Just stepping foot on campus during Greek Week and recruitment can be a gauntlet of fliers, invitations and most of all, chubbies shorts. An alphabet soup of Chis and Sigmas, and the occasional Pi. Some just see it as an innocent display of loyalty to a creed, and an invitation to community and friendship that lasts a lifetime through the adoption of the title of “Brother.” But there’s something that reaches way past friendship and brotherhood. It’s infested with this need for hypermasculinity to enforce a positive feedback loop to empower their heterosexuality with continuous masculinity.
My first encounter with our ever-accepting fraternity life here on campus occurred only a year ago at the tail end of my freshmen year at “Relay for Life.” It had been around six or seven hours since I arrived with the Florida Gulf Coast University Gay Straight Alliance to be an active participant in the days activities. Halfway through the day we come to find out that the Mr. and Mrs. Relay event at the end of the night was a drag competition. “Oh Happy Day,” we thought, all eyes shot to Trixie Towers, our resident Queen who does a fabulous job at her performances.
She accepted the proposition and was whisked away for her transformation. Flash-forward to the night’s performance. The audience seated in a half circle encompassing the “stage” that was nothing more than an open patch of grass in between us and the mainstage with Rachel Valentine, the night’s emcee, smack-dab in the middle. The left side of the audience consisted of PIKEs, the center was everyone else, and the entire right side was your fellow queers exclaiming in excitement at every last word Ms. Valentine spoke.
But our excitement was peppered with homo- and transphobia courtesy of PIKEs to our left. Improper pronouns and slurs flew from the mouths of these “Southern gentlemen” faster than they could probably think. With this being my first encounter with the frat life here at FGCU, it not only caught me extremely off guard, but it offended every fiber of my being. How could this be allowed to go on? Behavior like this is why thousands of LGBTQ+ youth a year commit suicide, and yet here it is, being thrown out left and right at a fundraiser for cancer awareness.
Next thing you know Trixie was going full force in her performance and the crowd loved it. Except for the PIKEs. When I asked one student, who wanted to remain anonymous, about their take on the PIKEs behavior, he said, “There was no level of respect from them even though they knew beforehand that there was going to be a Mr. and Mrs. Relay competition fundraiser. Though they were disrespectful I just think it was from a lack of education about the LGBT community.”
I guess Trixie got too close to them for their frail sense of heteromasculinity to handle and they decided the mature thing to do was scream, throw their chairs out from under them, and run off like 5-yearolds. Not a single dollar at the end of all the performances was spared to Trixie from the left side of the audience, and when Rachel Valentine remarked that she wanted to take a “Pic with a PIKE” (you know — their “fundraiser” for the event), the PIKEs proceeded to run over, pick up the throne prop they were using for these pictures, and return it to the back of someone’s truck.
Fellow FGCU student Kimberly Barger had this to say about their behavior, “They were jerks to them, (and) their behavior wasn’t called for. They knew the drag show would be happening; they didn’t have to join in. But Rachel and Trixie handled it greatly.”
That’s what we are faced with. That is what I see every day through the outward actions of these supposed “gentlemen” a need to sate their desire for an identifiable sense of heteromasculinity that is incessantly obnoxious and ridiculous.
Walking down the center of the library lawn during IFC Rush around early September, not once was I invited to stop at a table and talk, but I was certainly hit with a bounty of side-eye filled with contempt. However, let’s take a moment to note that every other identifiably heterosexual male around me was stopped and spoken to. I boil my lack of interaction with these wonderful men down to my visible rainbow lanyard that I carry with me everywhere as a reminder of self and an identifier to others around me that I am a queer man here and refuse to not be seen. I center this next remark directly at the fraternities here on campus: Open your eyes. There are queer people. We actually exist. I know — crazy, right? And I know more than a handful of us are in your groups. But you don’t, and you want to know why?
Because some of you have this desire to maintain an archaic sense of “manhood” through gender projection that’s as ridiculous as chubbies shorts and boat shoes on an everyday basis. You have “brothers” who are hiding their true selves behind closet doors because there are vocal members within your frats that have a self-absorbed belief that if he’s gay, then he is going to come onto you in some overdramatized gay porno locker room fantasy.
You are not building community and bridging gaps between the diversity in your groups to create a tight knit community of people who push each other toward success. You continue to marginalize and ostracize people who you call your “brothers” because of one facet of the multitude of humanity that exists in each and every single one of us.
Some of you say that I’m just being an angry queer with a vendetta, but I can guarantee you that that is not the case. I received no response from the PIKE president after emailing him asking for his perspective on the events that took place last year. Not a single response. To me, that speaks volumes. And that is obnoxiously masculine.