By Hannah Himes
For The Diamondback
Two LGBT students at the University of Maryland and one alumna, who are all also members of Greek Life, shared their individual experiences of coming out at the "Out & Greek" panel Thursday to help change the perceptions about LGBT people in Greek Life.
The event, organized by Greek Alliance, a student-run organization, sought to promote allyship within fraternity and sorority life, said the event's organizer, Courtney Steininger.
"There's a lot of fear that Greek Life is a place that is frequently associated with more traditional values and traditional images of masculinity and femininity," said Steininger, a senior English major, and one of the event's three panelists.
"There's a fear that if you don't fit in one of those specific images that you're not necessarily going to fit in a fraternity or sorority," Steininger added. "I hope that this shows that people in the Greek community are having these conversations."
About 13 percent of the undergraduate student population participate in Greek Life, according to a fall 2017 university academic report.
"It was cool that it's a panel about students talking about themselves. That it's an actual panel of students around us, that are part of it," said Maddie DiNino, a freshman public policy major.
All three panelists, which included Steininger, Sara Yoe, a 2016 graduate from this university and Joey Miller, a senior education major, said that coming out to their respective chapters wasn't an ordeal.
"I came out when it came up. It was just like a really casual thing," Yoe said, adding that their sisters were "amazing."
Steininger remembered it being "really anticlimactic" when she came out to her chapter. Miller said his fraternity brothers didn't care when he came out.
"It didn't really affect me at all," Miller said.
Greek Alliance wanted to create an event for pride month, which honors the Stonewall riots, when members of the LGBT community rioted after a gay club was raided in Manhattan in 1969.
The panelists denied feeling like there was stigma about Greek Life in the LGBT community.
"Where the stereotypes tend to be is before people go to recruitment," Steininger said. "LGBT tend to think there's not a place for them in Greek Life."
The alliance has never hosted an event of this scale, Steininger said. More than 100 attendees packed the lecture hall. Students lined the walls and sat on the floor when the chairs ran out.
"I thought it was really eye-opening to be able to see the point of view of members in the LGBT community," said Danielle Sickels, a freshman enrolled in letters and sciences.
Many Greek Life members attended in order to fill a mandatory attendance quota, but other expressed genuine interest in it.
"We're also excited to learn," said Sydney Crawford, a freshman communication major. "I'm interested to learn more about Greek Life and whoever embodies Greek Life. It's interesting to hear the different perspectives and sides."
Joseph Dawson, a senior bioengineering major, said as a gay man in a fraternity, "It's difficult to have these conversations."
The discussion "needs to be had," because Greek Life is divided by gender, Dawson said, and though it's difficult to talk about gender and sexuality, "we can't let issues like this be ignored."