Gay fraternity offers Greek alternative

As the GW Greek-letter community makes preparations for next week’s rush, a different kind of fraternity already has begun the whirlwind of rush activities that will produce its pledge class later this month.

Delta Lambda Phi is like most fraternities, with one notable difference – it caters to members of the gay community.

Delta Lambda Phi, the nation’s oldest gay fraternity, will celebrate its 12th birthday this year. It has more than a dozen chapters nationwide, some based on college campuses, and some – like the founding chapter in Washington, D.C. – based in communities.

The 27-member “alpha” chapter draws members from all D.C. colleges, including American and Georgetown universities, and the University of Maryland at College Park. Four members are current GW students.

The Washington, D.C. chapter, which has about 200 alumni members, is open to men between 19 and 30 who lead an alternative lifestyle. The fraternity is open to heterosexual and homosexual men. The chapter has no heterosexual members currently, but it has in the past.

A GW freshman, who asked not be identified, decided to rush after seeing the Delta Lambda Phi fliers posted on campus. One of the fliers features Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie, and reads “Brought to you by the letters G-A-Y.”

“I knew that I would come out at school,” said the West Coast native, who said he realized he was gay during his sophomore year of high school. “At home nobody knows, not even my parents. Here, all of my friends know, and no one has flipped out so far.”

He said he took two female friends to a rush party for moral support. He said he was not uncomfortable among the fraternity’s members.

“The guys were very respectful, and people weren’t hitting on each other or anything like that, just trying to meet each other,” the GW rushee said.

Delta Lambda Phi President Lance Morgan said the fraternity’s motto is “A Friend to All.”

“We are a social club, designed to help gay men make friends in a safe environment,” Morgan said.

“I still have to remind myself not to clench up around other gay people,” the GW rushee said. “It’s hard to break down old barriers.”

Delta Lambda Phi goes to great lengths to ensure pledges do not feel threatened at any time, and requires pledges to agree not to date a another member during the ten-week pledge period. After the pledge period, however, romantic involvement is permitted, Morgan said.

“The number of brothers who do become couples is probably a lot lower than one would expect,” Morgan said. “But it is extremely important that our pledges understand that we have no ulterior motive in becoming their friends.”

For Morgan, who joined the fraternity two and a half years ago, Delta Lambda Phi symbolizes friendship.

“I only came out when I was 28, and I found that most of the friends I had while I was hiding such a big part of myself didn’t really know all of me,” said Morgan.

Morgan said he has a friend who was kicked out of a fraternity and humiliated when his brothers found out he was gay.

“Some frats are still incredibly homophobic,” he said.

“More fraternities are becoming gay-friendly these days, but I believe that it is more the exception than the rule,” Morgan said.

Delta Lambda Phi’s rush is similar to the process in other fraternities. The fraternity hosts a series of parties to become acquainted with rushees and will offer between 10 and 15 bids at the end of rush. This year, the fraternity has between 30 and 40 rushees, Morgan said.

After bids are offered, pledges are paired with “big brothers,” older fraternity members who serve as friends and mentors throughout the pledge period.

“Our big brothers are really incredible,” Morgan said. “The number of pledges we take depends on how many really good big brothers we think we have. They must be totally reliable and committed to their little brother.”

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