So, if you've been following my blog posts, you'd know that there's an LGBTQ men's discussion group starting soon. And by soon, I mean we're having our first meeting tonight (yay! and omg I'm so freaking nervous, anxious, and excited all at the same time). In preparation for this initial meeting, I've decided to focus this post on something that all members of the Community face but one that I believe men especially struggle with:
Well, more specifically, acceptance from their social peers, especially those considering joining a fraternity or those currently in a fraternity that fear what coming out could do to their social life.
I believe that I am one of the most fortunate guys in the world. One reason for this: my fraternity brothers. The amount of acceptance I receive from them is incredible. But at one point not too long ago, I began to shy away from the fraternity. I began to feel that they would never be able to understand me or understand what I was going through. And so I began to hang out with them less and less, to the point that I was basically only in section to sleep. I'd find any excuse I could to not be around. I skipped events. I missed meetings. I got very out of touch with what was going on. Then rush happened. So I forced myself to once again be thrust into the fraternity life. I went to rush events. I went to meetings. I began hanging around my brothers again. But it still didn't feel the same.
One night, I was up late having a deep conversation about the current state of the fraternity with about 3 other brothers. We began discussing how people interacted with each other. We discussed things we could improve on and what each of us can do to make it better. The conversation turned to me and someone said that I was very emotional and I tend to withdraw from people when I feel hurt instead of talking it out with the people that are supposed to be closest with me. And he was right.
Some kind of way, I let the negative stereotypes of fraternity men enter my mind. The seed of disdain began to grow because I wasn't talking it out with any of my brothers. All I kept saying to myself was how my brothers wouldn't approve of me going out to a gay club instead of hanging out with them. The thought that my brothers would never understand why I was pushing away raced back and forth in my mind. They could never understand why I was deciding to room with my best friend who is not in the fraternity instead of with any of them. And so I began to grow resentful towards them. I burned every time they would ask me if I wanted to go to Shooters with them. Looks of death permeated from my eyes whenever they asked why I wasn't at the party last night because "there were so many hot girls." It became overwhelming. So that's why I decided to take myself out of the picture for a while.
But then, that all changed. I was spending what was becoming a rare weekend night in section. One of my brothers asked me about my best friend (the one I'm rooming with next year).
"What's going on with that.. you know... how should I address her, I mean him?"
Yeah, one of my besties and future roomie is transgender. I was first taken aback when he asked. I just stared at him in shock for a good minute. And he goes, "I don't want to get it wrong or offend... him when he comes around again." My friend had hung around section with me a little before beginning his trans process. My friend and some of my brothers were already/had become facebook friends and they noticed the change in how I referred to him. Still dumbfounded, I explained to him the situation and what it means. I tried to stay away from most details but he would only ask me about it. Is this real life? Is one of my fraternity brothers really asking me about what it means to be transgender because he's legitimately curious and wants to do the right thing?! Needless to say, my faith in my brothers was immediately restored.
To my surprise, it happened several other times from other brothers. All with the same motivation: "I want to say the right thing and not offend him." They now always refer to him as a male and use his male name. If they know that I was hanging out with him, they'll ask how he's doing. The fact that they have taken a general interest in him almost brings tears to my eyes.
Since that night, I haven't worried about discussing the concerns of my "gay life", as I would call it, with members of my "frat life." I thought most of them would be awkward anytime I brought up anything in relation to the LGBTQ community, but instead, they asked me about it. When I would choose to leave out details, they would push to know more. When asked how my night at the gay club went, a simple "It was fun" would not settle for them. They would push to know every detail. Usually, I hate when people push to find out details about my personal life, but this time, I was ecstatic. They weren't asking because they wanted to see if they too had hooked up with the same guy. They weren't trying to find out the latest gossip on who had hooked up. They were asking because they were interested in my life, even the parts they can't relate to.
I guess that I'm saying all this to say this. My fraternity brothers accept me. And more importantly, they accept my best friend. They took the time to find out what is the proper way to address him when they could have easily ignored it and continued to treat him as a female. But they didn't. I'm not saying that accepting someone who is gay or transgender is some miraculous feat. I am saying that you should give your friends, your brothers, your sisters more credit. They'll probably surprise you just like mine did to me.