Joining a fraternity is a key part of the college experience for many Americans.
Brothers pick the best and brightest to join, and the pledges then go through a process of selection to become a member of the exclusive club.
For many gay and bisexual men, the term ‘frat boy’ conjures up images of a homophobic jock, a sports-obsessed alpha-male whose priorities are beer, girls and parties, with some casual fag-bashing thrown in.
For 37 ‘pledges’ at the University of Florida, however, the frat boy tag is one that sits easily with their sexuality. For they are all seeking to become members of the only gay frat, Delta Lambda Phi.
There are 23 active chapters of the fraternity dotted across the US. Students at the Gainesville campus of the University of Florida have been granted ‘colony’ status, and if all goes well they will soon become a fully recognised chapter.
Of the 37 hopefuls, nine have been asked back for a ‘bid’ dinner, where pledges are assessed for their suitability for fraternity membership.
While the idea of frat boys and pledges are staples of gay porn fantasy, the reality is very different.
Delta Lambda Phi is committed to improving the lot of gay and bisexual students, only participates in ‘dignified and purposeful’ social events, and has a strict ‘hands-off’ policy that prohibits sexual contact between pledges and Brothers.
Fraternity organisers stress the social benefits of so called ‘Greek societies,’ with Brothers forming bonds that last a lifetime. There are even heterosexual Brothers, described by the fraternity as ‘progressive men.’
Since its formation in 1986, Delta Lambda Phi has provided that sense of community and brotherhood to gay and bisexual college students at 23 universities across America.
One of the organisers of the Gainesville wannabe-chapter, Paul Nichols, told The Gainesville Sun, “What we’re building here is not only for us right here and right now – we’re also building for future classes.
“We want to bring something to the table that is going to be here on a long-term basis.”
Planned activities for the University of Florida group include movie nights, road trips, dinners and an appearance at the local pride event.
If they are successful, the next step is a petition to the fraternity’s governing body to become a full chapter.