This weekend, McGill’s Beta Omega Chapter of fraternity Delta Lambda Phi made history by participating in Montreal Pride (Fierté Montréal). According to the chapter’s press release, this was the first time that any university fraternity has participated in Montreal Pride, an annual LGBTQA festival.
Beta Omega, describing itself on Facebook as targeting “gay, bisexual, and progressive men,” held a booth on August 17 during Community Day and marched in the parade on August 18. Although individual brothers have participated in the parade before, this was the first time the chapter made an official appearance as representatives of the larger brotherhood.
The official participation is a sign of the chapter’s coming-of-age. The fraternity, Delta Lambda Phi, was founded in Washington, D.C., in 1986, but McGill’s chapter was only founded in 2009, starting as an interest group by Sam Reisler, then a U1 Arts student. The first Canadian chapter, it only received an official designation to step up from “colony” to “chapter” status in February 2012.
The original class consisted of a group of ten young men, “all frustrated by some of the attitudes of the existing Queer Organizations,” Beta Omega’s Vice President Brendan Edge told The Daily.
Although the chapter was praised by media across the country and on campus, there was some controversy at the time over the wording of Beta Omega’s stipulation that the fraternity was open to “males and those who identify as males.”
Queer McGill argued the language could be potentially offensive to trans* individuals who identified as males, but the fraternity’s then-president Michael D’Alimonte was at the time open to reworking the language and building a stronger relationship with Queer McGill.
It is still early days for the brothers, and therefore Beta Omega’s landmark participation in Fierté Montréal could act as a stepping-stone to an even swifter rise in prominence. Echoing one of the chapter’s mottos, “to make our presence known,” Edge said, “One of our goals this year is to get more involved in the Montreal Queer Community, while maintaining a strong presence on campus.”
Edge said that he and the chapter are working towards hosting DLPi’s Spring or Fall 2014 Eastern Regional Conference, “which all of the chapters in the Eastern part of the United States attend.”
Beta Omega now counts 15 active brothers, “from diverse backgrounds all across…the globe,” said Edge, adding that the diversity also extends to the brothers’ studies and hobbies.
What binds this diverse mix of men together is the fraternity. “We are brothers after all and like any family we try to stick together,” said Edge.
Beta Omega founder Reisler also praised the special connection the brotherhood provided. “Without a doubt, DLP was one of the most formative experiences of my time at McGill. Even though I’ve graduated, I carry the memories and bonds of friendship with me everyday.”
The purpose of DLP, as stated on their website and repeated on Beta Omega’s Facebook page, is “to develop dignified and purposeful, social, service, and recreational activities, for progressive men irrespective of sexual orientation, to lead in determining the rights and privileges of individuals in society, to present a strong and positive image, which respects the diversity of all individuals irrespective of sexual orientation.”
When asked how these guiding principles translate into reality for Beta Omega, Edge replied, “Through the social, service, and recreational activities that we do, we’re able to further our respect for our brothers’ diversity.”
Beta Omega regularly holds fundraisers, service projects, and social events at McGill and around the city. According to the press release, the chapter “raised funds to support a no kill animal shelter and an AIDS organization.”
Beta Omega’s most burning ambition, however, is less tangible: they are eager to attract more straight members. Believing that some progressive men might be put off by the idea of joining a queer brotherhood, the brothers are keen to dispel the false notion that the chapter is, in Edge’s words, a “hookup frat.”
“We need more guys who are progressive enough to join our brotherhood,” Edge explained, “because until that happens we are still very far away from equality”.
An earlier version of this article stated that Delta Lambda Phi was founded at Washington University in 1987. In fact, Delta Lambda Phi was founded in Washington, D.C., in 1986. The Daily regrets the error.