May 14, 2019 at 7:18 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Zeta Phi Beta: There is no ‘ban’ on transgender women
(Photo by RaEdits via Wikimedia Commons)

A historically black sorority founded at Howard University nearly a century ago on Sunday said there is no “ban” on transgender women who may want to join.

The Washington Blade last month obtained a copy of a “diversity statement” adopted by the Zeta Phi Beta International Executive Board on Jan. 12 that states “an individual must be a cisgender woman” to join the organization. The statement at the same time says the sorority “values all people, regardless of race, age, gender, gender expression, ability, disability, creed, religion, or walk of life.”

“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,” said Zeta Phi Beta in a statement to Essence magazine.  “Sadly, a previous diversity statement made by our organization fell short of that goal and for that, we offer our deepest apologies.”

Zeta Phi Beta told Essence transgender women are currently members, and they “have always been entitled to the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other member and shall retain the rights, privileges and responsibilities they were endowed with once they took the oath and became a member.”

“There is no ban,” reads the statement.

The statement also notes Zeta Phi Beta will update its membership guidelines to “provide additional guidance” to the organization.

Zeta Phi Beta has more than 100,000 members and more than 800 chapters in the U.S., Africa, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.

The sorority did not respond to the Blade’s repeated requests for comment on the “diversity statement” it obtained.

James Wellemeyer contributed to this story.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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