New Orleans Trip to Inclusiveness

| Sep 3, 2018
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At the beginning of August, I visited New Orleans for several days. (That’s why I didn’t have a column last month — I was there.) I still haven’t written about it on my blog, as I’m still processing what it meant to me personally, and because I think that my TGForum readers deserved first dibs on the story.

I was there for my fraternity’s semi-annual “Grand Chapter,” which is where delegates from all of the chapters of Phi Kappa Sigma (schools where the fraternity has members) as well as alumni gather to learn things, learn about people other than themselves, share best practices, and vote on fraternity policy.

For the previous eighteen months, I’d been working with a committee of brothers to write a Transgender Inclusive clause to the fraternity constitution. In this case, that means transgender men could become brothers. As far as transgender women (like me,) once we are initiated, we are members no matter what. The idea is that “anyone who self-identifies as male” is eligible to join the fraternity. There was at least one lawyer in the group, and they handled the legalese, with input from me about inclusive language.

In addition to the actual legislation, we had to craft instruction about what “transgender” means — Trans 101. That was my show. Not only did I have to educate the other people on the committee, but also the entire fraternity. With that in mind, I used my Mad Instructional Design Skillz to create a one sheet of definitions and raw basics. I also participated in three conference call forums open to members. Also, I re-tasked my Transgender 101 presentation specifically for this audience.

For all of these things, the fraternity invited me to the Grand Chapter. They gave me free admission, and comped my room (sort of.) I had a free flight from Southwest waiting, so I used it. I was looking forward to a very cheap working vacation.
It ended up not being cheap, but that’s my own fault.

On Friday, August 3, I presented my “Trans 101” lesson to a packed room. I also conducted (with the one lawyer) a Q&A about the proposed amendment and transgender issues. Saturday August 4 was the day to discuss legislation. The room was VERY stuffy. After a couple of hours, the topic of the Trans-inclusive clause occurred.

I can’t go into specifics, but I’ll tell what I can. The discussion became VERY heated at times. I was called an “it” and a “tranny” by a couple of undergraduates (actives.) I was a “subject matter expert,” as well as one of the lawyers who was on the team, so we spoke fairly often; countering misinformation.

In the end, the amendment failed to get the 2/3 votes from actives it required.

However, it was re-tasked as a POLICY. There was more heated discussion, but the policy passed overwhelmingly, as alumni were able to vote on that.

And so it is that Phi Kappa Sigma has a policy of transgender inclusiveness. I was drained by the end of the discussion, and went upstairs to re-do my makeup and change for the “black tie” gala to follow.

Sophie in black

Ready for the Gala

I should note that the active who called me an “it” apologized sincerely and profusely to me. The “tranny” one… he apologized but I’m not sure of his sincerity. I bought them both drinks as a fraternal gesture of “no hard feelings.”

I must say I was VERY disappointed by how heated the discussion became. I’d mingled with all of these people. We drank, laughed, and shared time together. I thought I’d made a good impression. I was sadly mistaken.

I’ve become much better at not taking the Hate personally. I understand that their anger is based from fear. I get that. But these were brothers of MY fraternity — the one that I swore an oath to back in May 1985. Despite some VERY difficult times inflicted upon me by some of the brothers back in my undergraduate days, I have remained loyal to my oath. I have served the fraternity as an officer, and as a member of my chapter’s alumni board. 33 years after my initiation, I still do my best to be a good representative of Phi Kappa Sigma (and of Penn State.)

I must say, that anger HURT. Bad.

So now most of these schools are back in session. The policy is in place. Will it make a difference? Who know? I actually doubt it. But it was a step in the right direction. And if it helps just ONE person, then I’m content.

Maybe I’ll write about the personal adventures on my blog someday. But I doubt it.

Be well.

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul, Transgender Community News

Sophie Lynne

About the Author ()

Read Sophie's blog here. View her contribution to The New York Times transgender stories article. She has also been featured in an article on Philly.com.

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