Simon Aronoff

Sorority Boys: Trans Guide for Fraternities and Sororities

Filed By Simon Aronoff | December 08, 2008 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Campus Pride, frat boys, Lambda 10 Project, transgender

On December 3rd, Campus Pride and the Lambda 10 Project announced the release of a resource guide to raise awareness of transgender students and the issues they face within the Greek system of campus life. The goal of the new guide is to educate Greeks on their trans pledges, trans members, and trans alums, and to offer resources on navigating a system that remains segregated by legally documented sex.

The first of its kind, "Beginning the Conversation: Fraternity & Sorority Transgender Resource Guide" was given to Greek leaders at the Association of Fraternity Advisors Annual Meeting in Denver on December 4th. And while its co-authors Jessica Pettitt and Sarah Fielding concede many of "the answers aren't provided nor are they known" when it comes to accommodating a range of gender expressions and identities within sororities and fraternities with strict legally-sexed policies, I found the guide to be a solid start on beginning that conversation.

Broken down into three sections, the guide first works to help the Greek community understand "Trans 101" definitions. It then tackles common issues faced by trans students on campus. Finally, the guide challenges the Greek system to create positive change for trans brothers and sisters within Greek communities.

The most compelling reading in "Beginning the Conversation" was provided by letters written by trans Greeks themselves. (All of them on the FTM spectrum, by the way. Try as they may, the authors couldn't find a trans woman willing to contribute a testimonial.)

These first-person accounts spoke movingly of the affirmations of brotherhood, of masculinity provided by the Frat. To those of us determined to upturn the masculinist status quo, the idea of trans assimilation into the very belly of the beast may seem off-putting. Much like the rush to embrace traditional marriage or join the army. But we all know changing the system happens from within and without, over much time, and that securing equal access has value in countless real ways. So putting arguments aside about the pros and cons of Greekdom (which the authors take pains to de-stereotype), I recommend reading a few of the letters from trans frat brothers. They are powerful and honest in describing what students feel they get from Greek life; when, if and why they choose or choose not to disclose their transness; and the acceptance or rejection they've encountered along the way.

For those who work in higher education, in Greek or campus leadership, or with trans or gender variant students, "Beginning the Conversation" will keep you from reinventing the wheel by providing resources and model policies. The idea of transgender fraternity brothers and sorority sisters was new to me, but I'm very glad that Campus Pride and the Lambda 10 Project began the conversation.


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Perhaps because no self respecting trans woman would be caught dead participating in such institutionalized misogyny.

...not to mention the classism and cronyism that "greeks" represent.

If anyone has read "Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities" by Alexandra Robbins, you would understand why no transwowman was found on the sorority side. The probability of a transwoman surviving even 6 months would be nil. I will not go into more, just read the book and replace one of the women discussed with a transwoman.

Deanna

Its so easy to flat out damn the Greeks on campus but if this realy is a serious attempt to understand us even if we never or rarely get an ivite to join one.It is a start so I say lets help them learn what we are all about.Way back when I was in School I stil thoguht I was male but I never took part in the frats but knew several folks who were in them. These folks like it or not will be furture commuinity leaders so lets get them on our side and not just ignore them.After all when you know somebody it is hard to be against them.

K. Travis Ballie | December 8, 2008 11:08 PM

Simon,

I'm so happy to see this. I'm going to spread the word here at American University!

Sorority Boys was a horribly offensive movie.

"Sorority Boys was a horribly offensive movie."

No kidding and yet again we have women with trans backgrounds callously being insulted with the Greek version of "shemale" for a "catchy" title to a blog entry.

Apparently the majority of gay men still somehow believe that transsexuals transition because they are gay men in denial and thus this sort of thing is not offensive in the extreme. We have gay male Alex Blaze constantly telling me, a woman of intersexed history who transitioned long long ago what the intersections of gender identity and playing dress up are.........we have a noted gay author who knowingly used the single most offensive phrase possible for attention of his blog entry.......and now this. In my own experience gay men "get" transsexuality less than any other group and that includes christian fundies.

I had felt my efforts at commenting on what I found originally to be a very very neogynophobic, anti-transsexual blog were paying off slowly and in the past two weeks it reverted to as bad as ever.

When these loud, screaming transvestites/transgenders tell you they represent the majority opinions on all things trans it would serve to remember the loud ones number no more than a hundred, their followers number less than a thousand and they endlessly give each other "awards" and talk among themselves at a couple of expense dress up parties a couple of times a year.

There are tens of thousands of woman of transsexual history in this country, the vast majority who never never never go anywhere near gay stuff online or in person. I have met and talked to significant numbers of them and for all the diverse backgrounds and politics we represent, we all seem to agree on one thing.....transgenders do not speak for us, have done us real, tangible harm regarding our civil rights and we all, to a woman, utterly loath the term "transgender" applied to us.

Yeah, "there she goes again" but the fact is.....it's the truth.

I feel a strange affiliation to the confederacy when thinking about my relation to over privileged and entitled gay men. Don't you?

...except for you know, this time we are in the right.

I wonder about what you're saying, Cathryn. You use three examples of being brow-beaten by insensitive, overprivileged gay men, but you pick on Alex "20 cents in the bank" Blaze for being "constant" (apparently two or three comments over the weekend is "constant"), Eric's blog post title, which was a reference to what someone else was saying and something he apologized for, and Simon here, who's a transman... excuse me, a man of transsexual history. I don't know where he identifies in the gay/bi/straight/asexual spectrum. He can speak for himself if he wants to join this discussion.

So I'm not saying that he gets off the hook if you are truly offended, and that should be discussed, but can we at least put it into perspective? Are comments from gay men different if the men in question are trans and possibly bi or straight? Can we discuss these comments without asking for alliances to be broken up in the same breath?

Although your comment about non-transsexual transwomen "playing dress up" and referring to "these loud, screaming transvestites/transgenders"... jeeeeeeeez. I'm tempted to put that up on our list of site recommendations ("Come for the overprivileged gay men, stay for the loud, screaming transwomen!").

But since you aren't a transvestite/transgender woman, and neither am I, maybe all of us non-transgender-women could be more sensitive to the misogynist stereotype of the screaming, irrational transwoman that gets used to silence an entire group of people every time they speak up?

Alex......you have a year long history of making those sorts of comments I complain about directly to me here....not a weekend, not a week......a year.

Me silencing TGs....are you freakin' serious?

I just put up my own blog entry about this.
http://radicalbitch.wordpress.com/2008/12/09/justifiable-anger-killing-us-softly-with-support/

I do not inquire into the background of posters. You tell me Simon is a transman or man of transsexed history.......given the insult was directed at WOMEN, that is less than germane isn't it? The supportive nature of the actual blog entry wasn't the issue.......the issue was furthence of the idea that women of transsexual history are somehow lesser women or faux women or gay men in denial......and I'm beyond fed up with it and will challenge that whenever I see it.

Transmen are just as capable of patriarchal bull as you are....they are men and unlike many of the exposed attitudes they demonstrate, I accept that...and all that goes along with it.

Please note that trans men are once again not figured into the equation, and are ignored to justify a one-sided and narrow viewpoint.

That's right Monica....transmen are not figured into this particular equation because it is a WOMAN'S issue, not a man's one. I thought even you could figure that out. It is trans WOMEN and WOMEN of transsexual history being maligned here.

Cathryn, I heard exactly the same argument on a crossdressers forum from a pair of crossdressers who hate 'Transgenders' and were very upset with my statements about Tri-Ess and it's founder being bigoted for their policies of exclusion.

You have an incredible amount in common with them!

You both hate the term Transgender, you both hate being associated with each other, you both use the same arguments but with the words Transsexual in yours replaced with Crossdresser, you both blame the others sort of people for the lack of acceptance your sort of people suffer.

It reminds me of a pair of racists I went to school with. An Aboriginal who hated Asians and an Asian Australian who hated Aboriginals. Each thought the other racist. Each thought themselves not.

Just because the mirror image has it's left side on the right and it's right side on the left doesn't make it not your reflection.

Are you and Simon talking about the same thing? Simon is talking about a resource guide. You seem to be talking about a movie.

Bil..........we are discussing the use, once again in less than a week, of a deliberately insulting reference to women of trans history and transwomen just to garnish attention in a catchy blog entry title. To be clear: Sorority BOYS is a fancy way of saying "shemale" or "chick with a dick". It demeans the gender identity of all who transition to woman and belittles their womanhood by openly refuting it.

It's beyond old at this point, it's insulting, it's defamation, it's tran-phobic, it's transsexual-phobic and dare I say, borders on hate speech given the discussions that just took place here.

Sorority BOYS is a fancy way of saying "shemale" or "chick with a dick".
Cathryn, until you objected to the title I had never of such a connotation. I'm not sure that the phrase, regardless of meaning, has any currency. The website Urban Dictionary is usually pretty good with slang, and it has no definitions for the term "Sorority Boys."

The Out And Greek Conference was an amazing experience! There were over 80 folks in attendance and I first released the Trans Guide there. The conference got a lot of press and positive feedback.

I just got back from the Association of Fraternity Advisors Annual Meeting where the guide got good feedback as well.

I am looking for edits, more narratives, resources, etc. If you have anything to add to the guide specifically, please email me at contactme@jessicapettitt.com.

Thanks!
Jess

Thank you for posting a GREAT review of the Trans Greek Guide. I wanted to share with you that we did interview a transwoman who transitioned over 30 years ago and she didn't want to write her narrative as she is still very supportive of her fraternity. Also, one of the narratives is written by a transwoman in an gay, bisexual, trans, ally fraternity.

Happy to help!
Jess

Hi all...Apologies for any hurt caused by part of the title of my post. I hope it doesn't detract too much from the intent of the entry, which was simply to let folks know about the new Resource Guide published by Campus Pride. The Guide will be a great help to many in college communities.

- Simon

It is a help to those people of college age who this pertains to and not us old, washed-up humans who like to scream about things that don't truly affect us.

"I had felt my efforts at commenting on what I found originally to be a very very neogynophobic, anti-transsexual blog were paying off slowly and in the past two weeks it reverted to as bad as ever."

Oh, for crying out loud. In the GLB community, the biggest complaint about this blog is that it is "too trans." Not saying it is or isn't and really not interested in debating it, but your remark just to goes to show how nothing is ever good enough for some people.

The increasingly shrill comments and the "I've suffered more than you and you will never ever be able to understand it" attitude on this blog is making it increasingly tedious to read. And we wonder why things like Prop 8 pass.

Fucking flame away at me, I don't care.

Chuck,
"The Dark Knight" came out today. Go get a copy and sit back and relax for a couple of hours, watching an exciting movie. Even though it is a violent movie, it would be more calming then reading the comments here. I'll make the popcorn.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 9, 2008 8:26 PM

To those of us determined to upturn the masculinist status quo, the idea of trans assimilation into the very belly of the beast may seem off-putting.

You said it!

Thanks for posting about this!!