The gay community often uses the Greek symbol Lambda because it means “change.”
Delta Lambda Phi, a national fraternity with open acceptance of gay and bisexual men, Lambda Delta Lambda a lesbian-oriented sorority, and the organization Lambda 10 are actively seeking changes in the acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex people in the Greek community.
“Sororities involve a bonding that is different from that of any other group,” said Cara Walter, a student at the University of California Davis, and a previous co-president of Lambda Delta Lambda. “We are a group of like minded women who come together to support each other, have fun, and get something done.”
Lambda Delta Lambda was founded at the University of California Davis in 1988. The chapter’s website states that Lambda Delta Lambda is a Greek organization with a “message to the campus and community is one of acceptance and hope for equality.”
The only Greek organization like this in the state of Missouri is a colony of Delta Lambda Phi at the University of Missouri Rolla.
Lambda Delta Lambda is not a national chapter. The chapter Lambda Delta Omega existed at Pennsylvania State University with the same purpose as Lambda Delta Lambda. This chapter existed under the name Lambda Delta Omega because a science fraternity was already using the name Lambda Delta Lambda. The chapter closed in the spring of 2005 due to lack of membership and interest in joining the sorority.
The Gamma Chapter of Lambda Delta Lambda was not a recognized chapter at UC Davis until it complied with the constitution created by the Alpha Chapter and followed the procedures outlined by the University of California Los Angeles.
“The Alpha Chapter started with nine members,” said Walter. “Lambda Delta Lambda will be increasing its membership this quarter with a large pledge class, and this is due to increased visibility in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex community at events, such as the LGBTQI conference that was held at UC Davis this year.”
Lambda Delta Lambda’s membership criteria is defined by their constitution stating, “Membership shall be open to all students, faculty and staff, or the University of California at Davis, regardless of race, nationality, creed, political affiliation, sex (in accordance with title IX), sexual orientation, physical handicap, age, marital status or religion.”
“Disclosure of sexual orientation is not required or solicited by the sorority because of people’s different comfort levels, therefore, any such information is conveyed on a person to person basis,” said Walter.
Walter said she joined Lambda Delta Lambda in search of a community of people similar to herself.
“Rush week consists usually of an information night, an ice cream night, a pizza night, a potluck, and usually two other events,” she said. “In addition, we tend to find some of our pledges before rush week at events and gatherings.”
She describes the pledge period as being relaxed with minimal hazing.
Lambda Delta Lambda has strict rules against romantic relationships starting between pledges and active members during the pledge period. “Other than that, we have a general no drama policy,” said Walter. “Actives or alumni can date as long as such relationships do not create drama within the sorority.”
Lambda Delta Lambda does not have a chapter house on campus because it would increase membership fees, therefore, limiting the number of people capable of joining. When asked about the sororities retention rate Walter said, “We are somewhat concerned about sisters remaining involved in the sorority since we have been a small group recently, but most of our problems in that regard stem from sisters pledging late in their college careers and thus only being a part of the sorority for a year or two.”
Delta Lambda Phi and the Lambda 10 Project support Lambda Delta Lambda. The Lambda 10 Project is an organization that recognizes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues and provides members with educational resources applicable for Greek life.
Shane Windmeyer, a Phi Delta Theta at Emporia State University, created the Lambda 10 Project in the fall of 1995 to educate Greeks against homophobia.
“L10 is an information clearinghouse and online community for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fraternity and sorority issues. It does not have chapters on campuses,” said Windmeyer.
Lambda 10 regularly communicates with Lambda Delta Lambda and Delta Lambda Phi. When people interested in starting a LGBT fraternity or sorority approach Windmeyer he often refers them to these and other LGBT organizations.
The two books Out on Fraternity Row and Secret Sisters is the biggest contribution Lambda 10 has given to the Greek community, said Windmeyer.
“L10 has broken the cycle of invisibility when it comes to LGBT men and women in the college fraternity and sorority. No longer can anyone deny that there are indeed LGBT men and women in the Greek Community. Education has begun and change is happening over the last 10 years of Lambda 10,” he said.
Delta Lambda Phi is a national fraternity for gay, bisexual, and progressive men. The fraternity was founded in 1986 with the intent to create a social fraternity that “wouldn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation.” Nationally the fraternity has about 200 members.
Delta Lambda Phi states, “All men, regardless of age, race, socioeconomic background, religion, or sexual orientation are welcome to apply for membership.”
“Fraternities or sororities in general are an organization, not a club, and I think the distinction needs to be recognized,” said Jeremy Charles the National Executive Director of Delta Lambda Phi.
“Within the organization you take an oath as a pledge and brother to uphold certain principles that this organization would serve. In local clubs members can come and go. There is a defined purpose to Greek organizations,” he said.
The Nationals of Delta Lambda Phi vote each year on a philanthropy for the fraternity. Last year the fraternity supported funding for AIDS and HIV research. In some cases, each chapter will develop their own philanthropy.
The organization plans to increase membership by marketing itself as a unique fraternity. “It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, bisexual, or straight. You’re welcome whoever you are,” said Charles.
“In recent years, we’ve overcome the ‘Animal House’ stigma,” said Charles. Many factors contribute to the nationwide decrease in Greek population.
“Some people still have the idea that Greek life is just a party club, and across the board it is seen as a place to hook up,” he said. “People see them having events and dating, but they don’t just see it as dating; they see it as something else. It has hurt us, and we have seen a few chapters drop. People attach these stigmas to Greek life. We attribute it to their lack of understanding.”
Delta Lambda Phi’s recruitment process is similar to the other fraternities on campus. If the chapter is a member of the Inter-Fraternity Council it must follow those restrictions for Recruitment. If not, Lambda Delta Phi usually conducts their recruitment about the same week as the other chapters on campus. The process typically includes an information meeting, social events, and formal interviews.
Charles became an active member of Delta Lambda Phi during his junior year at Ohio University. He summarizes his experience as being good. He developed leadership and social skills that were valuable after graduation. Delta Lambda Phi also offered him a unique network and bonding experience not offered through other organizations.
On March 12, 2005 Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville started Beta Zeta, the 52nd chapter of Delta Lambda Phi. Similar to most chapters, Beta Zeta was a colony for a year and a half before receiving its charter.
To become a recognized chapter, all colonies must recruit at least three pledge classes. This usually brings them to about twelve members total.
The colony does a community service project, a fundraiser, and a central event. They develop colony bylaws, which later become the chapter bylaws. Then the colony writes a petition to nationals stating who they are, what they’ve done, and why they believe they should be chartered as a chapter.
“I joined DLP to feel Brotherhood,” said Christopher Miofsky, the President of Delta Lambda Phi at SIUE and the Vice President of Greek Council. “I joined another fraternity my freshman year and it did not work out so I found DLP on the Internet and found how to colonize with them. It has been an amazing experience and I am so glad I was able to be part of DLP.”
Beta Zeta has eight brothers. The chapter’s small size offer’s a close bond that may not be felt with other organizations said Miofsky.
“We’re much more likely to bond overall,” said Miofsky. “I won’t say that the others don’t also share a Brotherhood, but we just seem to be much closer than they do. We also offer an acceptance of everyone that may not necessarily be felt in the other (fraternities). We are just a very accepting group of men. It is awesome that I have met people this accepting of all kinds of people, not just sexual minorities.”
Delta Lambda Phi’s bond is not just felt on local campuses. “Delta Lambda Phi has a Brotherhood to offer,” said Miofsky. “It is a Brotherhood unlike any I have seen anywhere else. We, being a small organization nationally, are all very close. I know many of the people in our region and it is wonderful to be able to get to meet these people and actually have a Fraternal experience with them.”
SIUE has roughly fifteen Greek organizations, and about 3% of the total student population is Greek. “We have most of the similarities to other fraternities on campus, other than we are just more open and accepting of homosexuality,” said Miofsky. Similar to the other fraternities on campus Beta Zeta participates in mixers with the sororities, follows the same recruitment process, and met the same requirements to receive a charter.
Beta Zeta interacts with on organization on campus called SOTA (Sexual Orientation and Trans-gendered Alliance). Since the completion of their charter Miofsky said he hopes his fraternity will have more time to socialize with the organization.
Over the weekend of April 22, Beta Zeta is having a spring retreat to plan yearly goals and discuss events like Recruitment and increasing membership.
“We are a fraternity just like any other fraternity and we do not really concern ourselves with stuff like who is and is not straight. We do not have any other issues than do the other fraternities on campus,” said Miofsky.
Currently there are 22 chapters of Lambda Delta Phi nationally. The most recent chapter started on April 9, 2005 at the University of Pennsylvania. None of the chapters have a fraternity house on campus. As the fraternity ages and the number of alumni increase, hopefully there will be enough funding to build houses for the chapters said Charles.
“I think that being Greek is an experience that not everyone can have, as not everyone is mentally equipped to handle it,” said Miofsky. “I know that since my initiation and going through the colony process, I have changed in a way that I would not have changed had I not been Greek. It is an amazing feeling to be one of those few people on campus with letters. I would not trade this for anything.”