October 31, 2012

Prayers for Romney

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that the first amendment grants a freedom of religion that was once unparalleled by the former rulers of the American colonies. That being said, the ideal has not lived up to its full potential. The United States remains a “nation under God” in which politicians, both left and right, swear to uphold the words of God while executing quotidian affairs. This system’s inherent flaw rests in the assumption that all of America is God-fearing. Oaths are taken by our nation’s professionals to evoke a sense of commitment to a duty by making a deal with divinity. For example, the Hippocratic Oath requires new physicians to swear to uphold certain values of medicine. The tradition is rooted in a Greek ceremony that highlighted the importance of divine influence on professionals. Ironically, Bill Maher’s satirical documentary, Religulous, indicates that an overwhelming majority of contemporary physicians and scientists identifies as atheist or agnostic. It seems as if the first amendment should include an asterisk with a footnoted clause that reads, “so long as that religion is theistic”.

The current political spectrum conveys varying attitudes towards religion. Since the right wing tends to uphold more fundamentalist, biblically rooted values, God is often exploited as a weapon in the argument for a conservative cause. As the presidential election approaches, my LGBTQ peers have expressed outrage towards Romney’s adamant plans for same-sex couples indicating that a vote for Romney, though arguably economically appealing (not necessarily my own opinion), is a sacrifice of civil rights, especially for the LGBTQ community. Right wing extremism has resolved that God’s word shall prevail over the civil rights struggle of the homosexual community seeking same-sex marriage rights because of certain biblical passages. 16% of Americans (millions of people, myself included) do not identify with religion, so why is God an acceptable source in the argument for civil rights? The scientific community only values evidence-based claims, and the fact of the matter is that evidence has eternally degraded faith. After all, you wouldn’t use Harry Potter to support a political argument. What makes the Bible different? I just hope that American lawmakers and politicians will keep in mind that freedom OF religion should also entail freedom FROM religion.

October 30, 2012

Course Offering

[Hey Everyone. There is a great course being offered next semester by our very own Steven Petrow.  A Duke alum and local resident, Petrow is a strong advocate for Duke LGBT community. Check out the course description below.] 



Offered for the first time:
LGBT Lives: Telling Stories A documentary writing seminar on
the evolving gay and lesbian family

Led by Steven Petrow, past president of the National Lesbian & Gay
Journalists Association, columnist to The New York Times and The Huffington
Post, and acclaimed author.

Documentary writing course exploring the intersection of documentary writing
and community service, with a focus on LGBT families in NC. Students,
whether gay or straight, will connect their classroom work with a
documentary fieldwork project to produce a semester-long project relying on
documentary research, interviews, and personal experience. The instructor
will work closely with students to assist with publication opportunities in
local, state, and national media.

October 29, 2012

Anonymous Posts (10.22.12-10.28.12)

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 y'all,

I'm afraid we don't have any new posts for you today. If you haven't gone out to vote yet, do try to make it to the polls soon. The voting is in the Old Trinity Room in the West Union. Democracy can't work if we don't vote!


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).

October 26, 2012

ATL Pride


For fall break some of my friends and I ventured to Atlanta, Georgia for Pride. It was probably one of the most enjoyable weekends of my entire life. I must admit I expected Atlanta to be homophobic and backward, but instead I was greeted by a lively community, wonderful allies, and friendly people. It was the first pride I’ve ever been to, since the Triangle pride parade always takes place while I’m warming up with DUMB for the football game on Saturday.

I know a lot of people take issue with pride and pride parades. Their reasoning is sound – why should we take pride in something if we believe it isn’t a choice; if it’s biologically predetermined? They argue that pride festivals exhibit the very worst of the gay community – the femininity, the promiscuity, and the alcoholism. I understand why one might think those things – I would have agreed with some of them in the not-so distant past, but now I realize that very little of those arguments hold any water. Sure, pride parades may be displays of “nontraditional” behavior – men in dresses, women in trousers, and everything in between, but I don’t see why that’s anything to be scared of. Instead of judging, we should be applauding our peers for being brave – for being themselves - regardless of whether we choose to emulate them.

In response to allegations that pride parades are merely one, decentralized orgy, I offer this: saying that LGBT people are promiscuous, bar none, is a vast overgeneralization; promiscuity occurs regardless of sexual orientation. One need not look any further than Shooters on a typical night to realize this. The belief that LGBT people hook up more than their straight conspecifics is outdated. Various societal disparities between people of LGBT-status and our straight peers are at work, like oh, I dunno, how about the fact that we’re not allowed to get married and form legally recognized monogamous relationships? It is not far fetched to make the connection between the marginalization of the LGBT community and drug and alcohol use, which are used to escape, however temporarily, from our oppression. (As I noted in my last post, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with hooking up, as long as it’s mutually consensual, so no hate on those who choose not to participate in monogamy.)

This post wasn’t supposed to turn into a social commentary, so sorry for that. I don’t mean to get all preachy.  In sum, pride parades are not simply spectacles for drag queens and dykes, though they are a welcome and much loved part of our community; no, there are also families of all kinds, allies, LGBT-affiliated churches, and parents of LGBT people, all coming together in support of the LGBT community to take pride in who they are and what they believe.

TL;DR: ATL pride is fun, go next year. 

October 24, 2012

A More Civil Union

“If you voted for Amendment One, then fuck you.”

Strong words indeed. This was a Facebook status a friend of mine posted shortly after May 8 this year, when Amendment One was passed, defining marriage in North Carolina as exclusively between a one woman and one man. It was a disheartening moment for the LGBT community, not simply because the measure passed, but because it passed with an emphatic 61 percent vote. In times like these, it is very easy to have an image of gay rights foes as faceless, overzealous bigots with no regard for human dignity. Hence the Facebook status above. But the truth is that these people are in fact not soul-sucking demons.

What I am saying may seem trite, but consider this. I originally come from Houston, Texas. Without getting into specifics, the culture I grew up around generally treated homosexuality as a foreign and off-putting concept (my last post somewhat briefly mentions this topic). Texas law forbids same-sex marriage. But from being around these folks my whole life, I know that for the most part, they are not hateful. Rather, their attitude towards the LGBT community stems from a fundamental lack of understanding, which leads to their overblown fears of the consequences of same-sex marriage. I believe that the same can be said about the average person who

One might reckon that this failure on behalf of gay rights detractors warrants our resentment, shown above in its extreme form. But having such feelings is not constructive, as it does not solve the main problem of a deficiency in familiarity. The only way to overcome such a huge deficit is through education. We see this more and more as homosexuality becomes a more recognized aspect of our society, which has resulted in increased support of gay marriage nationwide. So let us not distance ourselves from our opposition but instead embrace them, because only through mutual understanding can we expect to help them appreciate the true challenges that the LGBT community faces.

The issue of gay rights is one that I unequivocally support, but I try not to judge or disdain those who do not see eye-to-eye with me. With the election coming in less than two weeks during a time when the country is more divided than ever in recent history, I think it’s important for everyone to know a positive, effective method of civil discourse. Be proud of who you are and of your viewpoints, but have an ounce of respect and empathy for those who disagree with you if you ever want them to treat you the same way.

October 23, 2012

Mixed Massages




Let’s get something straight. Just because I gave you a friendly back rub does not mean that I am hitting on you. Consider the context for a moment. We’re eating out (at a restaurant) and I’m going around the table touching everyone, because we’re a touchy bunch touching each other and that’s okay. Well, except for you. And I respect your personal bubble and I’ll keep that in mind now, but hold on a moment my man - you thought I was hitting on you. I hate to burst your bubble but…

I am not bursting your personal bubble with the intent of popping your cherry. You’re a plenty handsome guy, but I am not trying to proposition you at all. There is a difference between showing affection and conveying that I fancy you.

You and I are both guys, and that’s why there’s that tension. While this does not apply to all males, it certainly seems like many guys are particularly afraid of the physical contact and proximity with guys who seem as if they may be gay. Why? Fear and pride – these two things drive all the problems in our relationships with people. Fear: it is the manifestation of ignorance, a lack of understanding. Many LGBT individuals are perfectly normal in their thoughts and feelings, yet the LGBT community is stereotyped as promiscuous and sexually deviant. By no means is this the norm, so understand that in the end we are all humans, not threats. Pride: don’t be so quick to think that someone is into you. Not every gay guy automatically fancies you, so don’t assume that. You’re not good looking enough for that and even if you were, your homophobia makes you uglier in my mind, I'm sorry to say.

I feel like there’s a sort of macho thing going on here that makes guys throw up the defenses a lot more strongly. Luckily, I don't hear "no homo" at Duke that often. Can someone comment on the extent to which this kind of thing might be true for females?  

So man up and tell me if I’m making you uncomfortable. But before you do that, think about why you’re uncomfortable.

October 22, 2012

Anonymous Posts (10.15.12-10.21.12)

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 your first week back from Fall Break went well. While it was sad to see Jess go this week, we wish her well in her new job at UNC. We're excited for her to get this exciting opportunity. Thanks for all of your work for the community here, Jess.

Now, notes from OC:


#1:
For the first time in my life I am legitimately sexually frustrated. Watching porn makes me angry because all I can think is "damn she's feeling girls and I'm stuck here with nobody" I find myself being jealous of the lesbian couples I see around campus, but I know I should be happy to see out couples enjoying themselves. I feel horrible that sex can affect me like this, but what's a
[Editor's Note: It seems like this post got cut off before it could be finished. If you're the author, you can submit a finished version to the anonymous post submission and I'll update this post as soon as I see it. I'll make sure to check the submission throughout tomorrow.]

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).

October 15, 2012

Anonymous Posts (10.8.12-10.14.12)

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 having a solid fall break, catching up on sleep, destressing from midterms, etc. Our community has made a big win this past week with the updated LGBT Center design. We're excited to get to work on finalizing the design to make a great new Center for next year!

Now, notes from OC:


#1:
I want to be out so bad. I want to start dating so bad. But something still holds me back. I always thought it would be something I'd get over and that I would come out eventually, but that hasn't happened yet. Why is it taking so long? Why am I still not comfortable telling my friends (who I know will definitely accept me) that I'm gay? It's a torturous feeling.


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).

October 12, 2012

Sooner or Later

Coming Out Day got me thinking about my coming out. It wasn't a pretty story at all and is actually really depressing. I hate telling it. Along with thinking about the circumstances around it, I also thought about why I didn't do it sooner.

I've known I was gay since 6th grade even though I didn't know what to call it then. All I knew was that I had a crush on some of the boys in my class and that made me different. By my high school years, I knew what gay meant. I knew that I was it. I knew what my church and family thought of "those sick people." After trying to will myself to like girls for years, I knew that I wasn't changing either. So, why didn't I save myself the dramatics and just come out officially in high school?

Well, as is the case with many of my anecdotes, my mom was a heavy, unknowing influence in that decision.

Sure, I was terrified of how my mom would take it but I was also really concerned about how it would affect her. What would people think of her for having a gay son? I've heard what people say about single mothers raising a male child. Next to none of it is positive. Having that son turn out to be gay is one of the most common criticisms I heard. I didn't want to put her through that. I didn't want her to have to deal with the I-told-you-so's or the That-boy-needed-a-real-man-in-his-life comments. It would kill me every time I heard someone say that I was going to grow up to be some misguided, freak because I didn't have a proper male figure. How was I supposed to be a real man without a real-life male role model?

I saw how much words like that hurt my mom who tried (and still tries) her hardest to give me anything I could want. The last thing I ever wanted to do was to let her down and prove the naysayers right. To this day, it's one of the things that hurts me most about being gay. I feel like the poster boy for all the people who say that a single mom can't raise a male child. No matter that I excelled, went to college and graduated, and now have a stable job. I'm gay and that's proof enough for some people that my mom failed. The worst part is that their evil eyes and mean words fall on her and not me as though it's her fault.

So I knew that I wanted to avoid making my mom deal with that for as long as possible. It'd be easier on me and on her. If I came out after I left home, it would be an adult me that the naysayers are faced with and not a little boy protected by his mommy. I felt I could stand up for myself and take the full brunt of the blow. I knew that I didn't want my mom to feel any of the fault for me being who I am. I wanted to stand up in front of all those people who spoke nothing but negatives about our life and show them that I am strong and proud and the person I am today because of the amazing upbringing I had. 

So why didn't I come out earlier? Because, I don't care what others think about me as long as my mother is respected for the amazing mom she is.

October 11, 2012

Want to know a secret?


[Editor's Note: Today we'll have coming out day on the BC Plaza from 11:00-2:00. Hope to see you there!] 

Let me tell you secret: my name isn’t Liza. You may say, well “Liza,” that’s kind of a crappy secret, because I knew that already. In fact, you sent me this link yourself, from your e-mail address that has your real name attached to it. Failing that, you included an absurd amount of identifying information in your previous post. How many Duke senior Student U teachers from Durham are there? One? How mysterious. So why the pseudonym?

I’ve named myself after a character from a fabulous Young Adult novel from the early ‘80s called Annie on My Mind. I could certainly profess my love for YA novels for hours, particularly this one, but that’s a topic for another post—or probably another blog altogether. The real question is, why use a pseudonym at all? I initially rationalized it as professional concern, a hedge against discrimination. I did not want grad schools or employers to google my name + Duke and get this. And while that may be valid on some levels, it’s not really the truth. I’m using the pseudonym because I’m hiding. But who or what am I hiding from?

Let me give you some context: in my life there are two ‘eras,’ so to speak—before I was gay and after I was gay. This is a pretty ridiculous and inaccurate way to look at it, but it’s how I think of it nonetheless. I’m sure I had the capacity to be romantically inclined towards another girl in the ‘before’ era, in fact, I’ve reanalyzed certain past friendships and recoded them as crushes on girls. But this doesn’t change the fact that I hadn’t done (or thought) anything consciously, romantically gay before a certain point and no one would have identified me as such before that time (even if I did set off their ‘gaydar’).

I had no archetypal coming out experience. I didn’t ‘feel something was different about me’ ever since age 11. I didn’t feel confused (at the time) about my feelings towards female friends or acquaintances. I wasn’t part of my high school’s gay-straight alliance. Hell, I’m not even sure I supported gay marriage, since the Democratic Party wasn’t endorsing it at the time.

Of course, something was different about me. I was the stereotypically gender-nonconforming kid, the tomboy who never grew out of it. But, at least in my particular school and neighborhood in Durham, no one seemed to care if a little girl dressed up as Darth Vader for Halloween, or if the captain of the girls’ basketball team wore basketball shorts to class. So I didn’t register it as all that much of a meaningful difference, and I certainly never thought to extrapolate to sexual orientation.

The tricky part of my transition in personal eras is that my turning point was right smack dab in the middle of college. Literally the last day of sophomore year. And I didn’t muster up the courage to walk into the Center with my best-friend-turned girlfriend until the middle of junior year. So the majority of people I have met in college were initially introduced to pre-gay me. And I am hiding from those people.

Now that I’m more comfortable being open about this aspect of my life, I can see where new acquaintances stand from the beginning. New hallmate gives me a dirty look when I hold my girlfriend’s hand in the common room? Forget you. (For the record, nothing like this has ever really happened to me. Ironically, I’ve been called a dyke exactly once in my life, at night on the BC Plaza—in the before era—when I had my arms draped over the shoulders of two female friends). For me, what’s infinitely worse than some anonymous glare is the prospect of a fundamental change in relationship with someone on the basis of revealing my love for my girlfriend.

I’m hiding from that. From teammates, classmates, and hallmates who have graduated or are still here. In particular from those who have made subtly homophobic remarks in the past. I don’t want this column to make its way to them through the Facebook grapevine with my name attached. I can tell myself that these people aren’t my real friends if they can’t accept this significant (not to mention happy) part of my life, but I still have this extreme aversion to shattering their straight image of me, especially if their regard for me rests, in some small part, on an unconscious foundation of assuming I’m not gay. Has anyone out there had similar experiences? Can you ever stop caring about what important people from your past think?

Liza

October 10, 2012

Signals

[Editor's Note: Just a quick heads up y'all, tonight is a Blue Devils United general body meeting. We'll be down in the Center for LGBT Life at 7:00 PM]

A signal is a function, which varies in time and/or space, and transmits information or some phenomena. In terms of electrical engineering and signal processing, these signals have various properties that allow us to store important information in terms of discretized data points. Simply, an input signal is entered into a system, which then modifies the signal to give some response, namely the output. We are surrounded by signals: talking, lights (i.e. vision), even hormones are signals.

Another signal we often encounter...are mixed signals. Yes, I just introduced my engineering nerd credibility to talk about flirting and relationships, get over it. But I think it's something important to talk about.

Fun fact: I'm a terrible flirt. I am somebody who doesn't know when I'm flirting with somebody, and likewise, I do not know when I'm being flirted at, and usually it takes one of my introspective showers to realize that I was flirting with some guy...two years ago. At the same point, I think we develop personal filters that block out certain mixed signals or transform signals to our own psychological fit.

As somebody who has struggled with self image, reading Jacob Tobia's fantastic article on HuffPo inspired me to write this post. Mentioned above, a very common signal we are faced with is sight. The photons that are reflected off of our body, clothing, hair, etc. are received by our eyes, and then our brain, the system in this case, modifies the signal into what we perceive, the attractiveness of others. It seems like such a simple process, but with profound outputs. How can light so radically divide the LGBT community? How does the brain process the images that can sink our self-esteem?

Jacob raises some great points about why this case. But since I'm a nerd, I think of it as such: Our brains are a system with a certain response function, call it h(t). This function has been warped by the images that surround us in popular culture so that, when x(t), the input (i.e. visual signals) are modified by h(t), they are convoluted with this external notions of attractiveness (by the way, convolutions are actually a term in signal processing, indicated by x(t)*h(t)). Now again, there is nothing wrong with being fit, in shape, six-pack abs and so on, but why does this have to be the only anticipated output, when not every person fits this mold?

I think it's worth looking at how our response functions filter out certain people based on appearance. Or even based on how stupidly we (read: I) flirt with others (or unknowingly flirt). Sometimes there are mixed signals or visual signals, but intertwined with those signals is superimposed information that's worth knowing.

October 9, 2012

I Missed It!


Last year, as a freshman, I nearly slept through Pride. I didn’t mean to do it, but I had honestly forgotten what was going on, and I was tired for some reason I can’t remember. I did wind up kicking myself for it later on in the day, and vowed I wasn’t going to miss it as a sophomore, no matter what.

Well, freshman me would be mortified by her future self.

Yep, that’s right. I didn’t go to Pride. Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like I didn’t want to be there. It’s just that organic chemistry exists, and, however unfortunately, one of our three exams (and consequently, four grades in the class) happened to take place two days later, and I wasn’t taking any chances, even if it meant making a few sacrifices.

But, honestly, I think my justification for missing Pride, other than my studies, was a rationalization a good friend nearly slapped me in the face with in the midst of one of my life-loathing rants about hell week. Why should you spend only one weekend being unashamed and proud of who you are, when you should be doing that every day? Who cares if you missed Pride? Now, granted, without a whole community joining you in the celebration of personal identity, doing just that can be difficult.  Learning to accept and love yourself is an uphill battle for sure, a Sisyphean task of epic proportions to learn to listen to some people and ignore others, and not to take prejudice too personally. But, hey, we have to do it.

I challenge you all, therefore, to make Pride last all year. Yeah, enjoy Pride when it happens. Revel in a weekend of no regrets about yourself, but carry that sentiment with you all the time, and see if you can keep going even when things get tough. Honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever tried to do for myself, and I bet it would be for everyone else, gay, straight, bi, or otherwise. 

October 8, 2012

Anonymous Posts (10.1.12-10.7.12)

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!

No anonymous posts for you this week! I hope you get through your last week of classes before fall break. Remember, the Center for LGBT Life is doing Coming Out day this Thursday from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM on the BC plaza. Come by for Love = Love T-shirts. Better yet, volunteer to make sure you get one, because they go pretty fast! BDU will also be at Coming Out Day, tabling on the plaza.

October 5, 2012

Get Out There


A couple of weeks ago I attended this year’s first session of Man to Man, an GBTQ discussion group at the Center. We started off by making a long list of things that we would like to discuss during the course of the year – things like gay PDA, advocacy, body image, but a common theme that almost everyone mentioned was relationships. That is, dating. A lot of people complained that Duke has a hookup culture, which is not new news to any of us, but it begs a question: if so many of us are discontent with the hookup culture, why doesn’t anyone try to change it?

During Sophomore Convocation, Dean Sue urged our class to put ourselves out there and “have the courage to date.” She noted that there is always [and always will be] some risk associated with love. She was right, there are risks associated with love. Love can seem scary and putting yourself out there definitely increases your possibility of getting hurt, but the hope is that all the heartache you may go through will be worth it in the end.  If you want to get to know someone, ask him/her to have coffee or lunch with you.  Sure, there’s a chance that you won’t find ‘the one’ immediately, but there isn’t any harm in going on a few casual dates with someone to get to know him/her better. There isn’t any pressure to ask him/her out again if you decide you aren’t interested, but it’s likely that even if things aren’t going to happen romantically, you will have at least made a new friend. Baby steps, people, baby steps.

Complaining about Duke’s hookup culture without actively trying to change it isn’t constructive. I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong with hooking up as long as it is mutually consensual, but if you want more, then you owe it to yourself to put yourself out there, cause you never know who might be waiting for you to make the first move. You may get hurt, but “don't brood. Get on with living and loving. You don't have forever.” - Leo Buscaglia