An inside look at Greek life for transgender and non-binary students at Mason
BY KIM BARTENFELDER, STAFF WRITER
Embedded in Mason’s campus culture is diversity and inclusion.
Mason pledges to “build and sustain an inclusive campus community and to foster a
welcoming climate that values and respects all members of the community … Our own
unique identities — faith, race, sexuality, gender, abilities, socioeconomic class — we each offer an irreplaceable opportunity to examine issues from new and innovative perspectives.”
By doing so, Mason has received nationally recognized rankings, including from U.S. News and World Reports.
Creating opportunity for a diverse and inclusive environment is also vital to student
organizations. Specifically, Greek life at Mason has a vibrant presence. Several major councils include the Interfraternity Council (IFC), Multicultural Greek Council (MGC), National Pan-hellenicCouncil (NPHC) and National Panhellenic Conference (NPC).
Every council has their designated chapters to inspire students to seek leadership, thrive academically, serve their communities and provide spaces for individuals to become
friends and members of the greater fraternity or sorority.
Gamma Rho Lambda, a new sorority at Mason, is looking to promote additional involvement by offering a more representative Greek experience to members of the LGBTQ+ community.
A representative from the organization wrote in an email that gender-specific organizations put a damper on their goal of being inclusive.
Another hindrance Gamma Rho Lambda mentioned is the repeated gendered language of some Greek life organizations in official documentation. Although “brotherhood” and “sisterhood” to some students expresses a concept of family, Gamma Rho Lambda’s representative wrote that it’s “the type of language that could be considered unwelcoming.”
Rather than using binary language such as male or female, they aim to use the term “siblings.“
“The implementation of this by other Greek orgs would promote the idea that Greek life can be a space for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation,” according to the Gamma Rho Lambda representative.
The sorority added that in their search for campus inclusion, “MGC members both in and out of the LGBTQ+ community have expressed excitement and support for the formation of our colony.”
The representative continued, “We’re looking forward to working with them in the future.”
For the future, their goal is to create “a place for LGBTQ+ students to feel completely at home, but we are still eager to interact and collaborate with other on campus organizations of all types to promote shared interests and improve student life.”
Solomon, a transgender student who works closely with the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education (ODIME) and LGBTQ+ Resources, agrees that “organizations have been accommodating” to gender identities.
Solomon declined to give their last name for the article, citing personal reasons.
However, Solomon also said that the “Mason community still has a lot to learn.”
They said that by introducing one’s pronouns, it normalizes different gender identities. They continued, “We use pronouns a lot more than we think.”
Mason has many resources for transgender and non-binary students, such as ODIME and LGBTQ Resources. Mason also provides campus-offered trainings that can fill in those gaps of knowledge about transgender and non-binary perspectives.
When Sara, a non-binary student, was asked if they had ever considered joining in Mason Greek life, they said yes. Sara also declined to give their last name for personal reasons. They didn’t see the point of being gendered.
“People are people,” they said.
Austin Deray, a Mason graduate professional assistant and Ph.D., has devoted his studies to the history of single-sex collegiate masculinity and the expansion of rules and social behaviors to today’s fraternities.
“We live in a world where everyone — I mean everyone — has diverse identities within
ourselves (sic),” he said. “It’s within those conversations of identities that we see differences and commonalities to take down barriers.”
“There must be willingness and openness with all student organizations for all student organizations,” Deray continued.