So I’m not sure if you know about black Greek stuff or not, but I’m going to go ahead and ask you for some advice about it. I became a member of a fraternity about two years ago. At first, it was real cool being a part of the brotherhood. My line brothers and I were always about are business, and we had the best times when we went to parties and on road trips. Well about a few months ago, my line brothers found out a secret I’ve been keeping, and my relationship with them hasn’t been the same since. Due to some campus gossips I lived by at college, my brothers found out I’m gay and have a boyfriend. Being the stereotypical black heterosexual men they are, they’ve pretty much shunned me. They talk to me as little as possible, and no longer invite me out when they go places. I have one line brother that is cool with me when it’s just us, but when he gets around my other frat, he says nothing while I’m getting treated poorly. Since the summer started, I thankfully don’t have to be around all that tension. However, the fall semester is going to start soon and I’m not looking forward to the bullshit. Been thinking about just stepping away from the fraternity altogether in August. And heck I’m chapter president, and do most of the fraternal paperwork. But I’m tired of the piss pore treatment, and overall discrimination from my own brotherhood. Any advice you can give me on how I should proceed going forward, is greatly appreciated. I’m going to be a senior and just want to enjoy my last year in college.
Dear Half Pint,
Thanks so much for writing to me. I’m sorry to hear you are having such a hard time with your “brotherhood.” There are a lot of things I would like to talk about in my response, but I promise to be as brief as possible.
Fortunately for you, and the sake of your problem, I’m very familiar with the black Greek fraternal culture. On one hand, you join the fraternity thinking you get to maintain your sense of individuality. And that you still get to live the life you were created to live. However on the other hand, you join the fraternity knowing that in the world, and especially on campus, you represent something larger than yourself. When people see you, they view you as a representation of the specific organization. It is placed in this latter context, that I begin to understand the perspective of your seemingly homophobic brothers. (I said understand, NOT AGREE.)
For your brothers, they probably think that you being gay is problematic for their own individual and fraternal reputations. They think when people find out you like men, that people will assume they like men also, and that your fraternity as a whole is gay. Because gay is still viewed by many in the black community negatively, your sexuality becoming public becomes somewhat of a “stain” on your line brothers’ and fraternity’s images. I know this sounds a bit ridiculous, but welcome to the thoughts of an insecure heterosexual black man.
The thing about this reputation notion, is that it is completely full of sh$t. If frat are going to claim to be so concerned about what members do behind closed doors all in the name of preserving some “image,” then you would think more would be said about the heterosexual “man whores” in these organization. Why is knowingly having multiple sexual female partners is so acceptable? I know many women who would view the concept of a man hoe negatively. But I digress. I just think whatever anyone does in the privacy of his/her bedroom, should not be up for public scrutiny. (Obviously I don’t think this is true for Law and Order: SVU situations.)
In your particular case, I would encourage you stay plugged into you fraternity. Don’t allow the homophobia of your chapter to cause you to forget all the reasons you joined your particular organization. Either your brothers will come to respect you and learn to better deal with your sexuality, or they will squirm and stew in their own ignorance. Because you’re chapter president and say you do most of the paperwork, you actually hold the upper hand in this scenario. Regardless of what your brothers have done in the wake of your sexual preference news, deep down they don’t want you to leave the fraternity. If nothing else for the simple fact they probably don’t want to do all the hard work themselves. So again, stand firm in your organization.
Going forward here are my suggestions.
- When the fall semester starts, call a meeting with your fraternity brothers ASAP. Take a hard line with them and demand their respect. Tell them what you do, and who you do it with, is your business, and yours alone. Since you claim to have been able to keep your private life private up until a few months ago, assure them you will continue to practice discretion. But, tell them you can’t help it if there are nosey people on campus so concerned about your life.
- If you think your brothers won’t come to the meeting if you call it, reach out to that one brother you said is cool with you in private. Have him call the meeting.
- In the meeting, remind your brothers of all you have done for them and the fraternity. That should thaw the ice, and hopefully bring them around to accepting you. Or at least respecting you.
- By the way, you staying in the fraternity helps your line brothers potentially get a lesson in tolerance that they appear to need.
- While I’m all for practicing discretion, don’t allow your brothers to discriminatorily shame you. You’re gay! But that’s you! So be proud!
- Enjoy your senior year. Let the only stress you experience, if any, be about you landing a job after college. (Although, I don’t encourage people worrying.)
As always nothing but love,