Students at the University of Texas at Austin are working to establish an LGBT sorority — the first of its kind on campus.
"I always liked the idea of a sorority," says Lauren Ferguson, president of the new Gamma Rho Lambda colony at UT. "But I always felt a little on the outside, like I couldn't rush because I was queer."
While there are no official rules excluding queer members in the traditional Greek system, LGBT members have historically faced discrimination among conservative organizations. Gamma Rho Lambda, a national Greek organization that prides itself on being inclusive of all woman — gay, straight or transgender — changes that. "The only exclusion we have is males," jokes Ferguson.
When she began researching LGBT-friendly sororities, Ferguson was drawn to Gamma Rho Lambda because of its inclusive nature. "GRL has been referred to as the first national lesbian sorority," reads the organization's website. "However [the chapters] strive to be inclusive of all members, whether they identify as lesbian, bisexual, ally, transgender, questioning, straight or with no label."
Establishing the new Greek chapter is a true grassroots process. Ferguson and eight other members, who all serve as officers, are in a three-month trial period with the national organization. If everything goes according to plan and GRL becomes affiliated with a Greek council, the sorority will be ready to accept its first pledges in the fall.
The fact that the chapter began its journey at a time when the media is awash with Greek-related controversy is not lost on Ferguson. She views it as an "unfortunate coincidence," but also as an opportunity to shine a light on the community and benefits of Greek life.
Ferguson notes that she has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from fellow students, although The Daily Texan reports that a few negative emails have circulated. "For every one person who doesn't like us, there's a thousand who support us. UT has been insanely supportive of us," says Ferguson. "They're not only willing to support us, but they're excited about it."
Gamma Rho Lambda, she hopes, will not only become a home for women of all walks of life, but a means to increase communication and inclusiveness among the entire Greek community.
It's certainly a challenge, but she's confident in her sisters and the rest of the community. "It's something we can take on because we're a family."