Transgender members in Greek Life

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Xi Omicron Iota, a Missouri State sorority, recently voted to accept transgender students into their sisterhood, making them the first known sorority to allow this. The changes to their bylaws were passed on August 30. In light of the transgender movement becoming more prevalent, questions arose regarding Sam Houston State Greek life.

“I definitely see it in the future [for SHSU] whether it be actual bylaws changing on the national level or Sam Houston implementing more LGDT inclusive organizations,” Director for Office of Equity and Inclusion and Title IX Coordinator Jeanine Bias Nelson said. “I think that it probably won’t be in the next year, but probably in the next three to five years I do think that a lot of the national fraternities and sororities’ bylaws will change to state that ‘those who identify as a male’ or ‘identify as a woman.’ That wording makes it at least a little bit more inclusive.”

SHSU already has LGBT friendly organizations outside of the Greek Life community. However, Greek Life has not yet altered any bylaws to accommodate LGBT.

“That chapter in Missouri happens to be a local chapter, so they don’t have national guidance,” Nelson said. “They can easily just go in and change their bylaws like a registered student association that has no national affiliation here. I think that with them being a local group, it was very easy for them. I think that on the national level it would be a little bit more difficult.”

The majority of Greek chapters at SHSU are under national bylaws. Changes to the national bylaws for these sororities would have to be approved and set in place on a national level which takes longer to implement.

“In all of our Greek community, we only have one local sorority that would be able to affectively change their bylaws that quickly,” Nelson said. “There’s very few things, as far as an institution, that we regulate as Greek Life other than hours and GPA. They would have to decide on their own on changing their national bylaws.”

Changes to national bylaws typically takes place at national conventions and are presented to national delegates. Sigma Phi Epsilon (not affiliated with SHSU) was the first fraternity to nationally change their bylaws to accept transgender students.

“It’s no different than any other constitution or bylaw change that happens in an organization,” Bias said. “I know there are some organizations that change their membership guidelines, and then once that’s voted on, typically that next semester individual chapters implement that into their chapter practice of the bylaws.”

The Missouri State sorority voted on the inclusion of LGBT as a part of their recruitment. Each sorority has different requirements and guidelines to follow for recruitment that are personalized to the specific chapter.

“The article I read said it wasn’t apart of any particular interest, but they wanted to make sure students knew that it was an option for them,” Bias said. “I think that our society is just becoming more prevalent to be more inclusive of everybody. As those opportunities present themselves, whether it be organizations or even the university as a whole, we will have to make sure that our rules are totally inclusive for everybody to participate in different activities.”

Other Greek Life chapters at Missouri State have not yet shown interest or effort in altering their bylaws since Xi Omicron Iota. However, like SHSU, there are organizations for LGBT.

“Particularly here at Sam Houston, I think that we’ve always had a pretty diverse Greek Life,” Bias said. “I wish it would have been a national organization–that would have turned the wheels more. It just opens the door for more people.”

It has been about a month since the Missouri State sorority adjusted its bylaws. Since the vote passed, it has become a viral topic.

“It’s no different than back in the 50s and 60s where segregation ended and where more minorities were in Greek Life,” Bias said. “I think that this is just the next turn–the next Civil Rights Movement. Everybody is different and that’s okay.”