Gays Meet Greeks at Student Forum
By Ashonda Bethea-Ruth
The topic of homosexuality has always been and in many places still is considered a controversial issue. So what happens when you add the Devine Nine to the discussion?
On April 6, that is exactly what happened. During Greek Week, Eyes Wide Shut, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender student alliance, collaborated with the National Pan-Hellenic council to host the panel discussion "Gay and Greek."
Jennifer Wood, a graduating senior at Bowie State University, and member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, had been trying for two years to organize this event.
The discussion was held in the Thurgood Marshal Library's Special Collections Room. It consisted of a panel of gay, lesbian, and heterosexual Greeks. The purpose of the panel was to answer some questions about various topics relating to being gay and Greek; in all to show that gays in Greeks do exist, and to also show its relevance on campus.
When asked about the necessity of the program, Wood stated, "I felt the program was necessary at BSU because people look at me like I am the only one. I wanted to prove to them I'm not. I went to representatives from different organizations, and they told me that they didn't have any gay members in their community."
The event started at 6:30 p.m. and filled up very quickly. Almost all of the seats were taken. There were even people standing up against the back wall.
The crowd was not just made up of gays and lesbians, but a large number of straight males were at the event as well.
The discussion began with a slideshow depicting members of Greek organizations and allies to the LGBT community.
The panel members then introduced themselves, giving their name, Greek affiliations, and stated their sexuality. The panel also answered questions from the audience.
In general, most of the questions were toward the gay members of the panel. They were asked if they experienced different struggles while pledging. Did they get singled out in anyway? Did any of them try to blend in, suppressing their sexuality, in order to not be pinpointed?
Despite the direct questions, the tone of the discussion never turned tense. There were jokes made about sexuality in regard to being gay, and how individuals have preferences. Someone stated during the discussion, "different strokes for different folks," which made the whole room join in laughter.
There was also discussion on a controversial issue of being transgender. It had come to the discussion, when an audience member asked the lesbian members of the sorority, what their opinion was on people who were transgender. Specifically relating to the issue where there was a member of a sorority, who had recently undergone a sex change to turn into a man. And where the sorority dismissed her because she was no longer a woman, but had received much controversy about it.
When this question was asked not only did panelist give their opinions, so did many of the audience members.
The event turned less into a Q&A between panel and audience, and more of a group discussion where anyone could offer an opinion.
When asked if anything surprised her during the discussion, sophomore Yasmeen Marino stated that the transgender discussion blew her mind. She also stated that discussions like this should be talked about more.
Many of the panel members agreed that not just in the Greek environment, but in society as well, females have it easier. It is more accepted for a woman to be a lesbian that a man to be gay. Even though times are changing, it is still a fact that males face many challenges.
Each member of the panel stated that their organization is a nondiscriminatory organization.
In the audience, a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity admitted that though they do not discriminate, they do not see how a gay man would become a member of their organization, strictly because of their organization's reputation as being made up of boldly masculine ladies' men. The fraternity brother said that having a gay man in the organization wouldn't sit well.
The panelists said they appreciated the young man's honesty, and acknowledged that change doesn't happen right away. The panelists agreed that everybody is entitled to their own opinion.
Panel member Shan Thomas of Sigma Gamma Rho, said she was surprised to see how many people came to the event, and at the number of the straight males that were here. She said that fraternities don't usually like to talk about this kind of topic.
When asked what she personally thought should change about the Greek community regarding LGBT, she stated that they needed, "to look at a person for their attributes and not their sexuality."
Wood was very pleased with the turnout of the event. "I would have been fine with just me and my panel," she said, adding that although it is her senior year she would love for an event like this happens again at Bowie State.