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College Student Booted From Frat For Being Gay? Or Not Being In Touch With God?

alpha-gamma-omega

CAMPUS CHRISTIANS — Greek life on college campuses carries a reputation of homophobia. (As well as homoerotic hazing.) So what to do when you’re a gay student looking to join a frat like any other fella: Keep your sexuality a secret, or, you know, just be your damn self? For one University of South Carolina student, he tried doing just that while rushing Alpha Gamma Omega — and was summarily introduced to a religious mindfuck where he was told “the fraternity is not affirming of homosexuality, because they are Christians and follow the scripture.” Guess who’s not getting in to AGO?

Here’s Isaac Ahn’s letter to student paper The Daily Trojan explaining what went down (emphasis ours):

I would like to share my experiences participating in Spring Rush 2009. On my fifth and final day rushing Alpha Gamma Omega, two AGO brothers confronted me about my sexuality. That is, two AGO brothers confronted, questioned and attacked my sexuality. Although I was honest with them about my being gay, I was made to feel extremely uncomfortable. From these conversations, it became inescapably clear that AGO would not extend a bid to me because I am gay, an instance of blatant homophobia. As a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at USC, I am appalled by the actions of these two AGO members, especially considering USC’s national recognition as an LGBT-friendly university. This experience has been an extremely painful one for me, leaving me with real feelings of inadequacy. I have still have not fully recovered from the shock of what I experienced.

Below is a brief description of the incident:

AGO Brother #1 and I were talking about how the bid process works. He asked me about my relationship with God. I told him I learn things every day, among other things. He further questioned me by asking what I learned. He said something about my involvement in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Assembly and how that wouldn’t work well with being in AGO. I told him I never was in GLBTA. He asked me if I was gay. I said yes. He asked me how that factored into my relationship with God. I explained how it used to be a struggle and how it isn’t anymore. He said that people base their relationship with God on their relationship with other people.

AGO Brother #2 came into the conversation and took me to his room. He closed the door and proceeded to tell me how he struggled with his sexuality since he was a child. He asked me about my relationship with God. I told him what I told AGO Brother #1. He told me that he entered the fraternity a “broken man” and how the fraternity has helped him to improve. He also said that the fraternity is not affirming of homosexuality, because they are Christians and follow the scripture. He also said that since tomorrow is bid night, they want to know how my relationship with God is. He asked me what my thoughts were. I said that I wanted to leave. He wanted to show me out the back door so no one could see me leave but I said no. I grabbed my umbrella from under the couch in the common room where people were “worshipping” and left.

From this incident, I hope the blatant homophobia is acknowledged. In trying to resolve my issue privately with the Interfraternity Council, I wrote to the IFC Judicial Board and met with them twice. I asked them for assistance with the following three things:

– An IFC investigation of this incident coordinated by the IFC Judicial branch.

– AGO leadership must admit their two brothers acted wrongly in this situation, and the organization as a whole should take full responsibility for what happened. In addition, the two men involved must issue a written apology to me noting their discrimination.

– AGO should work with the IFC Judicial branch and Diversity Encouragement Council to institute an intervention strategy to prevent a situation like this from happening again.

After hearing both sides of the story, the executive vice president of Judicial Affairs notified me that they would not help me with my requests. No apology or admission of any wrongdoing was given to me from either the IFC or AGO. He told me that the IFC Judicial Board did not think any discriminatory actions occurred, although they thought the remarks were insensitive. He said I was unsure of how the rush process worked. The only ruling that IFC made was to require the two brothers who approached me to attend Diversity Encouragement Council meetings. He did not give me a formal decision on paper, instead choosing to tell me in person. To add insult to injury, I was told that my case would not be recorded, completely diminishing the gravity of my case.

The day after I received the decision from IFC, an AGO alumnus who is back at USC taking pre-med classes approached me. He waited for me at my workplace to tell me that I would not get the results that I want by going through the administration. He also felt the need to share a Bible verse about mercy and forgiveness with me. While I can’t say who sent him, I think it is safe to assume that he came to my workplace to stop me from pursuing my issue further.

With everything that has transpired, I still feel that I deserve the three items I originally requested from the IFC. As a council that regards itself as “one of the most diverse, exciting and well-respected systems in the country,” IFC needs to reconsider how homophobia fits into that definition. I am both frustrated and frightened by the ignorance and disrespect that was expressed in dealing with my situation. With all the diversity that exists at USC, why is integration so hard? Bureaucratic systems such as the IFC certainly do not help, and are part of the problem. The IFC and AGO will both say that they are not homophobic and are accepting of the LGBT population on campus, but that could not be further from the truth. In fact, during the IFC hearing, an AGO leader told me they have several members who are “dealing” with their homosexuality. What does that even mean? My experience is only one of many homophobic incidents I’ve heard of in fraternities on campus. Despite what anyone might say, or any exceptions to the rule, there is a palpable anti-gay attitude within the IFC, evident especially in the fact that they condoned what happened to me.

My fellow Trojans, I shared my experience and anger to hopefully revitalize you to speak up whenever you see something discriminatory happen. I am currently working with USG Diversity Affairs to settle my issue, and I will not give up until I get what I deserve.

We, as the LGBT and ally population on campus, need to work together to ensure that no one is constrained in what they can achieve at USC.

Isaac Ahn
Junior, creative writing

And what does Queerty think USC should do?

By:           editor editor
On:           Feb 19, 2009
Tagged: , , , ,
  • 37 Comments
    • Sebbe
      Sebbe

      Is that what frat houses look like in the south?

      Isaac Ahn is going to go far in life. Good for him for standing up for not only himself but for others?

      “USC’s national recognition as an LGBT-friendly university”?? Who knew?

      “He closed the door and proceeded to tell me how he struggled with his sexuality since he was a child.” – of course he did, although for a moment I thought this story was going in another direction.

      What should USC do? Immediately have him sign a settlement agreement for free tuition for the remainder of his studies to start.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 7:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • petted
      petted

      While I don’t agree with how the school’s IFC and the leadership of the school’s chapter of AGO handled this… after some preliminary fact finding about the fraternity which is a good idea to do when joining any organization I’m not entirely surprised.

      http://www.ago.org/mc/page.do
      From their main website “Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal savior,
      we as Christian young men of Alpha Gamma Omega Fraternity
      purpose that it shall be the aim of this fraternity to…” In addition one of the awards members can be put up for is a Commitment to Missions Award which is associated with, well, missionary work. I’m not saying that the fraternity’s and IFC’s actions were appropriate – certainly not IFC’s – but the attitudes of AGO based simply off of their national website should be a clear warning sign of a hotbed of LGBT hostility.

      There are a number of friendlier fraternities to the LGBT community I wasn’t a member of a social fraternity so I can’t speak from personal experience but as Isaac presumably was looking for a fraternity that entailed a stronger focus on character building and community service – which is why I’m guessing he was looking at AGO – then I’d recommend the APO chapter (Alpha Kappa) at USC as I’m unaware of any APO chapter being unfriendly to our community and certainly the national organization would not tolerate any actions like those described in his letter. Sorry I was a national delegate for my chapter twice so I haven’t entirely kicked the habit :) His best bet is probably to talk with the Dean of Student Life or whatever USC’s faculty equivalent is and discuss what can be done. Though I must admit to some surprise as when I visited USC it reminded me a lot of A&M with a kind of Stepford Wives vibe though that probably was just the tour guides.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 7:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brian Miller
      Brian Miller

      Why would you want to force a homophobic religious fraternity to become gay-affirming? It’s a bit like trying to “open up the KKK” to gay and black members… waste of time with no purpose.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 7:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • petted
      petted

      Granted its hard to say how he can go about redress without knowing more about USC policies regarding fraternities as every school has a slightly different set of regulations and degrees of oversight. Since the IFC and the fraternity are student run and they have treated his concerns as of little importance he should definitely seek out the administration however he should notify the IFC so they have an opportunity to reconsider their position.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 7:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • petted
      petted

      @Brian Miller: I agree with you that there’s not really any way he could get changes in AGO’s fundamental outlook but the behavior of the two active brothers seems out of line to me and certainly the fact that USC’s IFC was doing all this off the record that seems wrong to me. I agree with little reservations to his first two requests however his third request is problematic as private organizations are entitled to establish the guidelines on which they select members and his third request comes at odds to this principal though certainly I think it would be appropriate to require a greater degree of communication between the IFC and the Diversity Encouragement Council to make sure all student adjudicated functions are done so in an approppriate manner.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 8:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • shanewindmeyer
      shanewindmeyer

      All fraternities have some sort of Christian background. However, many have taken stances supportive of gay brothers. The overarching issue is whether your college has sexual orientation as part of its nondiscrimination statement. If this is the case and this fraternal organization is a recognized club/fraternity by the university, certain actions may be taken by the university. The Lambda 10 Project, since 1995, has developed many resources for LGBT and ally members of fraternities and sororities. Go to http://www.gaygreek.org

      Feb 19, 2009 at 8:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • shanewindmeyer
      shanewindmeyer

      USC has 2.5 out of 5 stars on the National LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index at http://www.campusclimateindex.org. According to the Index, USC also has sexual orientation in in its nondiscrimination statement, which should apply to all clubs/organizations (unless it has an exception for religous based organizations). Or the fact that it is South Carolina and the university will not want to address this in an outward manner due to State politics.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 9:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • POP MUSIC FORUM
      POP MUSIC FORUM

      mmm i love frat guys, theyre sexy, but a little airheaded haha

      Feb 19, 2009 at 9:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sebbe
      Sebbe

      @shanewindmeyer – While I am far from an expert on “greek life”, not all fraternities have a christian background, although if you are speaking about the oldest ones I am sure that is true. I did have a friend who was in a Jewish fraternity during his undergrad.

      Is it common for juniors to join fraternities? I thought it was usually restricted to freshman and possibly sophomores. That was just always my impression. Anyone familiar with greek life?

      Feb 19, 2009 at 9:14 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sebbe
      Sebbe

      Also, haven’t there been several cases of certain universities not acknowledging (funding as well presumably) fraternities that discriminate against non-christians. For some reason I thought there was a rather well publicized case in the carolinas. Chapel Hill possibly?

      Feb 19, 2009 at 9:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Charles J. Mueller
      Charles J. Mueller

      @Brian Miller:

      Agreed. And with that thought in mind, why would any self-respecting, openly gay person even want to put himself in a homophobic religious fraternity?

      Square peg. Round hole.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 9:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sebbe
      Sebbe

      @Charles – Agree, but to me it seems like this kid is still very young and finding himself and his way in the world. It is probably not a choice he would make with a few more years of experience. He does seem pretty mature and sure of himself though and certainly has a good head on his shoulders. He possibly has never experienced homophobia and doesn’t feel he should be a victim of it now. Just something to think about.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 9:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • getreal
      getreal

      Who would want to be in a fraternity with those assclowns anyway? I wouldn’t.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 9:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • shanewindmeyer
      shanewindmeyer

      The first fraterny Phi Beta Kappa grew out of an older organization, founded in 1750, named the Flat Hat Society. These organizations and the ones thereafter were subsequently founded on Christian principles. You are correct, there are Jewish fraternities. The first Jewish fraternity was founded in 1898. The reason Jewish fraternities were started was the fact that Jews were excluded from joining existing fraternities because of the sectarian practices which prevailed at the end of the nineteenth century in the United States.

      As far as nondiscrimination statements, there have been several cases challenging such policies on college campuses, but all have been settled out of court or have met with other fates. The UNC Chapel Hill case ended like this: “Federal judge in North Carolina had dismissed a Christian fraternity’s lawsuit against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”

      Now I am not suggesting that in the courts of NC/SC that the university would prevail. I am merely asking: “What weight does a nondiscrimination statement have if a student recognized organization does not need to abide by it.”

      I believe a fraternity that is solely religous in philosophy and who chooses to not uphold the nondiscrimination statement should have a separate recognition process (or not be recognized). This would limit the access to public services and funding. I am not sure the policy at USC but it seems that they are part of the IFC which does not seem fair given the situation described above.

      Again, the Lambda 10 Project has been doing this work since 1995. I encourage anyone to check out the site for additional resources at http://www.gaygreek.org

      Feb 19, 2009 at 9:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sebbe
      Sebbe

      I agree, these discriminatory organization can exists, but off of school property (included housing if applicable) and certainly no funding or involvement within the schools auspices. I know at Harvard there are NO officially sanctioned fraternities, although there are many organizations / secret societies that exist outside of the schools realm, control and funding.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 9:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Wondermann
      Wondermann

      Hi all

      Just a little correction…it’s University of Southern California
      not South Carolina

      Feb 19, 2009 at 9:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • petted
      petted

      Point of clarification the USC in question is the University of Southern California hence the letter being in the Daily Trojan. There may well be a USC in South Carolina but this one is Cali.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 9:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sebbe
      Sebbe

      @shane – I checked out your website briefly. While I personally had no interest in greek life as a student, your site seems to be an excellent resource for those that are at university and wish to get the facts.

      Have you perhaps read “‘Harvard’s Secret Court: The Savage 1920 Purge of Campus Homosexuals'”. I found it an excellent book, although I must say I am partial to the school.

      Best of luck with your book and site.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 9:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sebbe
      Sebbe

      @Petted – OOOOOOOOOOOOOO you are right. Us northeasterns see USC and assume South Carolina I suppose. This makes the situation that much worse in my opinion and of course all of us are familiar with this USC. “The trojans” meant nothing to me. Well little. LOL

      Feb 19, 2009 at 10:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • petted
      petted

      @Sebbe: Anyone who is an active student can join a fraternity – the thing is though since most fraternities do voting by secret ballot to determine whether or not to extend a bid (offer to join, full membership subject to a subsequent vote) it can be easy for intolerance to be cloaked as most fraternities have very loose voting guidelines for membership.
      @shanewindmeyer: Its tricky because private organizations have a right to determine membership policies, likewise universities have rights in how they recognizing organizations operating on campus. A non-discrimination policy will apply to all school clubs excepting fraternities which will likely be operating under a different policies under the IFC which serves as an intermediary between the administration and Greek life. As a rule of thumb fraternities do not receive school funding as such they are allowed to determine their own membership however in some cases fraternity houses may be owned by the school – usually there’s some very detailed contracts behind it stipulating requirements and obligations between the parties (at my school I only knew of one fraternity that owned outright their house which allowed them to finagle some of the rules and regulations, mainly regarding alcohol… ) which may give the faculty some ability to lean – I’ll dig and see if I can find USC’s fraternity policies.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 10:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Charles J. Mueller
      Charles J. Mueller

      @Sebbe:

      Lol. I had the same reaction as you did.

      To me, it looked like many of the universities and colleges I see in the Phillipines, which is a Third World Country.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 10:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • shanewindmeyer
      shanewindmeyer

      Good dialogue everyone. The fact that it is University of Southern California is indeed troubling. The campus has five stars out of five stars on the LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index (www.campusclimateindex.org).

      I would hope the college administration would try some sort of policy enforcement to the extent they can. Fraternities are complex organizations and they operate differently and are recognized differently on each college campus. Not all fraternities are run outside a campus setting. Many use college facilities and some receive college funds.

      One Major Point: Being a private institution USC has great latitude in what they choose to do with this as far as their campus policies. I am curious if there has been any more communication beyond this article.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 10:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • petted
      petted

      “The following policies have been adopted by the University of Southern California to make clear the university’s expectations of behavior for those fraternal organizations with which it has entered into a relationship of mutual pride and respect.”
      http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/greeklife/recstandards.html

      http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/greeklife/recstandards.pdf

      “Policy 10.
      Guests and visitors in fraternity and sorority houses and at chapter sponsored events shall be treated with the utmost respect and courtesy at all times. No such guest or visitor shall be assaulted, harassed, intimidated, degraded, threatened, coerced, or be made the butt of cruel or lascivious jokes, or be prevented from leaving at any time. The chapter shall be held responsible for the treatment of guests and visitors by its individual members.”

      http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/greeklife/recstandards.pdf

      It’s possible some additional guidelines might exist covering discrimination but it seems unlikely that they wouldn’t be referenced in the above standards for Fraternity/Sorority recognition. However I think Isaac may be able to make a case under policy 10, though at best I think it would result in a public apology (with underground resentment), and sensitivity classes for the chapter.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 11:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sebbe
      Sebbe

      @petted – thank you for taking the time to look that up.

      Feb 19, 2009 at 11:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • gaygreek
      gaygreek

      As an openly gay fraternity man who has served as Chapter President and on the IFC Executive Board (ironically as the VP of Judicial Affairs) i think i would have handled the situation a little differently but believe the outcome is right (diversity training).

      To me it seems like this guy was looking for a fight. There are plenty of gay friendly chapters out there why pick the most conservative religious fraternity on campus? However the way the chapter handled the situation is wrong, thats why i think they need some diversity training, but you cant make them accept the guy into their chapter.

      Feb 20, 2009 at 12:26 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Merlin
      Merlin

      Dear Gaygreek, thanks for ghettoizing us other gays.

      This idea we all got to stay in our place, out of sight of real people, that gays can’t be christian is crazy talk hons. You saying gays can’t respond to perjudice? This is silly and racist in it’s appeal to many organized southern christians in american, and we are talking about the deep south right?

      So uncomplicated is it to stay away from homophobes? So easy to hide in our small groups of friends at school? You really saying don’t bother the animals in the zoo or they will get you at a college frat party? LOL.

      This showing up at work is an old southern device to threaten people. Threats are what kept segregation in the south going for all these years.

      Merlin

      Feb 20, 2009 at 9:31 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sebbe
      Sebbe

      @Merlin – It seems we assumed wrong and it is Southern California. Worse in my opinion?? But, I agree with your statement no matter where it is.

      Feb 20, 2009 at 9:41 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DavidiNSeaTtle
      DavidiNSeaTtle

      Next time, more research first, and a converstation with the fraties to see what their stance is. Seems rose colored glasses/jumping in the pool before checking to see if there’s water, may have gotten in the way in this case. I do respect his tenacity, and if anything gets better for the GLBT community because of his work on this, great.

      Feb 20, 2009 at 9:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Merlin
      Merlin

      OMG! Thought this was the south carolina. Have always heard how bad it was in Southern Cali, didn’t know this type of thing exists there too? at a public university? GET OUT! With all the bad things happening to that state, you would think that human rights would not be one of them………….

      SEGREGATION IS KNOWING WHO WILL HARM YOU! while trying to avoid those that will hurt you.

      Feb 20, 2009 at 10:04 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • gaygreek
      gaygreek

      @Merlin: I am not saying that at all. I am the only openly gay person in my chapter, an i am not staying out of sight. I am just saying i dont understand as a gay person why would i want to be a member of a fraternity that believes im going to hell and would try to convert me.

      I love being in my fraternity, i love spending time with my brothers, i enjoy living with them, I wouldn’t enjoy being in that fraternity because of their believes.

      Feb 20, 2009 at 5:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Charles J. Mueller
      Charles J. Mueller

      @gaygreek:

      Good reply, Gaygreek.

      And hence, the old expression, “Birds of a feather flock together”.

      Makes perfectly good sense to me.

      Why sleep with pigs? One only winds up smelling like one, right? lol

      Feb 20, 2009 at 6:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • sam
      sam

      This kind of thing makes me really worried. It’s no different than the Evangelical’s talk about the “War on Christmas.” It’s not ghettoizing, it’s not self-segregation, it’s not assimilation: it’s accepting that there exist people who disagree with you.

      Feb 22, 2009 at 3:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Charles J. Mueller
      Charles J. Mueller

      @sam:

      I can accept that there exist people who disagree with me.

      What I cannot accept is that these exist people who will bar me from an education, product or service that is available to anyone else who can afford to pay for it, simply because they disagree with me.

      And…I cannot accept that there exist people who will take away my civil-rights, also simply because they disagree with me.

      Would you disagree with that?

      Feb 22, 2009 at 4:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Eli Nassau
      Eli Nassau

      I personally know Isaac, in fact he is seating right across me in our advanced writing class. I can say that no matter what a person does in life, a room for spirituality should always be welcomed, especially by someone who makes the effort to unite two struggling identities.

      Also, the frat is in the University of Southern California NOT South Carolina.

      Mar 10, 2009 at 12:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Curious
      Curious

      @Sebbe: Hi, I would just like to correct that this frat actually is at the University of Southern California, not South Carolina as the article states.

      Feb 16, 2011 at 4:14 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shannon1981
      Shannon1981

      I live in SC. I went to USC from 199-2001 before dropping out. This isn’t surprising. And they try to keep a lid on this stuff, but it happens CONSTANTLY. Every school in this state- and that is the biggest one- lets shit like this go on, then they lie and cover it up and pretend they are “all inclusive.” Don’t believe a word that comes out of the mouths of any official from any of these places. They care about their fucked up version of God, not people.

      Feb 16, 2011 at 5:44 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Shannon1981
      Shannon1981

      ETA- I see its California, not SC. sorry. Surprised that this happened in CA.

      Feb 16, 2011 at 5:45 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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