UPDATE: In an official statement made exclusively to Essence, Zeta Phi Beta has now recanted the initial diversity statement saying that the sorority already accepts transgender members into their organization. In their apology they wrote, "Since our founding on January 16, 1920, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. has sought to create a sorority that embraces and values all of our members. Sadly, a previous diversity statement made by our organization fell short of that goal and for that, we offer our deepest apologies," and continued by saying, "We have always aimed to foster an inclusive and diverse sisterhood and remain committed to being an organization that embraces scholarship, provides true service and sets the standard for sisterly love."
Zeta Phi Beta, a historically black sorority founded at Howard University in 1920, says that they will not be open to transgender women joining their 99-year-old organization.
In a “Diversity Statement” obtained by Washington Blade, the Zeta Phi Beta International Executive Board stated on January 12, that “an individual must be a cisgender woman” to join the organization. The statement also mentions that the sorority “values all people, regardless of race, age, gender, gender expression, ability, disability, creed, religion, or walk of life.”
A source of the publication sent them a copy of the statement, but the sorority has yet to respond to multiple attempts to gain authenticity of the statement.
There are many mixed reviews about the matter under the hashtag, #zetaphibeta on Twitter where the conversation is on-going.
Many are not here for the exclusion:
While others support the decision to keep the sorority cisgender (a person whose sense of personal gender corresponds with their birth sex) only:
There are also people that question the authenticity of the statement:
There is no record of the statement on Zeta's official website, but in the overview it does mention that “The Sorority's international programs such as Z-HOPE (Zetas Helping Other People Excel) through Mind, Body and Spirit serve to empower people from all walks of life.”
The release of this statement comes on the heels of more HBCUs and their institutions expanding their policies to include queer and trans folks. Recently, Morehouse is now admitting transmen to the college.
Sororities and fraternities have been traditionally seen as being hostile towards the LGBTQ community, so while it’s worth noting that changes are being made toward inclusivity, if this so-called "Diversity Statement" is the real deal then it's clear there are still strides to be made.
We will update you once Zeta Phi Beta makes an official statement on the matter.
(Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Universal Pictures)
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