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Out on Fraternity Row: Personal Accounts of Being Gay in a College Fraternity: A Collection of Essays Solicited by the Lambda 10 Project Paperback – September 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

A Chance To Belong...
Anonymous Letter to the Lambda 10 Project Dear Lambda 10 Project:

Being gay and a member of the Greek community has been a frustrating experience to say the least. Because of the intense paranoia people have about gay individuals, I have only admitted my sexual orientation to one other person. There is no doubt whatsoever that I would have been pushed out of my chapter had my homosexuality been revealed, and my fraternity experience meant too much to risk losing it that way. Therefore, if I wanted to stay Greek and active in my fraternity, I had to "be" straight. It wasn't hard, as I've had to do that my whole life. But I feel no one really knows me as I really am.

I am the kind of guy no one would ever think was gay, other than the fact that I haven't seriously dated a woman in a very long time. I'm straight-acting, frequently hit on by lovely women, president of my fraternity chapter as a senior... but as much as I want to be straight, I know I'm not, and I suppose I never will be. It's really difficult for me to realize that the contributions I made to one of our national fraternity's top chapters would be completely discounted had my sexuality been made public. I wasn't president of some lame chapter: we're one of the best they've got! And we're consistently selected as the top fraternity on campus. Yet for me to have admitted being gay would have instantly discredited me from any values I brought to the chapter.

One of our chapter brothers was coming to terms with his homosexuality, but found himself ostracized because of it. We were notified a couple of years later that he had committed suicide, feeling alone, and pushed aside from both family and fris. Yes, he was dealing with issues other than his sexuality that led to such a tragedy, but his inability to find acceptance from those he wanted it from was undeniably a significant factor. Yet I'm not sure things changed much in the minds of our active members and alumni.

I know of at least one other brother from our chapter who is gay, yet held significant leadership roles within the chapter while active. I wonder how many more? If our brothers could see what goes on in the minds of closeted gay members when homophobic slurs fly around the house, would they care? If I was truly a brother when I was seen as straight, why can't I be as a homosexual as well? My deep friship and unquestioning loyalty to my brothers and fraternity were never suspect before: why would my being gay change anything?

I am still closeted, and might possibly be so the rest of my life. I care too much about some relationships between relatives and fris to admit my sexuality right now. My parents are just not ready to handle that reality, and my fraternal friships still mean too much to throw them away. Yet I know that I will never be able to "act" my way to being straight.

I think the Lambda 10 Project will show that I'm not alone in my experience. There are many men in fraternities who are gay, but live a straight life for fear of being shunned. Some would really be surprised to learn of certain chapter members being gay. Indeed, I know of homosexual men in every fraternity on campus. But until the larger Greek community is ready to be a brother to another person regardless of his sexual orientation, these Greek members will continue to live a lie among their chapters, trading their true identity for a chance to belong.

From the Back Cover

This uncompromising first-person series of accounts of life inside that traditionally homophobic institution-the college fraternity-is riveting and brutally honest. Brotherhood, friship, and a chance to belong are the promises offered to young men by campus fraternities. But what if the young man happens to be gay? Will his brothers accept him, or will he lose his friships and his community? More than 30 men join voices in this emotionally charged and important anthology to tell their individual stories of coming out or keeping silent and how this decision changed their fraternal experience, their view of themselves, and even their lives. Also included are information and educational interventions on how to deal with homophobia in the college fraternity and how to encourage the Greek system to accept openly gay members. For anyone struggling with issues of trying to belong or being true to himself, "Out on Fraternity Row will provide the comfort of knowing he is not alone.

Dedicated to my fraternity brother Jon Moore, and the many brothers of Phi Delta Theta who gave me the courage to come out, the love to accept myself, and the brotherhood for a lifetime.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Alyson Books; 1st edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555834094
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555834098
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,848,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
What is it like to be gay and Greek? Are fraternities safe places for gay brothers? What kind of environment do fraternity houses provide homosexual members?
The first-hand accounts of 30 gay men in the book OUT ON FRATERNITY ROW (Alyson Books), provide answers to those questions. Written with candor and honesty, each tale in this anthology gives a glimpse of the Greeks' most invisible minority. The individuals telling their stories are diverse in background, age, fraternity and geographic location. Each goes through phases of coming out, some quickly, some not at all. However, even with these differences, certain themes are common. Gay men become Greek for the same reasons as heterosexual men--for the brotherhood and companions fraternities provide. But once in the fraternity, many writers tell how they felt isolated and alone, unable to tell their secret. The prevailing homophobic atmosphere--conveyed through gay jokes--kept many men locked in closets.
Some writers hoped fraternities would teach them not to be gay.
Many of the stories told of men's excessive use of alcohol to drown gay feelings. Fraternity men, both gay and straight, would objectify women as 'cover' to prove they weren't gay.
A large portion of the men who came out after college tell of distancing themselves from brothers after graduation. Many felt disconnected from the former brothers, or other brothers distanced themselves from the out member. But not everyone had a negative experience being gay and Greek. Indeed, several stories show that when a brother is up-front about his homosexuality the brotherhood remains strong. In chapters with solid camaraderie and mutual respect, coming out was not a negative experience.
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1 Comment 15 of 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
...reading this book was a great experience. While I can understand the complaints of repetitiveness to a point, I'm not sure that these other reviewers are looking at the right points.

There are stories from African Americans in traditional black fraternity houses -- and these experiences are quite different from the traditionally white fraternity experiences. There are experiences from a variety of times, from WWII through the seventies and eighties up to the date of publication.

More importantly, the stories are written by men who inhabit places across the entire spectrum of the coming-out experience: Men who were out during college; men who stayed closeted but came out afterwards; men who came out, but never to fraternity brothers (yet); men who are closeted up to the date of publication. This, to me, seems to be the most important aspect of variance in the book. I knew at least four men in my own (small) Greek chapter who are now out, and all of them would be able to find corellaries to their own sundry experiences in this book.

It is this variety, this idea that someone else has been where you were or where you are now, that is the most essential -- and in communicating this, the book succeeds admirably.

On another front, I would dispute the reviewer who said that the men did not speak much about being in the Catch-22 of "balancing same-sex attraction in an environment of brotherhood"; skimming the book before me, I easily find over a half-dozen stories that address this. Finally, I am sorry that some see the Greek system as elitist and exclusive in nature. I know that not all have a positive experience with the Greek system. However, I had a terrible experience with Little League Baseball; this does not make it a terrible institution.
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By A Customer on February 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
Having not been affiliated with any fraternal organization during my college years, I did not hold fraternities with any high regard. Coming to terms with one's sexuality is difficult enough, but I couldn't possibly begin to comprehend doing so in a Greek environment. Therefore, "Out on Fraternity Row" was an extremely interesting read not only for being allowed to share in the personal struggles of the authors of this anthology, but to see how the brotherhood found in fraternities can have a lasting effect on these individuals lives. From the author who not only had to combat homophobia, but also his struggle with being deaf to the gentleman whose questioning sexuality was during the height of World War II - this book has a sincerity and eloquence about it. The stories range in tone from the wonderfully positive to the disturbingly negative. Whether one agrees with the Greek system and what it stands for or not, I highly recommend this book to anyone with preconceived notions of fratenities and the men within them.
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If you've ever been in a fraternity, you know how hard it is to hide something so important about yourself from your brothers. This book shares many different stories of staying in and coming out of the closet. It touches on the Human aspect of life in a fraternity house. Very good resources and suggestions are provided in the Appendix as well.
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Say the word 'fraternity,' and images of college keggers, varsity letters, and pledge rituals come to mind. Add 'jock' or 'straight' and the images don't change much.
But for an estimated five percent of frat brothers, 'fraternity' meant something very different- it meant keeping secrets as the price for brotherhood.
It's the subject explored in 'Out on Fraternity Row.' The anthology presents the accounts of 32 fraternity brothers--two of whom are straight--talking firsthand about their experiences of homosexuality within the Greek system. Each chapter is a personal glimpse into the memories that made their frat days both blissful and painful.
The editors of the book, Shane Windmeyer and Pamela Freeman, carefully selected essays which represent a wide range of experiences within the Greek system. Many of the men in 'Out on Fraternity Row' felt that hiding their sexuality was the price they had to pay for acceptance by their brotherhood. Others came out completely and retained the loyalty and admiration of their fellow frat brothers. All of the essays reveal some inherent contradiction of the homophobia within fraternities.
The accounts are strikingly honest and will speak to any man who ever felt a strong bond with another man. Even though the book is geared toward gay men, it's bound to have an extensive cross-over audience, since there are more than 60 active college fraternities in the US, and an estimated 5 percent of these members are gay, according to Douglas Case, a university fraternity administrator. Windmeyer and Freeman smartly included an educational appendix with resources on how to use the stories as tools for learning. One section, 'What Do You Do When You Learn a Brother Is Gay?
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