Mizzou Climate: ‘Greek Allies’ continues conversation about being queer in Greek Life
Students discussed what it means to be part of the LGBTQ community in Greek Life as part of Pride Month.
Apr. 20, 2012
MU Greek Allies founder Drake Douglas said he always feels comfortable about his sexuality in his fraternity, Delta Chi. As a gay man in the Greek Life community, he understands how lucky he is.
“In the right chapter, you can have the right culture,” he said of his chapter’s accepting views.
Douglas moderated an open forum discussion about being “queer and Greek” at MU on Thursday night. He talked about being heavily recruited for Delta Chi and joining his junior year, despite his sexuality.
The discussion brought up questions about the climate of those in the LGBTQ community and their roles in Greek Life. Many believe the culture of Greek Life is not conducive to a safe space for LGBTQ members.
“Some people are just not educated,” Missouri Students Association President Xavier Billingsley said during the forum. Billingsley is a member of Delta Chi fraternity.
Many of the problems LGBTQ-identifying Greek Life members face come from stereotypes about Greek Life culture.
Most girls in sororities shy away from LGBTQ issues, while fraternity members can get violent, Douglas said.
Douglas, a senior, said although he felt comfortable within his own chapter, part of him was always a little uncomfortable walking through Greektown.
In order to change the culture of Greek Life at MU to be more tolerant of LGBTQ members, the change must come from the national and international level, Douglas said.
Greek Life chapters at MU all answer to national chapter powers, and speaking up about LGBTQ issues is often difficult if the national chapter has not made a statement in support.
“You still function under ‘Big Brother,’” Douglas said. “National does have a lot of power over a chapter.”
Although the national chapters play a huge role in chapter’s actions, some changes can start at the undergraduate level, Douglas said.
“We break national rules every day,” he said.
The best way to get through to Greek Life members is through peer education, Billingsley said.
“Somebody from Student Life will not get through,” he said. “It has to be a peer.”
Changing the culture of Greek Life at any level is a long and tedious process.
“As much as I want to go in there and claw my way through, it just doesn’t work that way in Greek Life,” Billingsley said.
Another issue LGBTQ Greek Life members face is that of bringing a same-sex partner to Greek Life events.
Emily Andsager, who is in a relationship with Sigma Sigma Sigma Vice President Laura Herrera, said the first time she attended a Greek Life event, she was very nervous.
“We had no idea what to expect,” she said.
Andsager and Herrera said they were pleasantly surprised the event went smoothly.
Douglas was similarly nervous to bring a partner to a Delta Chi event.
“Even though I knew that it would be OK, it was still scary,” he said.
Many non-Greek LGBTQ community members have a lot of preconceived notions about Greek Life culture. LGBTQ Resource Center Coordinator Struby Struble said she works with students on a regular basis who are afraid to walk through Greektown.
Andsager said she had similar thoughts about Greek Life when she first met Herrera.
“I had to overcome all the stereotypes,” she said. “I had a lot of preconceived notions about what it meant to be Greek.”