October 22, 2013

Welcome! From Rachel

It has somehow come to pass in my two years at Duke that I have become fairly entwined in the LGBTQA community at Duke, or at least the “official” parts of it. Almost everyone that I’ve met here is queer and all of my activities outside of class up until this point have been queerness-related in some way. I worked for three semesters at the Center, I’m going into my third year as editor-in-chief of Unzipped: the Duke Journal of Gender and Sexuality, I spent a year heading up the publication of the magazine Womyn: the queer experience, and I’m going into my second position on the BDU executive board. Through this, I’ve become pretty knowledgeable about the resources tailored to queer students. And there are lots at Duke, more than I ever expected before coming here. Since I’ve spent so much time with them, I thought it might be useful to spell them out a bit.
The Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity: This is the hub of institutional resources for queer students. It is in the Bryan Center (in an exciting new space :D) and is open from 9-5 every day. It’s a pretty cool place to hang out during the day, where you can work or socialize freely. It has various discussion groups that usually meet monthly in the evening, and these can be a great place to meet people. I personally love Women Loving Women (and hope to see some new faces there soon!). The Center also hosts a variety of events through the year, my favorite of which are the NC Pride Festival in late September and Coming Out Day in October. A lot of these events have huge attendances, and while people chose to come to the Center or not for a variety of reasons, I would recommend coming by at least to some early events to meet people. The Center also has educational resources with pamphlets and a huge library of queer fiction and nonfiction (Also movies and games. Can’t forget movies and games), and the staff there can be a helpful resource if you’re looking for a listening ear. The Center also has condoms, dental dams, gloves, and lube available to anyone (safe sex resources are also available at Student Health and the Wellness Center beneath the Coffee House). All in all, the Center has a lot to offer and people there tend to be close. It’s not a place that everyone enjoys, but if you’re looking for a place to be, give it a try and it’s always good to know what events are going on.
Blue Devils United: BDU is the LGBTQA undergraduate student group on campus. It puts on social events throughout the year and does activist work with students. Some of the biggest events that BDU has historically put on annually are the BDU Drag Show in the fall, movie nights and watch parties for important games or events throughout the year, and the Lavender Ball in the spring. They also periodically sponsor College Night at the BAR and other fun events here and there. BDU also gives out rainbow flags at the beginning of every year so students can show support of the LGBTQA community as part of an ongoing visibility campaign, which often includes posters and educational materials. This blog is also run by BDU and is open to anyone who wants to write, either named or anonymously. BDU usually meets every other week and forms committees for specific projects that are open to anyone. So BDU is a great place to look if you want to have a leadership role (however small or large) or have a particular event or cause that you are passionate about. And even if you don’t want to be a regular part of BDU, look out for events! They’re a lot of fun and you can come even if not active in BDU.
Gender-Neutral Housing: Duke’s Gender-Neutral Housing program has grown a lot in the past year due to a lot of hard work from students of the group Duke Students for Gender Neutrality. People legally of different sexes now have options to share dorm rooms and apartments on both West Campus and Central Campus. There has been a lot of controversy in the NC Legislature this summer about gender-neutral housing in the UNC system, but it is still available at Duke. It’s easy to register for when you’re signing up for housing for the next year, and it’s a great option for gender non-conforming students, trans students, or anyone who would simply like to have a wider range of roommate options. Though it’s not currently available to first years on East Campus (unfortunately) DSGN is still working to expand it to all students. If you’ll be living on East Campus and need housing that considers any sort of gender issue, talk to your resident coordinator. Options are available, even if they aren’t ideal.
Unzipped: Unzipped: the Duke Journal of Gender and Sexuality is an academic journal published annually (usually in the middle of the year, but the schedule sometimes changes) that compiles papers written by students. Unzipped publishes work in any academic discipline, from biology to linguistics to film studies, dealing with any issue of gender or sexuality. They also have recently started publishing shorter, more personal essays, so really if you have any interest in reading or publishing almost any piece of literature dealing with gender or sexuality, look for Unzipped. Copies of the most recent issue are available in the Bryan Center and all copies can be read in the Center.
Womyn: Womyn: the queer experience is another publication, but with a more casual and narrative feel. It has essays, poems, letters, and pretty much any other narrative structure from queer women and their allies on campus to examine the joys and pains of life as a queer woman. It tries to show a great variety and range of experiences. The most recent issue can be found in the Bryan Center and all issues can be read in the Center.
Classes and Academics: Duke offers a variety of classes that examine gender and sexuality in a variety of ways. Both the Study of Sexualities Program and the Women’s Studies Program have a wide variety of classes dealing with gender perceptions, queer theory, social justice issues, and many other areas. Both areas are listed in the class registration on ACES.
This by far is not an exhaustive list. There are many other resources and groups that are either explicitly geared toward queer students or queer-friendly. Duke Student Government is regularly supportive of the LGBTQ community, as are the selective living groups Nexus and Roundtable. The “Me Too Monologues” is a show put on every year that tells of students’ experiences of race, gender, and sexuality. There are a variety of programs throughout the year by the Multicultural Center, the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, the Women’s Center, or some combination of the above that deal with the intersection of identities. And of course there are many other groups that welcome queer students and programming is constantly changing. But if you’re looking for something definitively queer or opportunities for community or activism, these are good places to start.
Best of luck to all of the new students, and welcome to Duke!

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