LGBTQA Representation Prominent in Ramapo Greek Life

Greek life has a history of having an undeniably heteronormative culture in contemporary American society, especially depending on your geographic location and specific fraternity or sorority interests.

It comes as no surprise that many LGBTQA-identified individuals may feel that attempting to pledge for a fraternity or sorority would be a waste of time or that people who fall under the queer umbrella believe their lifestyle will not be accepted by their potential brotherhood or sisterhood.

Although there is representation of queer people within the Greek life community, visibility of the community is often lacking.

Two years ago Robert Brown and Nathaniel Gay, brother of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., became a YouTube sensation after he posted their wedding video to his channel. The Kappa men are a part of the Dive Nine, a term used to describe the nine historically black Greek letter organizations, or BGLOs, that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council, and Gay, as a member of this organization, quickly became the focal point of interest.

Kappas have been stereotyped as the pretty black men; they dress well, excel academically, are physically fit and chase women. This stereotype is engrained in the minds of anyone who recognizes the organization, and ultimately outraged anyone who did not think that it was appropriate that the two men used red and white as the wedding colors, since those are the colors of the Greek organization.

YouTube comments ranged from congratulatory messages to the newlyweds, to people posting Bible scriptures declaring that homosexuals would perish for their sins.

In an interview with journalist Marc Lamont Hill one week later, Gay explained that many Greeks represent their fraternity or sorority in their weddings because the essence of turning Greek is remaining Greek for a lifetime. He asserted that no Greek should exclude such a vital aspect of their identity at a major life event.

While I do acknowledge that Greek life does not have a LGBTQA representation problem, it most certainly does have a visibility problem.

Marissa Hatten, who is a member of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc. and also identifies as queer, agrees that being straight-passing as a member of the queer community in Greek life is easier than being visibly queer.

She states, “It is easier but it’s different for me because I am in a multicultural sorority. Our mission is to embrace diversity, and sexuality is just another facet of our mission. I even have sisters in my organization who are married to each other.”

When other students were asked if Greek life at Ramapo is inclusive of LGBT identities, a majority of the students agreed.

Leslie Navas, 19, of Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority, Inc. said, “I have sisters who are LGBT-identified, and many of the organizations, including mine, have different people within them; so to discriminate against people because of how they express their gender or identify sexually would be wrong.”

Students think that Greek organizations at the College should interact more with groups who cater to those with queer identities, such as Ramapo Pride, the queer-straight alliance club that meets on campus to provide educational programming for LGBT students on campus. 

Michelle Forbes, 21, of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. said, “I think so many people forget about the LGBT community, so putting on programs for them specifically would help make people feel more welcomed in Greek life at Ramapo.”

Generally, students agreed that Ramapo could do a better job at educating Greek members about queer issues and queer identities.

“Having programs that reach out to the LGBT community at large and letting them know that they are welcomed would help erase some of the social stigmas that inhibit people from joining Greek organizations,” said Navas.

As a man of color who also identifies as queer, I can’t help but think about how my experience in Greek life would be if I pledged. If I am a qualified member for a Greek organization, I deserve the chance to pledge, to represent the organization, to achieve a leadership role and to express my pride at my wedding.

The only way that an organization will be successful is if they include everyone from all backgrounds and community groups.