October 31, 2013

Gaydar


“Of course she’s gay! I would know – I have great gaydar.”

 

In retrospect, all I can say is that I tried. I tried to tell my friend (for the sake of anonymity let’s call her Ana) that the girl she was about to approach was openly heterosexual. I tried to convince her that her flirtatious advances would be misinterpreted. I tried. But following the above statement, I realized I could do nothing but sit back and watch as my overly confident friend tried desperately to seduce a short-haired straight girl over a casual Marketplace dinner. The majority of the conversation was surprisingly free of awkwardness; that is until the very end when the girl (let’s call her Sarah) realized that Ana’s definition of “Will you tutor me in Chemistry?” was probably very different than her own. Upon discovering Ana’s amorous hidden motive, Sarah became apologetically embarrassed and blurted out that she was not under any circumstances interested in girls. Out of pure curiosity, I pulled Sarah aside after dinner and inquired on whether the previous misunderstanding was a common one for her. Smiling, she pointed to her hair and said that with a haircut like that, what did she expect?

 

Obviously this was not the first time someone had mistaken Sarah’s sexual orientation based on her physical presentation. Ana later told me that her gaydar is usually not that far off, and it got me thinking, what exactly are we saying when we refer to “gaydar?” The term is used by people inside and outside of the LGBTQ community everyday as a colloquialism used to refer to one’s ability to recognize another’s sexual orientation simply through observation. The idea here is that having “good gaydar” means that without knowing definitively whether someone identifies as gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual, pansexual, or anything else in the LGBTQ alphabet soup, the individual can “just tell” that the other person isn’t straight.

 

But guessing at people’s orientations quickly becomes a controversial practice, and by acknowledging gaydar as legitimate, even jokingly, we are reinforcing stereotypes. The girl with short hair becomes a lesbian before even being offered the chance to come out. The guy who crosses his legs too femininely is considered gay before ever considering his sexuality himself. The transgender individual is defined as a homosexual before anyone stops to ask how they identify, let alone who they are attracted to. Conversely, most gaydar would classify any feminine, cisgender woman or any masculine, cisgender man as straight. And these labels that we adhere to people’s identities casually through our use of gaydar become more than just simple misnomers – they become assumptions about people’s personal identities that only work to perpetuate stereotypes.

 

And now, I’ll leave you with one last thought. When my friend Ana used her gaydar to qualify Sarah as a lesbian based only on her Ellen DeGeneres-esque hairstyle, there was certainly no malicious intent. Ana did not consciously decide to actively promote a gay stereotype, and in fact, if prompted Ana would surely tell you that stereotypes as a rule are generally in poor taste. And yet she didn’t think twice about utilizing her “great gaydar” skills, and this is precisely what intrigues me about the practice of gaydar. People inside and outside of the LGBTQ community are innocently promoting stereotypes and they don’t even realize it. Instead of using hairstyles, posture, and self-expression to guess at someone’s sexual orientation, let’s work to create safe spaces for conversation instead. Rather than make rash assumptions, let’s trade in our gaydar for a voice box and see where an open dialogue can take us.

-Savanna

October 30, 2013

BDU Meeting Update

Every Wednesday we at Blue Devils United will fill you in on upcoming events and projects that we are working on.

November is sure to be a busy month! We will have the Drag Show, You Don't Say?, and Trans Day of Remembrance. If you would like to preform in the drag show please email Jacob.tobia@gmail.com. Drag kings and queens of all levels are welcome. If you would like to model for the You Don't Say? poster campaign, please email Rachel.bangle@duke.edu. And finally, if you would like to help advertise for Trans Day of Remembrance contact Fiona.mccrossin@duke.edu.

We Would love to see you at our next general body meeting on Wednesday the 6th of November at 6:30pm, in the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. We will be watching an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race, this event is BYOD (bring your own dinner)!

Enjoy the rest of your week!

October 28, 2013

The Bisexual Dilemma


 


First I’ll start off with a disclaimer; I know that as a phenotypically white 18 year old girl with no completely glaring physical deformities and a middle-class background, my life is easier than the lives of most people in the world, I don’t actually know the statistics, but I would guess that my sheer luck in terms of being born into my own life has placed me within the top ten percent of humans on earth that have it the easiest, and therefore have no real reason to complain about any perceived hardship that they’ve overcome. I completely understand, and agree with, any of you who might already be dismissing what I’m about to say, but I ask that you give it a chance.

One of the perspectives that I have heard the least in terms of LGBT issues is that of bisexual women. We are acknowledged and accepted by our community, but our problems are, albeit rightfully, overlooked. This is surprising to me due to the amount of bisexual women in the world, again, I don’t know what the exact number is, but I know that it’s enough for me to make the possibly lofty assumption that my issues are shared by a relatively large amount of people. I’m dedicating this blog post to unearthing some of the problems that bisexual women face. I would love to give readers some advice in handling these problems, but I have absolutely no clue how to handle them in the very limited and petty scope of my own life, much less in general.

The problems that I face in my own endeavors are; the assumption that my life is easy enough for my voice to be completely ignored by other members of the LGBT community, the reluctance of other women who love women to accept that I am sexually interested in them, the near impossibility of ever finding any of these women who haven’t been in a happy relationship for a ridiculously long time, and the incessant cat-calling that I receive from men.

As you’ve all probably guessed, I feel marginalized by just about everyone and I’m almost hurt that my community seems to be rejecting me as a part of it. How am I to grapple with this? Should I get a giant tattoo spanning across my forehead declaring that I am indeed “BISEXUAL”? This is obviously a terrible idea, but every so often I find myself seriously considering it. Our community hosts widely publicized events advocating for just about every one of its members, which is really necessary and I’m very happy about it…except for the fact that I, and others like me, seem to be the only members whose sexuality goes without celebration.

On the other side of this, bisexuality is seen as some kind of a party-trick by essentially everyone, even allies and other LGBT folk. I encounter so many women who I have fondled for a surprisingly long amount of time and to a surprisingly great extent who identify as heterosexual, and who have even uttered extremely offensive, inappropriate, and homophobic sentences to me without even the semblance of a thought that I could be bothered by such a thing. They couldn’t be more wrong because this bothers me to no end. It is also extremely confusing, which isn’t fair to women who want to interact sexually with one another for better reasons than remedying their boyfriend’s terrible case of whisky-dick. You sorority stars and super-groupies are leading us on and no one benefits from it, so would it kill you to see me as more of a human being and less of an accessory for helping you seduce men? Chances are, if I’ve been sucked in by your advances, you’re attractive enough to ensnare those men without making me feel just as useless as your slutty lingerie. And to the boys who encourage this behavior (because you certainly aren’t mature enough to enjoy the title of “men”), I am not bisexual to help you live out some porn-fueled fantasy that you can brag about to your friends. I’m bisexual because I happen to be bisexual. That’s all there is to it (well, that’s all there would be if y’all weren’t interfering with my life).
 
-Fiona

Anonymous Posts

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October 24, 2013

Shaved Versus Au Naturel?


As a writer, I’ve always been told that a title is the most important part of a piece of work—it’s the hook—and without it, the quality of your piece doesn’t matter because no one will even bother to read it.
I’ve also heard it referred to as a ‘striptease’, which I like much better than ‘hook’, because preforming a striptease is exactly what I do.
With my writing, pervert.
But, while on the subject, I should clarify that this post isn’t going to be about the state of hair on a woman’s hoo-ha. In fact, I’m actually going to talk about heads. (If your mind is still in the gutter, I’m not talking about male banana boats either).
This summer I chopped off all of my hair and donated over a foot to Locks of Love. Event though I was voted ‘best hair’ in high school, I never considered it a defining feature of my identity—including my femininity and sexuality. People would always tell me how much they loved my hair, or wish they had hair as long as mine, or would simply get lost in some Rapunzel tower of their own mind while combing their fingers through it. But then, at the end of last semester, some ignorant bastard told me that the one thing he would change about me (besides my lack of butt—which I love because it allows me to inconspicuously wear leggings as pants) would be my hair. “It doesn’t have enough...life. And besides, I prefer brunettes”.
That’s when it hit me. My hair really didn’t have life, and not because it lacked volume or luster. It was because I honestly didn’t care about it as part of who I was. I realized that my hair was a defining factor in my identity as a female. Simply because it was long I was awarded a ‘tag’ that classified me as feminine.
Hair is a veil for everyone. It provides something to fixate on. And as my girl Hillary Clinton knows “hair is the only part of one’s body that you can change at will”.
What’s worse is that for women having long hair has become expected. If someone doesn’t have a particularly fit body or a stereotypically pretty face, I still so often hear “she has nice hair”. As if that’s the only thing of worth. But you would never hear that if someone’s hair wasn’t long
When I told my mom that I wanted to cut my hair she was appalled. Why? “Because everyone will think you’re a dyke!”
So I did it.
And since then, all I have done is cut it shorter and shorter.
So far I have loved many things about having short hair: 30 second showers, learning crazy gelling techniques, having nothing in my face, and getting to do the ‘JB hair flip’ when come up for air while swimming. And while I sometimes miss having longer hair to play with or make me look less like my mom, I don’t feel any less beautiful or feminine. In fact, the shorter I cut it, the freer I feel. Every fraction of an inch that I can afford to shave off feels like an immense weight off of my shoulders (no pun intended). At this point, I’m considering almost completely shaving my head.
Why?
Because I’m sick of people saying “You look so pretty! Even with short hair”
Because since when did one single physical trait define someone as “feminine” or “masculine”
Because in this day and age hair has no practical function (I’m not trying to display my fertility levels, thank you very much- I have boobs for that anyway)
And
Because then I wouldn’t have a veil anymore. I would have absolutely nothing to hide behind.

-Devyn

October 23, 2013

BDU Meeting Update


Hey everyone! Every Wednesday, we will provide an update about upcoming events and what took place during that night's BDU meeting. 

Thanks to everyone who came out to tonight's general body meeting! For those who missed it, we checked in with committees and had a great discussion about post-gay identity.

Looking ahead, we will be hosting the following events. Please let us know if you would like to be involved in planning them!

Friday November 15: BDU's Annual Drag Show at Duke Coffeehouse
Tuesday November 19: A plaza event on language use collaborating with Think Before You Talk
Wednesday November 20: Trans* Day of Remembrance

Enjoy the rest of your week!



In other news: this dog is my fav

October 22, 2013

Welcome! From Jacob


A Queer Survival Guide to Duke University

 

Well first year queers (gayby’s? queerby’s? q-frosh? We should work on thinking of a cute name for queer first years) first and foremost, I am absolutely delighted to welcome you to the Duke family. You’re in for four years of excitement, confusion, frustration, anticipation, fabulosity, learning, and fun. As a senior, former President of Blue Devils United, and current Vice President of Equity and Outreach for Duke Student Government, I’ve been around the block a few times, so I wanted to provide you with some quick advice on how to survive at Duke as a member of the queer community. Here are a few tips.

1.      Know that there is no such thing as “the Duke Queer Experience”: Our community is vast at Duke, and everyone experiences this place differently. For many people, particularly gender conforming gay white men (although this category itself can be problematic and rife with discrepancies), Duke can be pretty great. There are tons of queer people at Duke who feel completely welcome here from the day that they set foot on campus and never experience any form of marginalization. If that’s your experience, that’s fantastic! Just try to keep in mind that many queer people at Duke still feel very marginalized, alone, isolated, etc. There is no way to define “what it means to be queer” at Duke. Trust me, I’ve tried.

2.      Know that you’re welcome everywhere, even though it won’t always feel like it: In your first few weeks of school the heterosexuality of campus can be absolutely overwhelming. I remember my first Duke party during orientation week. People were totally cool with the fact that I was gay, but I still felt pretty alone because heterosexuality was blantantly and unapologetically the norm. This is not true of all parties at Duke by any stretch (#roundtable #brownstone #nexus #ubuntu #pegram #coffeehouse #you’llunderstandthesehashtagswithinthreeweeksIpromise), but it is of a significant portion of them. When you encounter those spaces, it may feel lonely at first, but there are always other queer people there. I promise.

3.      Know that Duke can be terrible: While Duke has made great progress towards being a queerer campus in the past few years, it’s not perfect. As a queer person, you may have some awful experiences here. When I was a first year, I hung my rainbow flag out of my window in my dorm and proceeded to have it torn down on three different occasions. Because Duke can be terrible, don’t be shy about reaching out to others when you need support. The Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity can be a great resource, CAPS is vital, and a good group of friends helps too.

4.      Know that the queer community, like any community, isn’t perfect: At Duke, not all queer people get along. Not all queer people even identify as queer. As a gender non-conforming person, there are some people even within the queer community who don’t like the way that I dress. There’s drama that can fracture things, especially on a small campus. There can be rifts between activists and non-activists. We have a robust and healthy community here, but it has its flaws.

5.      Don’t hold too strongly to identities: You are queer, and that is great, but please don’t think that’s all that you have to be. You are never reducible entirely to your queer identity, no matter how important it is to you. Branch out beyond just those in the queer community, because straight allies are plentiful and incredible at Duke.

6.      For the love of God, be an activist: Note here that I didn’t say be a queer activist (although you should consider it). As a queer person, you don’t have to do all of your work around queer issues, but please please please be engaged in social justice issues during your time on campus. After all, the white-supremacapialist-heteropatriarchy won’t overthrow itself.

7.      Know that you’re indebted to people you don’t even know: Duke hasn’t always been a great place for queer people (be on the lookout later for more activism about queer history on campus!), and it has only changed as a campus because of people who came generations of students before you. The first queer group on campus started in 1971, and since then, hundreds of people have worked to make Duke the school that it is for queer people today. Never forget how much you owe them, and never take your community for granted.

8.     Lastly, keep your head up, no matter what anyone says.

 

I can’t tell you how excited I am to meet each and every one of you. If you see me walking around campus, please say hello, introduce yourself, and let me know something cool about you. I may only be here for another year, and I might be a little bit busy with my senior thesis, but you should know that the day you set foot on campus, you already have at least one queer friend in me.

 

With love and solidarity,

Jacob

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!
 

Welcome! From MC

 

 
I'm MC Bousquette, the Blue Devils United treasurer. I'm a senior political science major with a certificate in markets and management studies and a theater studies minor. I was born and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, and will be headed back up north to New York City next year. 

I'm very excited to be a part of the BDU executive board for my senior year. I hope to catch a lot of you around campus, whether at our Wednesday meetings in our awesome new Center or to grab coffee and chat! I'm always here to listen and talk about the Duke experience.

Welcome! From Daniel

Hey everyone! I’m Daniel Kort, a sophomore majoring in psychology and neuroscience, and I’ll be president of Blue Devils United this year. I’m so excited for what’s bound to be a very special time for our organization. With the new Center for Sexual Diversity’s completion, this year marks a high point in the visibility of LGBT life at Duke. As president, I’m committed to ensuring that Duke remains a safe and awesome place for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  In order to accomplish this, I plan to focus on generating a strong bond among LGBT individuals, allies, and the rest of Duke’s campus. This blog will serve as an important component of that mission.
 
To all of the first-year students out there, welcome to Duke! It was just a year ago when I was in your shoes, scrutinizing the degree of acceptance on campus, hoping to find my niche as an out and proud individual. I can thank Blue Devils United for a great degree of my personal growth over the past year, as the community has fostered my development as an aspiring advocate and activist.
 
My first vivid memory of Duke’s strong affirmation of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities goes hand-in-hand with one of my very first memories of Duke itself. When I visited campus for the first time as an eager p-frosh on Blue Devil Days, the election for Amendment 1 (North Carolina’s gay marriage ban) was looming. Even though the amendment passed and I was deeply saddened like many others in the community here, the weeks that led up to the election that May featured an outpouring of support from students and faculty on campus. Here is a photograph that I took of Friedl Building on East Campus during Blue Devil Days in April 2012.
 
 
 
Thank you so much for reading. I’m looking forward to hearing from and meeting all of you! Join us at our general body meetings every other Wednesday, and don’t hesitate to shoot me an email if you’d like to grab lunch or coffee to hear more about Blue Devils United and LGBT life at Duke.
 
 

Welcome! From Sunny


Hi friends and welcome first-years! I’m Sunny Frothingham, native Durhamite, BDU Outreach Chair, Public Policy/Women’s Studies Double Major, and Ally! 

For me, being an ally means I am dedicated to personally supporting as well as publically advocating alongside people who face social, institutional, economic, and legal discrimination because of their sexual orientation and/ or gender identity. Of course, Allyship can be expressed in a variety of ways and mean different things to different people, but there’s no doubt that it is fundamental to making Duke a better place.

When I came to campus, most of my engagement with LGBT issues and community was with a few friends who came out in high school and my denomination’s struggle with the decision to allow the ordination of openly lesbian and gay ministers.  I first got involved with advocacy though efforts to expand Duke’s Gender Neutral Housing options.   My first year here Gender Neutral Housing was strictly limited to certain parts of Central Campus, but through partnerships, research, advocacy, and a whole lot of navigating bureaucracy, my work alongside other campus advocates was successful in ensuring the availability of Gender Neutral Housing on West Campus this year.

My experience working on Gender Neutral Housing Policy (which I’ll be writing a thesis on this year, YAY) was an extremely formative experience for me, and really sparked my interest in doing more about legal and institutional discrimination.  This summer I learned a ton working in the LGBT Policy Department of a think tank in D.C., where I got to research and write about all kinds of policies that disparately impact LGBT people (including, but so much more than marriage).

I’m excited to bring my allyship to the BDU executive board this year, but even if you aren’t interested in the leadership or policy sides of things there are a million ways to make a positive impact here—like educating yourself, being conscious of gendered language and pronouns, hanging a Pride Flag, marching in the Parade, helping with the Drag Show, coming to the Center, and joining BDU.  I can’t wait to meet you!

Welcome! From Fiona


Hello everyone! My name is Fiona McCrossin, I’m a sophomore here at Duke and I absolutely love primatology, animal rights activism, and LGBT activism. I am studying in the Evolutionary Anthropology department and I have an amazing job at the Duke Lemur Center (it’s one of the best parts of my college experience). I’m also the Blog Editor for this blog! So, if you’d like to write for this blog, send me an email and your thoughts will be here in no time!
 
I try to see the spectrum of sexuality and gender as objectively as possible, but I do have a subjective view influenced by my identity as a bisexual individual, and my exploration in the realm of gender; fitting in as a strictly female person isn’t exactly right, so I might identify as bigender, but my self-exploration of gender is relatively new and I think I have more to learn before discovering the identity that I have always had, yet never been able to pinpoint.

My personal ties to the LGBT, or queer, community make activism extra rewarding for me, but I also love to support individuals with identities which are different from mine. This semester I’m acting as the chair of our committee for Trans Day of Remembrance (feel free to get in touch with me if you’d like to participate!) I love being a member of Blue Devils United, the campaigns that we engage in are fantastic from an activism standpoint and from a social standpoint, as I love working with the other members of the BDU executive board. The fun activities that BDU organizes and co-organizes are also a super-enjoyable part of my life and this year I’m hoping to perform in the Drag Show!