Culture | A fraternity in modernity

Delta Lambda Phi becomes Canada’s first gay frat

Greek life at McGill is relatively unknown to the greater part of the student body. Since it is a very insular community, revolutions within this group end up largely unpublicized and unnoticed.

This February, McGill’s Delta Lambda Phi (DLP) fraternity is leading such a revolution, as it is set to achieve official chapter status as Canada’s first and only fraternity for, according to their website, “gay, bisexual, and progressive men.”

DLP originated in the United States, and was officially started at Washington University in 1982 to address the lack of opportunities for gay men within the largely heteronormative Greek community.

“This alpha chapter became a venue for gay men to grow, to have the same interaction and opportunities, to create fraternal bonds that they are regularly excluded from,” said Michael D’Alimonte, current president of DLP’s McGill colony. “It is a strictly social venue for gay men to converge on, considering that many LGBTQ groups, even at McGill, have a very political background.”

After DLP was founded, chapters of the colony started to emerge in various universities across the United States. Then, in 2009, former DLP president Sam Reisler found the lack of a fraternity for non-heterosexual men at McGill to be a glaring void, and set about filling it.

“Essentially, he googled ‘gay fraternities’ and found DLP. He then contacted a few brothers at the national office, determined the basic requirements, what they do, what they’re about,” says D’Alimonte. “He then sent out a Queer McGill listserv email to determine interest, and that formed the initial basis of the colony.”

But how had this void gone unnoticed for so long at McGill? “I think that says a lot about the University’s environment in itself,” says Inter Greek Letter Council (IGLC) president Ally Gilmartin, “There are so many things to get involved in, and school itself is so consuming…and with so much else going on, it’s easy to understand how fraternity-life would be passed over. [Greek organizations] are [present], there are a bunch of us, but it’s not the first thing you think of when you think of McGill.”

Establishing an officially recognized chapter of a fraternity is a slow and painstaking process requiring constant commitment. “The initial steps to help the colony get started were slow,” said Christopher Newman of the Fraternity Office. “Since they were our first attempt with a chapter outside the United States, these men have made the process a moment of pride for DLP.”

“The process has been an amazing and rewarding one for the Fraternity Office. The McGill Colony possesses an amazing group of men, and it was recognized as the 2011 Colony of the Year at our National Convention in Philadelphia,” Newman added.

After establishing an interest group on the McGill campus, which was officially recognized by the organization’s headquarters in 2009, the colony has been working to strengthen its structural foundation. “Gaining recognition as a colony – which is a chapter in training – rather than just an interest group, was hugely important,” says D’Alimonte. “After creating this foundation, we became the core group working to fulfill colony requirements.”

Their first rush proved another challenge. “It was a big deal for us because we doubled in size, which was difficult internally,” said D’Alimonte. “Getting involved with the IGLC and building our presence on campus was daunting immediately after having grown so quickly.”

DLP’s integration into IGLC allowed the fraternity to have a newfound opportunity to amplify its presence of campus. “Being part of IGLC facilitates campus involvement, to maximize the potential of Greek organizations,” said Gilmartin. “People had heard about the gay fraternity, but now, we were at events and people saw every one of us and came to know us as individuals,” D’Alimonte added, about DLP’s IGLC membership.

Gaining full chapter status is the last step in a long process. “It’s the culmination of all our work, it increases our legitimacy and reduces our reliance on the Fraternity office,” said D’Alimonte, “It makes us more legitimate in our own ceremonies and gives us a better presence on campus. Now, the fraternity is established enough to not fall apart if a few committed members graduate and leave.”

As McGill’s DLP chapter paves the way for subsequent colonies and chapters at other Canadian universities, the Fraternity office plans on using it as a “stellar example of how new colonies should operate,” Newman elaborated.

The chapter’s members are also focused on having the fraternity recognized for its commitment to promoting social awareness regarding gay, bisexual and progressive men, while providing a social network for the same.

“As a group, we provide awareness of the community in a more social setting,” described DLP pledge Nick Opinsky, “We’re very diverse personalities. Being a part of DLP has shown me that gay men aren’t a stereotype, and it has increased all of our own individual understandings of the extent of our diversity.”

DLP currently helps raise funds for AlterHeroes, a Montreal-based website that serves queer youth by creating a forum for discussion and interaction with other members of the community.

“It’s a support system, which is what DLP provides also, and that’s what I missed out on before I joined the fraternity,” said Opinsky. The idea of a specific core group of values is what binds DLP together, perhaps more so than any other Greek organization. “Other fraternities have an alumni network too, but DLP is different because we have a common principle and outlook that ties us together more strongly than other fraternities and sororities… It’s a strongly bonded network that intensifies the support system itself,” Opinsky elaborated.

These core values may attest to DLP becoming a newly international fraternity despite being established for only 25 years. “Having a chapter in Canada demonstrates the expanse and reach that the message, values and principles of DLP have,” said Newman, “We have never seen our age as a disadvantage, considering our purposes for existing and the timeline of the LGBTQ issues in the US. In fact, we are the first and largest fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men on the continent.”

DLP doesn’t see itself slacking off anytime soon, it seems. “As we become a chapter, we have to focus more on ourselves as part of the community,” said D’Alimonte. “We have to shift our focus to campus- and community-based projects, and have the initiative to better the environment for men who aren’t part of the fraternity.

“We have more responsibilities than other established fraternities, because we’re going to be remembered as McGill’s pioneers,” added Opinsky.

Despite DLP being a relatively young fraternity with decades and not centuries of Greek history to its name, the dedication and consistent effort arguably makes up for it. Ryerson University in Toronto has recently shown interest in establishing a chapter, further demonstrating that while Canadian interest in non-heterosexual male fraternities has been dormant, it is on the rise.

 

In celebration of its official recognition, DLP is hosting the “All Things Canadian” party on Friday, January 20 at Thompson House. Contact Michael D’Alimonte for $8 tickets to the event at 514-441-4102.


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