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NPHC PRIDE: The Discussion We’ve Never Had About Black Greekdom And Homophobia

[This opinion piece was written by Guest Writer Alexzandria Chill of Zeta Phi Beta and originally published on June 30, 2015 after the SCOTUS legalized same-sex marriage]

In lieu of the SCOTUS’ (Supreme Court of The United States) historic ruling in favor of same-sex marriage for the LGBTQ community, I found my Facebook newsfeed inundated with so many bright colors, you’d think Christmas lights were wrapped around my computer screen. Scrolling down my page, I saw a gumbo of celebratory updates, religiously charged shade, and a plethora of  “Jesus is Love” reminders that will last me throughout the weekend.

As I read the comments, my mind wondered about how this day would affect some of my friends and family. I won’t go into my personal beliefs about the concept of marriage, because it is not relevant to the purpose of this particular blog. However, this new civil rights victory did make me think about what it means to be acknowledged as a human being.

Homophobia is a fear that lingers in the bloodline of America. Over the last few decades, we have observed America’s love/hate relationship with the LGBTQ community blossom into a discombobulated mess of confusion. Certain aspects of the culture people want to use because it’s “cool” (slang, cross dressing, etc), and while other aspects are completely shunned into the darkness. The line has always been blurred.

But when it comes to Black community in particular, that line is not so much blurred, it’s definitive and written in permanent marker.

On several occasions, whether it is on a national platform or within the four walls of our homes, the mere THOUGHT of being identified as a LGBTQ member in the Black community is silenced. Our clergy and grandparents try to pray “it” off. Our parents ignore the signs and discount them as a “phases”. Siblings and cousins are left yearning to offer hugs of comfort, but afraid that if they do, the hovering adults will shame them for advocating “such a sin”. The NPHC community is not exempt from these acts.

At any given step show, probate or Greek party, you are sure to hear jokes insinuating that a shimmy equates to an open invitation to free-for-all sausage fest. Or if a soror dresses in men’s clothes, she’s surely going to hit on you at some point in time. We hear and see these things ALL THE TIME. We laugh and jeer all while charging it to the “Greek Game”. What we fail to realize is that those jokes are a small reflection of a bigger unspoken rule that often polarizes legitimate prospects, current members and our organizations.

Dangers of Discretion: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell 

Many prospects and current members take a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to avoid uncomfortable discussion and the looks all together. In an interview with HBCU Digest, current members explained how isolation serves as a solace of protection and a jail cell simultaneously.

“Disclosing can be somewhat self-threatening,” a member of one fraternity describes. He goes on to describe how once his sexuality was “exposed”, there was an immediate correlation between his sexuality and his competency to contribute to his organization. “Immediately after I crossed, my prophytes’ perspective on sexuality was that I wasn’t able to uphold their standard of masculinity and what it means to be a [Insert Org] Man.”

One Doctor made an interesting point stating that ” for some LGBT people, becoming a member of these historic and illustrious organizations is used as a defense mechanism – a way to join a group that reinforces traditional gender roles.

If prospects and members choose not to share their LGBTQ identity, it shouldn’t be because they feel the organization provides the pressure of judgment. Nor should all the great attributes they bring to the table be disqualified because of who they choose to love or have relations with.  Our LGBTQ prospects and members want to be seen as great contributors to society and not as a walking mattress full of gay condemnation.We are all multifaceted beings with various characteristics that define who we are. No one should be condemned, rejected and publicly (or privately) persecuted because of one trait. It’s limiting. It’s insulting. It’s close minded. It’s ignorant. It’s hurtful.

Common Culprits That Cross the Burning Sands

Here are 3 common misconceptions that some of our members hold against the LGBTQ community that prevent us from truly demonstrating unconditional brotherly/ sisterly love as a council:

TURN UP, TURN OWT:  If you accept a person who identifies as LGBTQ, they will come on to you and try to “turn” you gay.

One common misconception about members of the LGBTQ community is that if you befriend or accept someone into your organization, they will try to come on to you and “turn you out”. If this is your train of thought:

  1. Not even heterosexuals are checking for you boo. Let’s turn that ego down a notch.
  2. Your sexuality insecurities are showing. No one can “MAKE” you turn into anything you’re not willing to give into freely. You have your own free will to choose how you engage with people. If you’re a guy that likes girls, more likely than not, when that new member comes in…you’re still gonna like girls. Same goes for you ladies. If you’ve liked sausage for a while now, no new soror is going to come in as a hypnotist and be like “ohhh all of a sudden you like peaches. FORGET SAUSAGE! ” and you start like vag. That’s not how it works.

IS THAT YOU?: If you accept a person who identifies as LGBTQ, you are gay by association.

Another misconception about members of the LGBTQ community is that if you befriend or accept someone into your organization, you are gay by association. Going back to the interview discussed earlier, a member of APhiA describes these situations perfectly:

“I don’t think it’s so much bothers people that I’m gay. What bothers them is that, for most people, when you’re friends with someone gay, you’re gay by association. That’s the real issue – people don’t want their fraternity or sorority associated with a certain type of man or woman, from a gender perspective, because they think it reflects back on them and why they joined. It’s moreso the perceptions of what people think gayness, manhood, womanhood is and what it’s not. ”

  1. Polarizing Prospects: Honestly, people are afraid their organizations are going to turn into the MIKAS. Some people think, well “if we invite one then all of them are going to want to come in!” If they help elevate the mission, the passions and actions of the organization, what’s stopping you from at least giving them a try? Yes, you have an image and a standard to live up to. I understand that. Just make sure that your decisions to accept/reject someone is not JUST due to the fact that they are of the LGBTQ community. Langston Hughes, Zora Kneale Hurston and Wanda Sykes have made great contributions to our culture as well as our NPHC organizations. I can’t count the many times I’ve sat in/heard about selection processes where people have overlooked amazing prospects just because “NAHHH FOOL…HE GAY” or ” Girl…no. We’re not tryna have people out here thinking we like girls. Nope.” It always saddened and disappointed me. Seeing those individuals excel now makes me wonder what they COULD have been doing to further our cause, but instead they are our lost opportunity.
  2. Polarizing Members: I’m blessed to say for some of my friends, for the most part, they’ve found brothers or sisters in their chapter that encourage them to be themselves. But, unfortunately, that is not the case for everyone. Most of the time, chapter contributions aren’t the issue. It’s not being invited to certain communal kickbacks, being the butt of chapter and council jokes, and uncomfortable body language that can make our members feel like they are “lesser than”. That should not be the case. Brotherly and sisterly love should not and does not come with stipulations. This leads to my last point.

WE’RE A CHRISTIAN BASED ORGANIZATION: If you accept a person who identifies as LGBTQ, you are advocating non-Godly acts. Acceptance = Advocacy 

This one is a classic scapegoat. If you befriend or accept someone of the LGBTQ into your “Christian based”organization, everyone will look at you as if your an abomination to the Christian walk because you accepted and advocate such a sinful lifestyle.

  1. Acceptance does not mean advocacy.  If that was the case then you must also take note of the frat brother or sorority sister (s) who partake in debauchery at their every whim. Getting pissy drunk off of oil, piss and other kind of juice at every function, yeah. That’s a sin. Or being known as the NPHC sorority toss due to your “extracurricular activities” with other frat members. Yep. That’s a sin. Putting your allegiance to the organization before the love of God or showing the love of God to others is also looked down upon. It’s a form of idolatry. Getting in unnecessary fights and or gossiping about other organizations off the strength of ancient beef can also be considered a sin. I could go on…but you get the picture. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way judging. You do you boo. It’s your life. But let it be known that these too are detailed in the Bible as sins and these sins are weighed equally. The point is, if you’re going to play the Jesus card, know how to play what’s in your hand or someone just might call your bluff.
  2. Jesus rolled with some gangstas in his day. Well, reformed gangstas. But he also chopped it up with the “untouchables” of the world; thieves, prostitutes, lepers, liars, etc. However, even though he could have easily been “associated” with these people who were at the bottom of the religious totem pole, Jesus still showed them unprecedented, untainted, unadulterated love above all else. That doesn’t mean that he still didn’t teach the gospel. In fact, he amplified the word by his actions. Jesus displayed love (and continues to display DESPITE our sin nature we hold within us. The Bible says to love each other deeply, for it covers a multitude of sins. It covers all offenses.  Love isn’t rudedegrading or demeaning. As members of our respective organizations, we are called to show brotherly and sisterly love. This is our greatest commandment. And if you display Christ’s love, then what does that say about your Christian walk?  You do not have to be in agreeance with the lifestyle. To make it personal, I am not in agreeance with the lifestyle. BUT. That does not prevent me from showing decency and respect to my fellow human beings. We are to show love in all we do. Love is the anchor to respect, good character, wisdom and understanding. You many not understand your brother or sister, just as they might not understand your life decisions. But they will love you through them. That’s what we’re charged to do as a council and as a human being.

And in the end, if we adopt this mentality, no matter how harsh the experiences the world brings to you and your organization, #lovewins and makes us a stronger, productive and more influential council because of it. Ya’ll be blessed.

This piece was written by Alexzandria Chill | UNT Graduate. Marketing Freak. Frankie Bev Fanatic. Adamant Knowledge Seeker. Lady of ZPHIB [Pearl Clu5]. Founder of Blog: @DPTaughtMe