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Delta Phi Epsilon includes transgender, non-binary students, other sororities could soon follow

April 6, 2021
Photo by Maddie Monroe | The State News

Delta Phi Epsilon (DPhiE) has created a membership policy that includes transgender women and non-binary individuals. The sorority is calling for other sororities to do the same. 

DPhiE implemented its Trans Women and Non-Binary Gender Policy in 2017. The policy invited non-binary individuals to apply for membership. 

"Delta Phi Epsilon welcomes members who identify as women, including transgender women, and gender non-binary individuals, regardless of their sex assigned at birth," the policy said.

In addition, DPhiE allows individuals to use a name and gender pronouns that reflect their identity, whether or not a transgender or gender nonconforming individual has legally changed their name or gender. 

On April 10, the National Panhellenic Conference's 26 member organizations will vote on adopting a policy amendment that updates recruitment eligibility language. If passed, it would allow each member organization to "determine its own membership selection policies and procedures, including its definition of woman." This paves the way for non-binary individuals to obtain sorority membership. 

"Delta Phi Epsilon, in 2016, was working with one of our collegiate chapters at MIT," Nicole DeFeo, Delta Phi Epsilon international executive director said. "In 2017, after exhaustive research, we spent a number of weeks working with consultants, and we drafted the Trans Women and Non-Binary Gender Policy. DPhiE chapters at various universities across the country are open to make the decision to welcome whomever they would like within the parameters of the policy."

Regarding future changes in policies related to transgender and non-binary individuals, DeFeo said, "Because of self-governance, letting our members speak, and the ever-evolving nature of college campuses, I think we're going to see more and more organizations moving toward putting your ear to the ground and listening to their constituency. I'm hopeful for that day because we have a lot of bright young people in our organizations that will rise up and lead in ways that my generation and generations before me never thought about. So, I'm optimistic."

After the implementation of the policy, the National Panhellenic Conference questioned its impact on the Title IX exemption status. However, this concern was unfounded. 

"There were a lot of fears around Title IX and how Title IX would be upheld," DeFeo said. "But we had done our research. It was extensive. We talked to all types of experts, people who work in the field of gender, people who work in law and people who work in higher-education law. ... We made sure we weren't posing any threats of any kind to anybody's existence, especially not our own. We felt very comfortable to answer those questions."

DeFeo said she hopes that the NPC’s amendment is adopted to improve inclusivity and equity among the sorority communities on university campuses.

"Delta Phi Epsilon is proud of the leadership efforts we have undertaken that have contributed to the larger fraternal community in bringing policies into the present," DeFeo said. "We firmly believe that if NPC’s amendment is adopted, it will promote the development of more equitable and inclusive sorority communities on college and university campuses in the U.S. and Canada. We hope our fellow members of NPC will see this change as an opportunity to join Delta Phi Epsilon in ensuring the Panhellenic community is a place where all feel comfortable being their true, authentic selves.” 

Roxanne Donovan, international president of the Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority International Governing Board, said "Delta Phi Epsilon applauds NPC for introducing a proposed change that has the potential to open up sorority membership on campuses across North America to people who are committed to the advancement of womanhood.” 

Beginning on July 1, the LGBT Resource Center at Michigan State University will become the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center. See here for more information. For education and resources regarding gender and sexuality, see here

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