Trinity University’s Zeta Chi sorority in Texas boasts 51 female members, according to the school’s website. Its 52nd might make history: A trans student has been offered the chance to rush.
In an email to Trinity’s Greek Council members, dean of students David M. Tuttle writes about Kwame, a transgender student who’s been invited to “try out” for the all-girls sorority.
Dear Greek Council Leaders,
The Zeta Chi sorority has determined that it would welcome a male student, who self-identifies as transgender, to rush their organization. The group — and the student, Kwame — are clear that he may or may not be extended a bid offer. Fraternities and sororities consider all dimensions of potential members and have every right to consider exceptions to their single-sex status. This student’s overall identity, character, and personality – which includes being transgender – will be considered in the selection process. All students are invited into fraternities and sororities based on their wholeness as people. It will work the same in this situation. The University has watched this situation with interest and stayed out of it, other than to offer counsel and support through CCI staff members. Those staff members have researched how this is handled elsewhere and implications for Trinity and its students and groups. We would have supported any decision by Zeta Chi. Under the leadership of President Sarah, the group has undergone thoughtful consideration of the group’s values, the feelings of its members, and the opinions of alumni. As with last year’s diploma debate, the students learn from the educational process of weighing information and reaching well-considered and articulated decisions. Such issues aren’t theoretical, but also personal and emotional. What terrific preparation for life after college!
Zeta Chi has made its identity distinctive for embracing all students, regardless of sexual identity. This may be why this is the first group to grapple with these complex issues related to transgender identity. In my experience, our students and fraternities and sororities have a strong record of welcoming students of different backgrounds. I urge all Greek organizations to follow the lead of Zeta Chi in discussing such issues. I hope all members of fraternities and sororities join the administration in supporting the women of Zeta Chi and all students of less common backgrounds.
(Kwame and Sarah have reviewed and approved this message.)
If Kwame approved the message, then I assume she does not mind being identified as a “male student,” though those pronouns can always be tricky for the unfamiliar. But consider how remarkable this move is: With the exception of some co-ed groups, Greek organizations on college campuses are often specifically separated by the sexes, making gender roles the very first (and oft unacknowledged) qualifier when a student decides to join Greek life. But here we have a trans student whose gender identity means she identifies with the women in sororities, and they’ve admirably offered an invitation to rush. Moreover, it was an opportunity for the sorority to have an open dialogue about gender identity and what it means to be a woman.
This doesn’t mean Kwame is in; Zeta Chi has to offer her a bid for that to happen. But in the same month we saw Kye Allums becomes NCAA D-1 basketball’s first trans man to take the court (on a women’s basketball team), my heart is just a little bit warmer after so many weeks of endless queer teen tragedy.