Two years ago, Sam Reisler, a U3 History and Political Science student, annoyed with the lack of non-political queer student groups, Googled the term “gay fraternity,” and found the website for Delta Lambda Phi. With the tagline “National Social Fraternity for Gay, Bisexual and Progressive Men,” McGill’s chapter of Delta Lambda Phi (DLP) is the first of its kind at a Canadian university.
Today, Reisler is President of the DLP colony at McGill, currently in a probationary period before it can become a full chapter of the national fraternity. The colony is holding its third official recruitment this week, beginning Monday, January 17 and ending Sunday, January 23.
“[This colony] came out of the frustration of trying to meet, on campus, other people who identified as gay or bisexual who are not necessarily as politically oriented as others,” explained Reisler.
“That was one of the major issues with Queer McGill (QM) at the time – [it] is very political. QM is a great resource, but very limiting in the sense of who it appeals to,” added Reisler.
In contrast, DLP aims to be a more social and less political space for gay, bi, or questioning men to meet and interact.
The first chapter of the DLP was founded by Vernon L. Strickland III in Washington, D.C. in 1987, with the support of a trust established to create a social fraternity that would not discriminate based on sexual orientation. Since that time, the fraternity has burgeoned into an extensive fraternity with thirty chapters and colonies across the United States. Currently, the colony Reisler founded is the only DLP presence in Canada.
Traditionally, fraternities and sororities are associated with very conservative, heteronormative stereotypes; however, Reisler hopes that the DLP will help to change this perception.
“We need to shake off that image that fraternities are what you see in the movies…because they’re not,” said Reisler. “What it’s about is brotherhood or sisterhood and developing lifelong relationships.”
SSMU Equity Commissioner Emily Clare agreed. “[A gay fraternity] changes our understanding of frats, their place on campus, and role as a social place,” she said.
According to Reisler, the Greek community at McGill was very open to the fraternity when he applied to join the Inter-Greek Letter Council, a body that governs fraternities and sororities at McGill. DLP is now an official member of the council.
“[IGLC] has actually been very supportive of us,” stated Reisler. He went on to explain that the IGLC even sped up their application process by a few months because they were impressed by DLP’s commitment to its purpose, as well as its growth in the Greek community.
This semester, DLP is in contact with two sororities to plan future events; however, Reisler did note that fraternities have demonstrated more resistance.
“Generally frats are a more conservative structure,” explained Reisler.
Nevertheless, former Sigma Chi president Jesse Pratt, U3 Agricultural Economics, agreed that the demand for a gay fraternity on campus should be met.
“I think most people [in the Greek system] understand where [DLP is] coming from. This is a group that has traditionally been excluded from fraternities, and I hope some of that is changing,” Pratt stated.
“There are gay members in [other] fraternities, [and] here at McGill [Sigma Chi] is not going to exclude anyone like that. But everyone associates with who they feel comfortable with, each house is different and not right for everyone,” continued Pratt.
Reisler acknowledged these differences, though he insisted on the need for a chapter that offers a space specifically directed toward those who identify as male, and that may, but do not have to be, gay, bisexual, or questioning.
“Yes, [other fraternities] are open to all sexual orientations, but when have [they] ever had a mixer at a gay club?” questioned Reisler.
DLP also upholds a strict policy regarding relationships between members. Unofficially deemed the “hands off policy,” the Brother-Pledge Relations Policy strictly prohibits relationships between new recruits and frat members. However, relationships between members are permitted, and Reisler explained that relationships can, and have, worked extremely well within the fraternity. Nevertheless, all members are required to behave professionally and to refrain from demonstrating physical affection during official frat meetings or events.
In terms of fitting into the queer community, DLP has received some criticism for subscribing to the traditional gender binary of male and female.
Officially, Queer McGill has no relationship with DLP because the frat subscribes to the gender binary, as well as a hierarchical structure inherent in Greek society that contradicts QM’s mandate. However, Ryan Thom and Parker Villalpando, co-administrators of QM, both agreed that the fraternity was a positive addition to McGill, and the queer community as a whole.
“QM has always been supportive of bolstering the queer community on campus, [and the frat] definitely contributes a lot to the queer community,” said Villalpando, also a member of DLP.
Thom added, “A lot of people who are part of both [QM and DLP] gain a sense of community and mutual collaboration from the frat which I think is really important.”
While subscribing to the traditional male-female binary, DLP remains trans-friendly, and the frat hopes to help deconstruct the accepted heteronormativity of the Greek system.