This month's guest blogger is Nikki Conroy, National Vice President-Extension.
Transgender issues, Title IX, and single-sex organizations are generating significant national, state, and campus-wide conversations, and they all impact us as sorority women. Here’s an introductory snapshot to these issues for members that want to learn more, with key terms hyperlinked to additional educational resources, as well as our position on honoring the lifelong membership of all Theta Phi Alphas.
What is Title IX?
In short, Title IX was passed in 1972 and prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance, and now prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and/or gender expression. Some social groups, including fraternities and sororities, are exempt from this legislation with regard to membership practices, and Title IX is primarily applicable to the regulation of educational institutions.
Why should we care about Title IX?
Our members are protected from discrimination based on their sex, gender identity, and gender expression under Title IX, including sexual harassment and sexual violence, and timely action by the institution should rights be violated. (To learn more about your rights and violence prevention resources, visit our Educational Resource page.)The rights of transgender students are also protected under Title IX, and the concept of transgender membership has muddied the waters for what the inclusion of transgender members means for social fraternities’ and sororities’ to remain single-sex organizations. Some feared that inclusion would jeopardize the single-sex status, while others (e.g., Delta Gamma), explicitly invited transgender women to membership.
What does transgender membership mean for single-sex organizations?
Fraternal Law Partners say the decision to admit transgender members is at the discretion of individual organizations, although they acknowledge that constitutionally, discrimination against transgender members may cause trouble. They’ve offered guidelines on clarifying policies and identified the risks of trans inclusion and exclusion and the risks of doing nothing.
What does this mean for us?
The federal government recently confirmed that the admission of transgender students to membership does not jeopardize the single-sex status of social organizations exempt from Title IX. Nonetheless, the decision to do so (or not) remains at the discretion of individual organizations.
In line with suggestions from Fraternal Law Partners, Theta Phi Alpha reaffirms that all initiated women, collegians and alumnae, are afforded lifelong membership regardless of transitions in gender identity thereafter.
As conversations about transgender membership continue, let us remember that promoting inclusion is not entirely new territory for Theta Phi Alpha. What was once an organization for Catholic women is now an organization open to all women. Our current membership includes women with a broad range of gender expression as well as a broad range of sexual orientations. We are already challenging the idea that there is only one way to be a “woman” in a women’s organization.
Theta Phi Alpha should be proud of its longstanding history of justice to each fellow man and providing opportunities for a diverse group of women to come together over a shared commitment to advancing women’s personal, academic, social, and professional development. To continue dialogue on how to best meet the needs of women today while preserving the values inherent to Theta Phi Alpha, we encourage you to reach out to the Grand Council, write to National Office, or simply engage in casual conversation with members in your area.