The university has been known for its thriving Greek community, with about thousands of undergraduates in a fraternity and sorority, and has, in recent years, topped several national lists for being an LGBTQ-friendly campus. Still, members of both communities recognize a divide and dissonance in their intersection.
Every month, a group of out, closeted and questioning Greek students gather to discuss the interaction of USC’s lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and queer community with the Greek community, in a Greek Chat hosted by the LGBT Resource Center. The Queer and Ally Student Assembly hosted one such discussion at the Alpha Delta Pi house Wednesday night.
[Correction: A previous version of this article indicated that the event, hosted by the Queer and Ally Student Assembly, was the same as the monthly LGBT Resource Center event. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.]
About 15 students who identify with one or both communities shared their experiences and thoughts on the growing population of Greek actives who also identify as LGBTQ.
The discussion, put on and led by assistant director of QuASA Liz Soriano, made clear that both groups are tangibly divided. Attendants, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, were almost entirely unanimous in saying that much must be done to bridge the gap between the Greek system and the LGBTQ community. Miscommunication and ignorance are seemingly prevalent on both sides.
“People at USC don’t hate gay people, but gay people don’t necessarily fit in with the USC Greek system,” said a gay junior in a fraternity.
One gay senior in a fraternity said it was difficult to be a member of both communities.
“As a Greek person and as a gay person, I feel that I have been attacked, in some respect, for both identities,” he said.
On the other hand, lesbian students said they felt the Greek system is particularly hostile.
“What makes me uncomfortable about the Greek system is the rampant misogyny,” said a lesbian junior who is not in the Greek system.
The group also discussed National Coming Out Day, held on Oct. 11. The consensus of the group was that sororities had been much more receptive to the LGBTQ community, even though there are more openly gay men in fraternities than openly lesbian women in sororities.
One student attributed it to larger acceptance of gay men in the United States.
“Gay men are glorified way more on this campus than lesbians,” said one lesbian who is not in the Greek system. “That’s not a USC thing, that’s a country thing.”
One lesbian student in a sorority, who joked that she is the only Greek lesbian, said certain events reveal the divide between gay students and Greek students.
“Parties are when the antagonism between the Greek community and the gay community becomes most apparent,” she said.
On the other hand, gay members of fraternities said acceptance varied from fraternity to fraternity.
“I was denied from a frat because they thought I was girly,” said one gay member of a fraternity.
One openly gay freshman, however had a better experience having rushed fraternities during spring rush and received a bid from one of them.
“There are some frats that seem very, very straight,” he said. “And there are a few that seem more comfortable with the idea of homosexuality in the group.”
According to him, the emphasis on heterosexual relationships plays a large role in the fraternity culture, which can be a tremendous deterrent for LGBTQ members who are interested in rushing.
“I’m not sure if I will end up taking the bid – I’m still thinking about it but am a bit reluctant.”
At the same time, LGBTQ students remain interested in Greek life.
“There’s a lot of curiosity on both sides,” said a gay freshman in a fraternity. “I see it all the time.”
Not all students present spoke on the condition of anonymity. Claire Pires, a senior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism and theatre, was raised by two mothers and has been a lifelong supporter of the LGBTQ community. Though she recognizes the merits of the Greek system, she also acknowledges a stigma toward homosexuality — particularly among female Greeks.
“I know a few gay boys in fraternities, but no gay people in sororities,” Pires said. “I just don’t think that gay people tend to flock towards Greek life. Greek life can be quite traditional. That can make it fun, but it also doesn’t necessarily appeal to the gay community.”
QuASA Director Mellissa Linton emphasized the necessity of discussions like this one to bridge the gap between the LGBTQ and Greek communities.
“I really hope that panels like this can set a precedent for communication and understanding between the two groups,” she said.