Gay Fraternity Wins Recognition From UCLA

Times Education Writer

A month after UCLA gave formal recognition to a sorority formed by lesbians, the university on Thursday approved a fraternity of gay men. In both cases, such university affiliation is thought to be the first of their kind in the nation, organizers of the groups said.

The fraternity, Delta Lambda Phi, has 11 members and is a spinoff of a Washington-based organization that is trying to form chapters at four other campuses around the country, including UC San Diego. Leaders said the fraternities will provide a friendly alternative both to what they complain is an anti-homosexual atmosphere at most Greek letter clubs and the sex-and-alcohol culture of gay bars.

“Gay people need a lot of support in their college years,” said Jason Howe, the UCLA senior who is the group’s president. “They are trying to come to grips with growing up, getting through college and getting a career. But they also have to come to grips with their sexuality.”


University recognition means the fraternity can use the school’s name, meet in university buildings and apply for money from student activities funds, according to Chris Fishburn, UCLA’s director of fraternity and sorority relations. However, the fraternity cannot discriminate against heterosexuals, if any apply, she said.

Its carefully worded constitution says the club will “promote the just and equitable treatment of all individuals, especially gay men and lesbians.”

“It is certainly appropriate that they be recognized, given the fact that their structure of organization does meet university policy,” Fishburn said.

Asked about the possible reception the new fraternity will receive on campus, Fishburn replied: “I think psychologists would tell us that college-age men are more likely to be homophobic than other segments of the community. But whether that is true in fraternities more than in other segments of this campus is questionable.”

James Rice, a senior who is president of the UCLA Interfraternity Council, which coordinates 26 other fraternities, said members of Delta Lambda Phi will not be hassled but probably will not receive a warm welcome either. He questioned whether sexuality is a valid common denominator on which to form a fraternity.

“Personally, I think it is unfortunate,” he said. “A fraternity in my mind is part of the traditional American way, and homosexuality just doesn’t seem to fit into that traditional view.”

However, he added, the freedom for minorities to dissent is “American too.”

According to Jeff Stabile, a senior who is co-director of publicity for the new fraternity: “Any kind of new political statement by gays is sure to be met with some antagonism. But any time people have to discuss the topic, it’s a positive step.”

Stabile and two friends sued Disneyland a month ago, alleging that the amusement park barred them from touch-dancing together last year. The case is pending.

Fearing negative reaction from friends, relatives and employers who do not know of their sexuality, a few Delta Lambda Phi members declined to be interviewed or photographed.

“Openness is a relative term,” Stabile said.

Delta Lambda Phi does not have a house and cannot seek membership in the Interfraternity Council until its national umbrella group grows larger, university officials said. The UCLA chapter plans to do charity work, such as helping on an upcoming bicycle marathon to raise AIDS research funds. Members also plan to hold rush parties, “hopefully not as out of line as the other fraternities’ parties,” one member said.

Organizers, many of whom are also leaders in the politically oriented Gay and Lesbian Assn. on campus, stressed that the fraternity is not for matchmaking.

“Yes, it is a possibility we may find somebody in the fraternity. But the chances of two people getting along is no more than a (straight) fraternity member dating someone from a sister sorority,” said sophomore Adam Ross, Delta Lambda Phi treasurer.

The adviser for the UCLA fraternity and for a small group trying to organize in San Diego is Chris Williamson, a USC urban planning lecturer.

“We are trying to encourage socializing outside of the bar environment and its negative emphasis on alcohol and drugs,” he said.

Williamson said he thought some heterosexuals might join.

“I don’t think we will get the main-line typical jock, but we may get the avant-garde or artist types who don’t see themselves as fitting into a regular fraternity,” he said.

Members said they began to talk half-jokingly of a fraternity a few months ago and that the success of the gay sorority, Lambda Delta Lambda, encouraged them to act.

“Lambda Delta Lambda showed us we could do it too,” Howe said.

Vernon Strickland, chairman of the fraternity’s national sponsor, said a Washington chapter was formed in October, 1986, but has yet to affiliate with any campus there. In addition to the two UC schools, chapters may be formed at the University of Minnesota, Temple University in Philadelphia and the State University of New York at Stonybrook.

Strickland, who is a clerk for a federal judge, praised the decision by UCLA and said it hoped it would encourage others.