campus life

Trinity University Sorority Opens Up Rush To Trans Student

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.

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  • Eugene

    If Kwame is pre-op, she is still biologically male, even though her self-identified GENDER is feminine.

  • Simon

    This article’s actually really confusing, because of the pronouns used and stuff. Assuming they’re open to a MTF student, fabulous. Assuming a trans guy is trying to participate in rushing sororities? WTF.

  • Scott

    Is thrilled to hear this about my alma mater. When I was there in the late 80s they had just restructured the students group to distance itself from the gay group on campus – and these are presbyterians. Good progress.

  • gina

    @Eugene: Feminine is not a gender. Her gender would be a woman… and yes, I’m sure the student in question did NOT like being referred to as a “male student.”

  • missanthrope

    “No. 1 · Eugene

    If Kwame is pre-op, she is still biologically male, even though her self-identified GENDER is feminine.”

    Wrong, she is female douchebag.

  • Case

    @gina: (Kwame and Sarah have reviewed and approved this message.)

    Accepts both pronouns.

  • Marisa

    I know the student in question, Kwame, and he identifies himself to others as “he.”
    @gina : Kwame does like being called a male student. Don’t assume you’re the politically correct one, you might be wrong.

  • tenyago

    said student Kwame identifies as trans and genderqueer. Like Marisa said Kwame does like being called a male student. He is biologically male. Sometimes however she is female and most of the time he is somewhere between the two.

  • matt

    @Scott: Trinity University is no longer affiliated with the Presbyterian Church – not officially at least. Not sure when exactly it ended, but it was unaffiliated before I started there in ’00.

  • gina

    Thanks for the clarification about his gender ID.

    However… as a trans woman, I have issues about him joining a sorority if he still identifies “sometimes” as male and likes being called a male student. Does he really ID sometimes as a woman, or are we just talking about drag and female impersonation (as I saw he did on this website: which is really theatrical performance not necessarily gender identity. I find it’s too easy for gay men and lesbian women to claim GQ status and therefore, being part of the trans community.

    If you’re truly not ID’ing as a man or a woman, are male assigned at birth, then referring to yourself with men’s pronouns is pretty much undermining that. Also, presenting as a man (even a femme gay one) is, in some way, undermining that GQ claim and buying back into the binary. Moreover, even a feminine gay man is not really living in the world dealing with women’s issues. It sounds as if he’s more some kind of genderfluid? (I would love to hear him discuss this first person, not through other people’s view of it, including my own) However, if someone who was a self-ID’d crossdresser (which is really just an old-fashioned term for genderfluidity) were to want to join the sorority, I seriously doubt they’d let him in.

    Obviously, the sorority has a right to consider whoever they want for membership and I hope it works out for him.

    Btw, he isn’t sometimes female, which refers to the body’s phenotype not gender… maybe you consider that “politically correct” but I consider it respecting my community.

  • Joe Schmegheggi

    @Eugene: Pre-op means “pre.” Did Kwame ever say surgery was planned for the future? Kwame may stick with his stick. That’s the person’s personal business.

  • rachelnaomi

    It’s great they accepted her. The problem with this article is all the greek life at Trinity University isnt official. It’s all student started and run, they are all local. That means they dont associate with the Panhellenic council. So the big point about this article, how it was so revolutionary of a society that starts with the division of sex was looking past that isnt really true. The greek life system at Trinity isnt monitored and overseen by national chapters. It’s not like the sororities and fraternities that are at most major universities. You cant find members of Zeta Chi anywhere else because they made up their group, only within the last 30 years. Its a great step, its just not what this article represented it to be, because they aren’t a sorority.

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