By Victoria O’Connor
LOGOS ASSOCIATE EDITOR
I knew the end of my lazy-summer days were drawing near as I packed my bags for my sorority’s national conference.
“Coming Back Home” was this year’s theme as sisters of Delta Xi Nu Multicultural Sorority Inc. (DXN) celebrated the 20th anniversary in the town that started our mission of philanthropy and sisterhood — the Alpha Chapter in College Station, Texas.
Being surrounded by new members, alumni and founding mothers humbled me with the realization of who and what it takes to build a legacy.
The responsibility of being Eta Chapter’s vice president at the University of the Incarnate Word felt heavy on my shoulders, but seeing all of my sisters from across the nation made me eager to see what the conference had in store for us.
Holding true to our motto, “Changing Old Ways to New,” I was ecstatic to learn of DXN’s affirmation in the belief of accepting women of all backgrounds by allowing any member who identifies as female to join regardless of sexual orientation or identity.
I always assumed it was expected of the sorority even though it was never formally stated on paper.
What I didn’t assume was how difficult the conversation would be when discussing the new policy to other sisters.
Though all sisters are treated equally in our organization, the fact of the matter is we are reaching out to a new demographic. There is no expert to speak on behalf of the LGTBQ community as a whole, thus no way to know what language is and is not considered offensive.
With the new policy in place, the National Executive Board held a session during the conference about LGTBQ sensitivity.
Words such as “homosexual” and “transgender” were being thrown around and used in new contexts along with definitions on sexual identity and gender fluidity. Before I knew it, the conversation left me more confused than before.
“Don’t say ‘sexual preference’ because you are implying they are making a choice. Say ‘sexual orientation’ instead,” one speaker said. “The word ‘queer’ is being redeemed in a positive light to the newer generation of LGBTQ members, but might still be offensive to the older generation. Always ask what gender an individual wants to be called. Are they gender-fluid? Then say “them or they” instead of “he or she.”
Though I have always supported the rights of LGBTQ members, I was paranoid of my good intentions counteracting with my ignorance when recruitment comes around.
It is no longer me greeting someone and asking them to join our organization. It was about making it clear we were LGBTQ-supportive by knowing how to recruit members of the community.
I want to be able to recruit anyone who has the potential of becoming a sister without worrying about targeting a specific demographic or accidentally coming off as offensive. I have never cared about a person’s sexuality or identity, but only what they have to offer.
But even that is considered offensive because I am not validating them. In the midst of the lectures, the Q-and-A and the conversation amongst all the sisters, we all recognized not all of us were in understanding.
Some were even uncomfortable. That’s when the topic of difficult conversations came up and how to address them.
This policy was new to all of us and was a lot to take in. The national board followed the session with an exercise.
We were asked to hold up a number of fingers that reflected where we stood in our comfort zone. One being comfortable, two being unfamiliar but willing to learn, and three being triggered.
We were asked questions on how we felt about talking about money, interacting with police officers, talking about interracial dating with our grandparents and on recruiting a transgender woman into our organization.
While some proudly held up one finger, others were hesitantly holding up two or three fingers.
We were all curious about everyone’s answers, but feared being judged about our own responses.
Though the exercise made us a little uncomfortable, it also made us reflect. It is OK to be pushed out of our comfort zone just as much as it is OK to be triggered.
No one should be forced to be uncomfortable, but at least willing to learn. If someone is triggered, then try to understand why they feel that way. If someone is comfortable, then try to ease into challenging them.
This is where I see myself with recruitment this semester.
I don’t want to overthink while speaking with someone, but I do want to be sensitive about what I say. I am no longer in my comfort zone and I embrace that with the opportunity to learn.
At the end of the day, I want to help my sorority grow and encourage all potential sisters to continue our mission by including women of all backgrounds.
E-mail O’Connor at email@example.com