Forum addresses being gay and greek

Katie Robb

Greek system officials and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally Alliance members met to discuss coming out in the greek system Tuesday as part of Coming Out Days.

“We wanted to have an informational discussion about being gay, lesbian or bisexual and a member of a fraternity or sorority, focusing on the highs and lows of that experience,” said Brian Tenclinger, assistant dean of students.

Tenclinger, coordinator of greek affairs, said Tuesday’s presentation was a way to provide resources for people interested in lesbian, gay and bisexual issues in the greek system. In addition to the discussion, Tenclinger handed out information about a Web site that focuses on sexual-orientation issues in the greek community.

“Dialogue is important,” said Scott Reichmann, LGBTAA treasurer. “I don’t know much about the greek system, and stereotypes are generally detrimental to understanding.”

“The only greek members that we see at our meetings are generally fairly out and open already, and it’s not an issue for them. I have met one or two who aren’t and don’t think they could be,” said Reichmann, junior in aerospace engineering.

Some stereotypes and misconceptions abound in the greek system, Tenclinger said.

“There is homophobia in the greek system – it does exist,” he said. “The climate at Iowa State is accepting, but the climate in the fraternity and sorority community is mixed.”

Tenclinger said he’s heard many stories about men and women who have been looked down upon by their brothers and sisters in the greek community.

“I’ve heard the stories of guys who had a relationship with another man and found their belongings in the yard and their membership card ripped up. It’s a sad situation,” he said. “The greek system is founded on Christian values and Masonic rituals. In some of these cultures, sexual orientation is something you just don’t talk about.”

Tenclinger said it is important to address sexual-orientation issues within the greek system. Although he currently knows of only one student who is openly “out” in a fraternity, Tenclinger said the issue is being addressed with increasing frequency.

“This is kind of a don’t ask, don’t tell issue, which is interesting. I wish it wasn’t like that, but it is,” he said. “The topic doesn’t come up at house meetings. The issues aren’t addressed.”

Tenclinger said he had a group of students come up to him and show interest in starting a chapter of the national co-ed gay fraternity, Pi Lambda Phi, at Iowa State. He said the fraternity is interested, but he is not sure it would have the support and membership needed to sustain a chapter.

However, Tenclinger said the greek system is making progress.

“I see a couple of individual fraternities taking the bull by the horns and running with it. I can see some changes being made,” he said.

Tenclinger said he wants students to know that as the greek adviser, he is there for them.

“There is a sense of anxiety for students dealing with these issues,” he said. “To cross the threshold into a fraternity or sorority for the first time can be frightening, and I want students in that situation to know I support them.”