When David Lange started his freshman year at George Washington University, he found himself surrounded by a plethora of clubs, organizations and fraternities that catered to a wide range of student interests. However, none specifically targeted the interests of a young, gay man who wanted a sense of community outside of advocacy groups or nightclubs.
Lange’s friend told him about Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity for gay, bisexual, transgender and progressive men that had been established at Vanderbilt University. He found himself wanting to learn more.
“I had never really considered Greek life,” Lange, 20, says. “It was never something that particularly appealed to me, but this idea of a group of gay men that could just get together in brotherhood and camaraderie really impressed me.”
Founded in 1986 by Vernon L. Strickland, Delta Lambda Phi was created in Washington as a community chapter for students from universities in the D.C. area to join. While Strickland was a George Washington University student himself when he founded the community chapter, there had never been an established chapter at the university.
Until Lange decided to put in some grunt work.
The international affairs major contacted Delta Lambda Phi’s headquarters and GW’s Greek life department back in October 2015 to get the ball rolling. After learning the logistics of how to proceed and presenting to the fraternity council, the council voted on letting Delta Lambda Phi become a colony at GW.
GW’s colony joins four other colonies at schools in the United States and Canada. Overall there are 30 chapters in North America, including at schools such as Purdue University, New York University and the University of California at Los Angeles.
Now a sophomore, Lange’s efforts have led to the first recruitment season and pledge class beginning this spring. While still early, Lange says that gay, bisexual and straight men have shown interest and there are eight members preexisting from before the recruitment period, which runs Feb. 1-10.
He credits the interest to the experience Delta Lambda Phi offers that is hard to find on campus.
“I find that as far as queer spaces out there, a lot of them are either advocacy based or there are bars or clubs. And this provides a third way and an opportunity to create some real community, some lasting friendships and brotherhood,” Lange says. “A big part as to why we exist is to provide a sense of community for gay men in college. It’s something that’s very much lacking, so that’s a big part of it. But it’s also a fraternity so we do a lot of social events to create that sense of camaraderie.”
Even though the group is not a service fraternity, Lange says it would be hard to miss out on the LGBT service opportunities D.C. has to offer. While just in the brainstorming stages, Lange says he hopes to work with organizations such as SMYAL, Casa Ruby and the Trevor Project. A large network of Delta Lambda Phi alumni are also in the city, which will be a great source of contact and support for the colony.
Lange says that even though the fraternity is aimed at gay and bisexual men, there is no discrimination about who wants to join.
“It’s more of a niche fraternity. It’s not for everyone,” Lange says. “I mean anyone can join, but a lot of people might want a more traditional collegiate, fraternal experience, which is totally fine, but we provide an alternative to that.”
A fraternity that is so blatantly open for gay and bisexual men has not been a problem for George Washington University’s larger college community. Lange says from what he has heard, there hasn’t been any backlash.
“Everyone seems to be either neutral or in support and that’s all we can really ask for, I suppose. It’s gotten a pretty warm welcome from what I’ve heard,” Lange says.
Delta Lambda Phi will be a part of the college community for a while as it “usually takes three pledge classes” before a colony can apply to become a chapter, according to Lange.
Mentors will be a crucial role as Delta Lambda Phi moves from colonization to official chapter. Law student Nicholas Simons, 25, is one. He says his role includes holding educational events for the colonists to ensure the traditions of Delta Lambda Phi are upheld and the colony has a smooth transition.
Simons’ experience with colonizing Delta Lambda Phi traces back to when he joined the fraternity during his first semester as a freshman at University of Central Florida. Simons says the fraternity was just founding its own colony as George Washington University is now.
Simons echoes the sentiment that Delta Lambda Phi is meant to combine the elements of Greek life for the LGBT community.
“It was meant to be a traditional Greek organization that provided a space for friendship, brotherhood and community that wasn’t provided in other LGBT spaces,” Simons says. “I think it’s very important on a college campus because everyone wants to find LGBT community through political activism, not everybody wants to find LGBT community through some of the other social outlets that are available. I think it provides a unique, positive and supportive experience for all of our members.”