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January 13, 2010 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2010-01-13

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The Sttmet WesaJ- ur 13, 200

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 // The Statement B

A$ A look at the experi
k O being gay. and in af
p Story by
'C p OPhotos
J\stand for."
ANN onathon Ohlinger, known to his friends as JD, never hling
Greally wanted to join a fraternity. Just wasn't for him. U uniqu
fraternity life ar
But after becoming close with a few kids that lived onates through
0 - However, Oh
v Jpdown the hall freshman year who were all going to tinctive in his
the fraternity.]
rush, Ohlinger decided he'd give it a shot. who are in frat
to their entire h
"We figured out that you can get a lot of ter, Ohlinger's friends who were rushing few. Their sto
free beer and free alcohol and free food the fraternity and other ADPhi broth- experiences of
if you tell the fraternity you're rushing," ers asked him to reconsider. They told or those consi
Ohlinger said. "So I ended up being on, him he should rush winter semester. " on campus, ma
like, 12 different rush lists." 'We all talked about it and no one cares,' to change who
This was fall 2008, Ohlinger's first " Ohlinger recalls the brothers telling themselves to fi
semester at the University. And although him. " 'You're our friend and we want And while t
he said he enjoyed the rush process - you in the house."' cils on campus
the free parties and booze, the friends But even with the continued encour- with similar iss
he made - Ohliner never seriousl con- a ement to rush ADhi. it wasn't until and students o


ience of
y Nicole Aber
by Jed Moch
er's original sentiment
t rushing a fraternity isn't
e. His initial concern that
nd being gay don't mix res-
out the LGBT community.
hlinger's experience is dis-
coming out before rushing
Numerous other gay men
ernities are either not out
ouse or only out to a select
ries shed light onto the
LGBT men in fraternities,
tdering joining fraternities
ny of whom feel they have
they are or hide a part of
t in.
here are other Greek coun-
s - which surely grapple
ues - most of the officials
toted in this story are dis-
ture in the IFC fraternities
tant examples of Greek life
ng names in this section
ged to protect the anonym-
ividuals. Their reasons for
ain anonymous are all the
ost or all of their brothers
y are gay.
or in a fraternity that is part
ernity Council, the collec-
ver 29 fraternities on cam-
t to his brothers.
to what he calls the "dude
reason many gay men are
e coming out in their fra-
big social life and parties
and hooking up with girls
e of stuff," Steve said. "So
ng runs contrary to that I
e surprised."
at this "dude culture" often
the perception that the
on campus is homophobic.
ver, that from his experi-
u view it on an individual
he fraternity members in
unaccepting of gay people.
tep back and view the sys-

tem as a whole, he said, that the perception
of how Greek members view LGBT people
"I think at the group level, kind of a pack
mentality (exists)," he said. "Whenever
someone starts jerking around and saying
(homophobic) things, but not necessarily
meant to be derogatory, that kind of feeds
into those perceptions."
John, a freshman in another IFC fra-
ternity, has only come out to a few of his
brothers. He spoke about his thought pro-
cess behind telling some of his brothers
that he is gay.
He said he first decided to come out to a
few of his fraternity brothers, mostly peo-
ple in his pledge class, just a few months
ago. He said he didn't want to tell everyone
because it's an extremely personal part of
his life that he doesn't want to share with
"It's just kind of like a family history
story," John said. "Like you tell the people
close to you, a bonding thing. It's like get-
ting to know each other, gain their trust."
During the rush process, John said it
was important for him to find a frater-
nity that he felt would be accepting of his
sexual orientation. And while he said this
is a characteristic of his fraternity, some of
the others on campus may be a little more
John said that while he has received
positive responses from the brothers he's
told thus far, their reactions are generally
all the same: surprised.
"I get the same reaction, like 'no way,
like I don't see it at all,' and then I start
explaining and then it totally makes
sense," he said.
But because he is still not out to most
of his brothers, John feels that he still has
to act a certain way - especially in social
settings like fraternity parties, where the
brothers are expected to interact with
"If I just want to talk to my fraternity
brothers or something like that I can't do
that," he said. "Or if some of my LGBT
friends come over, I know, like, they're
always, like, 'Dude, why are you hanging
out with a bunch of dudes? Go find some
chicks.'Those are the guys that don't know
that say that to me."
John said that having to change how
he acts in certain situations is difficult for
him, and he has found himself having to
embrace some of the stereotypes of frater-
nity members to blend in more easily.
"You know, you kind of have to act a
certain way," he said. "It's kind of like not
a complete change of who I actually am as
a person; it's just the small details. I think
it's dumb that I have to focus my attention

on making sure I act that way because it's
kind ofthe antithesis of what I'm supposed
to be doing, but as of right now it's just the
small changes that I'm sure I'll get rid of."
John spoke about being most uncom-
fortable when his brothers ask him about
his sex life, something he said guys dis-
cuss on a regular basis, but that he avoids
divulging any information about.
Paul, a junior in an IFC fraternity who
is also only out to a few of his fraternity
brothers, expressed similar feelings of
having to change how he acts in certain
"There are comments Iusually wouldn't
be making if I were around friends who
knew," Paul said. "But you know you need
to put up some sort of fagade, it's part of
something that you learn growing up that
most people, most gay guys do and I've
talked to other gay guys who are the same
way. You just need to throw in a comment
here and there.
"Like, I've hooked up with girls in the
past, but it was really just to put on, you
know, a show, not for personal gratifica-
tion," he said.
Greg, a junior in an IFC fraternity,
hasn't yet come out to anyone in his fra-
ternity except for one other brother who is
also gay. His parents and a few of his close
friends know, but he said he doesn't feel
the need to share this information with his
entire fraternity.
"For me it's stupid because people don't
say 'Oh, by the way, I'm straight,' " Greg
said. "I don't feel the need to come out
because I'm going to act how I want to
act and I'm going to do what I want to do
regardless of what people know and what
people don't.
"I've had a relationship and I brought
my boyfriend around the house and I'm
sure some people knew and some people
didn't," he said. "But you just do what you
do and its atthe point that I'm comfortable
with myself to do what I want to do. I don't
feel the need to announce it."
ne major factor that contributes
to the perpetuation of the Greek
stereotype on campus is the lack
of visibility of gay students in fraternities.
Because many gay students feel uncom-
fortable coming out to their brothers and,
in turn, don't come out, people both inside
and outside the Greek community are
unaware gay members exist within the
Gabe Javier, assistant director of the
Spectrum Center, the University office
for LGBT issues and awareness on cam-
pus, works with the executive boards of
all four Greek councils to promote LGBT

awareness in the Greek system. Javier,
who came out to his fraternity brothers as
an undergraduate at Rockhurst University
in Kansas City, Mo., spoke about the ste-
reotypes and perceptions that surround
the Greek community and the psychol-
ogy behind why many gay students feel
uncomfortable coming out.
Even if the perceptions are not true, if
the fraternity brothers would be accepting
of a brother who comes out, Javier said,
these issues need to be addressed because
those perceptions still exists.
"I think perception is reality, right?"
Javier said. "I think whether or not it's
true, if it's what you feel then it's what you
feel. So whether or not it's true that they
will be deactivated or beat up, if someone
thinks that's goingto happen, then there's
perception to be busted, myth to be bust-
To address these concerns, a group
called the Lambda Alliance was cre-
ated in 2007 that aims to bridge the gap
between the LGBT and Greek communi-
ties on campus. The group was founded by
members of all four Greek councils - in
collaboration with the Michigan Student
Assembly's LGBT Commission and the
Office of LGBT Affairs (this office changed
its name to the Spectrum Center in 2007)
- in an effort to combat the unfriendly
environment of the Greek system toward
LGBT students.
Kristefer Stojanovski, currently a Uni-
versitygraduatestudent,played an integral
part in the formation of Lambda Alliance.
Stojanovski came out to his fraternity, Chi
Psi, while he was an undergraduate at the
Former-IFC president Jose Nunez was
also a member of Chi Psi at the time, and
upon hearing that his fraternity brother
had come out, Nunez realized there was a
need for a greater push for LGBT aware-
ness in the Greek system and worked with
Stokanovski to form the Lambda Alliance.
Since its formation, the Lambda Alli-
ance has held events like ally training
workshops, which aim to educate mem-
bers of the Greek system on how to be sup-
portive allies to LGBT brothers or sisters.
In 2007, around the same time the
Alliance was formed, the Office of LGBT
Affairs released a survey to the Greek sys-
tem to measure the community's level of
acceptance of LGBT people.
The survey asked questions that
addressed how people would feel about
a brother or sister coining out. Most said
that individually they would be comfort-
able with a brother or sister's coming out,
but that they thought their fraternity or

g1 11U - 1111 l 1V 1 llu y 1u1
sidered joining. Even after him and his
friends received a bid to the same fra-
ternity, Alpha Delta Phi, Ohlinger still
opted against it.
It wasn't that Ohlinger didn't enjoy
the people he had met - some of his
best friends decided to join. But, rather,
Ohlinger thought he wouldn't be wel-
come in the fraternity once the brothers
found out he was gay.
"I didn't think the whole, being in
a frat and being gay went together at
all," Ohlinger said. "(I didn't know if) it
would be OK with those people having
guys come backto the frat... if it would be
awkward in front of people, or if people
would have a problem with it. So I just
turned down my bid right up front. They
gave it to me and I turned it down."
The following day, a few of the ADPhi
brothers called Ohlinger to ask why he'd
turned down the bid. "Oh, I didn't tell
you guys, but I'm gay," Ohlinger told the
brothers. "And they were, like, 'Oh, so
why'd you turn it down?"'
But even after turning down the bid,
he still hung out with some of the guys in
the fraternity, still attended parties with
them throughout the semester.
Throughout the rest of the fall semes-

grCLC1 LVLU 1Z"-1, 1 d lLU11
near the end of the fall semester that
Ohlinger seriously considered it.
"One of the older guys (in the fraterni-
ty) came up to me the end of the semes-
ter. He was always telling people he was
homophobic, just that kind of person,"
Ohlinger said. "And I forget what he said
exactly, but he said 'I just wanted to say
I hope you rush the house, because you
made me question what I always thought
(about gay people).'
"So what I was thinking," Ohlinger
said, "what it really came down to was,
if I could change the opinion of how 60
straight frat guys viewed one gay per-
son, or the whole gay community, while
I hung out with my best friends and had
a really good time, why wouldn't I do it?
So I ended up deciding to do it."
Ohlinger rushed ADPhi that winter
and hasn't looked back since. "It was
this huge relief," he said. "There were
no negative outcomes. So many people
surprised me by the things they said and
they did.
"I'd do anything for a lot of the guys
in there," Ohlinger said of his broth-
ers. "For me to keep something like that
from them would be horrible and would
defeat the whole purpose of what we

cussing the cult
as the most blat
The followir
have been chan;
ity of these ind
wanting to rem
same - that me
don't know they
Steve, a senio
of the Interfrat
tive group of ov
pus, is not yet o
Steve points1
culture" as the
not comfortabli
"You have a
with sororities
and all that typ
when somethin
think people ar
Steve said tho
times lends to
Greek system o
He said, hower
ence, when you
level, most of t
the IFC aren'tu
It's when you st

Top: LSA sophomore Jonathon Ohlinger refused to join a fraternity until he was sure its brothers were OK with the fact
he's gay. Bottom: A unior in an IFC fraternity, who wished to remain anonymous, hasn't come out to his brothers.

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