By Mike McCareins
For years, fraternity life in America had a reputation – fair or not – that it is a place where masculinity dominates.
At OU, a football school that emphasizes Greek life more than most Big 12 schools, being gay and in a fraternity may sound like a bit of a conundrum for outsiders.
Whether or not gay students in fraternities at OU are out, they are in a unique situation where they get to see for themselves from the inside whether the Greek community treats gay members differently.
Alec Armer, a 2018 OU graduate who was a member of Sigma Nu, complimented his house on being one of the more open and tolerant on campus.
“I know that my fraternity was very accepting,” Armer said. “I knew that they’d be accepting because they like me for me and that wasn’t about anything. That’s probably generally true for fraternity culture, but there are probably some (fraternities) that wouldn’t have felt that same way.”
However, Armer noted that while his house and many others are respectful toward either openly gay members or members who come out while in the house, that the overall culture of Greek life may still be harmful.
“The one problem for me was just the whole culture that existed – it’s just a very straight culture that’s challenging to be different,” Armer said. “Most conversations would just follow the typical, ‘oh this girl is so hot,’ whereas you’re never going to be able to say the same thing about guys.”
Earlier this year a fraternity at Syracuse University, Theta Tau, saw 15 members suspended after performing racist, homophobic, and Anti-Semitic chants in a video of a hazing ritual that was made public, according to the Washington Post.
Javi Ramirez, a junior and member of Sigma Nu, is openly gay but says his brothers have shown him nothing but support and respect.
“I truly believe that my entire fraternity respects me to the fullest extent of what they believe to be respectful, regardless of any differences we may have in identities,” Ramirez said.
However, Ramirez said that he contemplated dropping while rushing as a freshman because of the potential problem his sexual orientation could cause – he was not out at the time. But once he told that in private to one of the members on the executive board, he was told he should still rush because his fraternity would never discriminate, and that being a good brother is much more important.
He went on to say that Greek life the culture can still be toxic, but can be a good thing for gay students,
“I think having genuine friendships with a bunch of guys just being guys is something that gay men typically miss out on, which is really unfortunate because I find so much comfort in the concept of brotherhood,” he said. “But another important aspect to consider is how inappropriate and toxic fraternity culture can be.”
One student at OU who is gay, but not in a fraternity, commended the fine arts community and residential life mentors and staff at OU for being progressive, accepting and interested to find out how LGBTQ members at Oklahoma are treated.
However, the same student – who wished to remain anonymous – has seen hostility and ignorance toward the community, and he says most of that has come from members of fraternities at OU.
“I have many friends who have experienced slurs thrown toward them by fraternity members driving past them on the street, referring to them as fags and queers,” the student said.
This student did not particularly blame the Greek community at OU for that, rather putting the onus on many students in fraternities being kept in a very small bubble most of their lives, and finding people who grew up in similar bubbles once they get to OU.
“It is very unfortunate, but I must remain compassionate, as they don’t know better,” he said.
The topic of homosexuality also hits home at OU, as last December, OU Board of Regents member Kirk Humphreys said he believes homosexuality is wrong. Humphreys would later resign due to his controversial comments.
This semester, OU helped to combat the potential problem of LGBTQ members in Greek life by organizing a “siblinghood” chapter, Rho Koppa Delta, that will be a non-gender-specific organization.
“It shows LGBTQ people on campus there is a space that is specifically made for you and to help you,” Oliver Luckett, the founder and president said in an interview with the OU Daily. “And it shows other people that OU is not a place to push them out.”
This new chapter has seen support from many of the higher-ups and student leaders at OU in an effort to make sure all people with different identities feel comfortable becoming a part of the community.
On the other hand, one sophomore at OU who is gay and wished to remain anonymous said he personally has been welcomed with open arms by the whole Greek community.
“The gay community is shockingly supported and represented for a large public university in the south,” he said. “Here, you can find a group that loves and supports you, and everyone for the most part seems to mind their own business.”
While his experiences have been mostly positive, he agreed with other gay fraternity members in that he was initially very hesitant to rush due to the stigma and history of fraternities being a place where gays would not feel comfortable.
“There is such a negative stigma of homophobia related to the modern-day fraternity,” he said. “It’s about brotherhood, not about who I find attractive – just as it would be with a biological brother.”
The sophomore acknowledged that he would never be able to be just, “one of the guys,” but his house gave him the chance to experience a new culture, surrounded by loyal brothers who support him.
Being gay and in a fraternity is an interesting conundrum for outsiders looking in, as Greek life has been well-known for a culture of masculine, heteronormative values. While many individual members of Greek life at OU generally seem to be accepting, that overarching culture in fraternities is what may be the biggest issue, according to the students interviewed.
**NOTE FOR SETH**: Unnamed sources = Noah Nichols (sophomore) and Joseph Campbell (junior). If story goes to OU Daily, Javi would like to be anonymous.