Lambda men are making their presence known
by Amelia Epley
A group of gay men at Vanderbilt University is forging a new path in the school's Greek system.
Junior Spencer Montalvo and sophomores Jason Elmer and Bryann DaSilva are working toward establishing a gay fraternity, Delta Lambda Phi, on campus by the spring of 2011.
“Most people on campus are very excited that this is happening,” Montalvo said.
The fraternity is still in the colonization stage but already has 11 men ready to pledge with rush scheduled for the end of the semester. The group's organizers hope to receive their charter in the fall of 2011. Vanderbilt is the first school in Tennessee to host Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity that welcomes gay, bisexual and progressive men, and that's something that others in the Greek system are calling courageous, the men said.
“Vanderbilt is huge on Greek life,” Elmer said. “But it was also very one dimensional and it kept many gay men from becoming involved.”
A 1996 national survey sponsored by the Association of Fraternity Advisers showed that more than 70 percent of gay and lesbian members of Greek-letter societies reported homophobic attitudes within their chapters.
That's part of the reason that H.G. Stovall, president of the Tennessee Equality Project and the fraternity's adviser, is thrilled about what these college students are doing.
"I am very proud of this group of young men, and I'm proud to serve as their adviser,” Stovall said. “As a fraternity man myself, it's exciting to see equality coming to the Greek community of not only an SEC school, but also one in the top 20." Stovall pledged Kappa Alpha Order at Tennessee Tech in 1998.
Elmer, Montalvo and Desilva proposed the addition of the new fraternity to Greek Row after discovering the existence of the national fraternity, Delta Lambda Phi, a few months ago. The forward-thinking university already offers several resources for GLBT students including the Office of LGBTQI Life, which provides information and support to students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex, as well as the Lambda Association, which aims to inform the entire Vanderbilt community of issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity.
Junior Jody Kittle said the new group will offer a outlet with a social focus outside of the other GLBT groups on campus.
The men hope to eventually see Delta Lambda Phi completely integrated into Vanderbilt's Greek society, but made it clear that conformation is not their aim.
“We don’t want to conform to what everyone else is doing,” Kittle said. “We’re really here to make the gay community more visible and make it a more accepting environment.”