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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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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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And even more importantly, the book offers a section on Educational Interventions. It has chapters on how to use the stories to educate and promote understanding and acceptance in fraternities. Sections like "What Do You Do When You Find Out a Brother Is Gay?" So in this sense, the book is a very valuable tool that each and every fraternity should use, study and implement. True brotherhood must be inclusive, especially with those with whom we may not have as much in common. It is the sharing of our stories, our experiences and our various cultures that help us to understand each other. And in that understanding, we grow beyond our limited perspectives and truly are able to create a community where all are welcome.
I just want to let gay, bi or questioning Greeks know that they are not alone. When I was a senior we had a bi member for my house. She had gone through Recruitment when I was studying else where. I remember coming back to the house and being so glad that my sisters had accepted her enthusiastically. I was a Women Studies major which for a while was a confusing conflict in the eyes of a few of my sisters. After I graduated a new member of my sorority "family" found me on facebook - she said she had heard a lot about me and was really excited to be in the house. I discovered on her profile that she was openly gay and had been that way while going though recruitment. Again, I was very encouraged and surprised by my house. By the time I graduated our house was also about half Latina. I was one of the few blondes in the house at a very predominantly white school. (And no, it was not a house associated with any certain race, ethnicity or particularly open-minded credo) ...in fact it's the very same one that inspired Legally Blonde. Yup - that's our crest and our colors in the opening sequence.
One of the main stream fraternities on our campus had an openly gay president when I was a freshman and another openly gay high officer by the time I graduated.
I think it has a lot to do with the climate of the campus and it's propensity for open-mindedness. We were at a small liberal arts school where only 16% of the students were Greek.
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. One wrote, 'My brothers' unconditional acceptance and support helped me move from being afraid of my brothers to being at peace with their companionship.'
As I read this book I kept thinking, these are my students talking to me. They are telling me what they feel. And as I read, I kept asking, how can I make it better for them?
Thankfully, OUT ON FRATERNITY ROW offers interventions and educational tools to combat homophobia. Anyone who works with fraternities needs to read this book. OUR students are talking to US, telling us what they are going through. Many are isolated, afraid of their own brothers and do dangerous things to fit in. If we leave homophobia unchallenged, what kind of environment are we providing not just for gay students, but for all?