Times Are A-Changin’

I was torn yesterday after finding out something about my sorority. For those of you that don’t know, I joined a sorority back during my junior year of college. This sorority was something that I actually began at my alma mater. It’s not a typical sorority though, as we are multiculturally based. So we accept women from all different cultures, religions, backgrounds, etc. 

Yesterday it was brought to my attention that we allowed a transgendered man into our org. Yes, a man. A man who is biologically a woman, but is now a man. I know a little bit about transgendered people, and feel like I’m open minded and accepting of those that feel they want to live their lives in any way they see fit. They don’t harm my life and so, I have no problems with them. They are after all, people. And for the most part, I like people. 🙂

That said, I had/have some weird feelings about this situation. In fact, I was pretty upset when I learned about this. The person is living as a “trans man”, meaning they are biologically female, but identify as male in all senses of the word. Therefore, we now have a man in our sisterhood.

I was confused at first, thinking he was living as a she. But upon further investigation, it’s the opposite. And in this case, I must say that I don’t feel comfortable belonging to an org that will accept men. Had he been trying to be a she, I would feel differently, I think, but that’s not the case. {However, upon further thought, I don’t know if I would feel comfortable with the opposite situation either. While, it would seem better in my mind if he were identifying as a she, he wouldn’t really be one. Thus, he would not really understand the trials and tribulations of what women truly go through, not being biologically female. I guess, if we’re an org for women, where we’d most certainly have dialogues about issues affecting women, my question is, can a male living as a women ever really understand those issues? I’d like to say no. Because, wearing the clothes, having longer hair, wearing makeup, etc doesn’t mean you now understand what it’s like really being a woman. Just as a woman identifying as a man wouldn’t really be able to understand what it’s like to be a man. And in general, perhaps those things don’t matter. But when it comes to belonging to a group, I would think some issues would arise. I could go on and on. But I digress.}

From what I have learned in one of my psych classes (and subsequent research), transgendered people want to be seen and identified as whatever gender they feel most comfortable with. Many will dress, and even go so far as to change their names, to go in accordance with the gender they’ve chosen to identify with. And let me say, based on what I’ve learned recently, there are SO many levels to the transgendered community. It really isn’t cut and dry. It’s not black and white at all for a lot of people who are in this community. Honestly, I can understand why there’s so much confusion for those of us outside this community, as there is disagreement about various terms within the community itself! I certainly can’t get into it here, but if you’re unfamiliar with the trans community, I urge you to do some research. It is, for lack of a better word, fascinating. I do feel that more people outside this community need to be educated. 

Back to the story… if this is the case, that this person would like to fully identify as a man, I assume I should be looking at this person as a man, correct? And if I’m correct in that assumption, then I shouldn’t feel bad for feeling weird about having a man in my sorority, correct?

I do want to stop and say that, I also feel bad because I know this comes across like I’m discriminating against this person. As a Black person, I know what that’s like, therefore who am I to say if this person can/cannot belong to something, right? For hundreds of years (and still today), Black people have been shut out of so many things because of their skin color (something we cannot change, I might add). In fact, that’s why there are historically black colleges, Black sororities/fraternities and other orgs for Black people. These things were started because we were excluded. So again, who am I to say this person shouldn’t be in our organization because they have chosen to no longer be a woman.

But for some reason, as I type that, it feels different. Sororities were meant for women. If we allow someone that wants to be male, then I don’t know….what’s the point? What’s the point of our org for women? I guess I’m saying, I respect this person’s wishes to identify as male. And I want to say, ok, this is a man and that’s fine by me. I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me. But, this man wants to belong to a group…that I’m apart of…that’s for women. It’s confusing, right? I don’t know this person, but it feels like the want to have their cake and eat it too. You want to be a guy, yet you want to belong to a group that’s for women? I don’t get the motivation. And I don’t think I would agree, even if I knew the motivation behind it. {EDIT: I’ve since learned the motivation behind his decision and I still don’t agree.}

All I can say is, I feel weird and I know publicly admitting it to others in my org will come across like I’m being closed-minded. If you’re reading this and you’re in my sorority, just know that I don’t care how this comes across. I’ve stated that I’m perfectly fine with this person being whatever they’d like to be because in general, they do not affect me. However, I am affected now because we’re both members of the same org. And as members, we are not always going to agree on things (and as a 15 year member, I have seen my share of disagreements). 

In short, I hope the organization has a discussion about this, one that results in something concrete about what qualifications are needed in order to become a member. And, if it comes down to us accepting more members like the one I’ve mentioned, I will probably not remain a member. That’s just me being completely honest.

If any of you are in fraternities or sororities, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Would your org be accepting of transgendered people? How would you feel personally if this happened in your org? Has this ever occurred in your org and if so, what happened?

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