A new LGBT, service-based Greek organization is joining the Case Western Reserve University community. Theta Pi Sigma (TPS), which is currently run through the LGBT Center, will accept any person, regardless of gender identity.
TPS was founded at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2005. This coed Greek organization is the first gender-neutral LGBT organization of its kind. It has since spread to multiple colleges and universities across the country.
This semester, TPS will be joining Spectrum as the second undergraduate LGBT student organization on campus. The idea was conceived last academic year, and gained a foothold during the Fall 2017 semester.
Kat Retting, a third-year history major, is a member of Sigma Psi, as well as the TPS Executive Board.
Sigma Psi’s policy regarding gender non-binary individuals states that any student who “does not identify as a man” is eligible to join the chapter. Retting themself identifies as gender non-binary.
“I think it’s really important to have TPS because I didn’t think I would ever fit into Greek Life,” Retting said. “I think that if Sigma Psi and TPS weren’t there, I would never be involved, unless it was a professional [Greek organization].”
Other social fraternities and sororities on campus are national chapters, which have individual, specific rules regarding the gender identity of their members. Retting explained that these rules put gender non-binary students in ambiguous positions.
“You are not allowed to talk about politics during formal recruitment,” Retting said. “So if you go through formal recruitment, you can get a sense of the sororities, but there is a grey area about bringing up certain things that may be prevalent to your comfort, [safety or identity].”
However, TPS is not grown in complete opposition to the Greek system; membership is not exclusive to those who are not already members of Greek Life. In fact, three of the seven TPS Executives are members of the CWRU Greek community.
TPS’ “end goal,” according to Retting, “is to be in the [Greek Life Office].”
The Director of the Greek Life Office (GLO), Mark Starr, shared a statement when asked about the inclusion of gender non-binary students in the CWRU sorority system:
“The growing presence of gender-fluid or gender non-binary individuals merits increased consideration among multiple constituencies on our campus—that is, among sororities and others.”
This statement from the GLO is revised from a previous statement. The original was nearly identical, but included that “…individuals who consider themselves gender-fluid or gender non-binary represents an emerging trend.”
“I take some issue with the ‘trend’ part and ‘consider themselves to be’,” Retting said in response to the original statement. The revision was offered after the GLO was prompted in regard to this response.
The efforts of TPS are not without critique. An anonymous LGBT student says she is not planning to join, specifically because of the chapter’s intended involvement with the GLO.
“There are ways for us to build lifelong friendships and share values that do not require endorsing, and ultimately joining, a system that has historically discriminated against us,” she said. “Their policies of gender segregation, sexism, secrecy and exclusivity are contrary to the LGBT community’s values.”
“That’s something I really get and struggle with participating in Greek life,” Retting said. “But we, in TPS, want to make sure that if [Greek Life] is an experience people want, they are able to have that space.”
TPS will maintain its goal to “ensure that the Greek Life experience is accessible to everyone regardless of gender identity,” according to the description on the school’s LGBT Center’s website.
Spring Rush events took place throughout the month of February. After its conclusion, the CWRU TPS chapter will have its first group of official members.