“Why does it seem like you all discriminate against gay people,” one student blurted out yesterday evening in the Q&A segment of the on campus event entitled ‘The Misconception of Greek Life” to a row of Central State’s “Divine 9” members, who were all lined up horizontally and facing the seated audience as they prepared for target practice.

The question maybe took some by surprise, but most of the older Black Greeks who has been around for a while now—and knows the game and how to play—probably saw this coming already. You just had to wait long enough for some individual confident in himself to ask a question many of whom are silent on the matter about…

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“Honestly, we don’t…” and blah blah blah, replied one of the Black Greek members in line, his legs appearing to buckle a little. Everybody knows when you begin with saying words like, “honestly,” or “we don’t haze,” nine times outta ten someone is also calling your bluff.

I knew, and really I have always known, that when it comes to African-American Greek fraternities and sororities, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) ought to keep their sexual life private. Not because it is a crime to be ‘gay,’ or that all gay people are bound to go to hell or something, but particularly at an HBCU, that is just the way it is.

Being discrete, especially regarding an alternative lifestyle, or who you choose to love, is an unspoken rule within the Black Greek fraternity and sorority culture that extends to each of the country’s 105 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), respectfully.

Everyone knows to not make known that type of information, and certainly not to tell because, when wanting to go Greek, telling someone, anyone about your closeted lifestyle is like the equivalent to signing your own death warrant.

Even in the 21st century where a handful of states are legalizing gay marriages, and the President of the United States himself has had a change of heart, most Black Greeks simply do not wish to discuss any more on “the gay question” than required, which is not a damn thing, because, perhaps, the truth hurts.

The fact is, gay people are widely discriminated against by most, if not all, members of the Divine 9 during the selection process, when Black Greek members debate on, or sponsor individuals willing to commit to a lifetime of service to their organizations.

Later someone somehow managed to give an honest, well-thought-of outlook on the matter when answering the student’s question, liberating us all from the few lackluster responses before. But as we continued yesterday’s program and its ironic title of ‘mistaken beliefs’ on Black Greek life, I found myself thinking about who I am, and where I have come from, and the obstacles I have had to overcome just to get my three letters that I proudly represent day-to-day.

I did not ask to be put on pedestal as a “role model” to students on campus and elsewhere I may go as a member of a African-American fraternity, the youngest member of the NPHC, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., and like many before me I have always believed that what you do in your private life should remain just that, private.

But considering this, and as the spotlight blurred my vision while facing the audience, who continued to shoot left and right and up and down many more good (and of course, some absurd) questions, I asked myself what is the best way I can begin to speak out against this issue that will only persist if no one else is brave enough to talk about it.

“Maybe,” I said to myself, “I should have responded to his question…”

17 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting article. I know during my college years it wore me thin the fact that you had so many closet gays in these organizations and would stay bashing us “OUT” men but were the first ones trying to have sexual relations with us. it would be great to see LGBTQ members of these organizations stand proud and be who they are instead of being ashamed and feeling like they’re going to embarrass their organization by loving who they want to love….
    Side note When I was being “considered” by one of these organizations when I was a junior in college I was quote unquote passed up by them once members found out I was gay. Pretty sad… but i don’t regret a thing.

    • Sorry to hear about that, and it happens too frequently. I wrote this remembering a Morgan State student who faced controversy for being gay… Thanks for commenting.

  2. Man I’m proud of you and I don’t even know you, lol. Reading this definitely shows the courage you have in “starting the conversation.” There’s so many layers within the context of the discrimination of Divine 9 Greeks & LGBTQ community & so much fear around it. It’s funny too how just because men had a masculine nature, who were gay when they were accepted, flourish throughout the fraternities. A lot of them who are proud members represent their letters with no problem. So it’s interesting how even though they are of the LGBTQ, they were able to get in with no problem. Kinda like because they fit the image of a man they fit the mold. But yea, it’s time to break these barriers down and show real values to all people. As a gay black man who attended an HBCU, I know exactly the atmosphere of “no need to speak on it” a lot of the organizations have held. Appreciate this post!

  3. Of course I have to join the conversation here, As an “Old School” member of one of the prominent Divine 9 Organizations I would like to add a bit of perspective. I pledged in the “New South” at Morehouse College in 2000. I personally don’t agree with the practice of discrimination of any kind, but I don’t deny that it happens either. In greek life, both on the organization stand point(Nat’l) and local stand point (specific chapters) the members we allow to join act as ambassadors of the organization to the general public. It is very similar to the relationship between sponsor and an endorsee, where our organizations have a brand and an image they are trying to uphold. That is why when you look at these orgs, you can generalize a kind of “typing”. This typing is not by original design or from the founders, but more often from the community that help these chapters alive on our campuses. It all comes from the purpose most of these organizations were founded on, a few general are brotherhood and sisterhood and social services. When these organizations were founded, the issue of the day was to focus on elevating the black person as a whole in society without regard to sexual preference. I am not saying that it wasn’t an issue at the time, but if you weren’t allowed to walk on the street safely, how could you even discuss “alternative lifestyles”. Fast forward to today and we have all but forgot about the civil rights movement with so much still undone. We now must address the marital rights of the LGBTQ community. Our D9 Greek orgs., can and have embraced you in the past and will continue to allow you to join our organizations, but none of us will do so at the expense of our brand. Think about it like this, long after coke changed their formula and removed cocaine from the mixture they continued to use the slogan “It’s the real thing” and it clearly wasn’t anymore. The minute you jeopardize our brand that is where we have to draw the line. Not just on sexual preference, but even with social standing. We all are recovering from the recent VH1 experiment, that ended in the permanent suspension of the parties involved. Our greek organization all realize that this is a growing opportunity to take advantage of the talent pool that is the LGBTQ community. I don’t mind what your private life consist of we are just protecting our brands, not saying you cannot join, but if you do you have to represent us in a way that we both expect and approve at least in the publics eye

    O.L. E.

    • Comparing people to beverages lacks a sense of humanity and makes no sense. Humans are nuanced. Not chemical formations made in labs.

      Also, being “gay” isn’t bad, so it makes no sense that it would “jeopardize a brand”. People are people. Not marketing objectives and talking points for front offices. That’s what’s wrong with our orgs now! We are less human, more business.

      Black people are so used to being classified in an inhumane way and are now using this same lack of care to the detriment of their brothers and sisters who are great people, just with different interest, who happen to have a different source of private pleasure you shouldn’t even be concerned about. Though they might have in private, I don’t remember ever reading about any of our founders making talking points about their sexual preference even though I’m quite sure blacks gays existed and were out at the time.

      Even comparing being gay to obvious hood rat bickering and fighting says a lot about what you really think of gay people. Your comparison basically implies that your average college educated black gay is somehow just as detrimental as bickering hood rats yelling and downing each other just off GP even though they are more than likely not engaging in that same behavior. It reeks of the same white patriarchal mindset that plagues all of us as blacks (extrapolating the worse of one person or few onto the blank slate of many who, besides similar skin color, are otherwise unrelated), just redirected at our own.

      You should be focused on finding good people, gay or not.

      I also find that this article usually applies way more to fraternities than sororities, which is hilarious considering the downlow epidemic that exists, esp in the college-educated black male sub-sect of our community. Hmph.

      • Good or bad, ‘alternative lifestyles that do not reflect what current/past members see as representative/reflective of the organization they love and support does in fact ‘change the brand’…which is vitally important to an organizations identity…

    • Sorry to knock your claim, but you sir are NOT “OLD SCHOOL”, unless you were MADE pre Spring 1990, then you have no claim to the moniker, sorry to burst your bubble but you are still new school (MIP era made) ask your prophytes, I don’t think anyone would say 2000 is old school, carry on.

  4. More foolishness. Of course, Greek mythology was strong on sexual perversion. These organizations, just like churches, are being used to advanced some freak agenda. Black folks are being led to slaughter yet again. Terrible article. And a terrible idea. I’ve never seen this foolishness so promoted in almost 36 years in KAPsi. Our men are looking for strong leadership, not some limp-wrist sissy nonsense..

  5. What is amazing is how this phenomenon has sparked interest in gay rights, but has not sparked interest in how to progress our organizations into the 21st century and beyond. We must remember that these organizations, were founded on the principles of uplifting Black men and women in college and beyond. These organizations were formed with the idea that the Black intellegencia must be nurtured and protected. They were formed to better assist the African American communities at that, which were mostly poor. This interest in gay rights in BGLOs has undermined the idea of these orgs helping their communities.
    The idea of battling for gay rights is a recent issue and in my humble opinion it is not an issue for NPHC orgs to truly deal with. Gay rights are a more private issue in some ways. They are an issue of choices. You can not choose to be Black but can choose to be gay. “Hiding in the closet” is a matter of choice. One does not have to hide. A person can CHOSE to be who they are and allow the chips to fall where they may. Not everyone SHOULD be Greek. Not everyone can be a member. People need to really consider that.

  6. putting it simply the lifestyle choices of certain people are simply that their choices. if you choose to join and organization that you know or come to find that has a particular belief or school of thought or the behaviorir not in step with the body of the organization then why in 2015 when you can start your own org with no push back you dont. The elders and civil right leaders of the 60’s died so that you could organize but instead you sneek in and get mad when you are rejected. Your actions to me say your thurst to join is more about proving a point then it is about brother and sisterhood. which is sad because after all the fall out you will be nowhere to be found and the true members are left to clean the mass. It is a sad day.when we seek to tear down our own.

  7. Actually this picture is owned and copyrighted by the Univetsity of Iowa NPHC and UI’s Fraternity and Sorority life. Our officials have been notified of the use of our picture to discuss a topic that is not an issue on our Campus.This discussion was not held at the University of Iow

  8. Can I point out that none of the above people have ever attended Jacksonville State University.

  9. While the Divine 9 can change their agenda, it has never been to promote LGBTQ agenda, in the past or the future. The LGBTQ community should start their own org to address their issues of concern. The sororities are for women, the fraternities are for women of liked mindedness. You can expect someone to pick up your rainbow flag and run with it when you are still straddling the fence trying to figure out who you are and what you are. They (Divine 9) ain’t for everybody!

  10. I wish I’d seen this article when it was fresh! I’m a member of a D9 Sorority, (pledged UG) and also a member of an LGBT organization. I was out everywhere but on campus when I was a part of my chapter. It was just “one of those things.” If you’re Greek, you’ve heard of the the 3 Ds. My personal life fell under one of them.

    Now that I’m past UG, I’m sill active with my D9 Sorority, but I was looking for something where I could share all of who I am with my sisters. That’s how I became a part of my LGBT sorority, Kappa Theta Epsilon. Our programs are geared to my community, I can bring my fiancee to functions w/o the side eye…you know.

    That doesn’t negate my loyalty to my D9. Back in my day, had I been completely out, I probably wouldn’t have been considered seriously – despite my great credentials. C’est la vie.

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