For many students, Greek life is a focal point of daily life during their time at Geneseo. Members think nothing of wearing their organization’s letters proudly on their sweatshirts, of painting the Greek Tree or of working tirelessly to make their organization shine. After all, their efforts culminate into a unique Greek identity—something to leave behind for future generations.
But underneath the surface of this collective Greek identity lies an uncomfortable truth for some members. What do you do if your identity apart from Greek life clashes with the one you’ve been building with your brothers and sisters? For many members of the LGBTQ+ community who participate in Greek life, this is an ongoing question.
On the surface, an LGBTQ+ person feeling uncomfortable among a stereotypical “frat-bro” Greek scene seems obvious—but LGBTQ+ members of Greek life at Geneseo feel as if the reality is more complicated. Many find themselves in organizations that are outwardly supportive of their gender identity or sexual orientation, but these organizations are not as socially progressive as they claim. Problems also arise from interacting with other organizations.
“I was lucky enough to find and join a gender and sexuality-inclusive organization on campus, and it has helped in making my Greek experiences a lot better,” communication major junior and Alpha Delta Epsilon member Candace Pedraza said. “However, I very often feel the need to dress more ‘femme’ when going out to avoid discrimination or harassment from fraternities, which leads to some dysphoria and feelings of forced invalidation from time to time.”
Anthropology major sophomore and fellow ADE member Emmett Zand Halstuch agreed with Pedraza.
“ADE was the first group of people I came out to as trans. I try to dress masculine when going out to frats and I still get misgendered [by them] every single time,” he said. “Even in ADE, there have been moments when I felt like people don’t understand. One of [my] struggles from last semester was being told that I’m correcting people when they mess up my pronouns the ‘wrong way’… even in a sorority that is the most accepting Greek life organization on campus, there is still a lot to learn and change.”
For those whose identities do not conflict with Greek life, the presence of gender and sexuality-inclusive organizations appears to be enough, but this is clearly not the case. Most people want to quantify the discrimination of LGBTQ+ Greeks only when it’s outright. They imagine the “perfect victim” as analogous to a gay man at a party being harassed, or a lesbian couple being hassled as they walk home at night.
But tiny vestiges of micro-aggression solidified by years of Greek tradition are still just as prevalent and problematic. What if your gender identity means that you’re neither a brother nor a sister? What if your Greek family feels uncomfortable about you talking about your encounter with someone of the same sex last night, even though they freely blab on about their experiences?
Discrimination is still alive and well in Greek communities, inclusive or not. These problems could be assuaged with increased—or even mandatory—Safe Zone training of groups. So far, few groups are applying for these sessions and individual organizations have their own LGBTQ+ inclusive membership policies, but they are not overarching to all of Greek life. Understanding needs to be promoted within and outside of Greek life communities to see any real change for LGBTQ+ members.