My sorority, like dozens of other Greek organizations, calls Indianapolis, Indiana home. Headquarters is where national staff keep busy with day-to-day operations, and that might seem boring to most of us collegians, but after graduating, the national headquarters will become the center of our Greek lives. They keep track of the whereabouts of alumni, organize alumnae chapters and events, and host the conventions and workshops where we can connect with our sisters and brothers from across the country, whether they graduated a year ago or decades ago. Many national headquarters have museums and archives documenting their history, and though it can sometimes be hard to remember during a long chapter meeting or while putting your all into Greek Week, we’re all part of the continuing histories of our organizations. Headquarters is so crucial to creating the “It’s not for four years, it’s for life” adage we love to repeat. Though you may not have much contact with nationals in your day-to-day life, it’s the headquarters that keeps your organization running and growing.
But because of who I am, I won’t be traveling to my sorority’s headquarters anytime soon, not as long as they’re in Indianapolis, or not until some serious changes are made.
Recently, Indiana governor Mike Pence signed “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act” into law, guaranteeing the rights of Indiana business owners to refuse service to same-sex couples if it violates their religious beliefs. The bill has generated quite a lot of controversy — one because it seems to be giving a free pass to homophobia, and two, because it seems to assume that religious freedom had gone away and needs to come back. Being able to practice whichever faith you want is a right we all deserve, but LGBT people also deserve the right to live openly and find nothing but love and acceptance in their communities, in Indiana and across the nation.
Greek organizations headquartered in Indiana, of course, are not responsible for this new law, but just the fact that this law exists now limits the rights of many of their members.
I’m a lesbian. I’m a lesbian in a sorority. And no, I did not join to find girls to date. I joined for the same reason any other woman would—to find sisters, to grow as a woman, to develop my leadership skills, and of course to make my four years in college the most fulfilling they possibly could. I was out when I went through recruitment. I’ve had female formal dates. I’m not even the only non-straight woman in my chapter—and with one in twenty American adults identifying as LGBT, there’s probably someone in your chapter who isn’t straight, too. But I didn’t just join for the sisters on campus, I joined to be part of a national network of women who call my organization home, and call it home for life. And while this law might soon get shot down, just the fact that it passed at all worries me. What if I visited my organization’s headquarters with a girlfriend and we couldn’t find a hotel that would let us have a room together? What if, years from now, my wife and I attended conventions for our own respective sororities but couldn’t fill up our car once we crossed the Indiana state line because it went across the gas station clerk’s religious beliefs to serve a lesbian couple? What if I could never truly take advantage of all lifelong membership has to offer because of some stranger’s religious beliefs?
I spent eighteen years of my life hiding who I really was from everyone around me, out of fear that I wouldn’t be accepted. And they were a very lonely, very scary eighteen years. In my sorority, I found acceptance and love from each and every one of my sisters—and that’s what being Greek is about, more than anything else. And even if the organizations headquartered in Indiana don’t support this law, staying silent is essentially accepting it. Now more than ever, fraternities and sororities need to speak up against discrimination, even if it’s not happening within their own chapters or the schools that host them. Greek life is about creating the leaders of tomorrow—who, for my own sake and the sake of every LGBT member of Greek life out there, can stand up to Indiana and Governor Mike Pence for creating an environment in which bigotry is permissible. But for as long as this law is on the books, I won’t be visiting my organization’s headquarters, and I implore every Greek, collegian or alum, to stand on the right side of history and stand with their LGBT brothers and sisters..