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June 12, 2013

Is There A Limit to Inclusion?

This will probably come out of nowhere for some of you but another conversation about a startup sorority led to a discussion about one of their membership requirements.

  • Must be a natural born heterosexual woman who is 18 years or older.

Now some of you may remember that I'm in a sorority myself and that's partly why this particular requirement stuck out for me.  My sorority doesn't require that you be heterosexual or even 18 really because we know some smart cookies get to college early and can join as long as they have the other requirements in place.  However, the natural born woman piece hit a lot of chords in the conversation we were having.  One because of the number of homosexual men who have decided they want to be members of my or other sororities and have threatened to sue for that right under anti-discrimination laws.  Not really worried about men getting the right to join a sorority but there's another group that has a different standing and potentially a legal in that gay men do not.

Those that identify as transgendered, ie a woman in a man's body or conversely a man in a woman's body.  Neither of those groups could join the organizations for the gendered groups they identify with without there being some Herculean efforts or surgery so that at their time of application it was assumed they were for all intents and purpose the correct gender.  Can't say it hasn't happened already or that it won't happen in the future but without the surgery they have shakier claims than if they just pursued groups that were available to their gender of birth.  In the states where it matters gender identity is a protected class so if they join and then say I'm trans they couldn't be kicked out.  They may be pushed out socially but cannot be kicked out.

This scenario happened with Zeta Phi Beta when a student joined after, according to the student, being pursued to join the organization.  I can't say what happened with any certainty.  Both sides have a vested interest in portraying themselves in a positive light and short of a lot of coverage in 2009 when the issue came to a head there hasn't been a lot of discussion on either side.  Which could be to both sides credit there was not a lot of additional mud slinging.  But it didn't really have a resolution short of the student being declared inactive for procedural reasons (failing to turn in a transcript) and the student returning all their presents after damaging them.  Never the twain shall meet again is what apparently has occurred but it made me think, as there have been other situations since then with trans students wanting to pledge but in the NPC system which is a wee bit different than the NPHC.  And in those cases the students were pursuing their preferred identity organizations and not as in the previous situation in which membership was accepted into a sorority when the identity was strongly aligned with being a man.

So my question to you if you are still reading all of this is what do you think?  What would be the impact of having women who identify as men in a sorority or men who identify as women in a fraternity?  Is it something that members should just embrace or is there a room in this instance to maintain those boundaries for no other reason than lack of confusion?  Honestly, I'm normally pretty open to all things and have been super supportive to trans individuals in my practice BUT I think I'd be a little thunderstruck calling someone who identifies as a man my sister.  I'm not always good with random women in the sorority who have starkly different views than myself and those who brought me into the sorority so I can see a soror who wants to be called Steven instead of Stella being ten times worse.  It creates a situation that probably everyone will be uncomfortable for a while but I'm not sure where in there it should either stop making us uncomfortable or shouldn't even be an issue.  I see women getting over it easier than men would BUT either way it's a slippery slope in quite a few ways. 

Article about the situation HERE and HERE and most recent online presence for the former Zeta HERE and HERE and articles about a trans student rushing in Texas HERE and HERE


  1. I remember this story from a few years back. I'm in a NPHC sorority as well and this issue is definitely a slippery slope. At the end of the day, the sorority is about service. So I guess that if the individual is dedicated to service then you'd want them as apart of your organization.


    1. In theory I agree. We all have enough members not doing the work of our organizations, myself included when I get overly busy or stressed. I just start thinking about all the scenarios in which it would be awkward or difficult to bond in a large group setting with someone I've known as a woman for years that is now becoming a man. One on one I think we'd be fine but during a convention or business meeting or chapter function it would be difficult to stop people from getting upset and lashing out. So many layers to issues in this issue.

  2. No impact unless everyone is an idiot. I know that's no a class y thing to say but I'm fed up to the back teeth hearing about people trying to exclude others. This is how politics and wars start. Is that what we want to teach our children? Excluding others... the very thought makes me sick. And we're talking students, who are supposed to be intelligent yet often fail to acknowledge the bigger picture because the smaller picture (their ego plus uncertainty or the need to belong) outweighs the bigger one. I've seen it a million times and people will never learn. Here's my advice: they want to push you, you don't need them.

    1. Exclusion is not particularly productive but do you invite women, natural or man made, into fraternities or vice versa? Same sex orgs with opposite gender counterparts tend to say no because you have an alternative to join. Eh it really hasn't come up yet that's where the issue is coming up now.