Gay, Greek and good to go: in one of the many personal stories in Brotherhood, a new anthology about coming out in fraternities, Richard R Peralta of DePaul University in Chicago learns just how much his brothers know about him
Richard P. Peralta
The fall of my freshman year at DePaul University, I became a founding father of a colony of Sigma Phi Epsilon national fraternity, often called Sig Ep. DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the nation and the largest private institution in the Chicago area. Most men joined the new Sig Ep colony because the fraternity gave them a sense of purpose. My reason, on the other hand, was the fact that during rush Sig Ep did not judge me for being gay. They did not place me in a box along the spectrum of the Kinsey sexuality scale, wondering if I fit any gay stereotypes, They merely got to know me as “Dickey,” my affectionate nickname. I never came out to the brothers as a whole. I let them figure it out on their own through conversation when I felt it was appropriate. There were two other queer brothers already in the fraternity. If I didn’t make a big deal about being gay, I knew the chapter would not care either. I left behind my blatant high school T-shirt slogans and buttons, and my physical traits made me the all-American fraternity man. Sig Ep brought out the best in me.
Shortly after the acceptance of my bid to join Sig Ep, the brothers and I were eating at the student union, referred to on campus as the Max. We were gorging ourselves on food like most college men do when my brother Mark casually asked, “So how was your date last night?”
Mark was a calming individual who studied bio. He was relatively short in stature and often amusing on account of his klutzy habits. Mark was the average type of guy anyone would feel comfortable befriending on account of his big heart.
“So?” he asked again.
I panicked for a second and then responded nonchalantly, “It went well, actually.” I didn’t know for sure if he knew I was gay or how he knew I had gone on a date the night before. As he was heterosexual, I assumed that he would move the conversation on to other topics.
“So where did you 80?” he said, kicking my leg under the table and smiling. Mark did know I was gay. What was he up to? I wondered.
I answered his question honestly, aware that the brothers in earshot were listening as they devoured their dinners. I talked about the film, where we had dinner, and the lack of chemistry, making sure that the pronouns were ambiguous. I had learned my lesson, being the token gay in high school, and figured that I wanted the brothers to know me first as Dickey, not for the gay label.
“What was his name again?” Mark asked comfortably and loudly over all the noise, emphasizing the gender pronoun.
The sounds of chomping halted as Mark and I continued eating. When I said his name, three spoons dropped simultaneously as the rest of the table looked at me. One brother at the end of the table apparently had not heard the conversation and continued contently chomping along.
The other brothers’ faces looked shocked.
Finally the brother at the end of the table stopped eating for a moment, and with his mouth full he said, “Big deal, he’s gay. Are you going to finish your fries, dude?”
I passed my fries down the line as I saw everyone look around, share shrugs, and return their focus to eating and their previous conversations. I smiled at Mark, and he returned a goofy chuckle. For some brothers, tolerance was the first lesson. For others, acceptance came as easily as asking for more fries.
Peralta is now 22 and graduated from DePaul in June 2005.
Reprinted with permission from Brotherhood: Gay Life in College Fraternities (Alyson Books), edited by Shane L. Windmeyer, [c] 2005 by Shane L. Windmeyer. All rights reserved.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Liberation Publications, Inc.
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