GLBTA panel calls for better Greek relations

The gay and Greek communities at USC need to build a working relationship to address the existing tension and lack of communication, a panel of gay students and alumni concluded Monday at the Gay & Greek Speak Out.

More than 45 students showed up to listen to alumni and current USC fraternity members share what it is like to be gay and in the Greek system. The panel event was run by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Assembly — without the involvement of any Greek councils.

Brandon Hui | Daily Trojan

Brandon Hui | Daily Trojan

“Right now it’s an unspoken issue, but we need to open these channels of communication, and hopefully the Greek community will be more receptive to LGBT individuals,” said Genevieve Flores, executive director of the GLBTA. “The Greek community needs to make it okay for individuals who are LGBT need to come out.”

Although Flores said the event touched on some of the difficulties facing lesbian and bisexual women in sororities, the main focus of the panel was to discuss the difficulty of being a gay male in the Greek system.

Panelist Stephen Anderson, a USC alumnus and a member of Delta Chi fraternity, said although fraternities were seeing more openly gay members, he had still witnessed homophobic behavior in his time at USC.

“I heard the term ‘faggot’ tossed around all the time,” Anderson said. “It’s a tough environment … I’ve found that there is a lot of misunderstanding on both sides.”

Vincent Vigil, director of the LGBT Resource Center, said both the LGBT and the Greek communities need to focus on facilitating a safe environment where LGBT students feel comfortable, without the fear of homophobic remarks or behavior.

“I don’t know if all people who are Greek understand the difficulties of being gay and Greek … So on both sides, there needs to be learning and understanding about these issues,” Vigil said.

As the politics of gay rights become increasingly visible — President Barack Obama recently brought the issue back to the national conversation by promising to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” laws as well as the Defense of Marriage Act — Flores said GLBTA is moving forward with the overall goals of promoting relevant LBGT issues and increasing acceptance of LGBT students on USC’s campus, through events like the panel.

The discussion included a focus on the panelists’ experiences with attending fraternity and sorority events with same-sex partners, and the discrimination they faced during the rush period.

Steven Philp, a senior majoring in creative writing and international relations who was a panelist at the event, said gay members of the Greek community still felt a stigma because the topic is considered somewhat taboo.

“The biggest challenge in the Greek community is that it has a heterosexist structure,” said Philp, who described himself as an openly gay member of Beta Theta Phi. “I never brought a guy to my own invite, as I was very discouraged, and you definitely feel a little isolated.”

A number of students who attended the event said they were disappointed that Panhellenic and IFC did not contribute to the event and hoped to hear more discussion about being a lesbian or bisexual girl in a sorority in the future.

“It’s not talked about … It’s probably harder to be a lesbian in a sorority than it is to be gay in a fraternity,” said Mary Walsh, a current Panhellenic sorority member. “The Greek system is very big on heteronormativity.”

The event was prompted by an incident last semester, when Isaac Ahn, a senior majoring in English and communication, wrote a letter to the Daily Trojan accusing the Greek system of homophobia and discrimination, according to Flores.

That letter gave GLBTA the idea of holding a panel discussion to explore some of the subtler aspects of Greek life, especially for gay or lesbian members.

Philp said although IFC and the Panhellenic Council seemed open to interacting with the LGBT community, there is a need for equality education for individual chapters.

IFC President Nick Hamada, who attended the event, said IFC encouraged all fraternity members to participate.

“We are an open community, so there is overlap between our communities,” Hamada said. “They are trying to increase dialogue between the communities to bring up these important issues.”

Hamada said IFC plans to work on improving communications about these issues with individual chapters, as well as looking at aspects of the rush process.

The panel discussion, which was followed by a question and answer session with attendees, ended with a sense of general consensus that the communities have to make an effort to work together.

“Our goal is just to educate ourselves, as the different communities don’t know that much about each other,” Flores said. “We wanted to provide a window into both worlds.”

7 replies
  1. dj
    dj says:

    Don, you seem to have a homophobic agenda…There is no “radical gay agenda” going on in this case. The LGBT community is simply trying to bridge the communication and education gaps that exist today on campus between the gay and Greek communities. Are you saying that the “traditional values” of the Greek system did not include segregation? Excluding gays is not at all different from discriminating against race. It seems that you are rather ignorant about the topic. We as a community are not trying to change anything, but instead trying to secure that we should be treated the same regardless of sexual orientation. Homosexual, bisexual, and trans-gender students who feel like being a part of the Greek community do so for their own personal reasons, just like heterosexual students. I guarantee you there is not a gay movement to change the Greek system in effect. You are bringing in topics that don’t really relate at all to what is actually being discussed in the article. Your views alone are evidence that the Greek community is not “well enough” and that more education and communication must take place in the future.

    To put in my own two cents, I am currently a Freshman that is considering rushing in the fall. I am not what you would be a stereotypical gay man. I have many straight male and female friends and would love to be in a society with a great brotherhood (whether they be gay, bisexual, or straight) such as a fraternity. I would in no way intend to change the system, but instead seek understanding that I am a person like everyone else. I have no “radical gay agenda” and know no one else that has one. I do, however, know another bisexual freshman who was accepted into a fraternity, but is afraid to let his sexuality be exposed. Why should ANYONE fear exclusion from any organization in the world, especially America, because they are different? Exactly. They should not. Being in support of the equal treatment of an individual does not make you gay, nor does it even mean you support homosexuality. It shows that you are an educated person that can see that we are all in fact the same and should be treated that way.

  2. DON
    DON says:

    Just an afterthought…WHY would a practicing gay want to even join a traditional, heterosexual fraternity, unless it was for the express purpose of changing it?!?

    A personal experience I had which involved a homosexual member of my fraternity will hopefully prove very instructive to this topic: Nobody knew Ron was gay when he first joined the fraternity, but several of us eventually found out…even though we told nobody else because we knew it could only cause problems for him & he valued the friendships he had there enough that he was willing to keep his homosexuality a non-issue, so he could continue his friendships and remain in the fraternity!! So everyone stayed quiet about the issue and Ron eventually went his own way and lost contact with most in the chapter members (myself included). When others learned of his premature death (under mysterious circumstances) at a subsequent class reunion, very few even suspected it was probably AIDS-related and nobody mentioned that possibility, since it couldnt be substantiated one way or another. Those who knew him well enough to know whether or not it might be AIDS-related never brought it up…out of respect for Ron.

    If “don’t ask, don’t tell” is good enough for the military to function, then why would it not be good enough for a social group with traditional values like a fraternity or sorority to function as well? If someone’s homosexuality is such a major issue that they wouldnt be able to function well in a heterosexual fraternity/sorority, why would they not start or join a similar group for homosexual members or at least those who DON’T CARE about sexual preference? To join a traditional Greek organization with the intent of pushing for “acceptance” of how you choose to live is nothing more than blatant political activism…and often brings with it other elements of the radical gay agenda!!

    Lastly, for those who believe homosexuals are one of the most “oppressed” groups, try talking to an EX-HOMOSEXUAL and learn some of their experiences of ostracism and harassment that they endured at the hands of ACTIVE, PRACTICING GAYS!! I’ve known some personally and they have some true horror stories to tell…

  3. DON
    DON says:

    Thanks for your input JR…I am not talking about something as blatant as the GLBTA issuing edicts that mandate gay weddings, transsexual celebrations, etc, but rather a gradual, incremental process of social (and sometimes legal) actions, such as those that eventually brought about “integration” of fraternity-sponsored dances at some college campuses, wherein private fraternities were forced to allow gay couples to dance at fraternity functions (to site just one example)!! As a fraternity member who has observed a gradual, incremental imposition of the radical gay agenda at numerous college campuses across the U.S., I can assure you this is not something we want to see take place at USC…

  4. JR
    JR says:

    I’m happy to hear that these two communities are beginning to open discussion. As an alum of the Greek system at USC, you can’t deny the fact that membership across these organizations include LGBT students who are just looking to enrich their collegiate experience like any other person. It’s important, especially in academia, to practice an open understanding and a willingness to learn what is different from you. Unfortunately, I feel that the Greek system might be the last place where tolerance for the LGBT community is practiced as it is so much a community centered on heterosexual roles.

    And Don, never in my experience as a Greek did the LGBT community try and dictate the way IFC or Panhellenic was run. This article talks upon “building a working relationship” and addressing “existing tension and lack of communication” between these two communities. With regards to your statement of LGBT students pushing their agenda on the Greek system, are you speaking from experience as a member of a Fraternity/Sorority as well?

    The panel was designed to discuss the same issues you brought up in your post, and perhaps both of us could have learned something about each side if we both attended.

  5. DON
    DON says:

    GREEK COMMUNITY TO GLBTA: Dont call us…we’ll call you, but not anytime soon!!

    Why on earth would the USC fraternity system want to open themselves to a group which is looking for an opportunity to DICTATE how fraternity life will be governed?!? This is not a matter of being “accepted”…the agenda here is to incrementally force “gay rights” down the throats of heterosexuals!! Once “gay marriage” is legalized in California, the GLBTA will be pushing for fraternity-sanctioned gay wedding ceremonies, special events for “transsexuals” and other such key proposals that are part and parcel of the radical gay agenda!!

    Start your own gay fraternity system and leave well enough alone…

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