Friday, February 1, 2013

Bridging the gap between the greek and the queer

I want you to think of your initial sentiments regarding the relationship between these two words—Greek and queer. Be honest. What ideas, opinions, and/or experiences come to mind? Harmony? Dissonance? Tension? I will speak for myself, as a student at the University of Texas at Austin, when I say that the intersection and interaction between the mainstream Greek community and the queer communities is limited, tense, and perhaps even hostile in some cases. For clarification purposes, I am specifically talking about the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and the University Panhellenic Council (UPC) communities, as they are more indicative of the mainstream sorority and fraternity life at UT.

I recently read an article from the University of South California’s (USC) Daily Trojan news source, in which the author discussed the intersection between the Greek and LGBTQ communities at USC. From what I understand, the university is known for its thriving Greek community, while simultaneously topping several national lists for being an LGBTQ-friendly campus. Regardless of the recognition, students representative of both communities note a divide and tension between the intersections. The Queer and Ally Student Assembly hosts a monthly discussion for out, closeted, and questioning Greek students to discuss their interactions between USC’s queer community and Greek community. The article discusses the most recent of these meetings, held at the USC Alpha Delta Pi sorority house.

Here is what I got out of the article (I'm using the language from the article):

1) While people at USC do not hate “gay people”, “gay people” do not necessarily fit in with the USC Greek system.

     2) USC sororities have been more receptive to the LGBTQ community than fraternities however…

     3) It is easier to identify as a gay male and be accepted into the Greek community, than it is to identify as lesbian woman.

     4) There are more openly gay men in fraternities than openly lesbian women in sororities.

     5) The (stereotypical) thought process of “I love gay people, my best friend is gay!” is epitomized in the USC female Greek system=glorification

     6) However, these same women may not share the same sentiments towards lesbian, or queer, women.

     7) This is largely due to the glorification of gay men on campus (a student mentioned, this is not a USC thing, it’s a country thing).

     8) The lesbian women are uncomfortable with the rampant misogyny and hostile attitudes they experienced when interacting with the Greek community.

     9) The bulk of the antagonism between these communities is shared at Greek parties.

    10) The author mentions gay and lesbian individuals, however there is no mention of bisexual or transgender intersectionality.

     While USC may seem more progressive than other institutions of higher education, specifically with the intersectionality between the Greek and Queer communities, they still have problematic issues that can only be accomplished through continued social justice work. I laud USC and its students who are trying to help bridge the gap between the aforementioned communities. However, students on college campuses nation-wide share these feelings and that is not ok. What can you do to change this disconcerting and tense intersection? I value the power of a conversation and have recently educated some of my own friends, who are involved in the mainstream Greek culture, about the role of being a true ally to the LGBT movement.  Rather than letting my frustration, read rage, get the best of me; I think the only way “out” is by persistent education and resistance to traditional and oppressive ideas via social justice framework. I think we could learn a lesson or two from USC. 

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