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Fitting in on frat row: Yale’s gay Greeks September 23, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life.

The a cappella T-shirt says gay and the cargo shorts say Greek; the pillar candles and coffee table books say gay, the “College: The Best Seven Years of My Life” calendar and list of consulting job application deadlines say Greek.

Matt Smith ’07 is gay and a frat brother, and since there aren’t many caricatures more propagated and elaborate than those two, everything he wears, drinks, says or displays in his apartment seems to feed one or the other effectively mutually exclusive stereotype.

As cliche would have it, frat brothers and gay men are oil and water: Frat brothers yell “faggot” and gay men cry “heteronormative”; frat brothers build pyramids from empty Keystone cans and gay men know what feng shui is. But for Smith and other students and alums who are both gay and in fraternities, being gay, Greek and glad about both is just another chapter in the classic college story of finding yourself in four years.

No truth in the movies

Three years ago, Smith decided to rush. His sexuality wasn’t an issue – the freshman hadn’t even begun questioning his heterosexuality – and the guys of Sigma Phi Epsilon seemed laid back and diverse. Wary of pledges who wanted to jump headfirst into the fraternity scene from Camp Yale, SigEp tended to hang back and let second-semester freshmen and sophomores find them after exploring other parts of Yale.

“It wasn’t like a chug-your-drink-eat-your-shit kind of rush,” Smith said. “There was no ‘Animal House’ atmosphere.”

Forget Hollywood, alums say: Yale’s fraternity scene is low-key compared even to other real-life schools’ fraternities. At Duke, where alumnus Daniel Nugent ’04 worked for a summer, frats are massive, well-funded and “a social force” on campus. In Texas, where alum Fredo Silva ’04 LAW ’08 grew up, fraternities’ waiting lists include high-school juniors, and those fortunate enough to make it in to the frat are expected to fork over more than $1,000 in dues.

The unique atmosphere of Yale’s Greek life led openly gay Randall Rubinstein ’06 to join efforts to re-found Alpha Epsilon Pi’s Yale chapter. Rubinstein asked the AEPi national representative who was pitching the frat to some interested Yalies about “alternatives” whenever he would mention girls as a reason to start a fraternity.

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