Alpha Chi Omega embraces trans women
This August, the Gamma Upsilon chapter of Alpha Chi Omega will open its doors to around 300 women hoping to join their sisterhood, and for the first time, the sorority will officially embrace trans women as potential new members.
In a video and letter released Feb. 17, national president Angela Costley Harris said Alpha Chi Omega was adopting a stance on being inclusive to all who live and identify as women, regardless of their gender assigned at birth.
“Alpha Chi Omega is made up of real, strong women, and we want to support women,” said Kendall Isola, vice president of recruitment for the UH chapter. “No matter where you come from, what you’re born as — if you have our five membership criteria, you’re welcome here.”
Isola’s position requires her to be in charge of recruitment in the fall and spring when potential new members meet members of every sorority on campus and receive bids based on a mutual selection process.
In mid-February, Isola traveled to Indianapolis for recruitment training where Harris addressed trans women in her statement.
“This has been an issue that’s been asked about and talked about, and they’ve had a lot of questions,” Isola said. “The president wanted to talk to us about it because it falls under us.”
Shortly before the president addressed the women in Indianapolis, all members of the chapter received emails detailing the sorority’s new statement of position.
“Over the past year, Alpha Chi Omega has been challenged to re-examine the concepts of sisterhood and sorority through the lens of a quickly changing collegiate landscape,” Harris said in the video.
Before Alpha Chi Omega, three Panhellenic sororities had formal policies stating they welcome trans women: Kappa Kappa Gamma, Sigma Sigma Sigma and — the only one of the three that has a chapter on campus — Delta Gamma.
Houston Alpha Chi Omega chapter president Sarah Bullock said that to her knowledge, the chapter has never had a transgender sister, but that any connection felt between an active Alpha Chi and a potential new member where she would feel safe enough to talk about her gender identity during recruitment would be indicative of the connection the PNM has with the chapter.
“One of the biggest things about recruitment is that the girls are comfortable in the house,” Bullock said. “I haven’t heard girls open up about it yet, but I’ve heard of girls in other chapters that aren’t comfortable with it.”
On campus and on social media, the response to the sorority’s announcement has been predominantly positive. Though Harris acknowledged in her statement that some sisters might not be accepting of the new policy, she said that to remain relevant, Alpha Chi Omega must embrace the changing collegiate and cultural landscape.
“All the conversations I’ve had have been overwhelmingly positive, especially from sorority women,” said Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life Director Jason Bergeron, who also serves as the adviser to Alpha Chi Omega.
In a community where queer and transgender students have not always been openly accepted, Alpha Chi’s explicit policy of inclusivity has opened an inroad for non-binary sisters to find the best sorority for them.
“The LGBTQ Resource Center staff is appreciative of Alpha Chi Omega’s recent statement about the progressiveness of their membership as it relates to transwomen on campus,” said LGBTQ Resource Center program coordinator Jamie Gonzales in a statement. “This is a great first step to creating a welcoming environment for all on campus and in Greek life.”
Isola said the vice president of membership, Kate Rossiello, has reached out to the Women’s Gender Resource Center about the possibility of having a representative speak to the chapter and answer any questions about what falls under the edict.
“We’re an organization based on women helping women,” Isola said. “It’s time we address it and allow anybody that identifies as a woman to be a part of (Alpha Chi).”