Most Ohio State students probably grew up watching TV programs and horror movies flooded with clichéd sorority and fraternity scenes. Who doesn’t remember watching “Legally Blonde” or “Revenge of the Nerds”?
In reality, Greek life is not restricted to cinematic stereotypes. OSU offers a number of unique fraternities and sororities for student exploration that show just how diverse a sorority or fraternity can be. Sigma Phi Beta is one of these.
In its second year, Sigma Phi Beta remains OSU’s first and only LGBT and allied fraternity. The first colony at OSU was started in 2013, created by a group of students as a LGBT-specific space in Greek life, open to any male-identifying students with an interest in LGBT issues.
Carrington Scott Conerly III, a fourth-year in environmental science and the chapter’s president, joined in March 2014. He said his chapter of Sigma Phi Beta is one of three — Indiana University and Arizona State University house the other two.
“Other Greek organizations have starts from like a hundred years ago, where we started in 2003,” he said, but he said despite the organization’s youth, they are making strides. “We’re still new to campus and so young, and we’ve won Greek Week twice already.”
Conerly said the organization pushes to build social interactions and strives for excellence in academics and service.
“Last year we had our first big philanthropy event, which was gingerbread Habitat for Humanity,” Conerly said. The boys of Phi Sigma Beta plan to put it together again this November.
The event consists of two gingerbread house-making contests, one for houses built beforehand, and one for houses built within a time constraint. Proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity.
Another event the brothers have considered making an annual tradition is a karaoke drag show, which they staged last year, too. Conerly said these philanthropic events are one of the reasons he and the other brothers love Sigma Phi Beta, along with the feeling of a safe space.
“I was initiated the day before we got chapter status,” Conerly said. “The reason I joined is because one, I went to high school in the Middle East, where being homosexual is frowned upon and is illegal. So to be able to come here and have a safe space where I can be myself and not have to worry about getting deported or imprisoned or anything like that is really comforting. And the fact that the brothers are just so nice about everything and make me feel accepted. I feel like all Greek organizations should have the type of bond that we have.”
Conerly also said that they are breaking down the stigma that gay people can’t be in fraternities and sororities. Terrence “Tiger” Litam, a fourth-year in biology and a member of Sigma Phi Beta since its inception, said that this has been a problem since the beginning.
“We had opposition when we were trying to charter,” Litam said. “They would say, ‘What’s the point of giving you guys a house for living because when it comes down to it, aren’t you guys just going to hook up with each other?’ And I was always like, ‘Do the gay brothers in your orgs hook up or do you just not have gay brothers at all?’ What happens to them?”
Litam said it’s not fair because there’s a double standard that’s very heteronormative.
“That’s what’s expected of Greek life,” he said. “We’re trying to kind of rock the boat and get people thinking a different way.”
Conerly and Litam said they hope that, in the future, Sigma Phi Beta will have a house instead of the Union to hold their meetings in. Litam said that, with such a large Greek presence at the university, there’s a lot to do to achieve that.
Litam said besides the pillars of scholarship and service Greek life are known for, being there for each other is the most important thing. When two members of Sigma Phi Beta were assaulted, Litam said they all came together to provide them with whatever they needed.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Litam said. “It’s being sure you hold the brotherhood to what it should be.”