“You have to give the individual a chance. Sometimes, you never know what kind of great person you’re going to run into. If you deny (them), just because they don’t look like you do or don’t identify fully as you do, or they’re not your ideal woman or your ideal man, it’s always good to be open-minded. Don’t let some of your structures hinder you from allowing another person to be a part of a group, or allow a person to at least explore another group,” said Beasa Dukes, a bigender and biologically female student who recently received a bid into the Phi Mu Delta fraternity.
Dukes describes the term “bigender” as not identifying as solely male or female, and describes herself as a woman and transmasculine agender person.
“I don’t fully identify as a woman. I don’t fully identify as a man,” said Dukes.
Dukes participated in this semester’s Fraternity Walk. According to Daniel Parrish, Phi Mu Delta’s president, Dukes is the second bigender student to be offered a bid into the Sigma Alpha chapter of Phi Mu Delta, but the first to accept a bid.
“The way we look at it is as long as this person has outstanding moral character, why shouldn’t they join our organization? To me, it was about this person’s moral character and how they are and the values they hold,” said Parrish.
Chad MacDonald, a member of Phi Mu Delta, initially approached Dukes last spring with the idea of her joining the fraternity. MacDonald approached Dukes again, as well as the fraternity, with the idea this spring.
“As far as joining a fraternity, I had to test the waters as to how they perceived my own gender and if they were okay with it. That’s why Chad asked, because that’s something I’m just like, well technically, I’m not really a guy, but I am in a certain sense but you know, not really. So it’s kind of like, is there a way for me?....I’m always contemplating how (others would perceive) me. But what really sold me is that before they actually do the bids, they have little gatherings and meetings and stuff like that. People thinking about joining come to these gatherings and interact with all the other brothers. So it was something that was really nice, really cool, and really open. They’re really open-minded individuals,” described Dukes of the fraternity.
Parrish said that no policies had to be changed in order to make Beasa a member of the fraternity, as a policy had already been put into place in order to allow acceptance of any individual who identified as male.
“Nationals, I believe it was in 2011, wrote a whole document that was backed by lawyers and everything, involving Title IX and making sure that this didn’t become a co-ed organization and remained a fraternity, but that people who identify as male are still eligible for this, because again, we kind of look more at the character and who they are as a person,” said Parrish.
Dukes is a current senior English major, and didn’t fully identify as bigender until her junior year.
“I started off with just being agender, because it kind of disassociated me from gender entirely and allowed me to just completely think about who I am and explore myself. This was my sophomore year (of college) when I coined the term for myself. Then when I was a junior, my professor Mary Carroll-Hackett mentioned the word ‘two-spirited’ to me, and that was originally the first word that I actually looked up,” said Dukes.
Dukes always described herself as being a tomboy, but that eventually, others started questioning her more masculine persona.
“When you get to a certain age, adults start questioning, and adults start trying to push more ‘feminine’ into you….It made me so uncomfortable with myself,” said Dukes.
Dukes said her mother has been supportive, but that she has avoided bringing up the topic with the rest of her family because she’s “not sure if they would fully understand or grasp it, or want to grasp it,” she said.
Because of her own personal experiences, Dukes believes that it’s important for every person to feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging within groups.
“I think everyone needs a place to belong, and everyone needs some place that makes them feel, I hate to say the term ‘normal’, but the way in which society kind of superimposes anything that’s not binary or anything that’s gender non-conforming or trans, they think of it as ‘freakish’, kind of like almost so abnormal and abstract that it makes them uncomfortable, which in turn makes us uncomfortable,” said Dukes.
Fraternities and sororities tend to be traditionally strict about the genders of their members, but Phi Mu Delta is just one Greek organization which is beginning to accept others who are gender nonconforming into their groups.
‘It’s difficult to say how Greek life essentially fully perceives bigender or other genders. Not a whole lot of people get it. Not a whole lot understand it. Not a whole lot of people are going to respect it,” said Dukes.
She believes that even though the acceptance of other gender identifications seems to paving its way in the right direction, there is still a fairly large connection which needs to be made. Phi Mu Delta has made this connection for Dukes herself.
According to Parrish, the fraternity remains to see Dukes as simply another brother.
“To us, it’s still another day in the fraternity. It hasn’t changed essentially much, other than how we look on campus. But within the fraternity, it won’t change much. ‘B’ (Beasa) is still seen as another brother.”