The goal is to break the mold, which shouldn’t be too difficult for a group of students accustomed to doing just that.
Striving to be inclusive rather than exclusive, this university’s new LGBT fraternity, Theta Pi Sigma, promotes diversity in Greek life by catering to LGBT students and their allies.
“There is a perception in Greek life that you want a certain type of person,” said Aubrey DiBello, president of this university’s Epsilon chapter of Theta Pi Sigma. “We’re celebrating the fact that we’re different.”
This all-inclusive gender-neutral fraternity will be the first of its kind on the campus and the fifth in the country, members said. The original chapter, formerly known as Delta Lambda Psi, was founded at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2005, according to the fraternity’s official website.
Even though Theta Pi Sigma focuses on LGBT issues, students don’t have to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to join. The fraternity
is open to anyone who is an ally and cares about these issues, said Shira Steinberg, secretary of this university’s chapter of Theta Pi Sigma.
“It’s open to people who want to get involved on campus and feel like a traditional fraternity or sorority isn’t for them,” said the junior government and politics and psychology major. “This is a way for people to be more involved with the LGBT community and involved in Greek life.”
Part of the fraternity’s mission is to strengthen Greek life by creating an accepting space for the LGBT community within the system.
Though many fraternities and sororities are supportive of LGBT issues, some may not be as welcoming to people who break away from convention, said Allison Callahan, membership education vice president.
“It shouldn’t be something you have to hide in the pledging process, but unfortunately, it is in some fraternities and sororities, and it’s a concern for many LGBT people,” said the junior studio art major. “It’s not the norm, and if people feel like they’re supporting it, maybe they won’t be accepted.”
For Ousmane Sow, public relations vice president and a junior microbiology major, recruitment was a difficult process, he said.
“I felt out of place. I felt like I couldn’t be myself,” Sow said. “It was weird and hard to deal with.”
Katey Rainforth, service and philanthropy vice president, had a similar experience when she rushed sororities.
“It was very hectic, very chaotic,” the junior accounting and criminology and criminal justice major said. “You have to portray this image of who you think they want you to be rather than who you are.”
The executive board members of Theta Pi Sigma said their recruitment and initiation, which they hope to start this spring, will be a fun and relaxed process without hazing or judging.
“If you want to be our friend, rush. No sweat,” said Caitlan Reynolds, finance vice president.
The opening of Theta Pi Sigma’s Epsilon chapter will signify another progressive leap forward for this university, said Alexis Matthews, a junior animal sciences major.
It will also provide an option in Greek life for transgender students like him, who may have trouble fitting into traditional single-sex fraternities and sororities, he said.
“I was looking for a place that would fit for me and that I would feel comfortable in,” he said. “I’m looking forward to meeting LGBT people in a more social setting and getting to know them and having a sense of community.”
But Theta Pi Sigma’s reach will extend beyond the university community. The fraternity’s philanthropy will focus on LGBT issues, getting involved with local advocacy organizations and participating in events such as marches in Washington, Rainforth said. Otherwise, Theta Pi Sigma will run like any fraternity, hosting social events and mixers with other fraternities and sororities, DiBello said.
“We’ll definitely have a lot more rainbows at our parties,” Steinberg said.
The executive board members are still in the process of filling out paperwork, working out details and waiting on official approval from the university, Callahan said, but so far, they have received nothing but support.
“I’m sure there’s going to be emails from people who disagree, but so far everyone’s been really accepting,” she said.
On a campus that is already large and diverse, Theta Pi Sigma will provide another place for students to find their niches, Rainforth said.
“I’m really excited about the openness of it and the willingness to accept anyone for who they are,” she said. “With us … be who you want to be.”