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*This piece was sent to us and is directed at Black fraternities and sororities—Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Delta Sigma Theta, Omega Psi Phi, Zeta Phi Beta, Phi Beta Sigma Sigma Gamma Rho, Iota Phi Theta and any other Blacks who don't know their history—that bein' a Black greek is an oxymoron!!
Among the usually lame messages left by fraternities and sororities on campus sidewalks, there have been some interesting phrases left by Western Michigan University's new colony of the national fraternity for openly gay and bisexual men.
Delta Lambda Phi's official national slogan is "What others hide in shame, we boldly embrace with pride," despite what the sidewalks say. With 20 active chapters across the country, Delta Lambda Phi is proving homosexuality and fraternity life can actually mix. However, the Greek community has not been known for its liberal acceptance of homosexuals. WMU's chapter of Delta Lambda Phi was organized after its president said he probably wouldn't be able to get a bid at an established WMU fraternity because he is openly homosexual. He did not want to go back into the closet in order to join the Greek community.
At other colleges, Greeks have made an effort to welcome homosexuals. Cornell University, has an organization called Greeks United Against Homophobia that is "committed to making fraternities and sororities a safe place where the true ideals of brotherhood and sisterhood can emerge."
Homosexuals are still one of the most openly discriminated-against groups in society. They are the subject of ridicule, prejudice and hate. There certainly will be Greeks that will accept Delta Lambda Phi into the community without a question, but there will probably also be some ridicule and resentment.
There really shouldn't be. Any Greek that would not accept homosexuals into the community would not only be exhibiting bigotry, but outright ignorance of the fact that the term "Greek" implies a long history of accepting homosexuality. Perhaps it is due time we examined the true nature of Greek brotherhood by taking a little trip back in time.
Fraternities are said to have their origin in the Middle Ages when young men would go off to foreign countries to study in the new universities at Bologna or Paris. Men from the same countries clung together in the notion of brotherhood.
In early America, the founders of collegiate fraternities chose to name their organizations using Greek letters (Phi Beta Kappa being the first, in 1776), drawing upon the high culture of ancient Greece. Fraternities slowly spread across the United States, and what we know as the "social fraternity" has its roots in the mid-to late 19th century. Following tradition, these men chose to name their organizations using Greek letters.
Because Western civilization has chosen to emulate and draw upon the accomplishments of ancient Greece doesn't mean that the cultural standards in their society were comparable to ours. In fact, the Greeks were far more modern in their acceptance of homosexuality. Most of the greatest Greek citizens were active participants in homosexual sex.
Manly love was a common fixture of everyday Greek life. The Greeks practiced what was called pederasty: open sexual relationships between older men and adolescent boys. Both Plato and Xenophon explored the beauty of this love in their "Symposiums."
Distinguished Athenian citizens would stand around the gymnasium, where young boys ran naked, and the men would pick and choose a boy for a lover. This was all very legal, as long as the boy had reached puberty. Solon the lawgiver, himself a pederast, imposed strict laws against children being included in this practice. Boys were only attractive to older men if they had no hair on their face, thighs or buttocks. There were many arguments among the philosophers about which was greater: sex with a woman or sex with an adolescent boy. Achilles Tatius wrote, "Boys' sweat has a finer smell than anything in a woman's makeup box." In mythology we see such relationships between Zeus and Ganymede, Dionysus and Ampelos and Apollo with Hyacinthus and Cyparissus.
While what we consider homosexual sex (sex between men of the same age) was relatively the norm in Greece, the heroes made it into an art. Theseus and Peirithous, Orestes and Pylades, Achilles and Patroclus and Heracles (Hercules) and Iolaus all shared what the playwright Aeschylus called "the sacred communion of thighs." In pederasty, the boy was not supposed to receive any pleasure, which was reserved for the man. But among the heroes, sex was mutual and fulfilling. Only death could end such relationships.
The Spartan soldiers [immortalized by the 2006 movie release '300' (added by M'Bwebe)]--some of the most heroic and masculine warriors in history--participated actively in homosexual sex. Alexander the Great had a longtime male companion. When the corpses of Theban soldiers were found on the battlefield at Chaeronea, they were found in couples. Each loving pair of men fought bravely to their deaths, back to back.
So to the Greeks of old, sex between males was accepted. Only time will tell if the members of Delta Lambda Phi will be accepted and taken seriously by the Greeks of new. The Greek community does a lot of good at WMU. They should be lauded for their community service, academic achievement and commitment to excellence.
But bigotry in any form is never excellent. For any Greek that opposes the existence of Delta Lambda Phi, every time he sends a younger brother out for a "naked run," he should think about the Athenians. Every time an older member of the frat uses a paddle adorned with Greek letters to strike young pledges in the bum, he should think of the Spartans. And every time a Greek proudly displays his letters on his clothing or writes Greek letters all over campus, he should understand that in using the Greek name and alphabet he is representing a society with a rich and beautiful tradition of homoerotic sexual idealism.
By James Griffioen
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