A sorority at Tufts University is deciding whether to approve membership for a genetically male student who identifies as female. Its female-identifying female members do not seem pleased with the proposal to do so, however.
Tuft’s Alpha Omicron Pi first extended a membership to 19-year-old Harper Hopkins, a transgender student, but the sorority’s national office was reluctant to offer membership, saying it did not have a clear policy on admitting transgender members. Since the semester began, about 46 members of the sorority, including the president, have given up their memberships in protest of the international sorority’s delayed decision process.
Cosmopolitan Magazine also ran the story, denouncing the sorority as “inherently transphobic.”
Hopkins had accepted the offer but quickly left, blaming the sorority for “oppressive policies and behavior” and “systematic inequality and structural violence.”
“A lot of my friends were already in the organization, so it felt like a natural thing to do,” Hopkins, who first asked to remain anonymous, told the Boston Globe. “Some people thought I was actually already a member.”
The international sorority later apologized for hesitating and approved Hopkins’ membership, but its former members insisted on staying in protest mode.
“It didn’t really seem fair,” Kristin Reeves, the former president, said. “By them saying we couldn’t give her a bid because they don’t have a policy? That’s basically them taking a stance and having an unofficial policy.”
But the sorority has vowed to do the best it can to make membership inclusive for students like Hopkins.
“The chapter will continue to recruit members who embrace diversity, are passionate about social action, and are dedicated to maintaining their high standards of excellence,” a spokeswoman for the Alpha Omicron Pi International Fraternity wrote in an email to Heat Street. “Alpha Omicron Pi believes that all individuals are unique, with inherent worth and dignity, and should be treated with respect.”
Alpha Omicron Pi’s interim president, Amanda Wisti, said the sorority’s policy change on transgender students included changing the word “woman” to “female-identifying,” making sexual assault and diversity training mandatory for members, and making microaggression workshops mandatory for representatives of the international sorority.
But Reeves is not satisfied with these changes which she sees as too little, too late.
“I saw how slow and unwilling to change they are,” she said. “They talk about [making changes] a lot, but when it comes to actually making progress, it tends to fall on the individual chapters. It leaves the rest of the chapters as unprogressive as they want to be.”
Hopkins is now looking for a place to live outside of Maine because it “wasn’t the most friendly environment for LGBT people– as is often the case in conservative, rural parts of America.”
Tufts, Hopkins says, is one of the few places to be his true self, which is a woman… hiding behind a man’s body.
“I’ve never felt that there was no one behind me,” Hopkins said. “There was always support there.”
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