Create Positive Change : Forming a LGBTQ, Allied & Gender Neutral Sorority in the Bible Belt

Post by Delilah Schmidt for the Love for Love series.

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You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi

Create Positive Change

The Southern United States usually conjures visions of women in hoop skirts sipping sweet tea on a front porch swing. The South also invokes thoughts of repression, plantations and the Rebel flag. When I moved from Washington, D.C. to Mississippi in 2007 I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock; football, Greek life and religion all take on a new meaning down here. In fairness I don’t think Mississippi was entirely ready for me either. We’re a work in progress.

Membership in a sorority wasn’t on my list of things to do when I moved down here. Let alone being the President and founding member of a sorority. I admit to falling prey to the traditional stereotypes of sororities, of member conformity and only attending college to catch a husband. Conformity isn’t really my thing and a husband wasn’t a priority on my list of things to do.

I never gave sororities or sorority women much of a second thought beyond the stereotypes, until a friend mentioned that due to having a girlfriend she could not Rush. (Rush, I was later to learn is a sort of speed dating for sororities. At some schools this is a weeklong occurrence with several events for Rushees to attend.)

Another friend mentioned that she had begun the bid process for an organization but was ask to leave once it was found out she had a same sex significant other. I was now curious about these organizations and began to research them.

Sororities, it turned out, were started to support women who were attending universities and colleges for the first time. You can imagine my confusion as to why an organization wouldn’t accept someone based on their sexual orientation, especially one based on support.

Myself and several other young women came together to form Delta Omega Lambda (DOL), an allied gender neutral sorority. We chose to start our own organization because there wasn’t an organization already in existence that met out goals. Our organization is also gender neutral so we accept male and male identified individuals, as well as accepting graduate and undergraduate members students.

We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, just add some glitter to it.

We want those in the LGBTQ and Allied community to have the option to wear Greek letters proudly and to be part of an organization that doesn’t require them to hide or closet themselves. (There are Greek organizations that do not discriminate against these in the LGBTQ and allied community. Please do not think I am saying that all pre-existing Greek organizations are bad or discriminate.) DOL works to make a positive change on campus by providing those in the LGBTQ and Allied community the opportunity to be involved in a Greek modeled organization.

(Delilah shows up around 3.24!)
We have received nothing but positive support from the university. Since our formation we have pledged three classes of members and are beginning the preparation for our forth class in the fall. To encourage positive change at the university and surrounding community, DOL supports and participates in our universities Safe Zone training workshops and events. We also participate in the university’s New Student Organization Fair; these events encourage new students to become involved with student organizations.

At the first Safe Zone training that DOL attending, a student shared a story of being dismissed from their student internship because their supervisor discovered they were gay. DOL began working with Out For Work, an organization that will help certify our universities’ Career Center has resources available for LGBTQ students.

We know we can’t right every wrong but we do what we can to make a positive change.

DOL has also co-sponsored Mississippi Safe Schools 2011 Second Chance Prom. The Second Chance Prom is for those who could not attend a prom as they are such as with a same sex date or in a tuxedo. This event allows them to be themselves and to do the traditional prom things.

Speaking of traditions, I’m sure by now you’ve heard of a certain chicken restaurant.

The chicken controversy is getting a lot of news coverage and emotion from people. Personally, and yes I am making light of the situation, I’m worried chickens of the world are going to have an existential crisis. Their motives for crossing the road have been questioned for years. Now they’ll be scrutinized for their beliefs about marriage equality! Super bad time to be a chicken, if you ask me. No I do not eat at the specific chicken restaurant unless I have to, stuck on campus with five minutes to get food and no other food places are open. I think Mother Teresa had it right, “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”

Here is where I encourage you to support love, equality and leave hate to the haters.

As a student I don’t have a lot of money so I tried to focus on where I can donate my time and energy.

• If you’re a university or college student – see if your institution has a Safe Zone program, a Spectrum or other LGBTQ and Allied student organization or start your own.

• Need school supplies? Office Depot has released a line of supplies that support Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.

• For those of you who aren’t university or college affiliated investigate your community. Does your city have a Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) chapter, a chapter of The Trevor Project, or a Safe Schools organization?

Don’t have money or time? How about simply smiling at strangers.

Delilah Schmidt is a Master’s Candidate in the Department of Sociology at Mississippi State University. Her interest areas for research are sexuality, gender and public policy. She is married to her best friend and biggest supporter, Ariel Nachtigal. Delilah is currently the Vice President of Delta Omega Lambda. She prefers dogs to cats and iced chai to coffee.


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