How Homophobia Hurts the College Fraternity

lambda1by Shane L. Windmeyer & Pamela W. Freeman

CW: discussion of homophobia, sexism, and harassment

Homophobia is defined as the fear and hatred of people who love and who are sexually attracted to those of the same sex, which includes prejudice and acts of discrimination resulting from that fear and hatred. Derived from the Greek homos, meaning “same,” and phobikos, meaning “having a fear of and/or aversion for,” the term “homophobia” was coined by George Weinberg in 1972 in his book Society and the Healthy Homosexual.1 Like other forms of oppression, homophobia not only oppresses members of the target or minority groups (gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people) but also, on many levels, hurts members of the agent or dominant group (heterosexuals). As a result, everyone eventually loses, and more specifically, the negative effect of homophobia on fraternities is enormous.Fraternities increasingly are coming under intense scrutiny by college and university administrators to guard against acts of discrimination and harassment in all its forms. Many times, societal homophobia, as well as sexism and other forms of prejudice, compounded by peer pressure results in many of the negative actions associated with fraternity life including, for example, substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, etc.), “date” or “acquaintance rape,” and other forms of harassment and violence.

Therefore, homophobic beliefs and actions not only pose potential harm to individuals of all sexual orientations, but also jeopardize the very existence of the fraternity itself. Despite this, most Greek educational efforts either fail to address homophobia altogether, or raise it simply as an isolated “side issue” unrelated to the other issues and concerns. In actuality, homophobia harms all brothers and the goals of the college fraternity.

The following list adapts the theory of Warren J. Blumenfeld from his book Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price to the college fraternity and the male experience.2 This information may be useful to foster an educational dialogue about how homophobia hurts the college fraternity and to heighten awareness on issues of sexual orientation.

1. Homophobia jeopardizes brotherhood by inhibiting close, intimate friendships among fraternity men and their ability to show affection toward other men for fear of being perceived as gay.

2. Homophobia locks fraternity men into rigid gender-based roles that inhibit self expression and exploration of male identity. Men tend to foster anger toward homosexuality and gender roles due to their inability to settle their identity conflict and the impacts of social conditioning. Such practices restrict the development of a positive male identity, straight or gay.

3. Homophobia creates a negative environment for brotherhood by compromising the integrity of heterosexual fraternity men to treat gay people badly. As such, homophobia is used as a tool for men to prove their heterosexuality by acting in the role of “gay hater.”

4. Homophobia creates an environment where fraternity men are expected to channel their feelings of affection or express emotions in potentially destructive ways. For example, fraternity men construct often dangerous and humiliating hazing rituals and consume excessive amounts of alcohol and drugs in order to allow men to touch or hug the skin of other men and/or to openly express their emotions with other fraternity brothers.

5. Homophobia can be used to stigmatize, silence, and target people who are perceived to be gay or labeled by others as gay. Such an environment may be hostile to these brothers and lead to negative harms that are often associated with being gay.

6. Homophobia creates an environment where fraternity brothers are sometimes pressured “to get laid” in order to establish their virility as heterosexual males and “real men.” Men who do not “get laid” may risk being viewed as less than men or homosexual. Such environments lead to higher likelihood of rape and the sexual use of women as objects of sexual conquest.

7. Homophobia is one cause for premature sexual involvement, which increases the chances of sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS/HIV and pregnancy. Fraternity men often may be pressured to prove their “heterosexuality” and “normalcy” by becoming sexually active. Such a perspective impairs educational efforts on safer sex and sexuality awareness in the college fraternity.

8. Homophobia restricts communication among fraternity brothers and diminishes the possibility of creating a true sense of brotherhood and community, especially when the fraternity learns that another brother is gay.

9. Homophobia prevents fraternity chapters from receiving the benefits of friendship and leadership offered by gay fraternity brothers. Fraternity chapters may blackball or kick out members who are suspected to be gay. At other times, the gay brother may leave the fraternity because of harassment and/or fear of violence.

10. Homophobia remains the highest cause for suicide among youth.

11. Homophobia compromises the entire learning environment on a college campus for all students.

12. Homophobia inhibits the appreciation of diversity in a campus community and adds to the harassment and violence toward all minority groups. Such an environment impairs the progress of educational efforts on multiculturalism and diversity by not recognizing gay students in the campus dialogue.

13. Homophobia saps energy from more constructive fraternity projects. The time and energy could be better spent doing brotherhood activities or philanthropy.


1. George Weinberg, Society and the Healthy Homosexual, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1972).

2. Warren J. Blumenfeld, Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992).

Shane L. Windmeyer and Pamela W. Freeman,Lambda 10 Project, All Rights Reserved.

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