Four panelists spoke Wednesday at the Gay & Greek Panel Discussion about their experiences in the Greek community and how they felt to be “out” and on The Row.
The panel, part of the Queer and Ally Student Association’s celebration of Coming Out month, is part of an effort to bring different facets of the USC community together, said Emily Allen, executive director of QuASA.
“Stereotypically, the Greek community is one that has been known to be different from the gay community,” Allen said. “We want to see where those differences are coming from and encourage communication between the different communities.”
David Salter, a USC alumnus of the class of 2006 and panelist, said he never explicitly talked about his sexuality during rush.
“I was told they were aware of it, but they let me in anyway. I always had this idea that there was a line I had to toe,” Salter said. “It was great that I was in, but I couldn’t push my luck.”
Salter said he felt he had to maintain a specific image to fit in within his fraternity.
“I would make the jokes before they could so they didn’t make the jokes and I felt bad,” Salter said. “To them it was kind of like, ‘OK, you’re not too gay for us.’ For me, it was like I was trying very hard but I want to be myself.”
Salter said most students are not usually conscious of how often they use the terms.
“There are a lot of genuinely good people out there who do and say things that could be genuinely damaging, and I don’t really know what to do with that,” Salter said. “There are a lot of people who say things like, ‘That’s gay’ and don’t think it will hurt or offend anyone.”
For panelist Mary Walsh, a senior majoring in gender studies and creative writing, being bisexual in a sorority has made the Greek community an interesting experience.
“The whole frat culture kind of turns me off about living on The Row. It’s very misogynistic,” Walsh said. “That kind of culture makes it hard to not only be out on The Row, but there’s this whole culture of, ‘Get the girls, get those girls.’”
Though Walsh said she loves her sorority, she does not find girls to be more accepting.
“As much as people like to think of girls as being more open-minded about homosexuality, how many lesbians do you see walking around campus in letters?” Walsh asked. “I have heard of a few women who are closeted in sororities, but I’ve never met them. They’re like Santa Claus to me.”
Max Rubin, a sophomore majoring in animation and digital arts, said his experience in a fraternity has been a very positive one.
“They’re so good about it that they’re afraid to offend me,” Rubin said. “It’s always really silly questions that are mostly sexual. The challenge is getting them to be comfortable and have them say what they want around me.”
Andrè Moss, a sophomore majoring in theatre and English, said he came to the panel because he thought it would be interesting, despite not wanting to join a fraternity.
“If I had an interest in rushing, I wouldn’t let being gay stop me. I don’t have a lot of guy friends, so if I did rush, that would be the main reason I would do it,” Moss said.
Lauren Dawson, a junior majoring in international relations and neuroscience, said the discussion was positive for the audience as well.
“I was really glad that the panelists were so open about sharing their experiences. There was some self-reflection among the panelists and that was really interesting to witness,” Dawson said.
Despite discussing some difficulties of being gay and in the Greek system, all of the panelists agreed that they would rush and join the same house if they could do it again.