Friday, February 20, 2009

Gays, Frats and Drama on Campus

Here's a letter in the Daily Trojan about an incident that's slowly growing into something big on campus.

IFC demonstrates discrimination 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.

I can't say much, yet (mostly because I know the student and a colleague is involved). But once more is revealed, I will be blogging.

1 comment:

lamont pierre' said...

so not surprised. i've never attempted to pledge but while in college, i've encountered some really disturbed individuals in the african american greek system. meant to be a brotherhood, it was just another place for these struggling brothers to hide their issues away - from their family, their friends, their lovers and unfortunately themselves.