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Author discusses LGBT issues in Greek system November 11, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life.
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Shane Windmeyer described his life as a gay student in a fraternity.

Shane Windmeyer took the stage on Monday in Jesse Auditorium to address an issue that isn’t traditionally associated with Greek life, homosexuality.

Windmeyer, editor of the book “Brotherhood: Gay Life in College Fraternities” and co-editor of “Secret Sisters: Stories of Being Lesbian & Bisexual in a College Sorority,” has delivered the lecture to more than 500 different colleges. As a fraternity member himself, Windmeyer said that introducing gay issues is especially pertinent in the Greek system.

“It’s very important because if you look at fraternities as a microcosm of society, it’s about living in the real world, and there are gay people in the real world,” he said.

Interfraternity Council spokesman Matt Sokoloff said that the idea of “brotherhood” should include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

“Part of what we stand for is accepting everyone that is part of our community,” he said. “According to research, our campus isn’t as receptive to LGBT students as others, and I think a lot of that can be improved.”

In his presentation to the fraternity community, Windmeyer posed the question, “What would happen if your best friend was gay?” and told his personal story of coming out while being in a fraternity.

Sokoloff said he hopes that the presentation will inspire chapters to talk about LGBT issues and how they relate to Greek Life.

“It’s all about getting the discussion going, and it’s something that we needed to get talking about,” he said. “I’m hoping that members will go back and talk about it, or at the very least think about it.”

IFC President Dan Fletcher said he agrees that discussion among members is a step in the right direction.

“It would be ideal for the members to go back and start dialogue with their chapters,” Fletcher said. “It would be great if they addressed the issue so equality isn’t an issue in their chapter.”

Windmeyer, a graduate of Emporia State University in Emporia, Kan., and a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, experienced being a gay fraternity member in the Midwest. He said that though progress has been made in the region, further growth would encounter natural barriers.

“I think areas in the Midwest are more challenged to being open to LGBT issues, and I think a lot of that comes from bias,” he said.

But throughout the country and the Greek system, Windmeyer has made progress in adding LGBT issues to Greek discrimination policies.

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and 10 years ago three frats had orientation in their discrimination policy,” he said. “We now have over two dozen, and that’s been very progressive.”

During his presentation, Windmeyer also stressed the importance of abusive language in fraternity chapters.

“People use ‘gay’ and ‘fag’ in a derogatory manner, and they do it because that’s always how it’s been done,” Sokoloff said.

Sokoloff summed up the message of the presentation, saying “Being an LGBT student and a Greek are not mutually exclusive.”

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