My first semester at Duke was by far my hardest time here. My dorm was not close in the way that everyone else’s seemed to be, and I had a hard time finding my place here, both socially and academically. So, when second semester came around, I decided to rush SLGs and sororities. I had gotten to know Tyler, one of the directors of Greek Ally Week at the time, so I felt like there could be a community of LGBTQIA+ folks for me if I decided to join the Greek community. I told myself that I would keep my options open and to have an open mind. Even though I told myself both of those things, it became difficult to keep going through sorority rush when it felt like the space wasn’t meant for a queer woman like me.
Before starting recruitment, there was a meeting in Page Auditorium for all of the first-years. As I sat in the seats listening to the presentation by the sorority women in charge of recruitment, I alternated between biting my nails and looking at my phone. We heard generic things about each sorority, such as their colors and their animal, and then we got to the rules of recruitment: the 5 Bs. The 5 Bs were the 5 topics of conversation off-limits for recruitment: Bibles, bucks, Bush, beer and boys.
Boys. I looked down at my phone again, and my stomach sank. What did it mean that boys were off-limits? We can’t talk about our boyfriends…but not all of us have or want boyfriends. Was the idea of dating a girl so unheard of that it wasn’t worth a mention? This was the first moment that I knew Greek life might not be the best place for me, but I still rushed.
The second round of rush I was called back to an average amount of sororities. I was both excited and disappointed: I liked the ones I was called back to, but I was also disappointed to be dropped from so many. What was it about me that wasn’t worth coming back? That round I was determined to be the best version of me: happy, friendly, outgoing, funny—I wanted to show the women in the sororities that I could fit in. So, when a girl in one of the sororities told me a story about being late to a photo because she had hooked up with a guy the night before, I pretended to relate. I left the room feeling weird and fake, and I got dropped that round.
I ended up joining Gamma Phi Beta, and I absolutely love the people in my sorority. I find everyone to be friendly, passionate, and overall kind. Although I was excited to get to know people, one of the first events of the year was My Tie, a date function where your big sets you up with a date. You find out who your date is by wearing his tie. My big asked me who I wanted to bring, knowing that I didn’t want to go with a guy, but I just knew I wouldn’t get the same experience as everyone else—my date wouldn’t have a tie. I decided not to go.
As I have gotten older, my experience in Greek life has gotten better and I feel like I belong in my sorority. In the past we have done ally trainings with CSGD staff members, we have a group chat for LGBTQ+ identifying members, and we have been involved in Greek Ally Week. However, Greek life is still not a system that is built for LGBTQIA+ folks, and it is not a system built for so many other folks with marginalized identities. I am so grateful for Greek Ally Week, which highlights the importance of acknowledgment and support in regards to queerness in my space. However, as people participate this week, it is important to keep in mind that the LGBTQIA+ members of sororities and fraternities don’t even begin to represent the experiences of LGBTQIA+ folks as a whole. It is also important to keep in mind that there are more identities that deserve to be celebrated and supported both within the Greek community and beyond: individuals of different races, ethnicities, SES, ability status—the list goes on.
Greek Ally Week is not a solution. It is not going to fix the toxic nature of Greek life, and it is not going to turn everyone into allies. I can only hope that it sparks conversation and thought about what it means to be Greek on this campus. This community may never feel open to all, but I hope that this week can at least be a space for reflection, and hopefully action.
Claire Stout is a Trinity junior.