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Secret Sisters: Stories of Being Lesbian and Bisexual in a College Sorority Paperback – April 1, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Gratitude, bewilderment, nostalgia, vitriol and a host of other emotions emerge from the pages of Secret Sisters: Stories of Being Lesbian and Bisexual in a College Sorority, edited by Shane L. Windmeyer and Pamela W. Freeman (Out on Fraternity Row). In honest, fascinating essays, lesbian and bisexual women tell of their experiences in the Greek system from the 1950s to the present. Some of them came out and were warmly accepted (one woman brought her girlfriend to the end-of-the-year formal), while others were ostracized and put on probation by their sisters, and others simply left. This rare glimpse into a cloistered world will intrigue women of all ages.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Shane L. Windmeyer is a Masters graduate of Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration and currently serves as the assistant director of student activities at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. Pamela W. Freeman is the assistant dean of students and director of the office of student ethics and anti-harassment programs at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. The editors worked together to create and continue to coordinate the Lambda 10 Project, a national clearinghouse for gay, lesbian, and bisexual issues in the college Greek system, and together edited Out on Fraternity Row, the first book to address GLB issues in college fraternities.
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Top Customer Reviews
In Secret Sisters, the stories have been grouped into five distinct sections according to each writer’s personal stage of development and her range of experiences. These sections include "Questioning," "Anger, Fear and "Rejection," "Sisterly Love and Friendship," "Out and Proud," and "Straight Sister’s Perspective." Nancy J. Evans, associate professor and coordinator of the higher education program in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State University wrote the introduction based upon her scholarly work on sexuality and the experiences of college students.
The editors of the anthology acknowledge the limited diversity of organizations represented within this book. Nearly all sororities represented, under real or assumed names, are member organizations of the National Panhellenic Conference. This was despite a concerted effort by Windmeyer and Freeman to attract writers from member chapters of the National Pan-Hellenic Council and other multicultural sorority organizations, specifically the historically African-American and Latina groups, but without success. The collection does include, however, a story from a member of Lambda Delta Lambda, a sorority designed for women of any sexual orientation. The writers also represent a variety of groups in terms of era of sorority membership, geographic location, religious backgrounds, ethnicity, and college attended, as well as different stages of the coming-out process and sexual identity. Even with these differences, however, certain themes remain common. Lesbian and bisexual women join sororities for the same reasons as heterosexual women – for that close bond of sisterhood and the companionship that sororities can provide. Whether the reluctance of women to submit their stories was related to characteristics associated with gender, such as reluctance to take risks, or whether it was related to the nature of sororities, the editors do not make any presumptions. What is deeply worrying, however, is the text of an email that is included in the anthology that was sent to all members of one sorority after the call for writers was released. This email blatantly told members to not submit their personal stories. If other inter/national offices sent similar directives, this action may account for much of the reluctance of some sisters to submit their narratives. Such communication affirms the feeling of homophobia within the inter/national sorority movement.
At the time they joined their sorority, many of the women in the anthology wanted to keep their sexual identity secret, and believed that they could. As time passed, however, the need to come out and be more ‘authentic’ with their sisters grew stronger. While some notable exceptions exist, for the most part, when the lesbian and bisexual women featured in this book did come out to their sorority sisters, reactions were positive and supportive. Many times other sorority sisters had already figured out that a sister was a lesbian. Kelly Steelman writes, "I spent nearly two years worrying what they would think, only to find out that most of them already knew and did not care."
The forward, "Sorority 'Girl'," written by former California state assembly member Sheila James Kuehl dramatically represents what sororities strive to be, but highlights what can happen if support for truth and honesty in the sisterhood does not exist. She states:
This volume is important because it teaches, in the most intimate way, the complex lessons of the embrace and rejection of sisters. Lesbians do not want to be 'accepted.' We want to be, and to have, sisters. As with all love, the greatest enemy of that goal is fear. Homophobia is so powerful that it creates fear in all but the most mature and secure sisters that they too will be thought to be lesbian and that such a suspicion will cause disapprobation to descend on the house (sic).
As I read this book, I kept thinking that these are my students talking to me. They are telling me what they feel. Sorority members who are out are a real credit to their chapters. Straight sisters who have stood up to homophobia are, themselves, rendered proud and strong. When this aspect of diversity is seen as a strengthening and not a weakening element, all sororities will benefit. Anyone who works with sororities, either as a volunteer, staff member, or campus advisor, or has a general interest in sorority life either as a member or casual bystander, should read this book. These are our students talking to us and telling us what they are going through. Many women feel isolated, afraid of their own sisters and some do dangerous things to try and fit in. If we leave any aspect of homophobia unchallenged, what kind of environment are we providing not just for lesbian and bisexual students, but gay men, and indeed, for everyone?
About the editors:
Shane L. Windmeyer is a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity and a graduate of Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration and currently serves as the assistant director of student activities at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He recalls coming out to his brothers as one of his most rewarding undergraduate experiences. Pamela W. Freeman is the associate dean of students and director of the office of student ethics and anti-harassment programs at Indiana University. She is a member of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission’s Hate Crimes Advisory Panel, has chaired the Indiana University Commission on Multicultural Understanding since 1991, served on the campus’s Educational Task Force on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Concerns, and supervises the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Student Support Services Office.
The editors have worked together since 1995 in the coordination of the Lambda 10 Project, a national clearinghouse providing support, education and visibility for gay, lesbian and bisexual fraternity and sorority members.
Grahaeme A. Hesp is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and is a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. He currently works with and volunteers for fraternities and sororities and is an active member of the Association of Fraternity Advisors. He also serves as the fundraising chair of the North Carolina AIDS Quilt Coordinating Committee and is a vocal supporter and promoter of understanding for gay, lesbian and bisexual fraternity and sorority members.