After reading Michael Kimmel’s “Guyland” in his “Men and Masculinities” course, Brad Gilbert was inspired.
The book explores how males in the age range from 16 to 26 exist with a “guy mentality” where “if you are any way outside the hetero-normative, you are not a guy,” Gilbert explained.
In the text, Kimmel is additionally critical of fraternities, and this sparked the junior English and women’s and gender studies double major’s idea to form an interest group to bring a new Greek organization to campus.
Gilbert is in the process of making his goal of starting a chapter of Delta Lambda Phi a reality.
After his friend was accepted into a pledge class of the organization at Rutgers University, Gilbert didn’t think much of it, he said, “but then I actually saw Jack Halberstam’s lecture, who’s my favorite queer theorist, and then I saw the Ralph Nader, Jesse Jackson lecture and I was like, ‘I need to do something.’”
Delta Lambda Phi is a fraternity whose mission statement focuses on “progressive men,” and is created for and by men in the homosexual and bisexual community.
“It’s very hard to, sometimes as a gay man, or a bisexual man, or just queer in general, to relate to other men first of all, and then second of all, to (relate to) each other,” Gilbert said. “There’s a lot of animosity sometimes, and there shouldn’t be.”
The organization aims to provide an alternative to those who feel as though they don’t belong in the pre-existing Greek groups.
“I’ve considered joining frats but I kind of felt out of my element, because I am gay,” Billy Cavallo, sophomore biology major, said.
“Not saying that they don’t take it well,” Cavallo continued. “But just saying that it’s a very different environment, so having a frat that’s not really pro-gay, but more pro-acceptance is a more comfortable setting for people that are in the same situation as me.”
Adam Fisher, who tried rushing other fraternities twice this year, said, “All the guys were very accepting and welcoming, but at the same time, I did feel that disconnect, where I knew I didn’t really fit into that crowd.”
Speaking of the prospects of Delta Lambda Phi, the freshman graphic design major said, “It’s definitely something I was looking for this past year.”
“Because it is going to be a smaller, closer knit community, it’s going to be more of a brotherhood than just being in a frat,” Fisher said.
This interest group, consisting of a Facebook group with about 25 members, has looked to Dave Conner, assistant director of fraternity and sorority life at the College, for assistance.
According to Conner, the Inter-Greek Council (IGC) expansion committee assesses the current Greek life existing on campus each semester and decides whether or not there is room or need for any new groups.
While Conner said that things are “still very much in the preliminary stage” with Delta Lambda Phi, it is possible that the group can attain pre-active status as early as the fall semester.
“I think they bring something very unique, and not only a support mechanism, but an environment where they may essentially bring out a large chunk of men we haven’t necessarily seen represented in the fraternity community,” Conner said.
When discussing the potentially inevitable reputation as “the gay fraternity” on campus, Gilbert said, “People are going to want to label everything.”
Pointing out such absurdity, he added, “Calling it ‘the gay frat,’ sounds to me like it’s going to be an orgy or something.”
“It comes with all these connotations,” he continued. “It may be a group founded around a differing sexuality, but that doesn’t mean that it comes with all the negative stereotyping. It’s actually trying to disprove that sort of thing.”
Echoing similar thoughts, Cavallo said, “I don’t want that stigma. I want it to be the alternative frat.”
Although it has created a positive buzz on campus thus far, there have been polarizing opinions, namely from those in the LGBT community.
“My main concern is that to my understanding it is not inclusive to women or transgendered people,” said Melissa Nesi, a sophomore women’s and gender studies major and a member of PRISM. “Not that I would necessarily like to be a part of it, but I would like the option.”
Nesi explained that she has a transgendered roommate, who although he is a male mentally and presents himself that way, because he is not physically a male, he may not be allowed to join.
According to those in the interest group, the status regarding gender queers or transgendered individuals being able to join is currently undetermined, but if the group forms a chapter of Delta Lambda Phi, which is a national organization, it would have to be a male fraternity.
“It is an organization that is sex-based, but at the same time, it’s not an ideal group, but it’s working towards a more ideal campus environment,” Gilbert said. “It’s the lesser of two evils, compared to not having one.”
Creating this organization could help open the minds of others on campus.
“We’re not the flamboyant stereotypes that you see on TV. We’re just like everybody else. We deserve a table at the Inter-Greek Council,” Gilbert said. “It’s long overdue, I think. It’s just another step in the right direction.”
Jamie Primeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.