March 6, 2013
The core notion of Greek life is a collection of individuals with similar interests who get together for social interaction. These social interactions include parties and “mixers”. Parties, typically hosted by fraternities, very often uphold the qualities of heteronormativity because of their exclusivity based on gender. For example, fraternities will host parties that only female community members can attend. This is under several assumptions about males and females that pin the LGBT community as belonging to another, or abnormal, demographic.
Primarily, this assumes that all male members of the fraternity are heterosexual. Let’s face it; we know that frat parties are centered on hook up culture. Thus, if only female community members are allowed to attend frat parties, then we can logically assume that all members in the frat are heterosexual. This is clearly not the case. Quite a few gay and bisexual men are out to their fraternities, but one of these students has told me that in order for men outside of the fraternity to attend the party, they will need to be on a list. Therefore, fraternities will marginalize its gay and bisexual members by requiring them to list men with whom they would like to hook up with.
Additionally, this tenet of Greek Life assumes that all male community members seeking entrance to a frat party are heterosexual, trying to “steal” the women. I have encountered this in my own experience, and protesting, claiming my homosexuality proves futile (perhaps because of an aversion to homosexuals and inherent homophobia in the Greek system).
I’ve discussed this with members of fraternities. They offer an alternative rationalization that males are denied entry to frat parties because they pose a safety hazard and are more likely to cause damage. This offensively pins a flaw to my entire gender, clearly a very large demographic.
Fraternities and sororities engage in “mixers,” events at which hooking up is central to the experience, according to my friends in Greek life. Once again heteronormativity comes into play, as it is the assumption that all members in fraternities in sororities will want to hook up with a member of the opposite sex. Clearly it would be equivalent to incest, should “brothers” and “sisters” hook up with members of the same group, so hooking up for gay and lesbian members is non-existent. Again, these qualities are highly marginalizing to the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities.
Offense to transgender students is easy to point out. Fraternities are for men. Sororities are for women. At an institution like Duke, we should be asking ourselves the questions such as “In what kind of Greek group do transgender students belong?” and “What are out gender-neutral Greek options?” Though I don’t know the answers to my own questions, I would like somebody to indulge my curiosity.
As outlined, Greek Life, though it includes members from a broad range of backgrounds in regards to sexual orientation, only superficially appeals to cisgender heterosexuals. As a result, I think it’s time that our institution take action. Let’s extend gender neutrality beyond the realms of just independent residence halls and certain selective living groups. Let’s begin to take action in conjunction the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association to make the entire Greek scene less offensive to a large portion of the LGBT community. I invite you to discuss whether these changes are appropriate, and how we can effectively make such adjustments.