Andrew Lubash did what many students do when they come to college — he joined a fraternity. But he doesn’t exactly fit the stereotype of the typical “frat boy.”
Lubash, like an estimated 10 percent of the Fraternity and Sorority Life throughout the U.S., is gay.
With popular websites like Total Frat Move that promote “rowdy gentlemen,” people today are getting skewed views of what being “frat” entails — excessive drinking leading to excessive participation in a heterosexual college hookup culture. The more involved the man is in this activity, the more “frat” he is. In other words, a homosexual male doesn’t exactly fit these criteria.
So in a generally accepting school like the University of Oregon, especially with a Fraternity and Sorority Life system less prominent on campus in comparison to other schools around the nation, where does that put Lubash and other LGBT Greeks?
You’d actually be surprised.
“My fraternity was really good about it,” Lubash said. “They’ve never cared about my sexual orientation.”
In fact, the UO sophomore said that when he rushed last winter, there were already four other men in his fraternity who were openly gay, one in his pledge class. Because of this, he never felt alone, knowing he’d always have someone to talk to.
“But that’s the thing,” Lubash said. “I don’t think I’ve ever even needed the support, because it’s never been a problem.”
Lubash decided to rush in the middle of his freshman year after some friends pushed him to. He decided to give it a try, seeing the academic drive that a lot of the fraternity men had, proven by the fact that, on average, Fraternity and Sorority Life students have a higher overall GPA than the average GPA of the UO student body as a whole.
“Honestly, I had those really negative stereotypes about fraternities going into it,” Lubash said, speaking about the “rowdy gentlemen” stigma. “I never really thought it was a place for someone like me.”
Lubash said he quickly realized that his sexual orientation was only an issue on a personal level.
Just like Lubash, UO junior Brian Bradley didn’t feel threatened being bisexual and in a fraternity.
“My level of comfort had nothing to do with which house I joined,” Bradley said. “I feel like our FSL community has a certain stigma about it that isn’t exactly true. It’s a lot more inclusive than people make it out to be.”
Bradley, viewing himself as more a private person, didn’t officially come out to his entire chapter, but believes that it wouldn’t have mattered if he had.
“I created relationships with people within the house before they knew,” Bradley said. “And nobody would have cared if I had come out, because I was already their friend and had already made that special connection. They would have applauded and said, ‘Awesome, you’re still our brother and thank you for trusting us for knowing that.’”
Unfortunately, although men like Lubash and Bradley feel comfortable expressing themselves in our Fraternity and Sorority Life system, the LGBT community within the system isn’t prominent enough to let everyone know that they are welcome and included into it.
In fact, in doing preliminary research for this story, I had significant trouble even finding sources to speak to, as having gay members isn’t exactly something our Fraternity Life seems to boast about at all.
“The thing is, it’s okay to be gay in a fraternity, but it’s not okay to be the person who’s gay in that fraternity,” Chicora Martin, director of the UO LGBT Education and Support Services Program, said. “Though all of them will say that they are okay with having gay men, some chapters just aren’t as personally welcoming as others.”
Sophomore Marco Reyes wanted to join Fraternity Life for reasons shared by many others — the experience of a brotherhood. Having strong LGBT pride, Reyes says he was wary from the start, basing most of his opinions of Fraternity Life from the common stereotypes depicted in movies and TV shows.
“The guys that I initially spoke to were great,” Reyes said of his rush experience. Reyes only attended one fraternity’s events. “I loved their sense of brotherhood, commitment to school and extracurriculars like the ASUO.”
Though his recruiters were friendly, Reyes immediately felt out of place, as the recruitment process centered around football and video games. He didn’t feel his self-proclaimed flamboyant personality came across positively, he said.
“I could feel an immediate change in attitude when they found out I wasn’t really into football,” Reyes said. “Like they didn’t really know what to do with me. And the fact that me not liking football just added to that stereotypical gay, unmanly personality.” Reyes continued attending all the rush events, but ultimately didn’t receive a bid. At first, he was confused and devastated, but in the end knew it was probably for the better.
Unfortunately, no matter how accepted Lubash and Bradley felt, instances like Reyes’ rush experience still exist within our Fraternity and Sorority Life community.
“The rush experience for a few of the gay men I’ve spoken to really varied from one chapter to another,” Martin said. “In general, there are some chapters who have done really good work and these men felt they could be there and see them as brothers. Unfortunately, the process is very heterosexual.”
Martin said FSL seems to be programmed as a primarily heterosexual community in general, with many of the social aspects revolving around partnering with sororities for events, among other reasons.
Think about the way fraternities are portrayed in the movies, like in “Animal House,” where the masculinity through beer competitions, gay jokes and female conquests is a sought-after quality for top-tier houses. It’s not exactly a welcoming portrayal of an environment for LGBTs to see FSL.
“Sometimes I feel uncomfortable in certain situations, where I feel like the average straight fraternity man isn’t uncomfortable,” Lubash said. “Sometimes they’ll talk about girls in not the best context.”
This context lines up with what a “rowdy gentleman” is. According to a recent Total Frat Move column, he is satirically defined as “a fabulously wealthy, raging alcoholic, womanizing, hooker killing, ultra-patriotic, tuxedoed degenerate.”
Despite this, Martin, who could easily name a dozen gay men in UO’s FSL community, believes that our school in particular has made great progress in making fraternities a much more welcoming environment for gay men but says more progress needs to be made in making that known.
“If you put gay men in a prominently heterosexual room, they are not going to come to that event and automatically feel welcome,” Martin said. “Historically fraternities have been very closed to homosexuality in general. They have to be very proactive to reach out to those men and show them that they will be respected and not discriminated against.”
Lubash argues that if fraternities weren’t welcoming to the LGBT community, gay men shouldn’t put themselves in that environment anyway.
“You should trust in people to do the right thing and if they can’t accept you for who you are, they aren’t your brothers,” Lubash said. “They should love you no matter what. Do you really want to be in an organization so known for brotherhood and feel scared? You shouldn’t even be there in the first place because that’s not what the institution is about at all.”