Elon University Race to the Ballot Event – 2/15/12

Dear Elon University faculty, staff and students,

Please join Spectrum, Amnesty International, College Democrats, Multicultural Center, the Truitt Center, PFLAG Alamance, Students for Peace & Justice, and Elon’s LGBTQ Office from 7-9pm in McKinnon on Wednesday, 2/15 as we educate and speak out on Amendment One, host an evening of entertainment (including student performers!), and register voters. You can also find us at College Coffee and our Moseley Table all day Tuesday and Wednesday to register to vote! Google “Race to the Ballot” for more information.”

Want to learn more about Amendment One and how it will affect all NC citizens (straight AND queer)? Click here.

Learn more about Race to the Ballot

Learn more about The Coalition to Protect NC Families

Advertisements

Gay dad (not the band).

By an Elon Faculty Member

It was Christmas in the year 2000, meaning the dot-com bubble hadn’t burst just yet. But my bubble burst when my DAD (he signs his emails this way) announced that he was gay. Didn’t I get the memo?

1) He watched foreign films early on Saturday mornings and never sports on Sunday.

2) He cut my sandwiches into stars, squares and other shapes to make my boxed lunches more interesting.

3) When I need a Halloween costume, he could whip up a clown hat taller than me in no time.

4) We practiced how I could enter a room and announce, “Boom.” [look around] “The shock of just knowing you’re alive.”

5) He ironed my clothes.

Nope. To me, these were not gay stereotypes—simply indicators that I had an awesome DAD. My father engaged with me in many creative and thoughtful ways throughout my childhood. He taught me how to ride my bike. How to cook. How to think. How to write. So, when, in my mid-20s my parents sat us down to explain why they would be getting divorced (even though we were technically Catholic=more confusion/doubt/insanity), I was dumbfounded. Shocked. How could I not have known?

Then I got scared.

My parents lived in the small, predominately Christian, Southern – and often segregated – community I grew up in. Would someone physically harm my father or burn my house or something? What would my friends and their parents think? What did I think? And how would my Mom – who relied on him during 30 years of marriage – cope? Was she going to move in with me now? Sheesh. In the first few years of my “adjustment,” I fielded questions from men I dated: “Does this mean you’re gay too?” Observations from my friends: “Well your Dad was always a little different.” Suggestions: “Maybe he could go to one of those camps where they make you straight again?”

I do not see my father’s sexuality as a “choice.” And I don’t expect that as an ally I will fully understand what it is like to be anything other than a straight woman. I cannot pretend to walk in DAD’s shoes. I don’t announce to my classes that my father is gay. I don’t usually wear rainbows or protest or picket things. I’ve never really been comfortable with the word “queer.”

But today, I truly feel that having a gay DAD is a gift. I know what it means to be an ally, because I know firsthand what it means to defend someone I love. To listen to a grown man’s struggles. To embrace a new future. To see our world differently. I am a better person and daughter today. My job as an ally is to do whatever I can to make a safe and equal world for some of my closest friends and many of my respected peers. I can walk a path with my students if they need me. I can share my story. I can listen to others with compassion. And although I might sometimes stand more privately than some, I will always stand proudly—now with two DADs.

Telling my story.

By Scott Hendershot, Elon Staff

“Mrs. L” (that’s what I called my 6th grade teacher), “why am I different, why don’t like I like all the things the other boys like?” as an 11 year old these were the most profound questions that I could ever ask and never know what I was really asking. It took 13 more years for me to actually accept the answer that Mrs. L never gave me. When she said to me, “Well Scott, just because you feel different is not a bad things, your individuality is what makes you wonderful”. Those words have stuck with me, and have been a piece of inspiration that I have been able to hold onto ever since that day. Now in my late 20’s I have a new understanding of what that individuality means for me. I am gay, and I am not afraid of that. I am happy with who I am and can fully accept myself for who I am. But it has taken some time for me to get to this point, let’s step back a few years. It was 2006 and I was a first year grad student at Indiana State University. It was my first time to be outside my “Christian” bubble, I went to Anderson University for my undergraduate education. During my time at Anderson I had lived the “Academic and Christian Discovery” that they preach. However, while I “lived” this on the outside, I was not living it on the inside, well at least not up to the standards of AU. I wanted so bad to conform to the hetero/Christian life that “everyone” at AU had, but never felt like that was me. Deep down I knew that I was “different” but wasn’t willing to accept the fact that I was Gay. So after 4 years in the bubble, starting grad school at a state school, I was definitely out of my comfort zone. It was 2 days after the RA’s returned and one of the RA’s came up to me and asked if I would go to Starbucks with him, I thought oh this is great I will get to make a student connection early. So we get in his car and he has music from Rent playing, and says, “Oh by the way I am Gay, you are too, right?” So here I am riding in a car with someone I have known for less than 48 hours, and he has already picked up on something that I haven’t even accepted myself. Needless to say but I was so SCARED, what had I gotten myself into, how would I ever hide my true sexuality. Well I was able to mask it; well what I thought was masking it for my 2 years of grad school. During those 2 years I probably learned more about myself than any other time in my life, I was able to understand my identity, and was coming to a point where I was more comfortable with my sexuality but was not able to admit it myself let alone to anyone else. In June 2008, I had graduated from Indiana State and was moving to North Carolina, I was about to start my first professional job, and moving 9 hours away from home. It was June 15, 2008 and I started work at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and I was in for some eye opening experiences. I encountered more diversity in my first 2 months of work at UNCSA than I probably had my whole life, and I LOVED it, I felt so at home and comfortable. Yes I was still trying to hide in the closet, but I knew that if anyone would accept me it would be the people at UNCSA. So fast forward to October, one of my coworkers and friends, who I thought was straight, hosted a presidential debate party! Well after a couple of glasses of wine, it was decided that I would stay there for the night instead of going home. This was the night of my first homosexual exploration. So I was still in the closet, but I allowed myself to explore and see what I felt about everything. Well it didn’t take long for me to accept that I was Gay, it just felt to good to not be true. In December of 2008, I started the process of coming out, I start with close friends and each time I came out to someone was a heart racing, sweaty pits, and scary moment. However it did get easier over time. It took about a year before I felt that everyone who I wanted to know, knew. Yes there are still times when I have to tell someone, but I have made it part of who I am and don’t get scared anymore and actually enjoy telling my story to people. It has been 3 years since I first came out, these have been some of the best and hardest years of my life, but I would not change one thing. I am a better stronger person and so thankful for the life I have. My story does not end with my coming out, but that will be for another entry. Thanks for reading my story, please feel free to email me if you would like to chat or know more. shendershot@elon.edu

Ally.

By Michelle Jones, Elon Staff

Recently, I failed as an ally.

I have been to rallies to protest inequality.  I have passionately defended homosexuality on a first date (c’mon, after the 2nd glass of wine, I knew it wasn’t going anywhere with a guy that only watches Fox News & told me that the “gays” would make things better for themselves if they just weren’t so flamboyant in public).  I’ve had healthy debates about marriage equality with my Catholic parents, even on the way to church and during mass.

Still, I failed.  Gathering around a table that sometimes has enough food to feed 70 people with my large, Italian New York family is a Thanksgiving tradition.  Loud. Opinionated. Italian New York family.  That is highly conservative.  Whom I love.  This Thanksgiving, I was planning on going in to NYC on Black Friday to visit some friends – a gay couple – who had recently moved to Manhattan.  When asked about my plans around the Thanksgiving table, my aunts and uncles did a double-take when I mentioned who I was visiting the next day.  They were shocked with how “casual” and “normal” I made the situation seem.  I was shocked with their reaction.  My parents, egging on the situation, said “don’t start this discussion with Michelle – she’ll never stop talking about it.”  However, I remained silent.  I spoke my opinion and refused to discuss it further, so as not to spoil the holiday.

This was not the first time that I held my tongue.  A couple of times, while watching tv with family, a commercial has come on with a 1second glimpse of two men about to kiss.  The reactions from my family members are along the lines of “I’m fine with homosexuality, but keep it off the tv. We don’t need to see that.”  Obviously they weren’t fine with it.  Yet I remained silent.

I love my family.  I am ok with having differing opinions on most issues.  But their views on homosexuality deeply disappoint me.  And so does my inability to speak up when I feel outnumbered.  With the recent Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, I find power in his quote:

            In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

I will be a better ally.  I will continue to speak up for my friends, my colleagues, those of you I have not met yet, and those of you whose path I may never cross.  Because it will get better.

The Glam Squad.

By Nathan Acosta, ’09

This is a coming out story of sorts, but I’m a little offended to refer to my story as only that. Coming out is a first major step. I have always known I am gay and came out to all friends and family at sixteen. This is what happened two years later:

When I arrived at Elon I had one mission: find my people. I knew so much was riding on this. As one of only two out guys in a high school graduating class of more than 800, I was desperate to find my community. The fantasy and fulfillment of self-discovery exploration that college brings was something I had looked forward to for years. You see, I’ve always been an early bloomer. I was taunted, teased, ridiculed, and bullied for being who I was for so long and needed to find others to relate to. I’m sure we have all felt at some point in our lives “am I the only one that feels this way?” That was so me at eighteen years old.

Within the first few weeks of arriving on campus, I explored the options. I attended the first few SPECTRUM meetings. After all, I had been the president of my high school’s Gay Straight Alliance. SPECTRUM was the next step, right? Actually, it wasn’t. I realized quickly I didn’t have enough in common with the people there. I didn’t identify with them on any level other than we were all living an “alternative lifestyle,” or passionate about the issues and campus agendas typically related to politically conscious homos. In the days of 2005, SPECTRUM presented to me a colorful buffet of everything that “gay” was except for one critical element: me. There were lesbian softball players, closeted lesbian staff and professors, religious studies majors, obsessive music theatre queens, acapella singers, people with two moms or two dads, and New England hippies on the list serv.

Fortunately for me and SPECTRUM, this story isn’t about my diva takeover, reinvention of, and totalitarian rule of the student organization. No, gaining my sense of community didn’t happen that professionally. Of course it would happen randomly, at night, after an experimental night of under age drinking. For the sake of time and removing further embarrassing details, just know that the glam squad magically appeared!

Also known as the “Pink Mafia,” the glam squad was the ultimate team of strong black women cleverly disguised as gay boys. We were from all over and from various backgrounds: some were from the rural ethers of the south, some were big city boys, some came from wealthy families, and some were at Elon on scholarships. We were united by our confidence. Essentially, the glam squad ruled Elon the way the Spice Girls ruled the world in the summer of 1997.  We were icons of style and fashion, adored jewels of comedy and humor, vigilant leaders of thought, and known for our outlandish, over-the-top, fabulous parties. We held positions of leadership and prestige throughout every resume-building activity Elon had to offer. By every definition, we were successful.

My indoctrination into the glam squad was proof it was possible to live life out of the closet and still be successful. My mother had told me for years that being both was an intangible dream. It was explained to me that I had nothing to contribute to the world. Being gay was a burden to her and a shame on the whole family; Since I wasn’t going to have a family of my own one day, I was selfish for “making this decision;” My focus until I die should laser-in on keeping a low profile and trying not to get AIDS or addicted to drugs. Whatever happened, there wasn’t going to be a nice ending. I would never be happy and no one would come to my funeral. Then I would go to hell!

The members of the glam squad were committed to proving my mother wrong. We each had an elaborate personal story full of unusual challenges. We were gay and Catholic, gay and from uneducated, blue-collar families, gay and black. Some of us were gay and sons of conservative, wealthy families with millions at stake depending on who knew they were a fag. I guess we led double lives, but we were ahead of our time. We didn’t let these total extremes get the best of us. I don’t think we realized it then.

Times with the glam squad were the best. Our gang was a very similar set up to the cast of Queer As Folk. Everyone was friends with everyone, but had an arch-nemesis rival with someone else. We had quiet movie nights at home, crazy house parties, and ventured far away from campus for a splash of the grander gay lifestyle at Raleigh’s Legends and Greensboro’s ill-fated Skybar.  We giggled and squealed over stories about crushes and new loves just like sorority girls do. Being in the glam squad meant, for the first time, there was always someone else who got you.

Like a glamorous new product straight out of Hollywood, the glam squad came apart too soon. After the fall semester of my freshman year, we were less and less connected due to internships in other states, study-abroad experiences, graduations, and other commitments. I started dating someone who didn’t go to Elon and life moved on. In the following years as an upperclassman, I tried a few times to find a community like the glam squad again, but it didn’t exist on campus. Other gay guys I knew were either in the closet with no intentions on cracking the door or too absorbed in other identities to be best friends with each other. I’m not sure why the glam squad didn’t have follow-up generations. The greater Elon community didn’t become more conservative or aggressive in anti-gay intolerance. In fact I was only called fag twice in my four years – that’s versus a dozen times daily in high school. I think the glam squad is a certain special product in our social nature. It’s like a bursting of cicadas only once every 17 years. Whatever the case, I’m just glad I was a part of it then and can’t wait to stumble upon my next tribe of fabulous sexual deviants.

Queer as Smokes?!

By Jordan Perry, Elon Staff

Hi friends. Guess what I recently learned? According to Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, self-identified LGBT* folks smoke at rates 35% to 200% higher than self identified non-LGBT folks.

Why does this matter? Well, as you probably know, tobacco use results in disease, disability, and death. In the US, tobacco kills more people each day than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, firearms, and illegal drugs – combined.

Why is this happening? Several reasons: in some areas (cough, cough, Elon!), LGBT folks have limited spaces to socialize openly with peers. Historically, “safe” spaces for LGBT folks to socialize openly have largely been bars. People smoke in bars. A lot. And even if you choose not to smoke personally, second hand smoke is dangerous, ya’ll. Luckily, in 2010, NC made all establishments (including bars) smoke-free. At least we’re doing something right in NC…

Higher rates of
smoking are also a result of marketing aimed directly at LGBT folks. Turns out that tobacco companies actually target their advertising in areas and media outlets frequented by LGBT folks. Those a$#holes! In addition, identifying as LGBT in the US can be stressful (you’re surprised, right?) because LGBT folks are subjected to discrimination, stress, and victimization. Discrimination, stress, and victimization are associated with higher rates of smoking.

So what do we do?

  • Recognize and resist the impact of marketing on our health choices.
  • If you or someone you know is interested in quitting, check out the NC Quitline.
    • Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW and you’ll be paired with your own Quit Coach who helps you quit. It’s a really cool, free resource.
    • If you aren’t interested in quitting now, consider cutting down. Even one less cigarette a day makes a difference.
    • Know that so-called “social smoking” is still smoking. Just like one less cigarette a day makes a difference, even smoking one cigarette a day is associated with health problems.
    • Find or create safe spaces to socialize that are substance free.
    • Support each other; social support reduces stress.

*From what I understand, researchers only surveyed LGBT folks, so we can’t say for sure if these results are also true for the Is, As, and the Qs. Oh, research.

Sources:

http://lgbttobacco.org/files/LGBTTobaccoFactsheetFinal2011.pdf

http://www.lungusa.org/assets/documents/publications/lung-disease-data/lgbt-report.pdf

An Elon Alum Thanks his Alma Mater.

by Brian O’Shea, ’06/Elon Staff 2005-2011

I share the following letter I sent to Elon University President Dr. Leo Lambert on October 16, 2009 after an extraordinary experience marching alongside hundreds of thousands at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C. October 11, 2009.  The opinions expressed then are still very true today.  I feel fortunate to call Elon my alma mater and my professional home for over six and a half years.  We may always have strides to make, but I am thankful today for this incredible environment.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­October 16, 2009

Dear Dr. Lambert,

This past weekend I had the opportunity and resources to spend two days in our nation’s capital marching with over 250,000 other lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight people.  We marched for 2.5 miles and rallied on the steps of the Capitol building for hours to demand our equality under the law.  It was truly an experience that I and (hopefully) my husband will be able to tell our children about one day.  I met others from across the country from all different backgrounds, religions, races, and orientations and while we were all so different we marched for one sole purpose, equality for all.

After returning from this incredible experience, I drove into work on Monday morning with tears in my eyes because while I had the opportunity to return to a community that embraces me for who I am, tens of thousands returned from the march to hostile communities, families and environments.  While I came back to a place that encourages me to own my identity because our community values diversity and the lessons that come with it, others struggle daily to survive against near insurmountable odds.

I write to tell you about this experience in order to thank you, the senior staff and the Board of Trustees for being on what I believe to be the right side of history in recognizing the value in all types of diversity.  Elon is a place that encourages faculty, staff and students to be their authentic self.  It is a place that allows students to feel safe as they explore all the aspects that make them who they are.  It is a place that does not tolerate hate or oppression.  It is a place that celebrates diversity as an essential part of ones education.  For all these reasons and more, I thank you.

I take advantage of every opportunity I get I tell others about Elon’s recognition of domestic partnerships.  I feel valued that Elon recognizes that my relationship with my partner is just as important and legitimate as those of heterosexual relationships.  Elon has always been a leader in so many ways, but with this one action, Elon has set itself apart in a big way.  It would have been easy to follow the pack and not take action like so many organizations, corporations and the government, but I am proud to say that I am a part of a university that is rarely a follower.

I admire the work you do to make Elon the best it can be.  I cannot accurately describe how it prides me to be associated with this very special place.  Elon has and always will have a special place in my heart. Thank you, Dr. Lambert.

Please feel free to share as you see fit with members of the senior staff, members of the board and/or others members of the Elon community.

Sincerely,

Brian O’Shea ‘04

Assistant to the vice president for student life and dean of students

Middle School Sucks.

By Ross Wade, Elon Staff

I hated middle school. Really hated it.

I was fat, had bad skin, a bad stutter, and was a total sissy (which was a nice way of saying “that fat kid is so gay”). Did I mention all my friends were black girls? I don’t know why they liked me…but they thought I was HILARIOUS, and I worshipped them for that.

Did I mention my entire family consisted of conservative Christians? Church on Sundays, no HBO watchin’, gay = abomination Christians? I’m sure they sensed my gayness early on…my entire childhood I begged for Cabbage Patch Kids with “cornsilk hair” and Barbie dolls…and my mom, because she loved me, provided them to me.

Sixth grade.  I had a “sexy dream” about this boy in my class. I was devastated. I knew this could only mean one thing: sexy boy dream + passion for Cabbage Patch Kids with cornsilk hair + the dance piece I  choreographed to White Lion’s “When the Children Cry” = gay abomination going to hell!

Oprah confirmed this. A couple of weeks later I was watching one of her shows on gay teens. I heard their stories. I understood their stories. I remember watching the show and holding my breath so I wouldn’t cry and praying my sexy boy dreams would go away. I wished I was dead. I literally wished I would die in the night so I would not shame God or my parents. I didn’t want my dad to be embarrassed or hate me. I didn’t want to be a sissy or call attention to myself. I no longer wanted to be me. I wanted to be my thin, athletic, handsome, straight brother (yep…I even had a “perfect brother” to make me feel extra shitty).

I learned to act “butch” and stay quiet. Keep in mind my version of butch is not very…butch. My “keep under the radar” strategy consisted of theatre and art camps…and hanging out with sassy black girls. I prayed every night to wake up straight, and even put up posters of Alyssa Milano and Tiffany (I worshiped her too!) to remind my parents I was totally straight, and “into the ladies”. I laid low, as low as I could, and made it through middle school. My friends taught me I was funny, and I was smart enough to capitalize on that…and funny worked really well for me in high school. In college being funny was still working for me, I started to accept myself…I started to come out to folks and had support from friends, faculty, and staff (this is why I LOVE college and student development so much). I made friends. I created my own family…and distanced myself from my real family.

The thing about being gay and keeping secrets from your family is that you deny them the chance of loving you for who you are and being your ally. For years I distanced myself from family, because I didn’t want to get close and then have them abandon me (which happens so often with LGBTQ kids). What I didn’t realize is that they felt abandoned. They wondered why I didn’t love them. I did love them…I was just too scared to let them really see me.

One afternoon in college I decided to call my mom and tell her I was coming home to tell her something important. I drove from Greenville, NC to Durham, NC…puking twice on the way. I sat down with my mom and told her I was gay. Her response? “I know.” We talked. We told each other we loved each other and “agreed to disagree” on a couple of religious points. I was still her son. What a relief. I wish it was this easy for every queer kid.

Mom has changed a bit since then. We still agree to disagree, but she won’t take shit from anyone about me being gay. “That’s between my son and God,” she says. She’s right I guess…even though I’m still reconciling the whole gay and religion thing.

I learned through that experience that change starts with the telling of stories. Before folks can understand a movement or a cause, they need to understand (and care about) the people connected to that cause. That is the intended purpose for the “queErLON blog”…my own little (as a representative of Elon’s LGBTQ Center) solution to offer Elon University as we move toward attaining true diversity on campus.