Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Gay Men in Black Fraternities

Gay Men in Black Fraternities

I was hesitant to write about this particular topic because I know Greek life can be an extremely touchy subject. I am not a member of any of the organizations in the National Pan-Hellenic Council, but I am very supportive of these organizations due to their historical background. NPHC represents the nine historically Black fraternity and sororities (Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity). They are also referred to as “The Divine 9”.

Specifically, this post is in regards to gay men in Black Fraternities. I found an article from the Huffington Post titled Gay Men in Black Fraternities by Gregory S. Parks. In the beginning of the article, Parks mentions the controversial incident that sparked national news. Two gay Black men, Nathaneal Gay and Robert Brown, married in Lexington, Kentucky. Gay had a fraternal affiliation: Kappa Alpha Psi. Gay and Brown’s wedding was cream and crimson themed. Gay invited his pledge brothers to the wedding where they all took a picture holding up the fraternal hand sign. The wedding brought unwanted national attention to the fact that some Black fraternity members are gay and may be inclined to marry other men.

Gay believed the video was spread from a rival organization. He did not intend for his wedding to solely represent Kappa Alpha Psi. In my opinion, I do not believe Gay should have had to explain himself to the public. His wedding should not have sparked national attention. This also makes me wonder why there is not enough awareness of gay men in Black fraternities. According to Parks (2012), there have only been two groups of scholars to research issues around gay men in black fraternities. Dr. Alan DeSantis and Marcus Coleman (Kappa) studied the attitudes of members of four black fraternities about gay members, and Dr. Rashawn Ray and Kevin Spragling (both Alphas) studied the experiences of gay Alphas. They both found that homosexuality is rarely ever openly discussed in Black fraternities and is only engaged in order to condemn it.

I believe notions of masculinity heavily influence Black fraternity members’ attitude towards gay members. There are well-defined stereotypes of each of the NPHC fraternities. Omega Psi Phi members are stereotyped as the man’s man, masculine, bad boys, anti-intellectual and ideal lovers. Kappas are stereotyped as ladies’ men, bad boys, “pretty” boys”, and, interestingly, effeminate. Alphas are stereotyped as gentlemen, nice guys, intellectuals and the ideal date and husband. From what I’ve witnessed, members of each of the fraternities love playing up to their stereotypes. I do not have any experience in these organizations, but it makes me question if homosexuality may lead to gay pledges being treated worse or harsher than those who are not. This may or may not be the case, however the discussion on heterosexuality, homosexuality, and masculinity is long overdue in the Black community – and especially in fraternities.

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