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Celebrating Pride as Panhellenic Sisters

The Her Sorority Journey team had the opportunity to chat with and gain some insight from an amazing sorority woman who is also a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. We are excited to share with you some of the valuable memories, lessons, and advice that she so warmly shared with us.

Pride photo collage
photo credit: @naupanhellenic on Instagram

Tell us about your sorority journey! What made you want to join a sorority? What have been the highlights of your experience? What leadership roles have you held or do you currently hold?

I remember my journey pretty vividly. Everything from starting the recruitment process in the spring as a freshman- while being terrified, as freshmen are, that I wouldn’t feel the sisterly love everybody talks about when joining a chapter- to graduating after holding three positions of leadership in my sorority.

Nobody in my family or any of my friends had ever joined a sorority or fraternity, so the process was brand new to me. I also never pictured myself to be one of those stereotypical “sorority girls“ you see portrayed as the face of most chapters on their Instagram profiles. Instead of these facts deterring me from recruitment, this was just another challenge that I was determined to tackle. I had the goal of joining a sorority to learn the ins and outs of Fraternity & Sorority Life, and hopefully leave the community a better place than what it was before I joined. And, obviously, make some friends along the way.

As for leadership roles during my four years, I started on the Chapter Life team as Campus Activities Director, while also being slated as the Panhellenic Delegate on the Executive Board. The following year I was slated as Chapter President, which was quite the adventure. During my time as Chapter President, I made a lot of changes to the chapter, some of which include starting a DE&I committee that has a functional and real place in the leadership of our chapter and removing the fines system we had in place to level the playing field for women who didn’t have the means to pay even more money than they were already paying to be in a sorority.

My journey is a unique one that came with a lot of challenges, but I believe that the differences I made while leading the chapter were worth it.

What has your experience been like being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and a sorority? What is something you wish people knew about your experience? How could your chapter or your national organization have provided you with more support?

I’m a bisexual cisgender woman. So I’ll start by saying, I have no intentions of speaking for any other members of the community, as my experiences are my own and will not be the same as everyone’s. Nor do I want to silence the voices of others who have faced more adversity, I’m just here to tell my story. And I hope it’ll help at least one person.

That being said, Miami University isn’t necessarily a college known for being socially liberal. Meaning, I never felt the need to scream “I love women!” from the roof of Brick Street. (Though I’m sure many would agree that women are awesome.) As for my sorority, I was pretty open with everyone regarding my sexuality. Especially when it came to advocating for more education and the celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community at chapter meetings and on our social media. However, whenever I reached out to our Communications Team that runs our Instagram page about posting educational tidbits on the story or doing a Q+A similar to this blog post for the feed, no action was ever taken and I was ignored. Many times I was told that it wouldn’t “fit the image” our sorority was going for, or that it would “mess up the feed”. My response to that was, how on earth would that ruin the feed? I still don’t understand how even a simple “Happy Pride Month!” would be too much to ask for. Because it isn’t too much to ask for- it’s the bare minimum.

woman walking through multicolored purse displays
photo credit: @asuadpi on Instagram

I do wish I had more positive things to say about the chapter regarding the LGBTQIA+ community, but the lack of celebration and support of people that stray from the Fraternity & Sorority Life “norm” speaks volumes. I don’t want to discourage anyone from joining based on my story, instead use it as motivation to run for those leadership positions and make changes in your communities. That is how we grow as sorority women.

How were you empowered to lead? What was your biggest support system?

As any good Big would be, mine was my rock. She was the first President of our chapter, and she inspired me to shoot for the stars. If I somehow missed the proverbial star I was shooting, she would be the cloud I could land on. Not only did I have a great Big, but the culture in our chapter played a big role in what inspired me to lead. I saw that, after the pandemic, women needed someone reliable, flexible, and most importantly, someone who could have fun. What many people don’t realize is that if you aren’t having fun while leading, it quickly turns into a monarchy where you are suddenly standing alone. It is so important to have fun. I mean, that’s a huge reason why you join a sorority!

Were there any stereotypes you had to work through? If so, what was the hardest one to conquer?

One of the stereotypes I had to deal with was when a girl rudely asked me if I liked her immediately after finding out I was bisexual. The answer was no, obviously. Just because someone is attracted to the same sex doesn’t mean they like you. I don’t think she would say that to a straight guy, so why would you assume that about me? That dialogue has never made sense to me.

Another stereotype that comes up often when I mention I was in a sorority in college is that I am rich. No, I am not rich. I am privileged to come from a home where putting food on the table isn’t an issue, but neither my family nor I am rich. There were times in college when I was balancing being President of the sorority with my job as a waitress at the local breakfast place in the morning, Pre-Med/Public Health classes during the day, working my second job as a phlebotomist at the hospital in town at night, and trying to keep myself sane. So I am not rich, I am just a hard worker.

No matter who you are, there will be stereotypes you’ll come across. At the end of the day, the only person you have to live with 24/7 is yourself. If you’re happy with yourself and aren't hurting anyone else, of course, that’s all that matters. Since I’m a people pleaser, this took me quite some time to learn! But, I am so much better off after learning that lesson!

sorority woman holding Pride flag during parade
photo credit: @umcph on Instagram
What advice would you give to others who are still trying to find their place in their chapter?

Never stop reaching out. Extending that hand of friendship to someone you may not have talked to, or including others in your friend group makes so much of a difference in the culture of your chapter. Having women who support one another, and who embody the core values of that chapter will make everyone’s experience that much better and more meaningful. I know it’s easier said than done, especially coming from a girl who has anxiety. Remind yourself that you joined that chapter for a reason, and you wouldn’t have chosen each other if neither of you saw something in the other that you loved. Even as a senior, I was still making new friends. It’s never too late!

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