“People assume that gay individuals would be completely disinterested in the prospect of joining a fraternity,” Kohlman Harshbarger (pictured) writes in a new op-ed published by The Odyssey. “This isn’t exactly a warped perspective, but it certainly isn’t one of crystalline clarity either.”
Harshbarger is a Marketing and Graphic design major at the University of Minnesota. He is also the current social chair for his fraternity.
He acknowledges the “hyper-masculine, weight-lifting, polo-wearing, country music-listening” reputations that many frat houses and their occupants have.
“They like their beer and their women equally. Both a lot,” he says. “Nowhere in this list do you find Beyoncé or skinny jeans.”
But, he says, there still plenty of gay guys amidst all the rampant heterosexuality.
“[Gay people] join fraternities for the same reason that straight people do,” Harshbarger writes. “For me, an out-of-state student (1,406 miles out of state to be exact), my fraternity is like my family away from home. It’s a support system of 107 best friends that are just as ready to shotgun a brew with me at 8 a.m. on gameday as they are to sit and listen to me lament about how shitty my day was. Surprisingly, brotherhood isn’t contingent upon sexual orientation!”
Maybe not in Harshbarger’s case. But there have been plenty of stories about fraternities rejecting pledges for being gay.
In October, the Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity at the University of Texas was suspended after being accused of withholding membership from a rushee simply because he was gay. And last year, the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland was put on probation for rejecting an applicant on the basis of his sexual orientation.
Lucky for Harshbarger, that wasn’t the case for him. He says being gay has never been an issue in his frat house.
“I can tell you first hand that nobody cares,” he writes.” When my pledge class found out from our pledge educator that there was a gay pledge in their class, they pegged another pledge brother as the culprit (but never suspected me).”
He continues: “I didn’t have a ‘gay’ voice and seemed like I’d ‘pull’ hard. I didn’t wear ‘gay’ clothes (although I did dress a bit better than everyone else). … Once the news was out (pun intended), the summative reaction was… well… there wasn’t one. No one cared. And they shouldn’t.”
Thought Harshbarger says he’s never personally suffered any sort of discrimination for being gay, he has witnessed it happen to others.
“There are still those in our community that hold opinions contrary to mine,” he writes. “I’ve seen Yik Yaks that continually target and degrade members of our Greek community because of their sexuality; thus far they’ve been kept anonymous. And that’s probably a smart move.”
“Although I might feel like delivering a swift throat chop or throwin’ some Judo on you if you called me a fag, I wouldn’t,” he concludes. “But I can’t say as much for the 107 other guys you’d also need to deal with.”