School’s Only Gay Greek Group Joins Interfraternity CouncilVincent Quan covers student communities. Contact him at [email protected]
Friday, October 19, 2007
UC Berkeley’s only gay fraternity made history Wednesday night by being the first organization of its kind ever to be voted into the campus Interfraternity Council.
Before Sigma Epsilon Omega was formally accepted at the IFC meeting, its president and founder Travis Garcia discussed why the organization sought entrance into the council and official fraternity status.
“The boys of SEO have proven both their loyalty to our fraternity and to each other and over the last 8 months have really lived up to the ideal of being a family,” Garcia said in an e-mail.
The fraternity currently has 20 active members and nine pledges.
Garcia added that his fraternity could provide gay students with an chance to feel accepted in the community.
“In a time when gay youth are two to three times more likely to commit suicide ... , SEO hopes to give gay youth a chance at a more normal life, where guys can be themselves and have fun without worrying about all the other problems around them,” he said.
Billy Curtis, the director of the Gender Equity Resource Center, said the fraternity’s acceptance into the IFC was a prime example of diversity in the Greek community and on campus.
“I think ... it sends a message that diversity is welcome in all corners of the UC Berkeley community,” he said.
The Greek system at UC Berkeley is one of the most accepting in the nation, said Grahaeme Hesp, the campus director of fraternity and sorority life. Hesp estimates that 10 percent of the campus Greek community is gay.
Garcia said he was pleased by the level of acceptance in the Greek community, but that he felt left out when he considered joining other fraternities.
“In a way, fraternities are kind of like a straight-guy bonding,” he said. “When you are one of the boys, you are talking about the girls. If you are gay, it would be hard to relate a little bit.”
Sophomore Walfre Cruz, who rushed Sigma Epsilon Omega last semester, emphasized the fraternity’s role in helping him come out as a gay man to friends and family.
“Once I joined it, it made it a lot easier to come out to my family and come out to my friends,” he said.
Cruz said fraternities and sororities have been helpful in assimilating Sigma Epsilon Omega into the Greek system.
“We were invited to the Greek Olympics,” he said. “I was expecting a little bit of awkwardness since we are gay. But, it wasn’t awkward at all. They are totally accepting of it.”
Garcia expressed excitement over his fraternity’s acceptance into the IFC and said he believed perceptions of the Greek community will improve.
“Wednesday’s vote was an affirmation that the IFC believes in the values of the University of California and that the Greek Community stands behind the idea that we are all one Cal Family,” he said in an e-mail.
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