Sororities Can Provide Communities for Transgender Students — But There is More Work to be Done

In 2019, transgender and nonbinary students represent a sector of the population that choose to go through the sorority recruitment process to find a community on campus. As more transgender students go through sorority recruitment, sororities across the country are becoming more inclusive. However, there is still work to be done, even as sororities become more accepting of transgender members.

Ermiya Fanaeian was one such transgender student interested in joining a sorority, and she knew exactly what she was looking for when she decided to go through the University of Utah’s formal recruitment process this fall. She wanted to “gain…genuine friendships with other women.” Ermiya had decided to go through formal recruitment because her closest friends from freshmen year were all sorority women. “These women…have empowered me in ways I could never have imagined before.”

Ermiya wasn’t alone. Across the country, several other transgender women have considered joining sororities at their universities. Emily Kaufman, a transgender woman who went through sorority recruitment at the University of Michigan, told Cosmopolitan in 2016 that she wanted to join a sorority to gain built-in roommates and meet girls she could go to football games with. And Jenna Comins-Addis told The Tab in 2017 that she was looking to be surrounded by strong, independent, and hardworking women when she joined the University of Indiana’s chapter of Delta Phi Epsilon the year after she came out as trans.

Jenna Comins-Addis joined Delta Phi Epsilon at the University of Indiana 

However, as a transgender woman, Ermiya was apprehensive about going through the recruitment process. “I had concerns with the anti-trans stereotypes of Greek life,” she reported. “I have been denied service for being trans…so many trans people have been excluded from every social environment you can think of, and I didn’t want that happening to me during recruitment.”

Emily Kaufman, the trans student who went through recruitment at the University of Michigan, had similar concerns. “I wouldn’t want to join a sorority,” she told Cosmopolitan, “and then find out that it’s transphobic.”

In sorority chapters across the country, however, acceptance of transgender members is increasing. Four of the six National Panhellenic Council sororities that have chapters at the University of Utah (Pi Beta Phi, Delta Gamma, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and Alpha Chi Omega) provide information about their trans inclusivity policies on their national websites. 

Sororities today can provide supportive communities for potential transgender members. Upon joining her sorority at the University of Indiana, Jenna Comins-Addis said she felt like she had “a place where [she] belong[ed].” Jenna noted that she liked “being apart (sic) of something that’s larger than myself.” 

It’s important to note, however, that even as more organizations adopt trans-inclusive membership statements, there is still much work to be done. In 2019, sororities wanting to be considered trans-inclusive need to educate their members on trans identities; the burden cannot lie on trans members or potential trans members. Ultimately, as more transgender and nonbinary students go through the recruitment process, chapters must work to understand, not just accept, different gender identities.

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