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Monday, April 22, 2024

Students discuss acceptance of LGBT members in Greek community

Ken Schwencke still thinks it's weird that his brothers in Pi Kappa Alpha are OK with it.

"For most of them, I'm the only gay person they think they know."

Schwencke sat on the Greeks and Homophobia panel Tuesday night at the Reitz Union, where he and six other members of the Greek community discussed what it is like to be Greek and gay.

In its second year, the panel aimed to bridge the gap between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and the Greek community, said Adam Amir, LGBT student affairs cabinet director.

The panel was also one of several events leading up to National Coming Out Day on Thursday.

Amir said the Multicultural Greek Council is very accepting of people from different nationalities, ethnicities and sexual orientations. He hopes events like the Greek and Homophobia panel will help open the dialogue between the Multicultural Greek Council and the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils.

Sara Rubin, a third-year student and former Panhellenic recruitment staffer, agreed there is a need for greater awareness and discussion of LGBT issues.

"I've probably met close to 300 people while recruiting for Panhellenic, and I've never met anyone who said openly that they were gay," Rubin said. "You'd think in such a large community I'd come across at least some."

About 10 percent of any given population is gay, said Nora Spencer, director of LGBT Affairs in the Dean of Students Office.

Though it's hard to estimate exact numbers, it is certainly less in the Greek community, she said.

LGBT Affairs aims to get the proportions to match up by sponsoring open discussions among fraternity and sorority members.

Gamma Eta Sorority member Frances Riveram, a UF senior, found that coming out to her sisters was not as bad as she imagined it would be.

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"What was most memorable for me was realizing that I'm not the only one," she said. "There is a stigma that being Greek is not for gays. It was nice to be out and able to bring my girlfriend to sorority events."

Being aware of the language you use was one of the most important messages of the evening, Rivera said.

"There is no stereotype or look of what a queer person is," she said. "You don't know if you're hurting your brother or sister who is staying in the closet. You're only encouraging them to not want to be their true self around you."

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