A Frank Conversation about the CAUSE's Assembly

Ms. Warren and Mr. Stroup Guest Faculty Writers ms. warren:  well, let’s first start with how awesome that assembly was. what were your favorite parts? Mr. Stroup:  my favorite part by far was Sarah’s talk. I think she did a remarkable job of explaining the difficulty and struggle of the coming out process. And I think the point she made about how a lot of the conflict is internal is especially important. ms. warren: it reminds me of the quote: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” — Anais Nin Mr. Stroup: For a community like ours that does not experience as much overt homophobia  I think it is important for us all to realize the difficulty and stress individuals can be under. ms. warren:  but that internal conflict is due to external pressures, right? Mr. Stroup:  Yes and no. Mr. Stroup:  Even if an individual has a supportive family, peer group, etc.. I think they can still have difficulty coming to terms with who they really are (sexual identity, social group, etc..). Some of that may be due to what societal norms are imposed on us. Even the Latin Community is not free from those. ms. warren:  i guess that’s my point. there would be much less of a struggle if the image of “love” wasn’t one man and one woman. even at a place as progressive as latin, there are so many instances when we “norm” heterosexuality. how many times have students tried to “fix you up” because you aren’t married to a woman. i can tell you that once i got married, those suggestions stopped and people assumed that i was straight. Mr. Stroup:  In an ideal world the process of identifying their sexuality for all individuals would be the same. Asking anyone to proclaim their sexuality creates an undue burden on them. I think the students did  a great job of articulating the frustration and harm that can arise from expecting people to constantly define and announce their sexuality for everyone else. ms. warren:  right. all of the students who spoke at the assembly were so courageous, i think that was my favorite part. i’m so proud of them. Mr. Stroup:  Yes. I was trying to think of words that described what I was admiring about them. Courageous was the first word that came to mind, but then I felt like I really respected how honest they were being. ms. warren:  let’s talk about claudia’s piece and her explanation of the Q’s in the LBGTQQ… i really liked her point about so many individuals walk around the halls and feel comfortable in their “straightness” or “gayness,” that it doesn’t leave much room for much else. it took the conversation about “boxing” sexuality one step further. i think her discussion really underscored how we should reject those boxes. Mr. Stroup: Yes. ms. warren: i was a little confused, though, because it felt like her discussion of her experience was referencing “questioning,” but at the end, didn’t she make the statement that she was “queer?” Mr. Stroup: I believe she did. ms. warren: what does queer mean to you? how do you see that word? Mr. Stroup:  My understanding/interpretation of the term is that it was reappropriated by homosexuals. ms. warren:  yes, a reclaiming. i heard her saying that “queer” was more aligned with “figuring it out.” i guess i had a different understanding of that word. is that what you took from her part? Mr. Stroup:  I wonder if she misspoke? ms. warren:  or if the next generation is redefining it on their own terms? Mr. Stroup:  i wonder if she was referring to a redefining. ms. warren:  from your experience at grinnell, did her discussion of queer resonate with you? Mr. Stroup:  Like i mentioned the affinity group at Grinnell had a bajillion letters. ms. warren:  i like that. ultimately, i think we should rid ourselves of those “labels”. the more there become, the more we begin to realize how nuanced sexuality is. why box it? Mr. Stroup:  I like it and I don’t. As you said, part of the problem stems from trying to put people in boxes. Even if we have 12 options, aren’t we still saying to people “please identify yourself as one of these options”? It also implies a permanence to sexual identity that I think is imposed a lot. ms. warren:  absolutely, but at least we are moving in a direction of MORE letters than FEWER. Mr. Stroup: By adding the letters to the list, we are buying into this idea of “otherness”. ms. warren: would it make you feel better if we added “s” for straight? Mr. Stroup: No. I feel like there is currently a need for people who identify as other to be able to have a group to identify to, to support each other, to talk about issues, etc… ms. warren: how do you create that space without perpetuating the idea that the people who identify as “different” are actually different (which they’re not, duh)? Mr. Stroup: I don’t know. ms. warren:  i really enjoyed blair’s poem, the one she and kristina performed. Mr. Stroup:  yes,  that was good. When they were speaking I felt myself wondering if they were telling me a personal story about themselves or a fictional account to illustrate the coming out process. ms. warren:  but ultimately, one of the goals, i think, is to resist that. if one is truly interested, it can be a conversation that can be had with blair. Mr. Stroup:  At first I felt guilty speculating about that because I felt that one of the points of the day was explaining the dangers that are associated with that. ms. warren:  but she has opened herself up publicly and has started the conversation. Mr. Stroup:  Sure. It seems though that we expect individuals in our society/community who do not fit into the box of what we consider normal to be constantly alerting everyone to the ways that they are different. ms. warren:  and, back to the fluidity point you made earlier, these things can change. i totally agree. if these things are fluid, we shouldn’t expect anyone to “proclaim” every time there is a change or new revelation.  so i think to respect that, all of us should try to refrain from speculating or constructing stories about the sexuality of others. Mr. Stroup:  Sure, and from making assumptions about people we know or don’t know. but that’s hard ms. warren:  true that. and how do we reconcile that with blair’s piece that seemed to proclaim where she is at this point in time? Mr. Stroup:  Good point, it seems like part of the coming out process is validation from others, their recognition of your self identification. ms. warren:  yea. i don’t think i understand that yet. Mr. Stroup:  in what way? ms. warren:  because self-identification is important but it changes. Mr. Stroup:  sure. I guess sort of like what we talked about earlier, ideally the coming out process would be internal. an individual goes through the process of self realization, but doesn’t need to share this with others because no one would be making assumptions about them. but there is something beautiful about watching people opening themselves to others and sharing truths about themselves. ms. warren:  i totally agree.  I guess i just would hope that that “opening up” isn’t taken as the final word on someone’s sexuality. ms. warren:  can we talk about jake’s piece? i actually thought that one was the most heart-wrenching one. Mr. Stroup:  the part about him not meeting his sister’s kids? ms. warren:  yes. an 8-year old would never say something like that. that is totally a message she has gotten from the outside world and was simply repeating. i thought it illustrated the power of cultural messages. Mr. Stroup:  So where do those cultural values stem from or where do they exist?  I don’t see a lot of blatant homophobia in pop culture and mainstream media, but you might disagree. ms. warren: i guess it’s not blatant, but the subtle messages are there. that particular comment just seems too specific. the language was too “adult-like.” maybe she heard it from another adult? Mr. Stroup: Definitely possible. ms. warren:  i was impressed with the audience behavior during the assembly. from my vantage point, people were attentive and it appeared as if they were really considering what the speakers had to say. Mr. Stroup:  I think our students know when to behave, when we as faculty would be very upset if they acted inappropriately. I saw several students congratulating the speakers afterwards and giving them hugs which was really nice to see. But I’m pretty sure those were close friends of the students. I am interested in the students’ reaction. ms. warren:  students in my class after the assembly had nothing but positive and supportive things to say. Mr. Stroup:  but do you think kids would have said something negative? ms. warren:  i guess not. i guess you’re right: as adults, we rarely see the mean-spirited things that students say among and to each other. Mr. Stroup:  I don’t think that’s limited to students though. Many people say the “right” things in public, but the problems really arise when they are confronted with gayness in someone they love. And it goes the other way too; people often have negative views about certain groups of people, but then have to reevaluate those views when they are challenged by people they know and love. It’s part of the process of growing and learning. ms. warren:  yes. but fear is often behind the negative feelings. Mr. Stroup: I think a lot of times, and particularly for parents, loved ones are concerned with the difficulties that currently come with being gay (bullying, drug abuse, suicide rates, discrimination in the workplace, civil liberties, etc..). ms. warren: but there are so many beautiful things too. i wish we could talk about this all day. thanks for talking! i always love our conversations.]]>