When I first joined my fraternity, I was happy. Being a gay male, I didn't have an enormous amount of friends who were males before college and it felt good to be accepted by a large group of guys despite my sexual orientation.
I'm not very closed about my sexuality and it wasn't long before the whole house knew that I was gay and they were surprisingly normal about it. I quickly realized how I could use the fact that I was queer to fit into this system, without really realizing the negative impact it would have on myself later on.
For everyone who is not aware, there are two goals to every fraternity party: to rush the freshmen who have not yet decided on which house they want to be a part of and to get as many girls to come over as possible.
Being gay, I think women feel more comfortable around me and, consequently, I have a lot of female friends. This is where I realized I could gain some popularity in the fraternity; the more women I brought to parties, the higher up my social standings became in the house.
I also found myself inadvertently dressing differently than I used to. I began trying to learn what I could about sports, I started trying to help some of my guy friends hook up with girl friends and I started drinking beer. I bought a pair of L.L. Bean Boots. I was trying to fit in.
I started learning the lingo. Objectifying women somehow became ingrained in even my vocabulary. It sounds absurd, but when the first thing you hear when you walk in a room is, "Did you fuck that hot chick last night?" it somehow happens.
I would talk about other guys in this manner too and, even though I was talking about a man instead of a woman, my brothers accepted it because I was essentially acting as a hypermasculine homosexual.
I somehow fit in because, although I was gay, I wasn't "one of those flamboyant gays."
I began, I realize now, being somewhat homophobic. I started disliking other gay guys because they seemed to give "guys like me" a bad name. I accepted that I was gay but I denied other members of the LGBTQ community the right to be themselves.
I realized all of this one day at the dinner table. Like most things in fraternities, even dinner is ritualistic. We have set meal times and all eat dinner in the same room at long tables.
I overheard one of our brothers say something along the lines of "I don't think we should rush any more gay people this semester." I was appalled and asked him to repeat what he said incase I misheard. He had indeed said it, but made sure to follow-up with, "but I'm not talking about gays like you. I'm talking about the flamboyant ones that throw it in your face and make our house look bad."
I had heard the occasional "that's so gay" in my time spent living in the house, but never had I heard this level of homophobia come from one of my own brothers. It made me realize that I wasn't openly accepted into my fraternity despite my sexuality, but that it relied on the type of performance I chose to put on in regards to my masculinity.
Right around the time of my realization, summer came. Summer was much needed and, being away from the house, I began taking a more active role in the LGBTQ community. I went to various pride festivals, took an interest in social activism online and explored the depths of the gay and lesbian section of Netflix.
I started not caring about the pitch of my voice or what clothes I wore. I tried to be more myself than the guy living in the fraternity house.
Then school started again and it was sort of different. I no longer changed how I acted for the people I was around and I actually gained some pretty remarkable friends who liked me for who I was because of it. But I also got backlash. A common comment I would get was that I "got gayer over the summer."
I would try to explain to people that I didn't "get gayer," I simply was doing me and not living based on how others would perceive me.
But that didn't cut it. And I almost felt bad for the people that were saying these things because I realized they were just as changed as I was.
I watched people come into that fraternity who were some of the nicest, genuine guys I knew turn into sexist pigs that only worried about which girl they were going to fuck at the end of the night.
Some guys are naturally like that, while many aren't, but by joining an institution that glorifies this type of behavior, it's hard not to be. It's hard not to be even as a homosexual.
I grew distant from several people I was close with and felt an odd uneasiness in the hallways. I no longer liked living there and found myself spending more time at friends' apartments than in my actual home.
Though I have made some lasting friendships with guys in my fraternity, I am excited to have an opportunity to live off-campus in the upcoming semester. I will not be returning to the house in the fall.
I get the question all the time: How is it being gay and living in a fraternity?
I now have my answer. It is just as easy to be a gay member of a fraternity as it is to be a straight member, but either way you have to be willing to mold your ideals into those of a dog in heat.
And you have to drink. A lot.