Updated: Feb. 16, 2015 at 2:43 p.m.
Fraternity members can put away their lipsticks and heels.
Allied in Greek, a program that began at GW two years ago as a collaboration between the Greek community and the LGBT advocacy group Allied in Pride, will do away with its annual drag competition after students involved called the event “homophobic.” Instead of fraternity members donning makeup and dresses styled by partnering sororities, the groups will hold a week of philanthropic and educational events focusing on misconceptions surrounding LGBT students in Greek life.
Spencer Perry, Allied in Pride’s programming chair, said some people thought past events were “homophobic and counterproductive.”
“To speak to Greeks about the importance of LGBTQ inclusion, about the effects of homophobia, and also to show the support of Greeks towards their LGBTQ brothers and sisters, was to shift our model towards one that focuses on education,” Perry said.
This year’s program includes a week of fundraising events at local restaurants, an event for chapters in Kogan Plaza called “Allies in Kogan” and a social media campaign focused on LGBT advocacy, Allied in Pride President Robert Todaro said.
“We had some fun before, but let’s use our resources to amp up education, raise awareness and raise money for charity,” Todaro said. “The point is to celebrate our similarities and our diverse identities, not to offend people.”
Allied in Pride members have visited sorority and fraternity chapter meetings throughout this week to answer questions about the LGBT community in Greek life and hand out copies of the organization’s Queer Guide, a brochure that explains and defines different sexual identities, which was published last semester.
Fraternity members are happy with the change and “communities will benefit greatly from increased opportunities for education,” Interfraternity Council president Tim Stackhouse said.
Student Association President Nick Gumas, who started Allied in Greek at GW in 2013 when he was serving his first of two terms as Allied in Pride president, disagreed with the idea that the drag show was homophobic.
“Drag queens were instrumental in starting the Stonewall Riots in 1969, sparking the modern LGBTQ rights movement, so the notion that a drag event is homophobic is not based in historical facts,” he said.
The Multicultural Greek Council, formerly not an official participant in Allied in Greek, is helping lead this year’s events. Todaro said Multicultural Greek chapters struggled to participate in the past because some could not afford the large registration fee.
This year, the MGC directed the service aspects of Allied in Greek, said Courtney Stoner, the council’s publicity chair.
“What makes us different is that, for a lot of us, our pillars are service,” she said. “So instead of raising money for philanthropy, we’re more focused on doing community service and actually physically giving back to the community.”
Last year, the event raised about $1,300 for the Trevor Project, a national suicide prevention organization for LGBT youth. But this year the proceeds will be going to Casa Ruby, a bilingual multicultural organization providing services to at-risk LGBT youth. The money will be earmarked for building a homeless shelter in D.C. The organization’s founder, Ruby Corado, delivered the week’s keynote address Wednesday in Funger Hall.
Todaro said Allied in Pride chose a different philanthropy this year so the organization could make a more significant impact on a smaller organization.
“If we all focus on one philanthropy and compile all our resources and we all attend these events, we can affect our local community and really see a change in our own backyard,” Todaro said.
Allied in Pride, the IFC, the Panhellenic Association and the Multicultural Greek Council all plan to volunteer together at Casa Ruby later in the semester, Todaro said.
Allied in Greek’s new structure will create “more meshing between communities” through the social media campaign and fundraisers, said Dan Smith, an Allied in Pride member.
“The setup last year and the year before didn’t have the chance to involve LGBT community as much, even though the right spirit was there,” Smith said.
Allied in Greek will also involve women more this year, Todaro added. Sororities formerly participated by costuming and doing makeup for fraternity members in the drag show. This year, they worked closely with Allied in Pride to restructure and organize the events.
The Panhellenic Association’s participation “sends a good message” to its members and the outside community, said Lindsay Goodman, the organization’s vice president of communications. Last year, part of the prize money from the drag show went to the winning fraternity and partnering sorority’s philanthropy.
“The original thought process behind Allied in Greek was supporting our members who are part of the LGBT community, and every year our goal should be to do that better and in a more positive way,” the Panhellenic Association’s vice president of programming, Libby Wuller, said. “This isn’t something we say we’re doing and then slapping a Panhel logo on. We’re telling them there’s motivation behind it.”
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported Spencer Perry’s title at Allied in Pride. He is the organization’s programming chair, not the vice president. We regret this error. The post was updated to include new comments from former Allied in Pride president Nick Gumas. It was also updated to clarify that sorority members participated in the drag show in other ways besides costuming.