November 28, 2012

Passive

Thanksgiving was last week. That holiday where the main focus is supposed to be around people you love and sharing good times. For me, Thanksgiving was about eating as much as possible while watching the football games and pretending to go to sleep so I didn't have to participate in the conversations that were going on around me. Here a few snippets of the dialogue:

"Black men go over there to Asia and marry them Chinese women because they know they can control them."

"Asian and Japanese women always get more money from the courts when they divorce a Black man because they come over here to America with no skills and can't speak English so they need the help."

"I think a bunch of faggots made up the laws about who gets what when people get divorced. There's no way in hell a REAL man would write laws that would make men give women more money."

"I'll be damned if I let a fag tell me what to do."

I tuned out other parts and tried to forget the worst.

Fun stuff isn't it? The conversation started when a member of my family mentioned how she noticed a lot of Black men in the military were marrying non-Black women. (I have no knowledge as to the validity of the statement...)

So, I sat there trying to ignore the ignorance. Focused intently on the game I was watching with my plate of Thanksgiving food piled high, I figured it'd be best for me to keep my mouth stuffed with food for fear that I'd blow a gasket and go insane from the racism and homophobia.

The more I sat in silence, the more I grew upset at myself. Why couldn't I just say something? Why sit there silently simmering about the bile being spewed in their speech when I could stand up against them? If I sit here in my (albeit, uneasy) comfort and just let it go, what right do I have to ask anyone else to speak up for me when my identity is being dragged through the muck?

I felt like a coward. That was my chance to kill two birds with one stone. I could have finally come out to my family and shown them that I fully embrace this "different person" I've become while at Duke as they like to say. I could have shown them how I learned so much more about life in general than actual knowledge gained from a textbook.

But no. I sat there. Too scared of the consequences to speak up for what is right. Too afraid of becoming the family outcast that I practically already am. Too terrified to show them the real me that hides beneath the shell of the me they used to know. I sat there taking solace in the fact that it was easier for me to ignore it until I came back to Durham than stand up and fight. I could let it all pass until I could pretend once again that the family I'm supposed to love unconditionally and put before anyone or anything else and is supposed to do the same for me doesn't actually hate everything about the real me. I could pretend that I wouldn't know how they'd react or what they'd say behind my back.

Except, now I do know. They didn't even have to tell me directly.

I hate going home.

November 26, 2012

Anonymous Posts (11.12.12-11.25.12)

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!

Glad to say, we've got some anonymous posts today. Welcome back from Thanksgiving Break, and I wish you luck in these last few weeks and finals.

Now, notes from OC:


#1:
With voting power comes influence.

#2:
Today, I hesitantly kissed my girlfriend on the main quad and...nothing happened. No one said anything offensive to us, no one made a face. In fact, no one even shot us a second glance. I'm a long way away from this being completely comfortable but...this was certainly reassuring :)

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).

November 19, 2012

Stealth Trans

On the first day of classes, I stopped by my favorite campus eatery to grab a quick bite before I headed off to my stats class. A couple of the employees murmured for a few seconds after I walked through the door. The cashier approached me, and asked “Did you have a sister that went to Duke?”

I'm a semi stealth transman at Duke. What does this mean? It means that about 80% of the people in my life have no idea that I'm a transgender man. The other 20% are folks I met prior to my transition. After a semester of transitioning, I took a leave of absence from Duke to fully adjust to my new life. Now I'm back a year later, no longer resembling the person I used to be.

It was two and a half years ago when I came across a couple hundred youtube videos of transgender men talking about their lives. I was studying abroad at the time, and I would spend hours at a park near my apartment watching video after video of these men discussing their transitions. I had known that there wasn't something “right” about my gender since the age of 6, but thanks to familial pressure and a education at an all girls catholic high school, I had learned to suppress whatever unresolved feelings I had about my gender at risk of creating trouble in my household and my community.While the notion of becoming who I always knew myself to be was empowering, it was not without many nights of deliberating. This was so much harder than when I came out as pansexual; my decision would have countless permanent life-long implications on almost every aspect of my life. Needless to say, I made the decision to go forward with my transition. When I came back to school that fall, I came out to everyone as a man.

I couldn't have asked for a better group of friends to come out to. I'm eternally grateful to the people who were by my side during the earliest stages of my transition; without them, I'm certain I would not be writing this to you all today. However, coming out as transgender at Duke was hard; and even “hard” is somewhat of an understatement here. As someone who prides himself on his reserved and private nature, what would normally be information that I wouldn't share with strangers was now something that I constantly had to explain to everyone: the students in my project groups for my classes, my professors, my fellow coworkers, and every new person that I met. After coming out I was met with a barrage of invasive questions, most of which I didn't even have the answer at the time. “So when are you going to have the surgery?”, “But how do you expect people to treat you like a man when you don't look like one?”, “Are you sure about this? You should see someone”. After 10 weeks of this, it was certainly time for a break. I left Duke for a year, continued transitioning, and spent my days surrounded by close friends whose presence nursed me back to health both mentally and emotionally.

So what's it like being back now? I'm happy to report that after a year and some change into my physical transition, my life here is fairly average. The energy that I used to spend correcting and explaining is now used on cramming for tests and marathon sessions of playing FIFA13. I haven't been misgendered in well over 8 or 9 months. In the eyes of the law, I'm still a 5'9 brown eyed female who requires corrective lenses to drive, but that's going to change after a trip to the DMV soon. Besides cashiers taking my credit card and my DukeCard, I haven't had to come out to anyone in quite some time. Every time I've outed myself in these situations, the people in question have been accepting and apologetic for the most part. My Fridays are no longer filled with anxiety about being outed in public spaces; instead I'm back to twerkin at my favorite bars and kickin it with friends wherever the best drink specials are in this city.

I don't like the idea of “it gets better”, because in a lot of ways it hasn't. My relationship with my family has changed for the worst, I still deal with gender dysphoria from time to time, and living with an endless paper trail detailing my former life is stressful and overwhelming at times. However, I will say that my life here has gotten a hell of a lot easier. I'm back to living my life as a Duke student, balancing procrastination and academic stress like a champion.

Was it all worth it? There are some days where I have massive doubt about the answer to this question, but ultimately, the answer is always yes. Being a stealth transgender man at Duke hasn't always been a party. As I wrap up my last few months walking around this campus, I'm proud to be where I am now. There aren't words to express the feeling I get when I check myself out in the mirror before I head out in the morning. A lot of this experience has been brutal physically, emotionally, and mentally, but I'm still hanging in there.

With the support of my close friends, a small community of other trans folk, and various admins all across this campus, I feel really good about being here.

And isn't being here the most important part?

November 17, 2012

Agender at Duke

Hello, everybody. I’m the second person who’ll be writing a post for the lead up to Transgender Day of Remembrance. I don’t identify as Transgender, but I do identify as gender nonconforming. Agender, to be specific. The point of this blog post is to try to give a slight peek into how that affects my daily life.

So I’ll start with the bad parts. First things first, the reason I feel that I have to post this anonymously. Gender variance is far less accepted than sexuality, so though I identify as queer also, I feel the need to keep this part of my identity private. Simply put, I do not feel that I have the desire or strength to put up with an endless stream of questions that pry into some of my most personal feelings and attempt to make me justify my identity. It’s something I’ve observed from the outside many times, that though many people feel entitled to ask deeply personal questions of all LGBTQ people, this holds true to a greater extent for those of us who identify as gender noncomforming.

Of course, my decision to keep my identity private has its downsides too. For example, just because I avoid referring to myself with gender specific pronouns doesn’t mean that everyone else does. As much as like to ignore it, one of the first things people assume about a person is their gender. So, as long as I choose to not tell everyone how I identify, I will simply have to cope with the reality that people will type me incorrectly. That said, I don’t want to give off the impression that my life is terrible, as I have a lot of good going for me as well.

On the plus side, I am out to a decent group of my close friends. They have made every effort to acknowledge my identity and have accepted it without feeling the need or entitlement to pry more information from me than I’m willing to give. It’s thanks to these friends that I’m becoming increasingly secure and comfortable in my own skin, and for that I’m very thankful.

November 16, 2012

In which nothing special happens

Kyle approached me to write something for the lead-in to Transgender Day of Remembrance this year, and I agreed right away, but then I struggled to find something to say. It's harder to write about my life, these days. I feel like everything is pretty much normal and I'm pretty much happy, if maybe a little busy. There's nothing that requires deep self-analysis. Even when I reach some kind of important milestone-- October 28 marked one year on testosterone-- I don't feel like it's anything to write home about. I didn't celebrate; I'm not sure I even remembered to make a Facebook post. But, I'm coming to realize that the incredible thing about my life right now is that sense of normality.

All of these delightful things are now totally normal for me:

When I'm thinking about something, I'll often end up with my hands on my face-- and now there's hair there. So I'll absentmindedly brush at my tiny mustache, or the beginnings of my tragic neckbeard, and it's a satisfying feeling. It's all peach fuzz still, but I've gotten used to it.

I wear ties. I'm working in an office several days a week, so I've tied a tie often enough now that I can do it without looking in the mirror, and it no longer feels like a special occasion. It also no longer feels like any kind of sartorial transgression; what else would I wear to the office? I actually have a genuine need for a tie clip, and I can't wait until I can afford one and it, too, becomes normal.

My testosterone injections are no big deal. I switched from a daily gel to a twice-weekly injection a while ago; I don't really remember when, because... it's no big deal. I do have to make a point of scheduling the injections, because I have a friend actually give me the shot, but it's changed a lot since the first time. The first time, we had to dither over how to attach the needle to the syringe, and how to fill it with liquid, and how to find the proper injection site-- and we actually rendered that first needle useless before having the chance to use it, through sheer hilarious incompetence. (Luckily, we had a second.) This time, though, I just brought over my little cosmetics bag of supplies, and we carried on a normal conversation throughout the whole process.

My legal ID says Lawrence on it. It even says 'male'. Every time I get a paycheck or use my DukeCard to swipe into the Green Zone, I see my actual name. At first, it was a huge relief, every time I had to show legal ID for something. Now, it's just normal.

I even pass as cis. Not all the time, but often enough that it's no longer worth remembering each instance-- when I go out to eat waiters will sometimes call me sir, and so will the folks at the grocery store when I can't find something. Twice now, working at ABP, a customer has called me ma'am and I have replied by simply asking, "Did you just call me ma'am?"-- and they just apologized right away, and seemed genuinely confused at their own mistake. (This doesn't always work, but when it does, it's a beautiful feeling.) I tend to pass more in contexts where I speak less, so when I'm just wandering around town minding my own business, it's easy to just feel… normal.

Being trans is definitely still a major part of my identity. I love the fact that my top surgery left such obvious scars, because I like having evidence of my journey. I'm even glad that I wasn't born cisgendered, because I feel like I would be a completely different person if I hadn't had to go through this transition, and I'm so completely happy as the person that I am. But I enjoy it even more because, on a day to day basis, my life no longer feels like a fight.

November 13, 2012

A Room With A View

I figured I would take a moment to talk about working with The Center for LGBT Life Consulting Group.  This group was tasked with looking at the impact of and opportunities arising from relocating the LGBT Center; a move resulting from the construction and eventual re-purposing of its current home in the West Union. For more information on the renovations, check out the "West Union Precinct Renovation" page - it is a massive project with quite a few moving parts and a vision that greatly increases the usability of current spaces while building new ones. I am definitely excited to see the Pavilion and witness its evolution from hole-in-the ground, to dining facility, to flexible programmable student space.

What I am most looking forward to seeing, however, is the new Center for LGBT Life. First, because I've had a better chance to learn what the current Center does and how well, or poorly, it is configured to provide for the Duke community. And second, because the new Center design reflects well the needs and the hopes of many of the people our consulting group contacted to put together a brief for the Vice President for Student Affairs, the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, and their team. When I last wrote...well, I guess when I last wrote I was imploring people to help rob Borja to pay The Trevor Project  - and you can still help!

But the time before that, I was talking about space. Specifically, about the difference between the proposed space for the Center and what several of us on the task force felt was needed. Not long after, the BDU presented a refined set of changes which, if made, would bring the design to or very close to a place where it would satisfy the primary requirements of the different constituents we identified as a committee. And not long after that, Dr. Moneta presented a new design which had completely or very nearly satisfied all those requirements.  The BDU executive board took the new proposal to the membership and, with certain expectations about allowing the LGBT Center staff to work with the architect to make the floor plan as useful as possible, endorsed the plan.

The system worked.  At a place like Duke, there will always be more ideas than resources to make them into a reality; there will be more areas of study than we can possibly pursue; and there will always be more demands for space than we can satisfy.  The question is how to appropriately confer resources - space, funding, staffing, etc - to the many different functions of the university.  And given the complexity of the question, there will just about never be an easy answer.  Would I have been happier with more space?  Sure - but I also recognize the dominoes that begin to fall with each square foot that is moved from one place to another.  Would the Center be able to do with less?  Sure - but at the high cost of lost opportunity for Duke to be a national and international leader in LGBT affairs and lost opportunity to support a growing number of our students through their journey.

Given that, where I think I fall is "temporary contentment."  I see this as a very positive move for the Center and for its missions, and I believe it represents a strong commitment by the university in terms of placing the Center in a highly visible location; the latter, while also taking steps to ensure that people who want more privacy getting to the Center or speaking with staff have a more discreet way of arriving.  Once the Program Coordinator position is filled - and assuming the Assistant Director position is approved and filled - the Center as a whole will be at a pretty good place in terms of fulfilling current obligations and services.  And the Bryan Center - with several gender-neutral restrooms added - will be a more welcoming home for all our students, staff, and guests.

The whole reason I use the word "temporary," then, is that - having seen the incredible growth of the Center's programming and active constituency, I know that with the greater resources afforded by the new Center's layout and location that Dr. Long and the Center's staff and volunteers will be able to begin developing programming and delivering services that, at present, can't even get off the ground due to logistical or temporal constraints.  As those evolve, it will be up to us as a community to keep working with the university to make sure it allocates resources accordingly.

It was a real privilege to serve on the Consulting Group - to meet students, faculty, and staff from across the university I otherwise would never have known - and to work with them on something we all find so very important.  It is also a continuing joy to work at a university that makes hard choices that support its students, especially those who may not feel as supported elsewhere.  Meanwhile, until construction begins, my temporary contentment and I can sometimes be found with a take-out box from Panda or a hot dog from JB's, sitting on the Bryan Center side porch, looking out into the garden and up at the Chapel, and enjoying the fact that soon - very soon - the Center for LGBT Life will have a room with that view...

November 12, 2012

Anonymous Posts (11.5.12-11.12.12)

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. :)

Well, we again lack any anonymous posts to put up for you today. Since we don't have anything, here's a blurb about an upcoming Women Loving Women event.


Women Loving Women is a monthly discussion group for LGBTQ (and questioning) women-identified students. This month, we will be joined by the excellent Mandy Carter, a self-described "out, southern, black, lesbian, social justice activist”! She has been organizing for social justice, racial equality, and LGBT equality for more than four decades.

She was a co-founded of Southerners On New Ground (SONG), an organization with the purpose of building a regional base of LGBTQ people to transform the region through projects and campaigns. Mandy also helped found the National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. In 2005 Mandy was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as one of the "1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005", which aimed to recognize and celebrate the impressive, yet often invisible, peace work of thousands of women around the world.

So basically, Mandy Carter is a bamf. And she’s coming to WLW! RSVP to Janie Long and not if you prefer vegetarian for dinner.
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).

November 9, 2012

Limits

In calculus, we define the limit of a function f(x) as the value L that f(x) approaches as x gets close to some fixed point c. We say as x->c, f(x)->L. This value L does not have to be a part of the range of the function; it's a value that you approach as you get closer and closer to c, without actually getting to c. 

I think about limits a lot. Not because I've had to formalize the definition of a limit in my Advanced Calculus class (over, and over, and over...). No, it's not because it's such an important reference from Mean Girls. It's because I think about how close I get to speaking up, approaching a guy, and get the courage to ask him out...

and never actually do it.

It's semiformal season, and I would like to ask somebody to come with me. But the sheer thought of going up to the person I like and mincing words together that make me sound like an intelligible human being gives me chills. I've sat in my room contemplating the worst forms of rejection I could potentially face, and every time, when I realize that I'm just wasting time and energy, I become a little more courageous and approach the limit that I'm interested in evaluating. Yet when it comes to the actual execution, I retreat, and move farther away from the limit.

I like to think I know my limits. I know who is and who isn't within my options, or so I think. Every person that I've liked recently falls within my "not gonna happen" category, due to the lack of faith I have in myself. Instead of attempting to move closer to my point of interest, I try and build an open set around my current location in my development and hope to capture my limit of interest. This open set seems closed from my perspective, and I shut out everybody because I find that I'm still not ready.

I've spent the past year "free-of-thinking-about-relationships" because I needed to take care of myself. Previously, I found my relationship function going on tangent curves and taking on indeterminate values because I did not have time to evaluate my personal limits when I was scrambling to find a boyfriend. My self-esteem was on an asymptote, heading for negative infinity and lacking any hopes for increasing. Once I started taking care of myself, my functions became bounded and smoother, and I have found myself at a stable equilibrium.

But now that I've worked on improving myself, taking time to evaluate my limits, I'm back to confusion at the limit of a potential relationship as I approach this guy. I want to make sure I'm avoiding an unstable point, and getting closer and closer to building up my courage.

I'm not content with approaching the limit and getting closer and closer.

I want to reach this elusive point.

The limit unfortunately does not tell us what the function is at this point. The limit gives the behavior as you get closer and closer, but often, as is life, the function is discontinuous, and the evaluation is not the same as the limit. This is a concern in prediction, because even if the limit seems certain, no matter how "confident" I think I will be rejected, as the limit tells me, there is still the opportunity for a disjunction, and I might be happily surprised.

The curve is status quo; it's reaching beyond the toolbox of limitations that makes this so much fun.

November 8, 2012

US Gay

I probably used my smartphone more on Tuesday night than I have in all the time since I got it, cycling through election results in Minnesota, Maine, Maryland, and Washington. Let’s take stock of everything. The 2012 election results have given us: the reelection of a President who openly supports gay marriage (don’t you love it when the press refers to this as Obama “coming out” in favor of gay marriage?), the first openly gay US Senator (Tammy Baldwin), the defeat of Minnesota’s version of Amendment One, TWO new states with marriage equality (Maine, Maryland), and a third looking good (Washington, knock on wood)!

Wow, just wow. The declaration of Obama’s victory came suddenly and much sooner than expected last night—it seemed to blindside the Duke Dems leaders I was sitting next to, who were feverishly charting all the possible paths for a blue 270 when Ohio flashed up on the screen. Similarly, progress on the marriage equality front is coming much faster than I expected. With the passage of NC’s Amendment One still stinging, I was not feeling optimistic about these ballot measures. In May I felt compelled to leave my homestate after graduation, but didn’t see much in the way of open arms welcoming me elsewhere—just 6 states and Washington, D.C. Or, you know, Canada, as Democrats throw around every election cycle, but that’s kind of far away. Now 9 and D.C., nearly 20% of the country. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but this sure is a pleasant surprise.

Before heading over to the massive, multi-room throwdown at Sanford, I attended an extremely gay watch party. Pride flag on the wall, every laptop with a Love = Love sticker. My girlfriend and I sat next to two fantastic straight allies who were just as nervous about the outcome of the election for the same reasons we were. Later, in Sanford, no one batted an eyelash when my girlfriend kissed me after Ohio was announced. So I want to dedicate this post to allies.

Of course, the passage of the ballot measures has a whole lot to do with LGBT organizers, volunteers, and voters. But it couldn’t be done, numerically speaking, without equality-minded straight people who have been moved by the experiences of LGBT friends and acquaintances, or have just learned from this country’s history of discrimination against one group after another. Millions of people voted on marriage equality on Tuesday—indirectly through the Presidential election, and directly through these ballot measures. The vast majority of these voters were straight, and the most of them decided to come down on the side of equality. There’s a long, long way to go, but being gay in this country today is better than it was on Monday. Here’s to decency, progress, and the United States of America.

November 7, 2012

In favor of meaningful conversation


Well hey y'all,

As you may have noticed, I don't usually post on the blog, but today is a bit of a special occasion. With the election results yesterday, I've got to admit I'm pretty excited. I'm not really a person to typically get very excited about election results, as I'm much too cynical of a person. But even a cynic like myself can't help but get a little hopeful when it looks like 3 states are going to legalize same-sex marriage. THREE. That's a pretty big deal.

That's not actually what I wanted to say in this post, I just felt that I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it.

Now, for the actual substance:

What I actually want to talk about is religion. This is a pretty controversial topic, I know, but bear with me. Basically what I want to say is that religion, regardless of denomination, is not necessarily homophobic. I am
not a religious person myself, in fact I am a strong atheist, but I find the equating of religion (particularly Christianity) with the homophobic sentiments sometimes espoused by religious people to be a dangerous and unproductive problem that we really ought to address.

I will not try to deny that the reasoning used to justify anti-LGBT sentiments is often Christian in nature, but I whole heartedly reject that the Christian faith is homophobic. We can point to passages in the Bible that portray a homophobic attitude, but these passages do not define the Christian faith. I think it's important to note that for those of us who are not Christians, an accurate critique of the Christian faith requires an honest and studious effort to actually understand the  beliefs and justifications used by Christians in their faith.

Another important point, Christianity, or any other religion, is not a one size fits all. While one Christian may firmly believe that God is against the LGBTQA community, another may be fully in support of said community, or perhaps even a PART of our community. A belief in the Christian conception of God does not necessarily preclude a commitment to the support and affirmation of LGBTQ community. Indeed, I know some Christians who believe that their faith requries them to be supportive and affirming towards our community. A fundamental component of the Christian faith in particular is that love. With love playing such a crucial role in the faith, it isn't a huge strech to imagine that Christians can be affirming and loving towards LGBTQ identified people.

So my final note is this, that regardless about how you feel about the Christian religion, or any other faith, try not to hate on it. Doing so precludes any sort of meaningful conversation between the two communities, because we all know that when there is hostile rhetoric coming from a community towards us, it's rather unlikely that a lot of us will want to engage in a dialogue with that community. Futhermore, hostility towards faith communities is hurtful to members of those faith communities that are within our community
as well. Worse than that, it ignores that these people exist in our community. Take it from me, those among us who are atheists have a lot to gain by engaging with our thoughtful and faithful peers.

tl;dr: Don't knock any religion without making a serious effort to understand it from it's own premises. Doing otherwise is intellectually dishonest and only harmful to everyone.

P.S. If it feels like I focused too much on Christianity in this post, that's mostly because the things I've heard against religious people have almost exclusively been against Christians. I believe that the above sentiments apply to all faiths, I just lack experience with most of them.

November 6, 2012

Election Day Sadness

It's Election Day.

That means that by the end of today (hopefully) we'll know who the next president of the United States will be. There are going to be a lot of really ecstatic people and a lot of really sad and/or angry people depending on the results.

For me, I'm going to be either somewhat sad or in a stupor for the next four years. Why, AJ? Shouldn't you only be sad if Romney wins? Why wouldn't you be one of the ecstatic people if Obama wins?

Well, it's because of my friends. Not all of them, but some of them. Particularly the ones that I consider(ed?) myself close to who voted for Romney. Even if he doesn't win, it still means that people I value as close friends, people that I've shared some of the most personal parts of my life with, people who've shared personal stories with me, people whose defense I run to without a second thought, voted for a man thinks of me as a second-class citizen not worthy of equality. It means that they supported a man who thinks that single-parent homes like the one I come from are a disgrace to our great nation and are a leading cause of gun violence. It means that they care more about them keeping a little extra money per year over equal rights for everyone. It means that might rights as a gay man come second to everything else. That hurts. Immensely.

How dare my friends say "AJ, I love you and support you and will always be there for you" with their mouth but then mark away the chance I have at living an equal life to them with their hands? "I'm just voting this way because I like Romney's economic plans." Without getting into the details of that statement (To be honest, I don't know the first thing about economics and don't really believe that any person has the *right* answer on how to fix our situation), you just said that your family keeping a few extra dollars per year is more important than someone you call one of your "closest friends" being able to marry who he wants and have the same benefits as when you marry your wife and being able to see his husband in the hospital etc. "I mean, I agree that you should have equal rights but I'm really worried about the economy." EXCUSE ME?! So you're more worried about your family only being able to spend 5 days versus a week in the Hamptons next year than my rights being restricted from me for the next 4 years? Oh, you're not that wealthy? So, how's Romney plan going to help you that much anyway? I just don't get it. I, as a person, could never vote for someone who wants to limit rights for others while also making sure that those with money remain the only people with money.

But, AJ, if you voted based on social issues, why are you getting upset at others who voted based on economic issues? I'm upset because I fear that some people just use economic issues to mask how they really feel about issues. I've heard it so many times from so many people that I care about that I can't help but wonder about it. I've spent several nights staying up all night crying about things going on in my life and theirs. We've been there for each other's darkest moments and our brightest. How can we be so close yet my rights mean so little? How can they say they support me but then vote against me?

It just doesn't make sense to me and it hurts. If voting a certain way isn't going to affect your life but has a huge impact on the life of someone you say you care about, then why not vote to support them? That's what a true friend would do.

So, I'll be sad either way tonight. I'll either be sad because the person elected will do everything in his power to make sure that I'm never treated equally in this country or because people I considered friends will be upset because that man didn't win.

November 5, 2012

Double Your Money!

I know that, many times on the internet, you end up seeing a post that is too good to be true.  Free iThings!  Glorious Vacation for Limited Time Only! Double Your Money in 5 minutes!

However, today, I do have an offer in the latter category that actually is true.  Specifically - there is an opportunity to double your money through a donation-match-challenge that has been put up by my friend at the University of Chicago, Dr. Borja Sotomayor.

Borja turned 2^5 this past Sunday.  And as a part of his 100000nd birthday, he is asking people to make a donation to The Trevor Project.  To sweeten the pot a bit, he is offering to match the first $2500 in donations that come in!  For those who do not know, The Trevor Project "is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth."  Which is to say, The Trevor Project is doing incredibly important work - work that requires whatever funding can come its way.

If you would like to donate to The Trevor Project and double your money in the process, please take a moment to visit Borja's 32nd Birthday Fundraiser  page on Razoo and make a donation.  As of this writing, he's a little over half-way to his goal of $2500 and is leaving the page open until December 4th to accept donations.  Here's the current tally:
Online fundraising for Borja's 32nd Birthday Fundraiser

Thanks, and tell him Gus sent you!

Anonymous Posts (10.29.12-11.5.12)

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. :)

No anonymous posts for you this week. This week there will be an election return watch party on Tuesday starting at 8:00 PM in the Center for LGBT Life. Swing by if you'd like to watch the results of the Presidential election with BDU.


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).

November 1, 2012

That Hopey, Changey Stuff

Maybe it’s the size and strength of the late-season hurricane bearing down on the East Coast this week. Maybe it’s the extra-long, acrimonious election season. (Be glad we aren’t in Nevada. Or bundled in a binder.) Or perhaps it was news late last week of an acquittal in the first hate crime case to be prosecuted after President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Act. Or the new poll conducted by the Associated Press showing racist attitudes in America on the upswing. But I’m having trouble keeping hope alive. While early voting on Saturday with my wife and daughter helped a little bit, I still find I’m doing even more nail-biting, social media obsessing, and minute-by-minute poll watching than in 2008.

To shake myself back into focus, I revisited the blog I kept for Duke’s production of The Laramie Project back in spring of 2011. This was a time when Amendment 1 was only an idea, not a reality. When we were still learning of the dramatic changes to come in state politics after mid-term elections. It was easier to be hopeful that certain things might not come to pass, but, as I realize now, to be hopeful means also being prepared for times when hope will be tested. For hope to fuel a movement it must be aspirational but not anesthetizing. As a post on the Laramie blog reminded me, this dual power of hope is the legacy of activist Harvey Milk. As the first openly gay man elected to public office in California, it seems particularly apt to look again at his message as Election Day draws near.

 At the end of Milk, Gus Van Sant's 2008 docudrama, Dan White (Josh Brolin) asks Harvey (Sean Penn) into his office. White has already shot Mayor Moscone. After he closes his office door, he proceeds to shoot Harvey three times at close range. As the last bullet spins him around, the camera shows us what is meant to be Harvey’s last sight: the San Francisco skyline. From that image the scene shifts back in time to an activity that has framed the entire film: Harvey dictating his apocryphal "in the event of my death" tape. We see him describing his possible assassination in rather matter-of-fact terms then we are flung forward in time again to footage (some historical, some re-created for the film) of the 30,000 mourners who converged on City Hall upon hearing of the assassinations. As the lights of that massive vigil fill the screen, we see and hear Harvey/Penn speak lines drawn from Milk's "Hope Speech" delivered March 10, 1978, 8 months before his murder.

 Each day I live, I am grateful for so many things. Particularly for the hope my family, friends, students and colleagues give me that someday there might be less need to revisit stories like Milk and The Laramie Project because the systems that divide and oppress us will be dismantled and reshaped. But I am not so na├»ve to think that change happens just because one hopes for it; it requires direct action. (GET INFORMED & GO VOTE!!!) It also needs hope to fuel it at times when things seem most bleak. Harvey seemed utterly prescient of these facts and because of that I return to his words when I need to remember why and how to fight in the face of risk, reversal, and rage.

In case these ideas might help keep the fires of hope burning in you, I turn the last words of this post over to Harvey.

I know you cannot live on hope alone, but without it life is not worth living. And you. And you. And you ... gotta give 'em hope.