In a survey distributed to all of UCI’s Panhellenic sororities and IFC fraternities, 10 percent of those who responded personally identified as gay, bisexual or pansexual. This means around one in 10 Greek system members do not identify as heterosexual.
It is a generally accepted stigma that the Greek system at-large is not welcoming or accepting to queer students. Students can be moved to perceive that the Greek system has deemed a “brother” a masculine figure and a “sister” a feminine figure. Students could believe that fraternities and sororities are afraid of being labeled as the gay fraternity or sorority, so they do not welcome new queer members. The Greek system has evolved, but the prejudices and assumptions accompanying it have not.
In the survey of UCI’s Greek members, almost 60 percent of participants said they knew a member in their chapter who was “out.” This means that over half of the Greek members have a queer “brother” or “sister.” Activists in the queer community are encouraging people to come out because the more who come out, the more allies the queer community will gain. Individuals who once held prejudices against queer people could have a change of heart when these queer people are now their brothers, sisters, children or best friends.
A pansexual sorority member said, “I can be 100 percent sincere and say my sisters completely accepted me when I came out to them. As with other coming out stories, there was a little shock initially but not one of my 100-plus sisters treated me any differently, and I really never got the impression any one of them really cared about my sexual orientation. I highly encourage all who are interested to look into the Greek system and individual chapters to find where you are the most comfortable.”
This is not an isolated positive experience, as several other queer Greek members wrote testimonials about their overwhelmingly positive experience. There have been isolated incidences of fraternity members mistreating gay men, but these negative occurrences were overshadowed by the huge amount of support the rest of the Greek system provided for the victims of mistreatment.
Of the survey participants, 94 percent believed that their chapter was accepting of queer students, and over 90 percent claimed they would like to see continued acceptance or improved acceptance of queer students in UCI’s Greek system. Stereotypes aside, this says that though there may have been some bad experiences between the Greek system and queer students, almost the entire Greek system is accepting toward queer students and is dedicated to building a homophobic and heterosexist-free community.
Now we know that UCI’s Greek system is welcoming to queer students. What we need to do next is make sure that incoming LGBT students know that their sexual orientation will not prevent them from being offered a bid into a fraternity or sorority.
In the end, the overarching goal of all fraternities and sororities is to build a lifelong bond of brotherhood and sisterhood, and these relationships are not dependent on one’s sexual orientation.
Rebecca Beeman is a fourth-year public health policy major. She can be reached at email@example.com.