Out on Rugby: Gay fraternity faces vote

UVA prides itself on its growing diversity. However, the typical definitions of "diversity" refer to the ethnic and gender varieties.

Not quite a year since its inception, one group is trying to redefine mainstream diversity– and Greek life. The group, 10 members of UVA's Queer Student Union, have formed Out on Rugby, and they're currently about two-thirds of the way to becoming UVA's first gay fraternity.

The group has already become one of the University's Contracted Independent Organizations with probationary status from UVA's Multicultural Greek Council (MGC), a governing council parallel to the more well-known IFC. Out on Rugby moves toward the final step to becoming a sanctioned UVA fraternity next week.

On Tuesday, February 10, the members of Out on Rugby will make their bid for inclusion in the MGC as a proposed chapter of the National Gay Fraternity, Delta Lambda Phi.

"It's not just an organization for gay men," says education student and fraternity organizer Anthony Whitten, "but one that pays special service to what it means to be a gay man and also acknowledges that there are other people in the world who aren't gay."

According to Whitten, the group finally agreed upon Delta Lambda Phi because "It's a fraternity structured around service, brotherhood, and leadership."

Following the presentation to the MGC, the presidents of the seven member organizations will vote on whether to grant Out on Rugby fraternity status and accept the group as the eighth member of the organization.

The outcome of this vote promises to be a landmark decision in the history of the University.

According to Whitten, "The number of openly gay brothers on Rugby Road is very few."

Although UVA fraternities do presently include openly homosexual members and may not reject candidates on the basis of either race or sexual orientation, they are still often revered as one of the surviving strongholds of straight, predominantly white, male interaction.

With this reputation comes a certain degree of anxiety involving possible correlations between fraternal life and homosexuality.

In a recent interview in the Cavalier Daily, IFC President Ryan Ewalt acknowledged that attempts to formally integrate openly gay individuals into mainstream Greek life may encounter hurdles.

"I think that because the majority of men in IFC fraternities are not homosexual, I could see that as being an uncomfortable situation for both homosexual and heterosexual men. But I think that's reflective of society," Ewalt says.

Traditionally, in an attempt to thwart any homosexual accusations, fraternities have implicitly defined themselves as a space in which close male interactions can occur without members having to fear being regarded as homosexual.

"There's that tension within homosocial groups," says another Out of Rugby founder, Luke Ward. "Like fraternities," Ward says, homosocial groups "have to avoid the stigma of homosexuality, so they have to repress all of those aspects of their sexuality that might be homosexual, and that's a great strain on people in these groups."

Now, with their attempt to "go Greek," Out on Rugby is annihilating distinctions integral to these traditional social definitions of masculinity in relation to fraternity life and, by doing so, Ward hopes they are making things easier for all involved.

"I guess," says Ward, "having a group of openly gay people who can be homosocial with each other, but not sexual, admit that they are homosexual, might give these people some courage to acknowledge their complete sexuality."

If nothing else, it will encourage homosexual university students to take a more active role in rush, thus furthering the diversity that, as the reams of statistics on the UVA homepage indicate, the University holds so dear.

They won't sing "not gay."