in my bedroom.

Mom, I’m with a girl. I want you to know because I love you and I want us to be close. Pause. Stop thinking about it. You’ll freak yourself out. Just do it. And then the front door opened.

My mom and I always greet each other like old friends who haven’t seen one another in years. Maybe that’s because I really don’t come home often, even though home is only about an hour away from Duke. Maybe it’s because we’re just dramatic. We hugged and shrieked and she made some comment about how I looked (standard), and then we went our separate ways – she to her bedroom and I to the refrigerator (also standard). It wasn’t long before I was sitting at the table, snack in hand, watching her head toward my own bedroom. I sucked in my breath.

“Hey where’d you get your flowers?!”

Shit. It’s go-time. Ok act like you didn’t hear her. Buy some time.

“Amber! Where’d you get your flowers?! They’re so pretty!” This time, she was back and looking at me expectantly.

"Well,” I said, with my hands in my pockets and an anxious grin teetering across my lips, “Jess gave them to me.”

“Ohhh….wait, is she gay?”

“Um, I don’t know…”

“Well what does that make you…?”

“Um…well, she and I are … seeing each other.” Awkward smile.

Gasp. Cue word vomit: “Oh my God, Amber! You just got home! Soon as you walk in the door?! You couldn’t give me ONE good day?! Oh my God. You know what? I’m gonna clean. I have to clean. This house is gonna be SPOTLESS!”

Laughter. “Oh as if this is a bad thing!”

“Well!....” She grew silent. Her eyes were both incredulous and tired at the same time. She had been mending a broken marriage for the past five years and was finally seeing the fruit of her efforts during this Holiday season. Shame that “this” had to happen when things were finally looking up… But then things took a turn for the hilarious.

“Look, I know that you’re in college and that in our society it’s more acceptable for two girls to do this sort of thing than two guys…” Haha Mama, that’s irrelevant.

“You know, it’s probably just temporary. It’s just a phase…” Nope, I’ve done it before, Mom. As early as middle school. And plenty of times after that.

“I mean I know why you’re doing it, I’ve seen girl on girl videos. I’ve had ‘experiences’, but I won’t tell you about them because you’d look at me differently” … 0___0 . T.M.I., Mom. That’s a little bit more bonding than I’m trying to do right now.

“Well you know what I’m gonna ask…” Laughter. “So you have! You’ve BEEN with her!” Yeah Mom! Want me to tell you about it? Sit down, I’ll tell you everything you want to know! “No, I don’t need details!!!”

And then she laughed. We both did. That’s something that our family is good for – taking an awkward situation and turning it into pure entertainment. The whole scene had been like something on TV. I kept thinking Man, I should really record this. This is GREAT! But when it was all over and we’d had our chance to laugh at each other during what was supposed to be an intense moment, she hugged me.

“I love you.”

“I love you too Mama.”

And we laughed again.

January 17, 2012

Reality Check

So, first things first. We have dates for this semester's Man to Man meetings! Check them out below and mark your calendars. All meetings will be at 7pm in the LGBT Center.

January 31st
February 28th
March 27th
April 17th

I hope to see you a lot of you guys at the meetings. I'm so incredibly excited about this! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at ajb56@duke.edu.

Now, on to the real post...

I've been out to my mom for about 4 years now, however, it's not something we talk about. At least, not in casual terms. Whenever the topic of my sexuality comes up, it's in hushed tones that weigh heavy in the air making it incapable for me to catch my breath from the immense weight that I feel on my shoulders from those hushed tones. The conversation always references God, hell, sin, and, worst of all, choice. So, when I decided to tell my mom about my boyfriend, I knew that I'd be in for the same thing but was hoping that it would be a little better.

I wanted to wait until probably the day before I left to come back to Duke to tell my mom about my boyfriend. I was hoping for a decent reaction but preparing for the worst. However, fate did not let it happen that way. We were having a conversation about Facebook and privacy when she just asked me: "Do you have a boyfriend?".

I was so shocked that she asked that I didn't know what to say. I never expected my mom to ask me. I was supposed to tell her. The role reversal had my mind spinning. What did this mean? Was she asking because she was genuinely interested or does she believe that me having a boyfriend is a reason for all of the changes she's seen in me (My mom believes that Duke and being gay has changed me from the son she once knew to this new person. Blog post on that coming soon. Stay tuned folks!)? It could mean that she wants to know more about my life and wants to be involved or she could use this knowledge as a weapon against me.

"...Yes, I do have a boyfriend..."- Me

"Ok, tell me about him."- Mom

We began to talk about him and she could sense my hesitancy and how uncomfortable I was talking about him. She didn't understand why I didn't feel comfortable talking to her about my sexuality. I began to cry as I explained to her how hearing I'm a sinner, a pervert, suffering from some sickness or disease every Sunday makes it difficult for me to talk to her about my life. When her life centers so much around church and religion, I just can't casually stroll into the house and talk about my boyfriend.

"Well, yes. I think that you choosing to like men is wrong but it's your life. You know what the Bible says about that. You can choose to do whatever you want. I don't have to agree with it or like it, but it's your life."

Hearing her say that hurt me so much and caused me so much pain that I felt my heart turn to stone. At that instant, I knew that we would never have a great relationship again. I didn't want to have the argument with her about how my sexuality is NOT a choice. I didn't want to ask her about the teachings of love and acceptance in the Bible. I didn't want to discuss it with her ever again. She wasn't going to change her mind or even try to hear my side of things. When my mom makes up her mind, it's done and no one can tell her any differently. I knew that I lost the argument before it even started.

"But, you know, at the root of it all, I just want you to be happy. I've learned that people should be happy in life. As long as you are happy, that's all that matters. Are you happy?"

"Yes, very."

"Good. That's all that matters."

UUUMMMMMMMMMM ok? To say I was thrown for a loop is an understatement. So she doesn't accept or agree with who I am but it's ok because I'm happy? Eventually, I understood what she meant. She wants me to make the choices that make me happy and if one of those "choices" is being gay, then so be it. My heart turned from stone to wood. I knew that she didn't hate me and wanted me to be happy but wishes that I found happiness in a different way.

And therein lies the rub. If I could change what makes me happy, everything would be fine but I can't do that. She keeps saying I haven't found the right girl and that it's just a phase but it's not. It's just not. There is no right girl for me. But I can't make her see that. And I've realized that now. We have fundamentally different views and we're not going to agree on them. It's sad but it's the reality of the matter.

January 16, 2012

Anonymous Posts (1.10.12-1.16.12)

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. :)

Hey folks! Breathe a sigh of relief; FWOC is over.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Duke has some fun and meaningful things planned. Check here if you're looking for a way to commemorate MLK's legacy.

I'm out of creative juices, so I'll recount a cool moment from my time at Duke that is related to MLK Day and Amendment 1. In 2010, Duke had the pleasure of welcoming openly bisexual Arizona state legislator Kyrsten Sinema to campus (plug: Sinema just announced that she is running for U.S. Congress!). A few years earlier, Sinema had helped lead the first and only campaign in the country to ever defeat a referendum vote on a constitutional amendment that would define marriage to be between one man and one woman (Hey, North Carolina, what do you say we become the second?). During her lunch with students at the LGBT Center, she shared that her favorite quote was by MLK: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Now, notes from OC.

#1
Stuff Cis People Say To Trans People

#2
People assume that, since I'm a girl, I'm ashamed of my sideburns. I bring this up because I recently read an article on autostraddle (awesome website) about women embracing their facial hair. At first I thought it was weird and that I could never do that...but then I realised that I EFFING LOVE MY SIDEBURNS!

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).

January 14, 2012

Nerves

Hi, everyone.

I've been nervous all week. I'm a nervous kind of person - introvert, type-A, perfectionist, you know the drill. The first week of classes every semester never fails to magnify my usual jumpiness or uncertainty, even though I've had a first week of classes every year since I was four. Y'all know that I'm a senior, so this is my last - and arguably my most important - semester. I graduate in May, but in the meantime I have to write a thesis and get into graduate school, so I'm already feeling the pressure. However, it's not just school that has me a little unbalanced right now.

In case you haven't talked to me for more than ten minutes, I'll let you in on a little [not-so] secret bit of information: I'm a TOTAL choir geek. Now, when I say that, you probably think of the 200 high school girls who descended upon the Chapel to sing last semester, when Eric Whitacre came to visit. I was not there, but I'm told there was much swooning and sobbing during the actual performance. I cannot say that I've never cried during a performance, but the music that moves me is usually around 400 years old. I'm lucky enough to be in an ensemble (Vespers) that regularly sings this repertoire, and it just so happens that we have a concert today, at 8PM in the Chapel (SHAMELESS PLUG: BE THERE IT'LL ROCK, I SWEAR!! And it's only 50 minutes long.). So, we've been rehearsing all week to prepare for it, and it is definitely one of the things that has made me nervous this week.

My parents, who are incredibly involved in my life, will be there. And so will my girlfriend. My parents know about her, but they haven't met, and I haven't told them that she will be there. Meeting parents is so stressful, and I didn't want her to feel that I was pushing her to meet them. So, she may or may not decide that she wants to. If she does, I have to admit that I'm also going to be nervous about how it could go. I have no doubts that she will be as adorable and charming as ever, but since when are nerves logical?


January 12, 2012

A Parent's Perspective

[Editor's Note: On Tuesday, out of the blue, I received an email from my dad. In it was the post you see below, and a message asking me if I would post it on the BDU Blog. I was shocked--not because he hasn't been supportive, because he has been since day 1 (and even before)--but because I never expected him to show his support in this way.

We haven't had parents post in the past (we did once receive this most fantastic anonymous post), but I'd like to take this opportunity to invite parents to write in either publicly (please check with your students first!) or anonymously. Email us your submissions and we'll put them up throughout the semester. This blog is primarily for students and is a venue to build community, support each other, and celebrate our diversity of identities, and as such we reserve the right not to post a submission that runs contrary to this or violates the terms of our anonymous posts.]





Dear BDU Community,

I read a great deal about the numerous posting from so many of you when you came out to your parents. I thought you might like to hear about the issue in general, from a parent’s perspective. I am not trying to hold myself out as a typical parent. When Risa told me, “I am going to date the person not the gender” my reply was (and I will clean it up), “start having sex with someone as it is too much fun to miss out on”.

I cannot possibly comprehend the great amount of stress that is contained within your body when dealing with considering whether to come out to your parents. I know that some parents are more accepting and understanding than others. I can only imagine the relief when it is done and over and finding that your parents react favorably. I know some are very unaccepting and that very concept breaks my heart.

To me, the issue of coming out, is like any other communication issue that parents and children deal with. If you have trouble talking about grades, politics or social issues and the generations either ignore each other or it erupts into a fight, then coming out will be the same way. If you are comfortable to talk, debate and disagree so that at the end of the dialogue there is still love between the generations, then coming out will be anxiety laden but easier to accomplish.

I have long felt that religion does more to screw up society by creating “absolute rules” than to make it accepting of the differences. I would suspect that a modern day God might only allow Vanilla ice cream and punish all those that want Chocolate, let alone Strawberry. If your parents are practicing a religious lifestyle that mandates a limited view of the world, then coming out might be tough, unless their Church is open minded. However, don’t eat Strawberry when out and Vanilla when you come home. Find the courage to have the discussion with your parents then order Strawberry whenever you want to.

Parents are a lot like children. We don’t like change any more than your generation does. We have an image of our kids that was created when they were born. We only want the best for them and some changes are threats to our Yellow Brick Road. Ultimately, we can migrate or mutate as need be. You just have to be willing to help us change.

I hope you find comfort with your decisions and actions.

January 11, 2012

Fracture Mechanics

First of all – welcome back! I’m honored to get to post on the first day of classes for 2012, and I hope all the returning students, staff, and faculty reading this have an excellent, productive, and fulfilling semester. I’m very much looking forward to the classes I get to teach this semester as well as the different programs with which I get to work. I am also starting to mentally prepare myself for this May; as much as having the opportunity to work at a college is a blessing, there’s also this issue of having a large portion of the population taking off every year…

One of the facets I most appreciate about working at a college is in the diversity of backgrounds and interests of the population. When the mission of the institution is “…to engage the mind, elevate the spirit, and stimulate the best effort of all who are associated with the University; to contribute in diverse ways to the local community, the state, the nation and the world; and to attain and maintain a place of real leadership in all that we do,” there is a wealth of possibilities for how that might be accomplished. The university represents fertile ground for interdisciplinary projects and for the cross-pollination of experiences and expertise that are rarely in such close proximity within the world outside of academia. The university also provides opportunities for different communities to come together to explore the broad commonalities as well as the subtle (and sometimes less-subtle) differences within those communities.

And here, I’m afraid, is where fracture mechanics comes in.

Fracture mechanics primarily covers how cracks manifest and spread through materials. An object that could otherwise withstand a certain amount of stress can come apart due to the propagation of one or more cracks. The forces that exist within the material are re-distributed due to the existence of a flaw. The stresses get concentrated to levels much higher than average in the vicinity of the crack, and a once-cohesive material capable of sustaining much higher tensions is progressively ripped apart as the crack spreads.

I am concerned about the fracture mechanics of Duke’s undergraduate LGBTQ community, specifically within the context of some of the discussions that have occurred on these pages and offline. I worry that there are flaws that are perceived or real, and that there is a tension in the community that is being concentrated on those flaws. I fear that fractures may race across the community and make separate and disconnected what was once mutually supportive. I wonder about whether the energy might be channeled to form new bonds across boundaries or if that energy will end up being expended in accentuating the cracks.

Part of the difficulty I see is this – the LGBTQ community is not some homogeneous entity but rather an aggregation of diverse individuals. And that intra-community diversity is evident even when you start looking at the people macroscopically labeled by the umbrella terms within 'L''G''B''T''Q'. Besides, “LGBTQ” doesn’t even cover the full spectrum – I think the most inclusive alphabetical attempt I have seen is something on the order of LGBTT2QQIAPS - so inclusive, it includes a number, but still not enough. Beyond that, even, we’ve recently read examples of people who have identified with a “label” writing about existing outside of them in different ways. Just as the discrete rendering of the rainbow flag doesn’t completely represent the continuum of colors to be found in a real rainbow, mere assemblages of letters cannot completely represent the continuum of people to be found in community.

Along with that, I wonder how much using the macro labels to posterize groups of people might be helping to promote fracture. “Well, the Purples are doing this, and as an Indigo, I don’t like it!” “Why are we always talking about / do we never talk about being Orange?” My fear there is this: that the worst behaviors and attitudes ever seen in any member of a group then gets codified as The Behavior and Attitude of That Group. At which point, members of that group either get defensive or offended, and the potential for communication – between the groups or the individuals – is diminished or lost completely. It becomes a clash of the stereotypes, and it initiates a crack in community.

Given the above, my deepest hope for the New Year is that the community I will choose to refer to as the Aggregation of Awesome will be mindful of the hazards of fracture mechanics and will instead direct energy towards strengthening the bonds of mutual respect and understanding. Where there are flaws, perceived and real, determine the most constructive ways to identify them, if possible – eliminate them, and if elimination is not possible – at least keep them from spreading and causing more damage. Where there are differences, acknowledge them, celebrate them, and learn from them. Understand that Differences and Flaws are two wholly different things.  Recognize that there will be times when everyone can be together and times when smaller communities are needed to provide a space for exploration, discovery, and affirmation that should be respected and encouraged.

Finally, as we are at a university, seek to educate yourself and teach others in ways that will “engage the mind, elevate the spirit, and stimulate the best effort of all who are associated with the University” – including letting others know ways they can better engage your mind, elevate your spirit, and stimulate your best effort.

January 10, 2012

In which I kick someone

I hope everyone had a lovely break! Mine was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. On the 4th, I posted this facebook status:
Holyshit. My mom just walked into the Skyward Sword Room where I'm hanging out with my two brothers and their friend, and she said "I have a question for my three children, my three sons..."
I seriously never thought I would hear her call me her son. We are super-weirdly Not Talking About It and they are NOT calling me Lawrence but holyshit. Holyshit. I think they might come to my graduation after all.
(The question was about pizza.)
On the 5th, I wrote but did not publish this facebook status:
My dad called me a freak, so I kicked him. My foot hurts.
I still kind of think the second one is funny, in a black humour kind of way. I mean, if you know me, I'm not really a solve-things-with-violence kind of person; it's incongruous. (Maybe I can blame the T?) But I decided not to post it-- and afterward, I was really struck by my own determination of what kind of information is inappropriate for public broadcast.

I mean, both of these are personal events. Really personal. But when the first one happened, I practically wanted to work through my entire cell phone's contact list and tell everyone I knew. I ended up not making any calls only because it would have taken too long, and facebook was faster. Compare that to the second one... I actually had a really long conversation with both parents, but even the imaginary facebook status only hinted at what was going on. And in the end I only told one person, when I called a friend to have a cry.

Obviously, I'm changing my mind now -- but mostly because the very first thing I encountered when I got back to Duke was a friend saying they heard the great news about my parents, and I feel like unless I publish some kind of public retraction I'll be dealing with painful congratulations for weeks.

Which is where this stops being completely self-indulgent, and connects to something I feel like I've seen a lot of places. In general I feel like there's pressure not to talk about the really sucky parts of coming out as LGBTQ, especially when it comes to parents. Or rather, there's an insistence that it always gets better, for everyone, and I think that insistence makes life even harder than it needs to be for the people who don't see things getting better.

Because here's the thing -- I'm lucky. I actually do think my parents will come around. I expect things to be perfectly fine with my parents by 2022. I think they will start being radically more accepting within a couple years of me passing full-time. I know that it will get better eventually. But not everyone is that lucky, especially not people on the trans spectrum.

I think especially in the community, it's hard to listen to statements like "my parents will never accept me" or "I will never see my brothers again" without wanting to contradict them, because we don't want these things to the possible -- not for our friends, and not for ourselves. How can a mother really stop being there for her child? Nobody wants to believe it can happen -- but it still does.

In yesterday's Anonymous Posts, #6 talks about how there are some families that are impossible to come out to, and will never come around -- and the first comment response is someone offering hope by saying that the "right time" will eventually come. I think this person was saying something that was true for them, and I think they were trying very hard to ease another's suffering -- but I also think the next commenter, who argues that "some fears of coming out are fully rational", is more realistic.

More importantly, things can be bad without being doomed. Relationships are complicated, and they don't get 'fixed' in a single instant. And just because they'll probably be better someday, that doesn't eliminate the pain of now. Sometimes, all that matters is that I kicked my dad, and we need to be able to say these things.

But it's painful for everyone when we're reminded how far the world still has to go, and nobody wants to be the "downer" who spoils the mood; it's easier to keep these things private, even if that means feeling alone even when others are going through the same thing.

So, I want to give thanks to the amazing friend who let me cry. And I want to open up this thread for anyone to express any fears or regrets or grief that they want to get off their chests. Be anonymous if it will help. I will give every single one of you a hug.

January 9, 2012

Anonymous Posts (1.3.12-1.9.12)

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. :)

Well, all good things must come to an end. I'm mourning winter break being over, but our SIX anonymous posts will get me through! Seriously, folks, you ROCK. Hard.

Our writers rock pretty hard, too, serving up new content EVERY DAY THIS PAST WEEK. Kate wrote about what makes Duke Divinity School so special, her undergraduate experience, and the role her gay identity plays in her life; Dan struggles with his identity, even after coming out as gay, Throwback Thursdays remind us that winter break anxiety has happened to the best of us since eternity, Julian tackled LGBT ephemisms, Cameron K. writes about being introverted, and Cameron T. writes about being happily single (for now).

I fly back to Duke today for my final semester of college, and, well, I just don't feel ready to leave this place I call home. But I do look forward to the fact that the next time I'm home, I'll (hopefully) be a college graduate (WHAT?!).

On that note, SENIORS...get to your keyboard and let us know what Duke, this Community, your LGBTQA identity, etc, has meant to you. Email your SENIOR POSTS (anonymous or signed) to bluedevilsunited@gmail.com!

It might be my last semester, but it's going to be a spectacularly awesome one. For one thing, the LGBT Center just announced that Hudson Taylor of Athlete Ally will be visiting campus! What, what!?

It's not all fun and games, though. We've also got an amendment to fight, folks. And a movie to make! Freewater Production, Blue Devils United, Duke Together Against Constitutional Discrimination, The Center for LGBT Life, and Duke ACLU are teaming up to create a video that is in the spirit of the “It Gets Better” project. The message we are sending, though, is not that it automatically gets better—but that we have to MAKE it better. This is especially relevant, given that North Carolina currently faces a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman (mind you, a state law already says this) and strip couples of all domestic partnership benefits. If you are interested in being in the video (everyone—gay, straight, bi, trans, questioning, etc is invited), fill out this survey and see here for more information.

Now, notes from OC!

#1
Cheesy name, but it's another way to support equality. Bonus: my dad sent this to me!

#2
I really like a guy, but I feel like we're already in the 'friend' category and I don't know what to do about it. It's confounded by the fact that we're on a club sport team together and admitting my feelings toward him would just make the entire activity awkward for me if he's not interested. Advice?

#3
I'm a virgin. I feel like a pariah because of it. I have waited so long to ensure that my first time isn't meaningless, but because of the fact that no one seems interested in more than casual sex, I don't know if it's worth waiting anymore. What's the point? Is there one?

#4
A bit of homonationalism on the eve of the 2012 elections. Enjoy: Zoe Leonard (1992): "I want a dyke for president. I want a person with aids for president and I want a fag for vice president and I want someone with no health insurance and I want someone who grew up in a place where the earth is so saturated with toxic waste that they didn't have a choice about getting leukemia. I want a president that had an abortion at sixteen and I want a candidate who isn't the lesser of two evils and I want a president who lost their last lover to aids, who still sees that in their eyes every time they lay down to rest, who held their lover in their arms and knew they were dying. I want a president with no airconditioning, a president who has stood on line at the clinic, at the dmv, at the welfare office and has been unemployed and layed off and sexually harassed and gaybashed and deported. I want someone who has spent the night in the tombs and had a cross burned on their lawn and survived rape. I want someone who has been in love and been hurt, who respects sex, who has made mistakes and learned from them. I want a Black woman for president. I want someone with bad teeth and an attitude, someone who has eaten that nasty hospital food, someone who crossdresses and has done drugs and been in therapy. I want someone who has committed civil disobedience. And I want to know why this isn't possible. I want to know why we started learning somewhere down the line that a president is always a clown: always a john and never a hooker. Always a boss and never a worker, always a liar, always a thief and never caught."

#5
Sort of an awkward question, but I was wondering what people recommended to help me curb my masturbation. I'm a guy, and I do it basically every day. It bothers me afterwards, especially because I invest so much time looking into porn when I should be doing far far more important things. I just feel...bad afterwards. Since I'm bi or curious or something porn and jacking off has always been a big part of my life. But I had hoped I would mature and stop being such a horny teenager when it came to jacking off every damn day. But it hasn't happened, and I honestly feel it has gotten to the point where I structure my day around masturbation. It sickens me, honestly. Any suggestions? I know it's an awkward question, but I really do appreciate advice other ppl have who maybe went through the same thing.

#6
It seems like a lot of people in the lgbt communnity have less respect for those of us who don't come out to everyone, especially our family. This doesn't really seem fair to me because many of us can't come out, yanno? For example my parents just stopped watchin How I Met Your Mother just because they found out the guy who plays Barney is gay, not on the show but in real life. People who feel that stongly about homosexuality can't be expected to do a complete 180 just because their daughter comes out. On top of that, the one time I did try to come out to my dad he said "my daughter will NOT be a lesbian" and BAM end of convo. Just throwing this out there so people will be a bit more uunderstanding of why us unlucky few are still closeted at home. It sucks knowing that my situation could be a relationship deal breaker for some girls but just know its not because I'm ashamed, its because I can't.

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).

"Make it Better" at Duke

Calling all LGBTQ individuals and allies! We will be partnering with Duke Together, the Center for LGBT Life, Duke ACLU, and Freewater Productions to create a video in the spring semester in the spirit of the "It Gets Better" project.

"The It Gets Better project was created to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach -- if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone -- and it WILL get better." (www.itgetsbetter.org)

We want to make a video that embodies the spirit of this project, but tailor it to the relevant issues of our community -- Duke, Durham, and the state of NC. We are looking for people to tell their stories; their struggles, their triumphs, and their goals.

This coming May, North Carolinians will be faced with a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Not only would this enshrine discrimination in the state's constitution, but it would have a real impact on the Duke community -- the students who currently attend, prospective students, and the many employees of the university. We want to show the people of this state that this is not what NC is about. We want to show students who are considering to attend Duke that this is a welcoming place, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Our goal: to send the message that "it gets better," but only if we stand up together and fight discrimination on our home turf. We are looking for people from all walks of life: gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, positive stories, stories of hardships overcome, and anything else that speaks to your personal experience with this issue. If you are interested in contributing to a video that could potentially garner attention from the Duke community, citizens of NC, and even the entire nation, please come forward! Send an email to christine.ko@duke.edu to get involved in the video!

January 8, 2012

Learning to Love Myself


I don’t know whether or not I am capable of truly loving someone. Of course, I love my family very deeply, but I have never been ‘in love’ with anyone. I know, I know, I’m only 19 and I really shouldn’t expect to have found “the one”, but sometimes I get the feeling that I will be single for the rest of my life. The sad part is – that doesn’t really bother me. It’s not that I don’t want to have my own happily ever after story, rest assured I do. I merely mean to say that I’m not scared of solitude (or it’s my greatest fear and I’m deluding myself by telling myself the opposite.) Trusting someone else with my love makes me vulnerable. I never want that vulnerability to allow someone to destroy the sense of self I’ve constructed/developed/whatever. Not coming out was an intentional way of me avoiding dating, purposely skirting all those messy emotions.

I’ve always told myself that, if I find the right person, then it won’t matter what anyone else thinks, because I’ll be completely in love with him (her?) and, at that point, coming-out will be insignificant. In high school, I had no reason to come out because 1) it wasn’t exactly a gay-friendly culture and 2) there weren’t any guys that I thought were “worth coming out for.” (If that sounds offensive, I’m sorry.)

This little…strategy worked well while I was in high school, but now that I’m in college I’m realizing the effects that not dating in high school have. Because I haven’t been in a meaningful relationship before, I’m scared of getting into one now – I don’t want to mess it up. I don’t date because I am scared of being unable to show affection, but until I have some reason to do so, I know my emotional self will remain underdeveloped. I am realizing that I will be unable to experience love until I truly know myself. Until I learn to love myself, I will remain unable to have a meaningful connection with someone else.

I believe that perfect love is nearly impossible to attain and maintain, but it is that very impossibility which makes love so inspiring and powerful when it does occur. I have realized that it’s okay to be scared of love, but that being scared shouldn’t stop me from striving for it anyway.

Gandhi once said, "A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.” I know that I will eventually be brave enough to love another, but until then, I will continue to love and know myself.

January 7, 2012

The Introvert Who Wanted To Be An Extrovert


Happy New Year everybody! I hope that you have had a wonderful break and whether you like it or not, I hope you’re ready for another semester! I’ve had a pretty boring break, but I’ve been hard at work on an important Quidditch project for the IQA, so it has kept me busy. Also, if there are any Class of 2016ers who are reading the blog, welcome to the Duke family! We’re awaiting your arrival here in a short eight months (or four if you visit for Blue Devil Days).

If you have read my posts in the past, you know that I have often made known that I am an introvert (Actually, I’ve been pretty vocal about it, which has some ironic undertones).  By saying that I am an introvert is in no way to undermine being an extrovert, but rather I want to make it well known that I identify as an introvert and I wouldn’t want to be mistaken otherwise. I’ve had to “come out” as an introvert a few times this past year since some people did not believe me.  Needless to say, it can be very exhausting and disheartening when people don’t believe me, but alas, it’s the truth. It’s a shame that I’m often just assumed to be an extrovert, and on at least one occasion, I was pretty much assumed to be an extrovert because I am gay. This is also a serious case of stereotyping, but I reserve this argument for a later time.

I have made the argument in the past that the LGBTQ community is meant for extroverts. Bars, clubs, pride parades and other socials events provide evidence for my claim, with very little evidence for introvert-guided activities, at least that I’ve noticed in college. As an introvert, I have a difficult time immersing myself into a crowd of extroverts with the intention of meeting somebody. Being an introvert is not a temporary state or mood; it is a trait of personality, and by no means does it imply that I’m enjoying being single. Yet when the majority of the LGBT individuals I meet are highly outgoing and extroverted, I lose hope every day of finding another introvert. I have tried very hard to lean into discomfort and go to some events to meet people that made me feel very uncomfortable, but every time I do so, I feel like I’m being judged. I feel like people are fully aware of my social awkwardness and I beat myself up every time because of my looks and because I’m socially awkward, when in reality it is my introversion that holds me back from talking to new people at such events.  The issues with my appearance deal with the lack of self-confidence I have in such situations because extroverts tend to exude confidence more, which is quite the downer for me.

I know that I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but I write this to make a point. And it’s a very simple point. A point that makes me very angry and upset at the very thought of it.

I wish I were an extrovert.

I have been struggling with this for a long time, since being extroverted is inherently not me. It’s a shame that I’m essentially trying to deny a very important part of my personality, but when I feel that I am repeatedly told by the gay community that introverts are “wrong,” I cannot help but feel this way.  If I were an extrovert, I would be able to talk to guys with some social acuity. I would actually be able to talk to somebody on Facebook as opposed to opening a guy’s chat window (who is typically an extrovert), typing out various greetings, and then erasing them for fear of being perceived as a stalker or a creep.  I would actually get to experience rejection from somebody else as opposed to experiencing self-rejection.  And who knows? Maybe I would have a little better self-esteem and self-confidence.

Recently on the blog, there have been many posts on identity, insecurity, and questioning. I write my post to provide a different perspective on my own form of identity and insecurities attached to personality within the LGBTQ community. I am very proud of being an introvert, and in my daily activities, my introversion has been a blessing. But in the social realm, I’ve found it to be a curse. I am frequently misunderstood, and while I often place the social barriers on myself, I have to put on my “extroverted” mask in order to go out in public, especially to events with lots of gay guys so that I don’t come off as weird. Yet this act causes me to lose a large portion of my identity. It’s as if I’m living two lives to please everybody, except myself.

If anybody has any other perspective or advice to offer, I greatly appreciate it, not only for me, but others who can empathize with this post. Please know that you are not alone, and even though it may seem daunting, being yourself is truly the only way to be happy. 

January 6, 2012

“Does he bat for the other team?”

“Does he/she bat for the other team?”

“Does he/she bat for both teams?”

What is this other team? Are we trying to beat them? Are they trying to defeat us? What bases are they on? Who’s on first? What’s on second?

“Batting for the other team” is a euphemism for being homosexual (or bisexual when used with “both teams.”) I bring it up because, barring whatever sampling biases I may have, this is an expression I’ve heard quite a bit. And as far as language clues go, I think this one is very telling of an underlying discomfort that some of our society has with discussing LGBT issues.


Granted, there may be a good intention to be politically correct when saying “batting for the other team” rather than going for the numerous pejoratives out there. However, the expression is inherently offensive because it implies that homosexuals are on another team, that is, they are the enemy. But it’s fairly self-evident that the LGBT community is not a group of rebels bent on destroying society (okay, maybe some are). Being homosexual or otherwise is not something that is meant to undermine anybody else’s rights. A handful of us also want equal legal protections such as the right to marry, but such changes would not infringe upon the rights of others. However, the use of this expression carries with it a slight division between homosexuals and the rest of society. I would argue it has the same connotation as “in-laws.” Family, but never friends.

In this day and age, a basic understanding of some of the terminology relevant to LGBT community removes the need for using a derogatory expression like “batting for the other team.” I guess I’m addressing this post to those of you out there who are not the massive bigots, but rather, the rational-minded people out there who may not know completely how they feel about LGBT issues. I remember too when I was a bit uncomfortable about talking about it, but if you’re someone who does not think homosexuality hurts our society, then you should think again. The usage of “batting for the other team” underhandedly feeds the us vs. them mentality against the LGBT community. I’m not necessarily arguing that we should bleep out this expression or demonize it as the next f-word. Rather, I’m saying that it’s a part of our vocabulary that we no longer need when more than ever before, we have the chance to move forward and talk about these topics openly and rationally because there ought not be fear or shame, only understanding.

Besides, only physics problems use baseball, the most incomprehensible sport, to get a point across.