The Vanderbilt Hustler

Opinion: Affinity groups give LGBT students in Greek life a place where they can be comfortable with their identities

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Opinion: Affinity groups give LGBT students in Greek life a place where they can be comfortable with their identities

Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center. Photo by Claire Barnett // The Vanderbilt Hustler

Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center. Photo by Claire Barnett // The Vanderbilt Hustler

Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center. Photo by Claire Barnett // The Vanderbilt Hustler

Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center. Photo by Claire Barnett // The Vanderbilt Hustler

Anonymous

At almost every weekly chapter meeting, my sorority hosts a few visitors from other campus organizations to talk about some event they’re having or try to recruit new members. To be honest, it’s usually stuff I’m not super interested in, and I tend to forget about them pretty quickly after the speakers leave. But at one meeting during my sophomore year, two girls came in to talk about an affinity group for girls in sororities who identify with the LGBT community or were questioning their sexuality.

I had recently dated a girl for the first time, but I hadn’t told anyone about it, and was therefore struggling through the breakup completely alone. Since I felt like I was still ‘figuring things out,’ I didn’t identify within the LGBT community, but I definitely fell into the category of questioning, my interest was piqued when the girls presenting added in that part.

They talked about how it was an entirely anonymous GroupMe made up of girls who were completely out, girls who were only out within the context of the group and girls everywhere in between. For this group, those who chose to share that they were a member could do so, but no one shared the names of any other members. They talked about how they also had meetings with desserts a couple times a month in the Women’s Center or another ‘neutral’ location (to maintain anonymity) and would sometimes go to Play, a gay-friendly dance bar, or to other fun events in Nashville together. They left their contact info so that anyone who wanted to join the GroupMe could reach out to one of them directly.    

When I did get added, there were a lot more members than I had expected, which was, again, comforting. 

Because I was still sorting things out myself, I did not feel like telling any of my friends or family about what I was questioning. This loneliness was intensified because I was acutely aware of the fact that I, at the time, didn’t know of any other LGBT/questioning girls in my chapter. So, to see that there was a whole community of girls – enough to make a sizable group out of – who were in Greek life and identified somewhere within the LGBT community, and that, at the very least, these two speakers at my chapter were completely out, was extremely comforting.

It took me a while to begin to accept myself, so I didn’t join the group until a while after that presentation. But looking back now, I really wish I had joined sooner. It would have given me access to a community that I really could have depended upon during some of the tougher, lonelier times. When I did get added, there were a lot more members than I had expected, which was, again, comforting.

I was nervous to go to my first meeting since I was out to very few people at the time, and I didn’t know any of the girls who said in the GroupMe that they were also going. But when I walked in, it was totally not a big deal and everyone acted like they knew me and that I had been going there forever. I felt comfortable almost instantly, and everyone was really friendly and cool. We all just chatted and hung out, telling stories and talking about things, some of which were somewhat LGBT-related or sorority-related, but most of which were just funny, friendly, conversations. I didn’t even notice when an hour had passed and the meeting technically ended, and everyone slowly trickled out.

I write this in the hopes that it might reach a few younger girls out there who feel like they might identify as LGBT/questioning, and who could really benefit from this community.

The fact that this affinity group is made up of many women who are out and proud in Greek life, an environment typically criticized for its lack of inclusivity, offered hope that the Greek community can go beyond its stereotypes. There are other LGBT-oriented groups and events on campus, but the fact that this one was also anonymous to any non-members was, and still is, part of what makes it so helpful for people who are not completely – or not at all – out. Hearing stories about other girls in the group who had positive experiences coming out to their family, close friends or sorority sisters offered me the confidence I desperately wanted and needed. This confidence gave me the strength to tell more people in my life about this aspect of my identity.  

I write this in the hopes that it might reach a few younger girls out there who feel like they might identify as LGBT/questioning, and who could really benefit from this community. Also, because of the clandestine nature of the group, it doesn’t really get as much publicity as I think it should, and most of it tends to be word-of-mouth. I am so happy I joined and it has benefitted me much more than I ever thought it would. It has reminded me I’m not alone, introduced me to a lot of cool new people whom I wouldn’t have otherwise met, and helped me so much with my personal journey in working out this aspect of my identity.

Anyone who wants to learn more/join can email roberta.nelson@vanderbilt.edu.

The Hustler allowed the author to remain anonymous to protect their identity. For more information about anonymity at The Hustler, please read our official policy.

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