Frat Boy Dishes On What It’s Like To Be Gay And Greek

388f445“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.”

Ah, brotherhood.

Related stories:

SMU Fratboy Admits To Forcing Male Student To Have Sex

Gay Porn Stars Draw On “Real Life Experiences” To Recreate Frat Hazing Rituals

MI Frat Boys Suspended For Naked But Patriotic Party Invitations

Graham Gremore is a columnist and contributor for Queerty and Life of the Law. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


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  • VampDC

    Who the F— cares?

    FYI. Frats aren’t anything like they are in movies. It’s not all hot jocks hanging around. There’s a lot of ugly, weird, and try hard kids in frats.

  • StudioTodd

    I notice that he didn’t correct his “brothers” when they assumed some other pledge was the gay one. Was it because he knew it would increase the likelihood he wouldn’t be accepted?

    I’m not sure I buy the nonchalant attitude towards gays by fratboys this guy is trying so hard to sell.

  • Trippy

    I couldn’t get past the following quote:

    “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)…”

    WTF are “gay clothes”? I’m sure this dude is a nice guy on some level, and probably a loyal brother, but he’s holding some serious stereotypes in his head. While reading this silly article I kept thinking that what he really means is that as long as you aren’t some giant sissy, the straight boys down at the frat house will allow you the privilege of hanging out with them while they abuse drunken coeds, trash property, get high, and harass men in gay clothes with gay voices. UGH.

  • AnitaMann

    He sounds like a jerk. Not surprising that he fits in with a frat.

  • lykeitiz

    @Trippy: Just as I was collecting my thoughts on how I would respond to this, I read your post. Thank you for beating me to it & saving me time!

  • lcandela123

    One reason Kohlman is accepted by his frat brothers is that he presents as straight. He doesn’t offend their straight sensibilities or cause them to ponder his gayness much.

    There was a disturbing lack of certain important information in this article. Kohlman says that his frat brothers accept him. Is that acceptance on an equal basis with the straight frat brothers? For instance, does Kohlman talk plainly and casually about his sex life?; the straight brothers certainly do. Does Kohlman invite male dates to the frat house?; the straight brothers certainly do. Does Kohlman have wonderful, consensual sex in his private room at the frat house?; the straight brothers certainly do.

    I sense a disingenuousness about Kohlman’s claim that he is totally accepted, although it is encouraging and refreshing to hear. However, it really sounds like the bedrock of this acceptance is Kohlman suppressing a lot of the plain, wonderful facts of his gayness from his frat brothers.

  • vive

    What’s “hypermasculine” about wearing Polo?

  • Ladbrook

    Way back in the day, my freshman roommate in college pledged a chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha (we called them the Pikes). Anyway, I’d already come out and had no desire to go greek, but Bryan and I remained close friends and roomed together sophomore year, too. After that, he moved into the Pike house.

    Long story short, Bryan came out the summer after his junior year, and even though I had a fairly sharp gaydar, I was surprised. A couple of years after graduating, Bryan told me that before he’d officially come out, he developed a reputation in the frat as the guy who would “take care of his brothers” when the need arose. In other words, he was open to providing oral pleasure to his drunken brothers after house parties (to the ones who hadn’t gotten laid). He claimed to have “serviced” over 1/3 of his brothers during his time as a Pike. It was mostly oral, but he occasionally gave them access to his backside as well.

    Now, I realize that frat chapters are like people (every one is different), but I guess my point is that as I read thru this man’s story, I found myself wondering if he might at some point find himself being asked to provide similar services to his brothers. My roommate did it willingly, of course, but I would worry about my safety if I were him. I’m not trying to stereotype all frats or frat guys, but on a booze-fueled Saturday night, he might find himself in an awkward or even dangerous situation. I just hope he takes care of himself and doesn’t put up with a bunch of crap just because they are his “brothers.”

  • Cam

    Is it just me or do his quotes make him sound really “Douchey”?

  • Ladbrook

    @Cam: Hell, his HAT makes him douchey… but his quotes make him an ass.

  • TVC 15

    I didn’t want to pay for my friends in college, so I never was interested in joining a frat. My reasoning was that by coming out, you join the biggest frat ever.

    I did meet a couple of closeted gay men who were in frats back then. I found it pathetic that they would put themselves through the trouble.

  • money718

    What a dumb op-ed. He is the 1st gay guy EVER to ever pledge a frat. Sit-down lol.

  • Stache99

    Wow. He’s got 107 new freinds. I wonder if these new friends are a-ok with you living your life or it’s contingent on you being a good non sexual house gay. Probably the latter.

    Kohlman at least shows them that were not all that different. Some of us can be just as douchey as them.

  • HudsonLife

    @Ladbrook: Perhaps he’s just a Douchey Ass-hat.

    Seriously though cut him “some” slack… remember he’s just a kid and still finding his way through the world. Frats are rife with kids who are neither fish nor fowl. Some are still experimenting while others have had no experiences at all. Yet others firm and confirmed Kinsey “1”.

    The amazing thing about being college age is the perpetual renewal of discovering life for the first time! I never want to give out too much information ’cause I hate to spoil the joy and disappointments awaiting the know-it-alls. I was sooo smart when I was younger, LOL!

  • Alan down in Florida

    @lcandela123: That’s what I was thinking and better written than I could have done it. Thanks.

    That said it is a generation of gay kids in traditionally straight places that will show the world that what many of the things they may think about gay people are wrong and that the average gay person is really not that different from them. Ultimately it is probably that generation is the one that will make true equality a reality.

  • Apparatus

    All I can think of after reading this article is: What. A. Douche.

    And if you can’t see it, then you’re probably a douche too.

  • vive

    @Alan down in Florida: “…show the world that what many of the things they may think about gay people are wrong and that the average gay person is really not that different from them.”

    I think that goal of just fitting in is precisely the wrong approach. What happened to the ideals of creating something freer and better than the existing hetero institutions, the ideals of celebrating people’s uniqueness and differences, instead of just dumbing everyone down to the common denominator? Or is this the generation without ideals?

  • AtticusBennett

    @vive: EXACTLY.

    congrats! you were accepted because you “weren’t different!”

    this is like the reason Ben Carson is “accepted” by the GOP establishment – all he had to do was be anti-gay, anti-woman, and anti-black. YAY!

    the sad things about stories like this one are how clueless the guy is. he doesn’t get it. it’s about being accepted, embraced, and supported – even if you’re nothing like them, and even if you’re “everything” they perceived a gay person to be.

  • Cam

    “He continues: “I didn’t have a ‘gay’ voice and seemed like I’d ‘pull’ hard.””

    So in other words, he doesn’t have a gay voice and seemed like he’d pull in the women easily.

    Really? That’s what you say during an interview??

  • Kieran

    Terrific story. A lot of heterosexual college students are taught first hand that not all homosexuals are actually walking stereotypes. Some gay people, like Kohlman Harshberger for instance, are actually indistinguishable from straight people. Sounds like a great way to stamp out homophobic stereotyping. And now there’s a whole bunch of male college students who can honestly say they have a “brother” who is gay.

  • Apparatus

    The message from this seems to be: Frats will accept if you sleep with men, but only if you are straight acting/appearing and don’t talk about that every second.

    Until frat culture is willing to accept the most out there “femme”, gender bending, anything and everything combination LGBTQ youth then there’s no cause to celebrate.

  • Paco

    @vive: “Or is this the generation without ideals?”

    I’d say yes to that. They think they have finally arrived at acceptance. (As long as they don’t stick out or rock the boat or think differently than the tribe). The social media/control generation.

  • jkb

    @Apparatus: Exactly…they guessed another guy was the gay one and therefore his presence should be applauded as inclusive? Whatev…

  • money718

    @Apparatus: Well, how can that happen, when masculine gay dudes can’t even accept effeminate gay dudes.

    This reminds me of the article about gays in China. People were generally okay with gay dudes, unless they were effeminate.

    Personally, I have zero really effeminate gay friends. I’m a whole lot better than I use to be, but I still struggle sometimes even dealing with them.

  • redcarpet30

    Shotgun a “brew” at 8am? Just because your 19 and in a frat doesn’t mean you get a free pass from alcoholism.

    And I thought at least one of the top 3 reasons for joining a frat was getting ass. I doubt a gay guy in a straight midwestern frat would be allowed to express his sexuality as fully as his straight buddies.

  • erasure25

    This guy is part of the problem, not the solution. He clearly has some self-loathing issues and internalized homophobia. Basically, this guy feels he can “pass” so he’s an “acceptable” gay and we should all strive to be as straight acting as him. Fuck this anti-gay gay-hating douchebag….

  • level75RDM

    So let’s congratulate the gay guy because straight guys have finally come to the realization that gays deserve respect and equal consideration? Less celebration of minorities FINALLY being seen as peers to the majority, and more asking the majority why it took them so long to come around, please.

  • Mark129

    Most of you are absolutely ridiculous. As gay men you should understand the idea of inclusion and acceptance, and this guy writes an article to highlight what it is like for HIM as a brother of a fraternity and being openly gay and all you want to do is bash guys in fraternities? A little hypocritical don’t you think?

    A fraternity is not “paying for your friends”, that just means you are ill informed and ignorant. Being in a fraternity is about being a part of something bigger than yourself, about being a part of a tradition, and a brotherhood.

    I do have to agree that the article could be better. As far as being openly gay and being in a fraternity; i very openly discussed my sex life with my fraternity brothers, and brought my boyfriend to fraternity functions. I held multiple positions while I was an active brother and not once did I face any negativity. Rather than shying away from their questions I answered any questions they had, openly and honestly.

  • Jacob23

    Lol! Listen to the little piggies squeal! All the self-described queers who are so insistent that people should be allowed to be themselves without being judged, suddenly become religious fundamentalists, quick to judge and condemn. “How dare he not like be like us! Obviously, all authentic gay people must be like us, and since he isn’t, he must be a fake! Or a douche!”

    Heh! This guy’s no fake and no douche. He’s awesome. He found his group of friends. He likes them. They like him. You’d have to be a pretty insecure person to have a problem with this.
    Frats can have their downside, of course, but the opportunity to bond with your mates and become life-long friends outweighs the BS. Hopefully, this Harshbarger’s story will encourage other gay and bi guys to consider joining. I had my chance a few years ago, but I let it pass.

  • Mark129

    @Jacob23: **Gasp**….. are you saying it’s OKAY to fit in, with straight people?? Thats blasphemy.

  • muscl954

    I joined a fraternity my first quarter of my freshman year. It was an exciting part of my college experience. I was not out in college, but after I graduated I told a couple of my fraternity friends I was gay and word spread like wildfire throughout the entire membership – both previous graduates and the brothers I spent 4 years with. NO ONE CARED! I never had a bad word said about me. I still believe the fraternity experience can be beneficial to most college attendees. I made many, many friends for a lifetime.

  • stanhope

    @VampDC: Not in mine kiddo… fraternity was full of cool, good looking, smart, rich fellows who actually were very nice guys. I even had a couple of them on other campuses however. :-) don’t shit where you eat.

  • charlietex

    As a gay former frat boy myself, I am telling you that this guy would never have gotten in. He might have blamed it on his being gay but we had a strict no douchebag rule.

  • Sebizzar

    Totally agree with the comments, it should be about accepting and welcoming someone no matter how different they are, not blending in.

  • martinbakman

    What’s it like to be gay and in a fraternity? Extra spankings???

  • Blackceo

    Yeah…I agree with many that his comments do come off as not very positive. Basically, his frat buddies are cool with him because he doesn’t fit their stereotype of gay men. It’s like when some White guys have told me “well you’re ok because you’re not like most Blacks” Bitch that ain’t no compliment. That is a slap in the face. Oh you are ok with me because I don’t fit some stereotype in your head of Black men?!! No thanks I don’t need that association.

    I’m part of a fraternity and still an active member. It wasn’t initially known when I pledged that I was gay and when I did come out later there were some things that initially changed in my relationships with some of my fraternity brothers. With a few of them, they wouldn’t really interact with me in public settings, but were totally fine with me in private. That whole “guilt by association” crap they were worried about in terms of if he’s too close with the gay guy he must be too. However, once I did come out, there were a number of fraternity brothers who got more touchy feely with me and a couple I was really intimate with. By the time we graduated though it was nothing. I still keep in regular contact with every guy from my pledge line.

    Being in a fraternity was not “paying for friends” My father, grandfather, uncle, and several cousins are all in the same fraternity so it was a legacy thing for me and something I wanted to do. Was pretty natural for me too given that I went to an all male preparatory school and was used to that bond and closeness and living in an all male environment. Lord knows it prepared me for the sex part. When u have males in a living space with no women, there’s bound to be some thangs goin on.

  • IvanPH

    Oh look at all these fairies whining that the gay frat guy is not gay enough! Apparently, according to the sissies, you’re not really gay if you act and look like most straight men.

    Judgmental queens are judgmental.

    • Sebizzar

      @IvanPH: Nobody here but you is saying that. Lol, “fairies”, “sissies”, “queens” my my, the lady doth protest too much.

  • Saint Law

    @IvanPH: What’s the betting you’ve got a lisp that leaves your listener’s face wet.

    Self hating kween is self hating.

  • AtticusBennett

    there was another story a while ago about a gay man that was Out to his fraternity – and then disowned by his family. the frat stepped up, and became his new family. THAT was a brilliant story.

    this one still seems to have a rather false, or incomplete, narrative. sometimes we hear some gay men say “I changed what they thought about gay people….” – but what, specifically? That now his frat is enlightened by some “reality” that not all gay men…what? listen to Beyonce and wear skinny jeans? what exactly is the point of such an “enlightenment”? if you’re “accepted by people” because you’re “not like those other gays” then that’s not actually understanding or accepting someone as gay, but “accepting” or more accurately TOLERATING them on the condition that they’re “not THAT kind of gay” – which simply isn’t enough. great. so they accept you because you’re a “bro” like them. what has changed about their opinions and stances toward those “other” gays, though?

    as for IvanPH’s weird comment – nobody has said that. literally nobody. nice straw man, though.

    file that under “things insecure closet cases say”

  • Cam

    I love all of the random screenames coming in here and hyperventilating over this and declaring that this guy is being attacked because he isn’t “Gay Enough”.

    I have no problem with the queeniest, or the butchest acting gay guys, my simple point was that his statements make him sound douchey. Which is probably why, the douchiest comments on here seem to be the ones supporting him.

    It isn’t a butch or a fem then, it’s a douche thing.

  • AtticusBennett

    @Cam: i love how the random anonymous complainants are also railing against something that nobody has said. for some guys, the reason they remain closeted for so long is because they keep telling themselves excuses that have no bearing on reality, all projected onto arguments nobody has even made.

  • Cam


    True, you’ll see those same types of people in all the posts, create a false discussion then fight against the false topics that they themselves created.

    Guess it’s easier than the truth since they usually don’t have answers for that. lol

  • AtticusBennett

    @Cam: well, of course. “i can’t come out because you fems tell me i’m not gay enough!”

    no, blanche. you can’t come out because you hate being gay, and the people you choose to resent do NOT.

  • level75RDM

    Homophobia is going to continue to exist if people keep thinking that things are better just because the general public has deign us certain privileges that we shouldn’t have been denied in the first place. This frat boy reeks of homophobia when he say:

    “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)…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).”

    If he were anything but, however, he wouldn’t be acceptable? That’s still homophobia; it’s just a more insidious form of it. Prejudice doesn’t go away because the powerful straight, white males decided they have their feast so they can throw us a bone. Prejudice is being perpetuated by people becoming complacent and feeling its no longer a problem. This whole Ferguson, MO affair ought to be proof of that, the way we gay people are always going on about how “homophobia is the last acceptable prejudice” or “gay is the new black” and brush off casual racism even within the gay community. I half-suspect people celebrate this simply because of the undying fetish for straight, all-American fratboy that gay guys just seem to eat up.

  • vive

    Imagine a fraternity accepting a black guy “because he doesn’t speak ebonics and seems like he’d pull hard.” That would still be [email protected]

  • guyingpp

    @level75RDM: Reeks of homophobia? I think way too many are reading way too much into the comments. you say; “If he were anything but, however, he wouldn’t be acceptable?”. The answer is in the quote you found so offensive… they THOUGHT the OTHER guy in the pledge class was the gay one based on their assumptions based on stereotypes. HE was IN the house too. So yes they, even though they pegged him as the gay one, was IN THE HOUSE.

    Look I was in a fraternity at another Big 10 school. I was half out during rush freshman year, I made it official after pledging (which was sort of pointless as word had gotten around). I was met with much the same reaction. Some were surprised, most didn’t care (because they already knew or guessed), a few had some problems but they got over it. They got over it because a guy just like them (as in; multi sport high school athlete, 8am tailgate Natty Light shotgunning, fratty guy..I admit it.. I was a bit frat-tastic in my early days) turned out to be gay. A lot of the brothers hadn’t met an out gay guy their age. This is early 2000s. I don’t know about this guy, but as far as the neutered, keep it behind closed doors garbage…not in my case. I pulled randoms and was roundly mocked over some of my less than attractive pulls that did the walk of shame down the fire escape early in the morning. My time in my house was the very first time I felt truly part of everything.

  • vive

    @guyingpp: “they hot over it because [I was] a guy just like them…”

    And therein lies the problem.

  • Jacob23

    No, it’s not a problem that frat members want new members to be like them. A frat is an association of individuals for the purpose of socializing. It is not a public agency. It is not a public accommodation like a restaurant or a hotel. These people are looking for other people with whom they want to spend personal time and become friends. If they are into beer and sports, it is perfectly acceptable that they should seek out other guys who are into beer and sport.

    There are other frats and sororities with different emphases. Some tend to attract members from one field or another, others may focus on public service. Others may seek out those who like nothing more than to stage mass parties. But in every case, these groups will seek out members who will fit in, not members who will become bored or who will interact awkwardly w/ their brothers. These guys accepted Harshbarger because he was like them, which is exactly how they evaluate any pledge. By accepting him, they concluded that just because he is gay and they are not, he could still fit in just fine. At the same time, they would reject a pledge – straight or gay – who hated beer and sports and preferred to mimosas and soap operas. Good for them. You don’t like it? Find or start a frat where they are into mimosas and soap operas and have a blast.

  • vive

    @Jacob23, beer and sports? That basically underlines the problem with frats – and why more and more institutions are justifiably banning them. No, they are not private institutions, since they are heavily dependent on university support and resources. Frats of this kind have absolutely no business existing on a university campus.

  • sesfm

    Fraternities are for people who’d rather be assigned a group of friends at once rather than make friends on their own on the basis of their personality and interests. Not to mention it’s based on the assumption that your central group of friends should be the same gender as you. No matter how many excuses we make or how many nice people we know who were in frats, it’s still based on old heteronormative values that cannot be reconciled completely with homosexuality.

    But yes, they’re totally sexy.

  • Cee

    Sounds like a douche. He might just be the frat house cum guzzler.

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