May 28, 2012

Anonymous Posts (5.21.12-5.28.12)

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 everyone! It might be summer, but Anonymous Posts keep on rolling. Be sure to submit whatever is on your mind. Summer isn't always easy--whether it's being home or in a new environment--and we're here to support each other as we all navigate varying obstacles. Today's memorial day, so we want to recognize the women and men who've given their lives so that we can have the lives we do. We would like to especially honor those who were forced to serve our country and lose their lives while in the closet under Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Now we've got two posts for you from OC:


#1
This is an interesting article.

#2
This isn't necessarily LGBTQ related, since I'm sure you could replace "gay bar" with "bar" and straight folks would have the same experience...but I didn't know where else to go for advice. See, at Duke, I never felt unsafe hooking up with a random student at a gay bar and I never felt unsafe going back to someone's room with them/bringing them back to mine. But now that it's summer, I don't know what precautions I need to take to keep myself safe. And I don't just mean sexually safe--condoms, dental dams, asking the right questions--I get that part. But how do I know if this random person I just met at the gay bar is a safe person for me to hook up with on the dance floor? I used to stick to hooking up with other students and felt like that did a good job of eliminating the super creepers. But now? And how do I know this person is safe to go home with, and/or bring back to my place? I'm sure what I experienced at Duke was a false sense of security. A Duke student can just as easily be a creeper and/or take advantage of me in their dorm room or Central campus apartment as a random person can in their real-life apartment or house, etc. But I can't help but feel that in the "real world" there are more risks. How do I navigate those?

Please remember that there are a number of resources available on campus and in the local community. resources are available over breaks and throughout the school year. If you or a friend are experiencing thoughts or urges to harm yourself or somebody else, please reach out to the following resources: In an emergency, please don't hesitate to call CAPS at any time, including "after hours" at (919) 966-3820. Ask to speak to the advice nurse and tell them you are a Duke student. You may also call the Trevor Project, a national hotline specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning youth (college students included). Their number is 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

May 21, 2012

Anonymous Posts (5.14.12-5.20.12)

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 y'all, hope you're enjoying your summers. We've got one post for you today, so enjoy.

Here you go:


#1
I've been to many other forums and talked to a lot of people, but I haven't found much help. A few years ago, I came out as being bisexual. I was interested in men, sexually and emotionally, and the same went for women. As time when on, I found that my interest in women was dwindling, so I started thinking, "Maybe I'm more gay than anything else". I started getting involved with guys, but I was struck by some episodes of impotence, which were pretty embarrassing. The thing is, I had more fun with those guys than most of my straight hook ups. But then why wasn't my penis cooperating with me? I think it made me afraid to be physical with a guy; I haven't done more than kiss another guy since then. When I've hooked up with girls, it's physically satisfying, but I feel like I'm lying to myself somehow after I finish. There are dozens of other oddities in terms of how I've been approaching relationships, but I could go on and on about all that confusion, so I'll just keep it short: It seems that my brain wants to be with men, while my penis only responds to women. How the hell am I supposed to get involved with anyone on any level if this is how I operate?

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).

May 14, 2012

Anonymous Posts (5.7.12-5.13.12)

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 this academic year at Duke is officially a wrap y'all. Most of us have gone home to various places around the globe, and some of us graduated this weekend. To those graduating seniors, we love you, we'll miss you, and come visit us anytime.

I know Amendment One passed, and I'd be lying if I said that didn't get me down about the state that we spend most of our year in. But the fight for equality is a long one, and we aren't going to disappear. Amendment 1 will eventually go down in history books as one of the failed attempts to deny equal rights to LGBT citizens. So lets keep pushing history forward, shall we?

Alright, now some posts from OC:

#1
In light of the passage of amendment one, I wonder what all this blog's readers thoughts are on living their lives in the state of North Carolina. I neither go to Duke, nor live in North Carolina, but I too live in a state with a constitutional ban on same sex marriage (Arizona). I love where I live and it has so far been my only home, but I don't think I'll stay here after I graduate. I am gay and I support the fight for equal rights, but of all of society's ills it is not the one I am most interested in solving. I have worked on sustainable urban transportation projects since my freshman year and it is a subject I've really come to love and one that I hope to work in for the rest of my life. I know many other members of our community that are much more involved in things like public health, education, international development etc. than they are with equal rights. Is it wrong to leave the state of Arizona with my hands up and say "as much as I love it, I'd rather pursue my passions in a place where I can marry whomever I eventually fall in love with"? As much as POTUS support was welcomed, it does not mean for a second that nationwide equal marriage is on the near horizon. How are we supposed to find a balance?
#2
This semester I met a girl and as soon as I got home from work I immediatly texted my friend about the girl I met with the cool voice. Cool Voice Girl came up in a few conversations but not many and then finally I started seeing her around more and more. I knew there was no point in liking her cuz school was almost over and she was graduating and all that, but it was still awesome to hang out those few times we bumped into each other (even though I never failed to be at least a little awkward). I just wanted to thank her cuz she really helped me finish coming out to myself. I don't know how cuz we never even talked about anything like that but anyways...thanks Cool Voice Girl and good luck in your future!

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).

May 13, 2012

Courage, Creativity, and Curiosity

[Editor's Note: On Friday, April 20th, the LGBTQ and Ally community came together at Lavender Graduation to celebrate the senior class of 2012. Today is Duke's graduation, and we would like to honor our outgoing seniors. We are indebted to them for their contributions to this Community and this campus and they will undoubtedly be missed. Below is the speech that Kyle Knight gave at Lavender Graduation last month. Kyle is a Trinity 2008 graduate, the current president of the LGBT Alumni Network, and is Fulbright Fellow in Nepal researching the LGBTI rights movement.]

What I treasure most about the work I do is that I’m surrounded every day by people who are unquestionably more impressive than I’ll ever be. Their story, their struggle, their triumph is not just an inspiration, but a constant reminder that the world can be a cruel place – and also contain beautiful things.

So today, I want to share a few stories from halfway around the world, and propose how they might inform some decisions we in this room can and will make.

In 2001, a young gay man named Sunil Pant returned home to Nepal, a country in the middle of a violent revolution that would eventually claim nearly 13,000 lives. He had been away for the beginning of the conflict – first, at engineering college in Belarus, then at a short-term job in Japan. In Belarus, above the doors of health clinics across the country, he read “beware of homosexuals;” in Tokyo, he found semi-secret gay bookstores, bars, and cafes – and in them, queer people to talk with.

Back in Kathmandu, he started visiting a dusty park in the middle of the city every night. It was a place where people could congregate in public without the threat of anyone noticing them. They could meet, they could chat, they could cruise.

In his conversations with gays, lesbians, and transgender people he met there, he began to notice patterns: people were kicked out of their families, people were abused by the police, people saw no hope for their lives going forward.

So in September of 2001, while Nepal was distracted by a recent massacre of the royal family, and the world was distracted by the 9/11 attacks, he went to the government to register his country’s first ever LGBT rights organization. The official who took the application was thrilled: “fantastic! We need an organization to convert these people back to heterosexuality!”

That wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, so he rescinded the application, but returned a few days later and filed the same papers with one line different: the organization was dedicated not to rights, but to health outreach and HIV prevention.

It was approved immediately.

Today, eleven years later, the organization, Blue Diamond Society, has nearly a thousand employees; Sunil is the only openly-gay federal-level politician in Asia; and the country has some of the most progressive laws – particularly when it comes to gender identity – the world has ever seen.

Now it’s easy – and perhaps tempting – to sit here half a world away in awe of this vibrant queer human rights movement in the world’s seventeenth poorest country. We can gasp and think “how on earth did they do it?!” In fact, I suspect that exact line of thinking – that awe – explains why I’m living there now, why the Fulbright Commission thought this was a valid project among dozens of applications.

There are plenty of ways to explain it: cultural, historical, political, legal. But after having spent nearly a year day in, day out with the activists responsible for this progress, the message I want to extract and share today is simpler. They did it by acting out courage, creativity, and, to sustain those two admirable pursuits, curiosity.

First: courage.

Two weeks ago, I woke up on a Saturday morning to a friend calling me with news that a transgender sex worker had been murdered. She was taken to the hospital, and died as doctors treated the wound on her forehead.

5 minutes after the phone call, this friend picked me up and carried me across the city on his motorcycle to the police station.

For three hours, members of the queer community, friends of the deceased, her family, and her church pastor pleaded with the police commanders to conduct a thorough investigation. There was yelling, there was crying, there was begging for due process. The police made vague promises, but couched them in comments such as “well if harassment happens from our officers, it’s probably because they don’t really understand what you people are,” and “of course if she was carrying condoms, she would get harassed – she’s a whore.”

The meeting concluded without any tangible progress, the group filed out into the parking lot where an ambulance waited with the casket inside. We walked about half a mile to a deer park near the airport, and watched as her brothers and cousins dug a hole. Over two hundred people gathered to sing, pray, and listen. The pastor delivered the Lord’s Prayer. And friends poured gifts of flowers and small bills into the casket. Some cried; many took photos on cell phones and chatted casually.

What does this say about courage? People, powerful people, people with money - have told the activists in Nepal for years to back off of cases like this: “Stay away from the prostitutes and other people who live on the margins of society because they undermine the cause.” The activists’ response has always been: but they face abuses, human rights violations, and horrendous marginalization. We won’t abandon them to fight instead for LGBT people who have jobs and salaries and security.

That’s courage.

Next: creativity.

In 2006, when the king stepped down and the people’s revolution ended in Nepal, one of the leaders of the revolution reached out to the LGBT community for votes. Once his party was elected and he became a powerful minister, they went back to him with a request of their own: put us in the budget.

He hesitated. No government had ever officially acknowledged this population before. But he was a revolutionary, an ideologue, and a few days later, a pile of dense academic texts appeared on his desk – arguing for him that Marx and Lenin cared about queer human rights. Weeks later, “sexual and gender minorities” was the newest budget line in the fledgling country. Today, they’re using this money to build the first LGBT community center in South Asia.

That’s creativity.

And finally: curiosity.

Next week, the US Embassy in Kathmandu will co-host a seminar with LGBT organizations to discuss disaster risk reduction considerations for the queer population.

This all came out of curiosity. We’ve seen LGBT people suffer in the wake of disasters. In Haiti after the earthquake, in an effort to empower women, some food aid was distributed to women only, which left out households that didn’t contain women. In Pakistan’s recent floods, transgender people were denied entry to relief camps because their appearance didn’t match that on their ID cards.

But beyond being concerned about protecting themselves post-disaster situations, networks of LGBT people in Nepal want to know how, through empowerment and recognition, they can be a resource for other marginalized communities. For example, since the LGBT community has been so successful in working on both visible policy and an invisible grassroots, how can they help people living with HIV access medication and health care if an earthquake destroys thousands of miles of roads and bridges?

These are the questions they are asking. This is curiosity.

And when work, activism, exploration driven by these ideas, it can free us from the traps of competitive progress.

Because whether it’s on a university campus or in the city you move to for your first job, or in a faraway country where you find yourself at the wise old age of 26, it’s not about fighting over who is the most oppressed group, who suffers the most at the whims of the powerful. It’s about identifying the structures of oppression that hurt our communities - and uniting to erode and eradicate them.

It’s not easy; just observe and it seems as if ranking and marking others is in human DNA.

I hear it in fancy restaurants in Kathmandu – when wealthy, Western-educated high-caste gay men deride the local LGBT rights movement for focusing too much on “low class trans people.”

We see it in the Wall Street firms that promote themselves as being open and “gay-friendly,” then implement policies harmful enough to ignite thousands of occupiers against their greed.

And we see it here at Duke – when admissions promotes the University as “need-blind” but still asks all applicants to check a box on the application if they want to be considered for financial aid.

Sure, we have to be courageous. But courage is not enough – courage can cause tunnel vision. Be creative. But creativity is not enough – creativity can cause irrelevant actions. Combine these, and be curious – ask what’s next, and what we might not be doing well enough, for ourselves and for our fellow citizens.

Duke has this energy, this tradition. And while it might be overlooked for traditions of basketball-inspired bonfires or Rhodes Scholars, the impassioned social activism emanating from this campus can be felt around the world.

Take, for example, Tico Almeida, who as a junior in 1997 started a small organization called Students Against Sweatshops. Within seven months of forming SAS, Duke became the first university in the country to adopt a code of conduct that required a process for monitoring apparel manufacturers. This swept the nation. Almeida is now the president of Freedom to Work, which is leading the way toward ending employment discrimination against LGBT people in America.

Or how about Raphael Lemkin. Trained as a lawyer, Lemkin started his American teaching career at Duke Law School in 1941. But when he wasn’t lecturing law students, Lemkin was holed up in his office working on perhaps one of the most important inventions of the 20th century: a new word. You see, dozens of members of Lemkin’s family had been killed in the Holocaust, and he’d read the stories of other mass killings until he decided there was no word that adequately described or incriminated such atrocity. So he set out to create one. Seven years later a UN convention was introduced and a new term entered conversations about mass killings around the world: genocide.

These are just a few examples – and I don’t mention them to intimidate you. But regardless of what we all do with and for our own rights, we have to remain courageous and creative (and even critical of our moves) or we’ll fall into the trap of ranking oppression instead of eroding it, of in-fighting instead of learning from our peers.

Our group, if I may call it that – we have something to offer.

After all, the discrimination and structural oppression we face is triggered by everything from our outermost expression – how we dress, act, speak – to our innermost feelings and identities and, to be blunt, what’s inside our underwear – or what other people think ought to be there. And this constellation of ways of being a person – check boxes in some situations, poetry in others – makes us into individuals, groups, and citizens of societies, cultures, and countries.

But at the core of making it all better is an inquisitiveness, a curiosity, a willingness to engage with the ideas of others who face the same structures of oppression that we do, and also to go beyond that which is similar to our experience and see where we might contribute to structures that, while having nothing to do with us, in fact oppress others.

In many ways it’s been a great year for us. We have a president in office who has done more for our community than any before; Hillary Clinton has decided to make her legacy as Secretary of State the fight for LGBT rights around the world; the United Nations published its first report on LGBT rights; and, a little closer to home, I’ve been told you all cleaned up at the student awards ceremony on Wednesday night.

For years and years, the LGBT population - and the rights movement we’ve built - has suffered at the hands of people who can’t imagine being us. How can we do better than that?

There are plenty of ways to get involved. You’ll find the one that’s right for you.

And given the history of the institution you’re graduating from, I’m confident you won’t go narrowly or unquestioningly into a movement so full of potential to change the world.

May 4, 2012

Erasure

I’d like to talk about erasure. Now I know that this is a very broad topic which covers a wide variety of different experiences, and I can’t talk about things which I haven’t experienced. I just want to note first that I know that women, racial minorities, transgender people, and genderqueer individuals all face erasure of their own. Yet I try to keep my blog posts based as purely on my own experience as I can, so I’m going to only talk about the sort of erasure that I have experienced as a bisexual.

Essentially what bisexual erasure boils down to is how we as a society tend to explain away and ignore evidence for sexual orientations which fall outside of the typical gay/straight binary. When a person exhibits behaviors that we determine by whatever metric to be queer, we automatically assume that this person is gay. I’ve yet to hear anyone examine a person’s behavior and mannerisms and come to the conclusion that they were bisexual, pansexual, or any other orientation that isn’t gay or straight. I really do understand why these orientations aren’t recognized, and it’s because they’re complicated. A gay person can come out to a group by dropping easily recognized contextual hints about a man or woman that they like, find attractive, or are dating. If a person who is somewhere else along the spectrum of sexualities, they (we) cannot simply talk about who we are dating and have people understand. I have had many experiences at the center where I’ve started to talk about my girlfriend and had people give me funny looks, as if what I was saying was terribly confusing. Indeed, I’ve even had people cautiously ask me if I was “just an ally” because I brought up my girlfriend. No, just because I’m in a “heterosexual relationship” doesn’t automatically make me heterosexual.

Now to be fair, I have also had great experiences at the center with people who want to learn more about my sexuality and show an understanding that I can’t be defined in typical straight/gay terms. Yet the overwhelming tendency people have to associate LGBT with “gay” has been a bit of a bother for me. (Yeah, I’m prone to understatement.) When I hang a rainbow flag out of my window, to most that means that I support gay rights. But I don’t. I support LGBTQQIA (the A in this case being Asexual) rights and equality. I feel that too often when I am in the LGBT Center, it is assumed that I will only talk about my “gay side” and that my “straight side” is a taboo which unsuitable for conversation in such close proximity to rainbows. Well, I don’t have a straight side and a gay side, I am a bisexual. And I, and any other member of this community who doesn’t identify as gay or straight, shouldn’t have to try to figure out how to define my sexuality in terms that are compatible with the typical binary notion. Just some food for thought. Maybe that boy/girl you’re totally sure is gay is actually bisexual. Or pansexual. Or demisexual. You just don’t know, so please try not to assume for your own convenience.

May 3, 2012

Throwback Thursdays: Tough revealing sexual orientation to family

[Editor's Note: Hey Readers! Welcome to the seventh installation of "Throwback Thursdays." Every first Thursday of the month we'll feature a post from the BDU Blog, Version 1.0. This post is about a person struggling with coming out to their parents in a different sense than we normally might think of coming out trouble.It's a short one, but it's a good one. Enjoy.]


January 19, 2009


One of my biggest fears in coming out to my family members is that by telling them, I'm acknowledging myself as a sexual being. I'm not okay with that yet and I know that it's something that I need to work on within myself. This is who I am and I can't change what some people will think. How beautiful a life will be in which I am accepting and loving of every part of my identity. And that it is a joy, a good thing that I am sharing when I come out to my family.