On the Alleged Transphobia Incident Involving Sigma Nu

Illustration by Drew Buchanan

Richard Smith
Contributing Writer

Reddit user u/statty123 recently made a post on the subreddit r/UCSantaBarbara describing an encounter she had at a Sigma Nu party in which she was approached by some frat members looking for a transgender person in the party in order to get rid of the “tranny.” 

This raises the question of whether the culture of frats like Sigma Nu encourages or allows for hatred and discrimination and whether or not it is opposed to LGBTQIA+ people. I think that this incident parallels the sexual assault cases from the last quarter in that it displays chauvinist behavior from fraternity members, outrage from students, and little more than a hand slap on the administrative end. 

The Reddit post anticipated that some people might defend the fraternity in this case due to the party being a private one, but in my opinion, that argument is absurd. An organization that represents the school is not within its rights to turn away trans people from their parties on the basis of gender identity. Furthermore, even if it was just a private party that wasn’t being held by a school organization, guests should be turned away only on the basis of not having an invitation.

The fact remains that fraternities who do this sort of thing do it because trans people don’t fit their sexual fantasies. They let in cisgender women and keep out men because they want to fulfill some sort of harem fantasy and get laid. This recent hateful activity stems from the same attitude that I think is the origin of the sexual assault cases that happened last quarter. People who are not cisgender women tend to not be welcome at these types of parties because they are not the stereotypical type of person that the hosts of these parties want to prey on.

A common response to this might be that those fraternity members are in the vast minority of all members and that a few bad apples do not spoil the whole barrel. That phrase is not accurate because those apples really do spoil the entire barrel and probably the whole tree. Frats are organized so that members are encouraged to hold each other accountable and to advance virtuous ideals. This, however, is generally not what happens in these more infamous frats. It seems that the other members of fraternities who commit these sorts of acts are either too apathetic or too intimidated to stand up to their brothers when they behave  inappropriately.

Although this issue has been publicly acknowledged, there was initially some controversy as to whether this actually happened because the only source is the Reddit post. This hardly complicates the issue. In the case that it did happen, then this would be an issue of transphobia and how organizations that represent the school should act. If it weren’t, it could possibly be seen as an issue of false accusations. I don’t think I need to tell you that both transphobia and false accusations are wrong.

In either case, however, this sort of story is very easy to believe because of recent incidents involving cases of misconduct from a fraternity. If someone informed me today that there was yet another scandal concerning fraternities, I would believe it in a second. Not because I’m gullible, or that I simply trust whoever told me, but because such a claim is not surprising. 

In fact, people outside of Greek life culture (myself included) seem eager to believe that frat life does condone chauvinist behavior. Comments on the Reddit post said things like ”fuck the frats.” One Reddit user said that “the fraternities here at UCSB have been the worst out of any school I’ve visited.” Not only are we eager to believe such things, but we are also eager to get righteously angry at frats for these things. We think of ourselves as virtuous students who don’t support such behavior, except for the fact that we actually do.

In my experience, a significant population of UCSB students that I have met generalize frats to those that behave like Sigma Nu. They do not want to like frats, rarely trust them, and don’t care if frats improve so long as they still get to go to frat parties. So long as students have this attitude towards frats, they will have the same attitudes toward transphobia, sexual assault, and other hateful ideologies. Perhaps it’s too much to ask to support trans rights without missing out on our precious parties.