January 28, 2013

Anonymous Posts (1.22.13-1.28.13)

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, I'm afraid. As always, feel free to send in any thoughts or feelings you'd like to share via the sidebar on this webpage.

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).

January 23, 2013

When You Mean Well, but Not Well Enough


Over winter break, my family and I watched the film Philadelphia, which stars Tom Hanks as a lawyer who gets fired by his law firm due to his homosexuality and worsening case of AIDS (and Denzel Washington - go watch it!).

“Why does Tom Hanks have AIDS?” asked my mum.

My brother responded, “We don’t know. The film doesn’t tell us. Probably sexual activity.”

As if to scold Andy Beckett, the protagonist of Philadelphia, or perhaps to derive some kind of universal moral lesson for me and my brother, my dad said, “That’s why we should accept gays, but not promote it,” said my dad.

This isn’t the first time my parents have used this curious term of “promotion.” In my senior year of high school, I revived the LGBT club named the Spectrum Club, which had fallen into inactivity for a couple years. When I told my parents that I was involved in such activities, they immediately told me to stop. Despite my arguing and protests, we left off there with my parents saying that it didn’t have to be me who does the “promotion.” Since then, they have become a bit more liberal in their view points, thanks to the legalization of gay marriage in New York which helped legitimize the gay rights movement in everyone’s recent memory. Therefore, it was rather disheartening to hear my parents use this same language again a couple years later.

My friend O sometimes talks about irritations caused by her parents, but often digresses and defends them by saying, “they mean well.” To borrow her phrase, my parents mean well. They are not excessively ignorant, and they understand that there are oppressed groups in society. In fact, I’d regard my parents as very smart and enlightened people about many things who did a bloody good job raising me. Anyone can mean well, but you also have to think of how to make your thoughts and actions reflect meaning well.

What my parents mean when they say “promote” is not entirely clear. So how much should we actually “promote homosexuality?” How much is enough? From the legal perspective, there isn’t really a reason to exclude LGBT couples from the institution of marriage given that marriage is a contract in which two individuals enter. I believe that any two consenting adults should be able to get married, and I am willing to express this viewpoint through blog posts like this one and perhaps more importantly, through my votes. From the social perspective, LGBT individuals are people just like anybody else. We should be their friends and in some cases, we may need to stand as their allies. If I’m any good at this subtext thing though, I think my parents still hold the misconception that being gay necessarily implies irresponsible sexual behaviour, and that homosexuality is a thing that exists, but ought to cease existing rather than continue. But that isn’t possible because even though no one fully understands the origin of being LGBT, we will certainly stick around for a while. The way to pursue better sexual health among the LGBT community isn’t to condemn the sexual cultures that exist now and in the past, but to allow more to come out in the open so that we may continue to do whatever it is we like to do romantically without endangering our health.

To take a page from my dad’s book - here’s the moralizing lesson I’m going to take from this story and bestow upon anyone reading this: when it comes to the way you view an issue like LGBT politics, even if you do not want to be the loudest proponent, you still have a responsibility to re-evaluate the stereotypes you hold so that at the least, you do not perpetuate ideas like the conflation of homosexuality with HIV/AIDS. 

January 21, 2013

Anonymous Posts (12.13.12-1.21.13)

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. :)

#1:
I'm hoping to come out pretty soon to my Duke community. Can I hear some of your stories about coming out to friends here? Was it pretty nonchalant or did you use the opportunity to foster some discussion about the topic?

#2:
“Weight”
Before coming to college, I made a pledge to myself that I’d be open, that I’d be honest. I wouldn’t hide like I did in high school. I’d be true to how I was feeling. Things would change. Things would be different. And they did. A few months into freshman year, I came out to my roommates and received nothing but support. To them, who I liked, boys, girls, it made no difference. And for all the support they gave, me, I couldn’t be more grateful. But as I come to the end of my junior year, I’m beginning to realize that college does, in fact, end, that things do, in fact, change. I’m realizing that this bubble, this pocket of liberal ideas and boundless inclusion, this world that I have been able to carefully construct for myself…it’s not eternal. Outside of my little Duke snow globe, things are different. I’ve never told anyone outside of college about my sexuality. I never came out to my parents. That’s not to say I think they’re oblivious. They know I’ve never had a girlfriend. I never even pretended to. But it’s still something we all know not to mention, because the moment someone were to, everything would change and this secret that I’ve kept so beautifully secluded in my fantasy college universe would enter into the real world. It would enter into a place where there is shame, where there’s blame, where there’s homophobia, where there’s discrimination and where there aren’t LGBT meetings one afternoon a week at The Center. In that moment, things would change. My dad would look down at the table disappointed. My mom would cry. Life would get harder; the path would get more obscure. My friend once asked me what’s the hardest thing about being gay. Was it not being accepted? Was it finding a suitable partner? I said no, because for me, I think the answer is bigger, more fundamental. When you’re gay, there is a cruel lack of weighting, a certain lack of gravity that you’re forced to contend with. The American ideal, the white picket fence and 2.1 kids, the family dog, the PTA meetings, the bake sales, the neighbors that smile as you pass on the sidewalk, they’re all possible when you’re straight. But when you’re not, it becomes an ideal you’re forced - every day - to look at but know you will be greeted by infinite obstacles if you try to touch. I’ve had nights where I dreamed that that life could be mine, that somehow I could find my way into that social gravitational pull and feel what it’s like to be on the other side, to be within the sphere of cultural “normal”, to feel what it’s like to have a path beneath my feet. I wish I didn’t have to feel like I was always floating, looking down into a world that wasn’t made for me. Before coming to college, I made a pledge to myself that I’d be open, that I’d be honest. Well, right now, the most honest desire I have in my heart is for gravity. There will be those that will say what about love? What about freedom? Well, maybe my definition of free is different. Maybe I’ll find a nice girl, and we’ll settle down and have a kid, or two. And they’ll go to school and they’ll grow up well and they’ll go play with my parents on weekends. And my parents, they’ll be happy, and they’ll be proud. And my wife and I, we’d build a life that’s simple, and we’d love each other because we’re happy in what we built together, and we’d find freedom in the fact that we’re finally living grounded and weighted.
- Yellow Saint

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).