Sororities aren't all about matching monogrammed t-shirts and group photo ops — they're also about encouraging community and sisterhood. So we've got news for Texas: Students have formed the University of Texas' first LGBTQ-inclusive sorority. Gamma Rho Lambda offers women at the University of Texas at Austin who identify with any sexual orientation a way to be completely accepted into Greek life on campus.
Gamma Rho Lambda (GRL) has been referred to as the first national lesbian sorority, but they "strive to be inclusive of all members, whether they identify as lesbian, bisexual, ally, transgender, questioning, straight, or with no label," according to the GRL website. The sorority, created in 2003 at Arizona State University in Tempe, now has 15 chapters and 3 colonies across the country. The University of Texas colony is in a three-month trial period with the national organization and can begin recruiting pledges in the fall if it successfully becomes affiliated with the university's Greek Council.
Austin's new sorority began out of necessity. Lauren Ferguson, one of the colony's founding members, began researching LGBT-friendly sororities for herself and was struck by GRL's complete inclusivity. In an interview with Culture Map Austin, she says:
I always liked the idea of a sorority, but I always felt a little on the outside, like I couldn't rush because I was queer.
The group has already received anonymous hate mail, despite the university as a whole welcoming them to Greek life. In an interview with The Daily Texan, another member of the colony, Shelby Dax Fisher-Garibay, says:
We are not getting approached on the street or anything like that, but there definitely has been some resentment expressed. When Lauren Ferguson was attempting to find interest [for] the group, some people had responded to the email on the flyer with hate mail about why this organization should not exist.
Along with offering queer women a safe place to enter Greek life and form community, the members hope the colony will also help tackle transphobia. In an interview with The Daily Texan, Ferguson says:
One of the tenants of [Gamma Rho Lambda] is that no one is excluded, and the only requirement is that you identify as a woman. A lot of the feminism movement and the LGBT community does not want to include trans-women into the queer spectrum because there is a lot of transphobia within [those communities] as well.
The University of Texas has a huge Greek community, with 70 different sororities and fraternities on campus, and a queer-inclusive sorority will allow more members of the LGBT community to feel accepted into the campus culture. So far, the Austin GRL colony has nine members, a number that will hopefully grow when recruitment begins in the fall.