Alpha Chi Omega sorority welcomes transgender members

Angela Costley Harris, national president of Alpha Chi Omega, announced the sorority’s new inclusion policy in a Facebook video in February.
Angela Costley Harris, national president of Alpha Chi Omega, announced the sorority’s new inclusion policy in a Facebook video in February.

Alpha Chi Omega sorority has officially opened its doors to transgender members.

In a video posted to the group’s Facebook page last month, national president Angela Costley Harris said the sorority is a women’s organization but must stay relevant in today’s world.

“Alpha Chi must be inclusive of all who live and identify as women regardless of their gender assigned at birth,” Harris said.

The Indianapolis-based sorority’s non-discrimination policy on its website states that “women, including those who live and identify as women, regardless of the gender assigned to them at birth, are eligible for membership in Alpha Chi Omega based solely on five membership standards.

“Those assigned female at birth who live and identify as men are not eligible for membership.”

The announcement was made in response to inquiries from chapters across the nation, some of which had apparently talked about including transgender members for a while.

“A transgender woman is just as much of a woman as I am,” Melissa Medved, an Alpha Chi Omega member at the University of Minnesota, told the school’s student newspaper, Minnesota Daily.

She said the current climate in the country likely “pushed Alpha Chi to prove that we are really inclusive and empowering to our women” and that “it would be really cool for Greek life as a whole to accept the people who are identifying as one way or the other.”

Few sororities have formally sanctioned the membership of transgender women at the national level like Alpha Chi Omega has. Some welcome transgender women to join rush activities.

Last year the Panhellenic Council at the University of Michigan told Cosmopolitan that even though it has no formal policy about transgender women participating in sorority recruitment, anyone who identifies as a woman is welcome to do so.

Gamma Rho Lambda, an “all-inclusive” social sorority based in Tempe, Ariz., was founded as a support system for “lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and alternative lifestyle-friendly female students,” according to its website.

The federal law Title IX bars sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal funds, but social Greek organizations can set their own policies regarding the gender identity of their members, according to the Boston Globe.

“I thought it was awesome. We’re all very excited about it,” Taylor Dailing, president of the Alpha Chi Omega chapter at the University of Missouri, told KOMU in Columbia of her group’s decision.

Savannah Rave, president of the Alpha Chi Omega chapter at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said reaction to the announcement has been mixed.

“Right away you see the people who are all for it because they’re the ones posting things and sharing things on social media,” she told The Daily Nebraskan, the university’s student newspaper.

“Before I even read my email, a girl shared it on our house Facebook page. You definitely saw the positive side of it first, but there are mixed feelings about all things. Some girls who had concerns came to me quietly behind closed doors just to express those.”

Some critics made their feelings publicly known on Facebook.

“I cannot in good conscience recommend any other young women or my daughter to Alpha Chi Omega with this new policy in place,” wrote one woman. “It is unthinkable that my daughter would one day be involved with overnight retreats and the like with those who have a penis.”

Rave, who told the newspaper she supports the new policy, said she has to consider members’ concerns as well. She thinks other Greek chapters will eventually follow Alpha Chi Omega’s lead.

“I think sooner or later it will spread, just because that’s how the trend is going,” Rave said. “I just hope for an accepting atmosphere.

“Especially for recruitment on this campus, just because it’s sometimes hard to be the only ones that are doing things first and hoping people will support you.”