Group looks to start UI's first LGBT sorority


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University of Iowa junior Mathilde Finnegan-Kennel never thought of joining a sorority until she heard about a possible sorority geared toward lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women coming to the UI.

“There weren’t any sororities that encompassed my needs and what I wanted to do,” she said. “There needs to be a safe space for LGBT women and allies to interact on campus.”

After the successful launch of Delta Lambda Phi, a gay, bisexual, progressive male fraternity in the fall of 2011, a conversation sparked within the Multicultural Greek Counsel about bringing a counterpart to the University of Iowa.

“We did our research and looked around the area,” Kelly Jo Karnes, associate director for the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, said. “We also knew there was some interest, from current women on campus, in a similar organization that Delta Lambda Phi had started. Obviously, women can’t join a fraternity; they have to join a sorority.”

The Center for Student Involvement held an informational meeting Thursday for women who want to get involved.

Karnes said the sorority could form if enough women are interested.

“Once we know we have at least 15 women interested, then we’ll start to fill out the paperwork, to apply to be an official colony,” she said.  “It will probably be later in the fall. It’s only going to move as quickly as the students want it to move.”

The Multicultural Greek Counsel took interest in starting a new sorority in the spring of 2011. With some research, Gamma Rho Lambda, a sorority for lesbians, bisexuals, and progressive women was discovered on other university campuses.

“Gamma Rho Lambda have a chapter at Purdue, a chapter over at Iowa State,” Karnes said. “We knew there were at least some groups within driving distance that could be of assistance to a new chapter we started here.”

Members from Delta Lambda Phi sought to find women who would be interested in joining.

“We worked with our members from Delta Lambda Phi fraternity,” Karnes said. “They talked to the [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Alliance Union] group and said there are definitely some women [who are interested]. We had one young lady in particular who reached out to us and said I am definitely interested and I would love to assist.”

That young lady turned out to be Finnegan-Kennel, who really wanted to take part in helping Gamma Rho Lambda get started.

Although there are resources for LGBT women and alliances on campus, Finnegan-Kennel stressed the importance of having a place that is specifically for them.

“I think that the spaces that we have right now aren’t entirely our own,” she said. “We need a [place] that’s just for our needs.”

Some female students agree that Gamma Rho Lambda would be beneficial to the UI.

“I think it’s really important because everyone should have a place to belong to and be able to make a certain group of friends that’s just like them,” UI junior America Obregon said. “I don’t know if all the sororities are accepting of them.”

Karnes hopes the start of this sorority will help women who identify themselves as lesbian or bisexual feel more comfortable, though they do not have to identify with being lesbian or bisexual to join.

“If women have identified as lesbian or bisexual and wanted the sorority experience but haven’t felt comfortable through traditional means, then this is an option for them,” she said. “You don’t have to identify as lesbian or bisexual to join this group. You need to be progressive in your thinking and supportive of the community.”

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