February 29, 2012

My Bubby and Pop Pop

February 7th marked the 15th anniversary of my grandmother (Grandmom)’s death. I was in the second grade when she died, and here I am, about to graduate college. Her husband, my grandfather (Grandpop) died when I was only four years old. I never really got to know either one of them, which continues to upset me to this day. I can’t really talk about either of them (or write this post) without crying. There are so many things about my life that they never saw and that they will never know. A few things stick in my mind as pretty significant: my Bat Mitzvah in 2002, that I’m here at Duke, that my parents divorced (after 30 years), that my sexuality defies labels.

I am incredibly fortunate that both of my mom’s parents (Bubby and Pop Pop) are around and that we’re really close. They have been there for my Bat Mitzvah, have visited me here at Duke, and were incredibly supportive during my parent’s divorce. Still, I haven’t come out to either of them. They’re always telling me how proud they are of me and I’m afraid that probably not being 100% straight will change that.

My Pop Pop is 87 years old and has his share of health ailments. Most recently, right before Thanksgiving, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. On a night when my mind raced and I couldn’t sleep, I started writing him a letter. I wanted to tell him how much I loved him and to thank him for so many of the opportunities in my life. In part, I wrote:

“I know this isn’t the happiest letter, but pretending that your health woes don’t exist won’t make you better. It will just mean that we don’t ever talk about them, or about this.”

About this. I knew where I meant to be going with this letter. I wanted to thank him for always pushing me to never settle, for sparking my interest in history from a young age, for that family vacation we took. And yet, the letter could have gone in an entirely different way.

About this. My “I love you; thank you” seemed to be writing itself into some sort of coming out letter. I never did give him the letter—I never got around to finishing it. Then I learned that his doctors no longer characterized his condition as congestive heart failure, and it seemed less imperative.

But on this 15 year marker of my Grandmom’s death, and as I reflect on all the things I wish I could have shared with her and my Grandpop, I can’t help but think that I still have a chance to do this whole grandparent thing right, albeit with my mom’s parents and not my dad’s. So what’s holding me back?

I want to be The Perfect granddaughter. It’s flawed that in my mind, coming out to them would jeopardize this. I don’t think being anything other than 100% straight makes anyone less “perfect,” but they’re two generations older. They might. It seems so different.

And yet, my grandparents have (inconsistently) hinted to me that it’d be okay with them if I wasn’t straight! My Pop Pop, a retired surgeon, still receives the American Medical Association Magazine monthly. This summer, when I was visiting, he pulled out two articles on LGBTQ health and left them at my place at the table. “I thought this might interest you,” he told me. A few months earlier, he told me that the symphony was a great place to take a date—whether they are a man or “a special lady friend.” Other instances like this pepper the last year. My Bubby has been less gentle in our conversations about my involvement with BDU, some of my academic work, living in Women’s Housing, etc. But she reads the blog on occasion, and I have reason to believe that she came across my coming out post.

So, really, the only thing left to do is to talk about it. Which is exactly what I plan to do when I see them in April for Passover.

February 28, 2012

My (straight) learning curve, and a journey down the Rainbow-Bricked road

When I was in high school I didn’t have any close male friends; it wasn’t necessarily by choice or design, but for one reason or another that was the way it worked out. After coming to Duke, meeting new people and forging new even stronger friendships something remarkable occurred…I acquired straight male friends, and really close ones at that. It has truly been a new experience, but one I have thoroughly enjoyed.

[Note: this next bit might sound a little gender conforming, but please don’t take it that way…this is only a reflection of MY PERSONAL relationships with women and men, and is not a reflection of the traits of women and men as a whole]

There have been many great things that have come from my friendships with straight men, and I have learned a lot about them and learned a lot about myself. Some of the best parts have been just hanging out getting to know them…

· Its fun to have friends to talk sports too, and be able punch around some times.

· Its great to have someone to drink a beer with. I mean, “will be” great when I’m of age.

· Its fun to get to use the word “Bro” (although I can never do it with a straight face).

· Its great not to have to explain why during football season my Sundays (and Monday nights) are all booked.

· Its fun to watch a movie with a little more action, and a little less romance.

Now with all the wonderful things that have come with my newfound friendships, there have also been some stumbling blocks, and there are certain things I will never understand about straight guys…

· Guys can be a lot more heteronormative than girls.

· They can’t always understand why certain things are homophobic and offensive

· They are sometimes (often) sexist

· They can often be very unhygienic…lol, but really.

· I can’t, (or at least I fell I can’t) talk about my love life with them (and by love life I mean epic fail-but that’s a comedy for another post)

With all the good and the bad, I am very grateful that I have them as my friends. They truly mean a lot to me, and as I have learned from them they have also learned from me. As I acquired my first straight male friends, they got their first gay friend. So I will continue on my progress on my (straight) learning curve ,enjoying all the new adventures, and I will make sure they have some fun traveling down the rainbow-bricked road as well.

February 27, 2012

Anonymous Posts (2.20.12-2.27.12)

Every week, we collect anonymous entries sent in using the link on our sidebar and post them all on Monday. We post anything as long as it doesn't contain personal attacks, hate speech, or express or insinuate that one is at risk for hurting themselves or someone else. Please read this for an explanation of this policy and seek help if your or a friend find yourself in that position. With those exceptions aside, please feel free to submit your thoughts and questions. :)

So, first things first...DUKE WOMEN'S BASKETBALL WON THE ACC REGULAR SEASON CHAMPIONSHIP AND BEAT CAROLINA.

Next up, Duke Together had a great kick off rally on Friday.

Finally, notes from OC.

#1
I am a straight female who has a large number of homosexual friends. One of my friends, a lesbian woman, has been hitting on me for a while and I feel incredibly uncomfortable, and this has pervaded even after I have told her I am not interested. How do I handle this situation?

#2
#pretty cool

#3
My best friend is coming out to visit for his spring break...I promised him I'd take him to a gay club, but I'm having trouble finding one around durham...any suggestions?

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).

February 26, 2012

February 25, 2012

Obligations, Women, and Terrible Dancing


I feel there’s some unspoken understanding on this blog that at least one post has to chronicle the writer’s first major coming to terms with self and sexuality. Such a post can feature some fraught coming-out narrative, or it can be entirely reflective and conceptual. What really matters, though, is that *I* haven’t done one. So, since this is still only my third post, I figured I should get the old self-discovery spiel out of the way way so I can back to writing about more fun things like sex and art.

I’m from the South. And we’re not talking Triangle-South, or Miami-South, or Maryland-South. We’re talking middle-of-the-country, median-income-of-less-than-half-national-average, more-Baptist-churches-than-private-businesses-South. Don’t get the wrong idea from how I describe it: all these things still made for a great place to grow up. But it did also mean that during my formative years, I had no idea what a gay person was, more-the-less what kind of lives they led. I didn’t learn the word “gay” until I was eight. The only gays in the media I saw were on Will & Grace, which was generally considered too racy for me at the time. Any queer adults who found themselves living in Williamston, SC apparently had the good sense to leave, because I’ve not seen hide nor hair of them in a whole lifetime living there.

The only evidence I had that queer adults even existed in the real world was through my mother. Throughout most of my childhood, my mother was a full-time homemaker. This meant that I was told enough stories from her life that I could probably write a competent biography by the time I was ten. In her stories, there was precisely one gay character, a co-worker in a department store when my mother was in her early thirties. Now, my parents are both liberal (much more so than myself), and my mother always made it clear that she thought LGBT Americans deserved the same rights and respect as others. But she also made it clear that she thought this man was a despicable little shit. It wasn’t that he playfully flirted with male customers. It wasn’t that he talked explicitly about sex. It wasn’t that he bought drinks for boys when they all went out to the bar after work. It was that he had a wife and children. According to my mother, he didn’t know he was gay until after he was married. But, for my mother that didn’t redeem him in the slightest. All she saw was a man who made someone he cared about suffer every day of her life because of his own lack of honesty and inability to understand his own sexuality. Nothing could be worse than to hurt a women through one’s own ignorance and weakness.

Naturally, Gnothi Seauton became a sort of cardinal queer virtue for me. So, years later as a high-school sophomore, I found myself in a difficult place. Sparing the details, I found myself at a breaking point in sexual tension with a friend. She wanted to get busy. I had secretly liked her since we met. I thought she was hot. But, at the same time, I had also been catching myself staring at boys for the last year or two and had a crush on a senior guy in my drama class. So, when she pressed the issue, I did what seemed like the best idea at the time: I blurted “waitnostopIcan’tI’mgay.” I wasn’t about to let myself become the guy who realize that he was only attracted to men after he was already knee-deep in children.

For most people, I came out as liking men years before I came out as also liking women. I didn’t take a girl out on a date until I was twenty. Naturally, this adds its own whole set of challenges, which are generally unique and absurd enough that I can’t find anyone capable of giving knowing advice. Girls at parties who might have seen me with my ex or hanging around the Center have me friend-zoned before we’ve even met. Having grown into both an adult and feminist before ever being intimate with a woman means I am absolutely terrified of being romantically or sexually assertive. I can’t navigate hetero-hookup culture to save my life (ask me how many strangers I’ve danced with at Shooters. Or don’t, because its zero). I’m getting better in most of these areas (except probably the dancing), I still have a ways to go. But that’s not important. What’s important is that now that I’ve written my requisite exposition and character development, I can promise you all that the next blog post with be full of excitement and action.

February 24, 2012

Me, LGBT, and Science Fiction


Hello again! It’s been a really long time since my first post back in November. Since I lack any viable commentary on important issues, allow me to instead regale you with some of my nerdier interests…

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been more seriously considering the effect that science fiction and fantasy in books and games have all been pretty influential on my understanding of LGBT issues. I know it sounds a bit strange, considering that those are fields that have had traditional grounds in the heterosexual white guy demographic but I know that it was in those genres that I first even came across LGBT characters and stories.

Growing up, I definitely didn’t get that there were non-straight folks. I mean, my best friend as a kid had the two most awesome aunts ever who I always thought were sisters. So when these books that I loved started to deal with these LGBT characters, I was both totally embarrassed at my ignorance and really curious.

Part of what helped this curiosity along was when I was thirteen or so, I started reading books by this woman, Elizabeth Bear. Her characters fall all over the spectrums of gender and sexuality and represented viewpoints that I had never considered before but started to increasingly identify with. By looking for more books like hers, I found an entire subset of stories in a genre I already loved. I could see that there had to exist other people who had feelings that were like mine and that they were leading normal and fulfilling lives (saving the galaxy, riding around in Victorian airships, etc).

Flash forward to present day. Over Christmas break, I was playing an RPG* with my younger brother that lets you pursue romances with characters regardless of gender. I got to spend three glorious weeks arguing with him over which character was the best romance option and he got to rub it in my face that when I went back to school, he got to play through again to romance the elf assassin guy with his dude archer character. Our shared interest in fantasy and games had let me see that whenever I do finally get around to coming out to my family, my brother is probably going to be a non-issue.

Eventually I would like to write a post with more thoughtful analysis behind whatever I’m starting to get at here, but for now any other nerds out there with similar stories?


Footnote:

*We were playing Dragon Age: Origins, for the curious.

February 23, 2012

Better For It

I used to pray that I would be straight. I could never imagine embracing my homosexuality. Homosexuality is often looked upon as a sign of moral depravity. It is something that can make an otherwise ‘good’ person bad. It is a sin. It is wrong. It is unnatural. So, if homosexuality is so bad, why has it made me a better person?

Whoa. What? Did I just say being gay has made me a better person?

Yes.

Yes, I did say that.

Being the outcast, the pariah, and the one who doesn’t belong. Being called ‘faggot’ and ‘queer.’ Being told that my love is sinful and depraved. Being told that I am a second-class citizen. Being exposed to the inequalities that I would never have been exposed to as a straight man.

All these things have made me better – made me stronger. Without my homosexuality, I would likely never understand the plight of not only the LGBTQ community, but I would never comprehend the feminist movement or minority rights movements. The only way for me to truly understand what we are fighting for is to have experienced it myself. Being gay has taught me the power of acceptance. It has taught me that it’s okay to be different. It has taught me that things are often subjective. It has made me less judgmental. It has made me, well, me.

Being gay has made me strong. It has taught me to stand up for my beliefs and myself. But that’s not why being gay has made me a better person. Being gay has made me a better person because it has taught me how it feels to be marginalized, misunderstood, and mistreated. Being gay has taught me to stand up for not only myself, but for the rights of any person who is downtrodden, devalued, and discouraged. What has it taught you?

February 22, 2012

Let's See Where This Goes

So earlier this month in a radio interview, Rick Santorum was asked whether he considered gay and lesbian couples with children a family. His response, rather surprisingly, was "Yes, of course it's a family." (You can watch the full interview here). I have no idea what this means for American politics.

Though Santorum is still far from the most progressive presidential candidate, he has apparently had quite a come-to-Jesus moment recently. Will this new position have any effect on his other political opinions? Will this bold move change the conservative political landscape? Was it just a political farce in an attempt to gain more centrist primary votes? I have no idea. What I do know is that this affirming comment, coming from one of the most vehement opponents of lgbt citizens, offers a glimmer of hope to the lgbt community that even the most conservative politicians might soon be changing their views.

It's still too early to tell whether or not this is the start of a radical change of opinion by Santorum or if it will affect the rest of conservative politics, but this was definitely out of character for Santorum. I am very interested to see how this comment will shape the rest of the conservative nomination. Let's see where this goes.

February 21, 2012

A Brief Reaction to the Wake County Board of Commissioners

Yesterday, while I was in class talking about freedom songs of the Civil Rights Movement, the Wake County Board of Commissioners was busy voting to support Amendment One, an amendment to the state constitution that would make any legal recognition of same-sex partnerships unconstitutional in North Carolina. Because I was in class, I couldn’t make it to the meeting to speak during the public comments section. So I figured that I’d do it here. Without further ado, here’s what I would have said to the Wake County Board of Commissioners at their meeting yesterday:

Hello Commissioners,

I want to take my allotted three minutes to introduce you to two people who have played an extremely important role in my life, to introduce you to two people who I deeply love, two people who have made me the person that I am today.

I want to introduce you to my mom and dad.

They’re the ones sitting over there waving at you shyly; my mother’s the one that’s probably beginning to get teary-eyed at the sight of her little boy speaking in front of the County Commissioners, and my father’s the one who’s been overzealously socializing with the stranger he’s sitting next to up until I started speaking. My dad’s a people person, and just like me, he’s never met a stranger.

Today, I stand before you as someone who has spent most of his young life working to bring about a world where his rights and the rights of his community will be recognized. I stand before you as someone who has had to fight for his very identity. I stand before you as a minority whose right to a family is currently being decided upon by a majority vote. I stand before you as someone whose home state has turned its back on him. I stand before you today as a proud gay man.

But let’s be realistic. I know that you probably don’t think about people like me. I know that you probably don’t think about the families of queer people or about the rights of those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. I know that, at best, many of you may think people like me are strange, and at worst, many of you think that we’re an abomination. I know that you probably don’t think about how this amendment impacts me, even though I grew up in Wake County, even though I completed over 300 community service hours every year in high school, and even though I was one of two Wake County students who received a full-ride scholarship to Duke my year. I know that, no matter what I do, you probably don’t think about people like me.

So I want to introduce you to two people who you will think about. I want to introduce you to two straight people who will be profoundly hurt by the proposed constitutional amendment, because I know that those are the kind of people whose rights and concerns you respect.

I want to introduce you to my parents. I want to introduce you to them because they’re probably not the people that you’ve been thinking about up until now. In your haste to insert discrimination into our state constitution, they’re the kind of people that you’ve forgotten about. I think you’ve forgotten that almost every person who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender has straight parents, has a mom and a dad. I think you’ve forgotten that my family is larger than just my future husband and my future children—my family includes my straight brother, my straight mother, and my straight father. And if this amendment passes, my straight father and mother will be deprived of legal recognition of their grandchildren. If this amendment passes, my straight brother will be deprived of legal recognition of his nieces and nephews.

What I think you’ve forgotten is that what you define as “gay” families are never truly “gay.” You cannot separate my “gay” family from my “straight” one. Everyone that I love, everyone that has shaped who I am, is part of my family, gay or straight. And in your rush to take away my right to a “gay” family, you’re depriving my “straight” family of their rights too.

So if you cannot respect me for who I am; if you cannot respect the rights of queer people, then at least respect the rights of straight people. Respect the right of my straight mother to look at her grandchildren for the first time, to rush over to them, to scoop them out of my arms, to hug them in the way that only a new grandmother could, and to spoil them for the rest of her life. Respect her right to a family. Respect the fact that, behind most gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals, there are straight parents who want their families to be recognized, who want the best for their grandchildren.

County Commissioners, I want you to meet Abraham and Jane Tobia, my dad and mom. I want you to meet the people whose right to a family you are trying to take away by supporting Amendment One. I want you to meet the people whose current and future family will be broken apart by your actions today.

And North Carolina, I want you to meet my parents too. I want you to meet them so that, when you go to vote on May 8th, you’ll know exactly whose family you’re impacting. I want you to meet them so that you will know once and for all that this amendment is not just about gay families—it is about all families. I want you to meet them so you can know exactly whose rights you’ll be taking away if you vote in favor of Amendment One.

Say hello.

-Jacob

[Editor's note: If you want to take a stand against Wake County's Resolution, consider signing this petition.]


February 20, 2012

Anonymous Posts (2.13.12-2.19.12)

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. :)

It was a great week for the LGBTQ Community here! On Friday, The Vote Against Project staked out in the West Union and snapped hundreds of pictures (according to my unofficial counting). Even more exciting, Duke University and Duke Med issued a statement of support in favor of the LGBTQ Community.

Now, for notes from OC.

#1
What's the best way to respond to a close friend who's just come out to you? I know I should be supportive, accepting without treating them any differently... but I mean at the ACTUAL MOMENT that he says "I'm gay," what's the best thing to say back? I don't have any problem with my friends being gay,but the only thing I can imagine saying is "oh," and I don't really think that's the most supportive response. At the same time, "oh [name]! *hug*" seems awfully pretentious and unhelpful. Any advice?

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).

February 19, 2012

LGBTQ Female Role Models: Chavela Vargas


Question: Who is one of the most (internationally) famous living lesbians?

Answer: Chavela Vargas! Born in 1919 in Costa Rica, she moved to México at the age of 14 and lived there thereafter, adopting Mexican nationality. She is considered one of the most famous "Ranchera" singers, a genre of Mexican music with one singer and a guitar.

The Ranchera genre is known for being traditionally dominated by men-most of the songs are long and ballad-like poems directed towards women. Yet the male domination of the genre didn't stop her, and when Chavela Vargas began singing in the 1940s, she sang traditional Ranchera songs, using the same lyrics
that expressed strong desire for women and the Ranchera clothing [see picture, left] and persona, which included pistol carring. She stopped her lengthy career in the 1970s for the next 15 years to battle alcoholism, but returned to her work and is still singing (to women) today at the age of 91.

In 2000, at the age of 81, she came out openly as a lesbian woman to the Madrid newspaper El País; "I was born this way, since I opened my eyes to the world. I've had to fight to be myself and to be respected. I'm proud to carry this stigma. I'm proud to call myself a lesbian." Her most famous relationship was with Frida Kahlo: "When I saw Frida's face, her eyes, it seemed like she was from another world...I sensed I could love that being with the most pure love in the world." She was also friends with many other famous Mexican artists of the time, including Diego Rivera, José Alfredo Jimenéz (who helped her produce much of her work), and Juan Rulfo.

[Note: The below video is actually a scene from the movie Frida, but since Chavela Vargas plays herself (and sitting across from one of her then-lovers) I thought it was pretty powerful! She has other videos online but for some reason it was hard to find one with good sound quality.]


Her vivacious personality and defiance to accept traditional norms seem fascinating to me; today Chavela walks with a limp , which she claims is from "jumping out of a window for a woman". Her most recent work involves her soundtrack and performances for the movie Frida, as well as for various films by Spainish director Pedro Almódovar (La Flor del Secreto, Tecanos Lejanos). Almódovar, who is also openly gay, characterizes Chavela as "la voz áspera de la ternura", or "the rough voice of tenderness".


February 18, 2012

Finding Myself

[Editor's note: Yesterday, Duke and Duke Med issued a statement of support for This Wonderful Community. Read more here, if you wish. But definitely read more below for an incredibly powerful blog post!]

If you asked me at the beginning of my Duke career to tell you who I was, I probably would have given you a really superficial answer. You see, what I would have said then would have referred to what I did rather than who I was. I say this, because looking back on it, I was very lost as a person and very unsure of what it meant to be confident in my identity. Coming out of high school, I allowed my identity to be defined by what my family, friends, and environment expected of me. Looking at my life now, it seems as though I have nothing left of what I used to deem important—sports, religion, school activities, etc. In writing this, I feel as though I should mourn the ‘identity’ that I seem to have lost—but I don’t. You see, it was never my identity to begin with. And in realizing that over the past three and a half years, I feel as though the value of what I have gained entirely outweighs whatever I may have given up.

I suppose to begin answering the question of who I am, I need to first explain how I came to realize that I needed to define my identity for myself. While I go back and forth between not wanting to be labeled first and foremost by this one aspect of my identity but then also realizing that it is very central to who I am, I think that I have come to accept that my identity as a queer woman has been the driving force of my identity development. I began to question my sexuality late in high school, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year at Duke that I was ready to fully admit it to myself. My biggest struggles adjusting to life as a college student ultimately stemmed from the major questions that I was dealing with internally—questions that absolutely made it extremely difficult to define who I was or who I wanted to be. The inner conflict that I experienced over those first two years affected everything from the friendships I formed to the activities I chose to get involved with on campus. Unfortunately, those decisions that I made out of fear or confusion were not fulfilling and led me to be relatively unhappy or discontent with my life.

My dissatisfaction with the way I was living my life continued to grow until I reached the point when I knew I had to make a change—there literally was no alternative. So I made a decision which I think will probably be one of the most crucial and life-altering decisions that I will ever make. Since I felt as though I could not get over my fear in order to come out at Duke, or more generally in an environment where there were people who knew me, I decided to study abroad. But, I made myself promise to take active steps towards coming out and affirming my identity. I sat on a beach a week after I arrived in my new temporary home and said to myself, “Okay. You’ve flown across an entire ocean to get away from everything you know. Start from scratch and figure out who the hell you are.”

So I did. I started taking very big, very scary, steps towards affirming my identity. I went to LGBT events held by the university I was studying at, I met new friends and didn’t let them assume that I was straight, I cut off all my hair (something I had been dying to do, but was too afraid that it would ‘out’ me), and I even pursued a relationship with a woman. Within a few weeks, or perhaps even days, of starting to take these steps I felt like a completely different person. I woke up happy. I lived every day to its fullest, and enjoyed it. And most importantly, I felt a huge sense of confidence in myself. I finally felt like Logan, a person who knows who she is and who shares that person with the rest of the world. I felt like a person of worth.

These are feelings that I really had never experienced before. I think it’s important to note that I don’t think coming out in itself was what made me happy. More, I believe that in denying my queer identity, I also had to hide other parts of me. Accepting and affirming my sexuality has allowed me to reveal and develop so many other really fantastic parts of my personality: I feel comfortable and confident in expressing all of me, not just bits and pieces.

So who am I? I am a queer woman. More importantly, I am funny and love nothing more than making people laugh. I am passionate: I want to be an advocate for transgender youth who often receive little to no support from their family or friends. I am social, and would now almost always choose spending time with friends over being alone (which would have been a crazy thought for me a few years ago). I am intelligent, and I finally feel confident enough to engage in conversations that challenge my thinking. I am strong—nothing like the weak person who didn’t have the strength or courage to take charge of her own life.

Who I am will surely continue to change. I’ve learned through my time at Duke that I should and must be an active participant in my own life. It’s up to me to create and live a life that I am proud of, and if I’m not satisfied, it’s up to me to make a change.

February 17, 2012

Hands.

[Author’s note: This was written in response to a conversation I had the other day with a friend about the hand-holding sit in the LGBT center held last year in response to on-campus hatred toward same-sex couples holding hands..]


Last night in fleeting passion

Our hands, like two strangers, met.

And like lips in most ardent prayer, held fast.

In the shadows of your room

My hands were free to study yours.

Intertwined. And inseparable.


But today you are cold.

Your hand still beside you

Enclosed in shadows,

And studied in secrets;

Longing to find warmth in the comfort of a touch.


Relaying the sweet nothings we long to speak

Our hands brush briefly as we part

For our lips cannot.

February 16, 2012

Diversity (of Opinion)



Gay. Lesbian. Bisexual. Pansexual. Asexual. Transgender. Queer. Dyke. Butch. Femme. Otter. Cub. Twink. Queer Women of Color. Queer Men of Color. Questioning. Straight-acting. Effeminate. Introvert. Extrovert. Activist. Catholic. Christian. Atheist.

So why did I choose to start this blog post with a block of labels? Well these are all labels that at least one person that I know of in the LGBT community here at Duke identifies with. As you can see, this is a pretty hefty list of labels. We already knew, of course, that the LGBT community was a very diverse community, filled with all sorts of people with all sorts of identities. This diversity is one of our greatest strengths, as it gives a large variety of personalities and life experiences to draw upon. Yet I would also contend that this is one of our greatest weaknesses, if we allow it to be.

Think about it. What ties our community together? We have no common culture, no hereditary history to remember, we can’t even pick each other out of a crowd reliably. The one common thread that we share is our “queerness”, in whatever form that may take. Even this common thread is very slim, which is what I was trying to show by the above block of labels. This in itself is not a bad thing, but it only becomes an issue when we start infighting. I’ve noticed simply from looking at the blog that we as a community have a tendency to argue over a lot of different things. While argument is not an inherently bad thing, it is important for us to maintain an appropriate level of respect for each other.

An example from just yesterday on the blog is Shane’s post. Shane expressed what I believe to be a somewhat unpopular opinion within our Community, his love and commitment to the Catholic Church. In the comments on his post, he got some pretty malignant backlash attacking him personally. Frankly, that is just an unacceptable way of dealing with a difference of opinion. While I personally do not understand how one reconciles their commitment to the Roman Catholic Church and is open about their sexuality, that doesn’t invalidate Shane’s experiences. Personally, I don’t believe in God, and I don’t particularly care for the Catholic Church. Just because I haven’t ever experienced this pull and call of the Church does not in any way make Shane’s experience wrong or stupid. I’ve talked to Shane personally, and I can tell you that he is definitely not stupid.

When we attack each other like this instead of rationally engaging each other for a conversation, all we do is degrade ourselves and take nothing from the experience. What does one gain by being nasty about a rationally presented position? Nothing, except maybe some smug sense of satisfaction. I’m sure that anyone here at Duke knows that isn’t the way to have a real dialogue. We all know what this kind of thing can do. What if someone gets that kind of backlash and decides that the LGBT community is too hostile from them and withdraws? Many of us know how fragile our impressions of the LGBT community are when we first get involved with it. I was lucky to get a good experience with good people, who both accepted me and challenged my views in a respectful way. We can at least try to be that decent to everybody who comes to engage us, can’t we?

In summation, if someone states an opinion to you that prompts an instinctive and passionate response, please try to do your best and think. Most of the time that first response is far more aggressive than is useful. Think about what point you’re trying to really make, and if you are presenting emotionally and aggressively, or calmly and rationally. Especially on electronic forums, read your comment aloud before you post it. Let’s keep this a community that’s open to discussion about all ideas and experiences, shall we?

February 15, 2012

Devil’s Advocate

[Editor's note: Please welcome our newest writer to the blog! We're thrilled to have you, Shane!]

Like so many people who write on this blog, I was falling inlove—but it wasn’t the Disney story I imagined it would be. It was going all wrong.

No, this isn’t another coming out story. And Love Story time was yesterday, so this isn’t a story about how the man of my dreams came and swept me away despite my best heteronormative efforts. No, I can’t even get “falling in love all wrong” right. You see, I was falling in love with the Catholic Church. Not just God and not just Catholicism—those two had laid irrevocable claims on my soul long before—but specifically the Roman Catholic Church.

You can imagine my surprise. Despite the fact that at that point in my life, I was just coming to terms with my sexuality, and, on top of that, I already had my fair share of struggles with Church teaching. Growing up, I had been pretty much the only Christian—much less Catholic—in my group of friends, and so I had heard the various objections to the Church's teachings ad nauseum. But despite all of this, I couldn’t ignore the fact that God was undeniably calling me to a deeper involvement with His Church.

This seemed to be just a bit of a problem. There are gay guys out there who are, philosophically speaking, theistic. There are even gay guys out there who identify as Catholic, but who often maintain a careful disdain of the institutional Roman Church. Gay guys who consider themselves in love with the Roman Catholic Church seem to be few and far between.

What I was hearing all around me didn’t help [“Why are you still Catholic at all?”], and even the counselor I was seeing told me it was hopeless. I mean, I’ve sworn off hopeless crushes on straight guys; how could I expect any relationship with the Church to work out any better?

Hans Küng, an ecumenical theologian and Catholic priest once wrote “the problem ofGod is more important than the problem of the Church; but the latter often stands in the way of the former." I agree with Küng when he says this last part doesn’t have to be the case.

“There are two ways of getting home,” GK Chesterton writes in The Everlasting Man,“and one of them is to stay there. The other way is to walk all the way round the whole world till we comeback to the same place.” While I could hold up My Experience as infallible and withhold my assent to the Church until she reworks the witness of 2000 years of some of the world's brightest men and women so I don’t ever have to be challenged, I have seen my interpretation of my experience be wrong or incomplete again and again.

At the end of the day, every time I am at Mass or Adoration,God confirms He wants me in His Church. And I have no clue why He’s asking that of me, to be honest. It’d be so much easier to join some nice LGBT-affirming Episcopalian parish. But I can’t. I am Roman Catholic. And my love of God—of Catholicism—of Church—really isn’t a choice. And I can no more divorce my Church from myself than I can my sexuality.

February 14, 2012

Just in Time for V-Day











Things I love about being with a(n) (incredible) woman:
  • soft lips (both sets)
  • general softness
  • having our periods together (and not freaking out about it)
  • passionately singing sappy country love songs
  • doing our hair/makeup together
  • drankin games with the boys
  • holding hands on Main Street
  • dancing at The Bar
  • queer friends
  • "duke standard of beauty"
  • hi-top sneakers and hoodies
  • orchids
  • clit action
  • uh-maayyyyzannn sex
  • despite girls/guys' advances, she's coming home with me ; )
  • random creeper: "so, do you have a man?" me: "nope. better" =)
  • sugary sweetness
  • home cookin
  • thoughtfulness
  • physical/emotional/intellectual stimulation
  • nips
  • sharing clothes (that actually fit)
  • guys and girls complimenting how beautiful she is
  • awesome journal entry material
  • curves
  • spooning
  • squirting
  • cuddling
  • the L word references
  • her lower back
  • gender roles
  • raising my hand in class when someone makes a heteronormative comment
  • making the rules as we go
  • healthy love
  • peace
  • sanity
  • communication
  • loving deliberately

February 13, 2012

Anonymous Posts (2.6.12-2.12.12)

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'll keep it short and to the point. It was a great week for Duke's Basketball teams (yeah, plural) and for marriage equality!

The Blog staff met on Thursday, and we're working on bringing you even more content. So get pumped!

We're accepting senior post submissions--email your reflections, thoughts, farewells, wisdom, and anything else to bluedevilsunited@gmail.com.

We're also accepting guests posts from anyone in the Duke community about Amendment 1 and the upcoming election. So write in!

Now, for notes from OC.

#1
So, when are We taking a group trip to JCPenney? For real though, it's so cool to have this kind of news about positive and affirming corporations, among lots of other sad news about companies (i.e. chick filet last year) being anti-gay

#2
Sort of in reaction to the “Throwback Thursday”— I think it’s really sad that gay guys aren’t a more visible presence at Shooters. I totally get and respect that there are a lot of people for whom the hook-up and "club" scenes just aren’t their thing, but there are also a lot of gay guys at Duke who are into gay clubs and random hook-ups but avoid Shooters or else go to Shooters and just stand around or dance with their girl friends. I think it’s a shame that hookups are happening through Grindr and random 2 AM “hey” texts instead of people going out and letting things happen more organically while having fun with their gay and straight friends. Also, I think greater Shooters visibility would go a long way towards making closeted guys more comfortable in feeling that if they were to come out, they wouldn’t be giving up large parts of their social lives and Duke experience. I definitely think that if when I was younger I had seen pairs of guys dancing and making out at Shooters, I wouldn’t have felt, to the degree I did, that coming out would be a dead end that my existing Duke life couldn’t adapt to without major sacrifices.I've heard of gay freshmen who were completely out in high school but hide the fact that they're gay at Duke because they want to join a frat, yet I've also never heard of a single bad experience from a guy in a frat coming out, and I seriously doubt that an openly gay guy would be at a disadvantage during the rush process (especially if he brought hot girl friends to events.... not that this dynamic is necessarily good). I think this fear of being out is because of a lack of visibility that makes the two lifestyles seem mutually exclusive.

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).

February 12, 2012

Oh Shooter's

I mean, where else would a story about undergrad life at Duke worth telling occur? After a long week, my friends and I really wanted a fun Friday night on the town that would include some conversation, dancing, and drinking (only for those of age, of course!!!) so—naturally—we chose Shooter’s as our celebration destination. So what happens when you mix two gay guys and two single ladies? Well, your first job as the guy is to protect your lady friends from drunk creepers by performing a standard swoop and block move, but after that the two guys just have to grind together in the middle of the dance floor!

I’m the kind of person who will dance (badly) with just about anyone, no matter his or her gender. I have no problem dancing with another guy in public, and I certainly have no problem getting a little crazy with that guy either. Even though we weren’t making out or anything, it was really funny to watch the faces staring at us; half of the people standing over the dance floor upstairs wouldn’t stop staring at the spectacle taking place underneath of them. Even though the dance floor was packed, we managed to maintain a good two or three foot buffer between us and everyone else on the floor. I’m not sure if they meant to, but pretty much everyone kept their distance—even that awkward drunk kid who up until that point wouldn’t stop trying to grind up on one of the ladies in our group…he had a drink in his hand the whole night but for some reason he still looked so thirsty….

For me, it’s always interesting to do something really gay in public, away from the relative safety of campus. Even though it was at Shooter’s, I think that situation was pretty telling when it comes to showing how people feel about others who don’t conform to the norm. I think a lot of people were probably a little uncomfortable with two dudes dancing like we were, but nobody said anything. People left us alone and let us do our thing, which I think actually shows how mature and accepting the younger generation is becoming. Sure lots of people say some pretty dumb, homophobic stuff, but most of those people don’t make it a habit to get in other people’s way (at least not in my experience). I’m not sure I would have felt as safe as I did that night if this situation had taken place 20 years ago. It’s good that I can dance like that in a normal place instead of having to go to a dedicated LGBT venue/wait for Lav Ball. If it’s okay to be yourself at Shooter’s of all places, we’ve certainly come a long way, right?