Greek Active

GENRE
September 1992

Parting Glances
Greek Active

The Alphabet, Not a Position

GenreLiberty, Equality, Fraternity! The cry of the French Revolution. Except, of course, it was Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité! The first two make perfect sense as things to have rebelled in favor of. But why the proletariat were championing group campus living when they were already stuck in squalid communal living situations is beyond me.

My knowledge of fraternities comes from such exemplary sources as Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds (parts I through III). When I first came onto campus, the vocabulary quickly became part of everday life. Rush was something that came in small brown bottles and made our hearts race. Pledge came in lemon scent and didn’t leave streaks. And haze was something that obscured the view early in the morning.

Evers since 1825 and the first Phi Beta Kappa fraternity, gay college men have been subjected to the most difficult decision of their educational pursuit; Do we opt for the daily drudgery of the dorm or do we butch it up and try for frat life? Bastions of macho posturing would seem to me to be no place for a boy in heels. (Much like the military.) It couldn’t take too long for a gay pledge to figure out that Greek referred to an alphabet and a tradition, not a position.

So, why not a gay fraternity? There is, of course, the housing issue. Fraternities tend to be cheap, if communal, living situations. And dorms are certainly no place for your average queen. The idea of a gay fraternity, where we could let our hair down, loll around the common room watching television, hanging out in our underwear, and partying ’til we drop, is not new. Of course, until now, we called it a summer share. But then, Fire Island and Key West just aren’t what they used to be. (If they ever were.)

Debauchery, decadence, and degeneracy. The watchwords of fraternity life. Party time! Now, never let it be said that I don’t like a good party. But I refuse to be seen wrapped in my bedsheets. Especially if I’m supposed to be pretending I’m wearing the latest in toga fashion. Just who among us has the funds, energy or creativity to come up with a different très fab costume every single night of the school year, and still maintain a grade point average above the IQ of our last boyfriend?

I find myself trying to imagine the selection process for new frat pledges at our local chapter of Delta whatever. I know they claim that everything is now handled professionally. Hazing is a thing of the past. PLedges perform community service rather than polish frat brothers’ cars, drink quarts of vodka, and screw dogs. And I’m Princess Grace of Monaco.

Of course, most of what the typical “straight” fraternities consider humiliating hazing activities occurs nightly at our favorite gay establishments. I suppose the equivalent would be forcing our new pledges to do things like play spin-the-bottle with the cheerleading squad. Or maybe make them go to class wearing those pullover shirts with the little penguin over the pocket. And last year’s shoes. Better yet, make them dance the Hustle.

The final and biggest mystery of fraternity life has nothing to do with the local house, the frat brothers themselves, or even whether frat boys get good seats at the football game. (Football? That’s a sport, right?) No, the biggest mystery is the selection of frat names. I mean, just how did the Psi Epsilon Chi Xi Nu Mus get their moniker? How did the nerds in Revenge I get Lambda, Lambda, Lambda, name clearly more suited for us? How did we end with Delta Lambda Phi, when the obvious acronym is Phi Alpha Gamma? I imagine it’s done by some secret Greek council playing a game much like rock, paper, scissors.

Strangely, when I was on campus, the idea of joining a fraternity never came up. Of course, we didn’t have a gay frat, and my pink triangle probably didn’t go well with the ideals of the Alpha Omega house, or whatever it was. Though it did look cute on my ROTC uniform…but that’s another story.


Genre is a gay “lifestyle” and travel magazine. It was launched in 1992 by three entrepreneurs, two of whom shortly thereafter left to found QSF magazine. I went with them…

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