Fraternity brothers will trade in their letters Wednesday night for dresses, copious amounts of makeup and maybe even wigs to promote acceptance for LGBT students.
Leaders of the drag show, organized by GW’s largest LGBT organization and 20 Greek chapters, said they hope the event will promote inclusivity and ward off stereotypes that students can’t be both gay and Greek.
“It’s to support, whether they’re out or not, the LGBT members of our community,” Interfraternity Council President Casey Wood said. “And I think it’s a great way to embrace that no matter where you come from or who you are, there’s always a place in Greek life for you.”
The drag contest will raise funds for The Trevor Project, which combats LGBT youth suicide, along with an organization of the winning fraternity’s choice. The event has already raised $2,000 through chapters’ participating fees, and it will charge $5 per ticket.
Wood, a member of Pi Kappa Alpha, touted the University’s Greek community as open and accepting, thanks in part to a changing atmosphere honing in on philanthropy and embracing diversity rather than perpetuating “a culture around drinking.”
“We had people in this community five or six years ago that didn’t feel comfortable coming out, and now you have chapters that are renowned for having a large population of LGBT members,” Wood said. “And that’s awesome.”
The event is the brainchild of Allied in Pride President Nick Gumas. He said he wants to make gay students feel more comfortable in their chapters, even if they choose not to come out to their fraternity brothers. The sophomore said Greek life tends to breed a culture of machismo.
“I know there are a lot of LGBT members who are Greek, but for one reason or the other, maybe don’t feel as comfortable as non-Greek students to express themselves,” Gumas, who is not in a fraternity, said. But he added, “The purpose of this event is not to help people spring out of the closet, it’s to make people feel more accepted.”
Chapter presidents said they hope an event, instead of a speech or presentation, will be a more engaging way to promote tolerance.
Pi Kappa Phi president Trey O’Callaghan said his fraternity is hoping to redefine negative stereotypes that could be associated with Greek life.
“Our participation in the Allied in Pride event is our way of demonstrating that GW Greek life stands behind the LGBT community,” he said.
While the event celebrates drag queen culture, Gumas said the event goes back to the roots of the LGBT movement, when drag queens led New York City riots in 1969 and catapulted the struggle for gay rights onto the national agenda.
Oz Fishman, an openly gay member of Sigma Chi, said he initially had reservations about the event, thinking it could potentially reinforce stereotypes of gay men, but he said he realized that was unlikely to happen at a campus like GW.
“Everyone has enough gay friends and enough of an understanding of how people choose to identify with their sexuality,” Fishman said.
He added that gay students choose to join Greek life for the same reasons as straight students, and said he never felt prejudice as a member of Greek life.
“My sexual orientation is just as much a part of my identity as anybody [else’s],” Fishman said.
Sophomore Michael Morgan, a member of Beta Theta Pi who will star as a drag queen, grew up in conservative eastern Washington state, but said coming to GW helped change his views on gay rights.
“A lot of times fraternities are attributed stigmas of homophobia, and there are definitely precedents for that, but it will be good to combat that ideology,” Morgan said, adding that his sister is “married to another lady very happily.”
Morgan’s chapter president, Colin O’Brien, agreed that it was an important cause.
“Allied in Pride’s idea for this event is a refreshing shake-up,” O’Brien said. “It will help us to make it clear to the GW community at large that Greek life is welcoming to all people, period.”
The 11 fraternity participants will each introduce their most stunning straight drag queen at 7 p.m. in the Lisner Auditorium.