Affiliated links FSILGs and LGBT groups at MIT

“We’re about claiming and creating spaces,” Aquil Fannis ’16 said in an interview about the new group, Affiliated.

Born out of the efforts of Fannis, Hermoon Worku ’17, and Michael Holachek ’17, Affiliated seeks to fill the void at the intersection of FSILGs and the LGBT groups at MIT with the objectives of advocacy and community-building.

Even though its kickoff event was April 25, less than two weeks ago, efforts for Affiliated began a year ago as two distinct efforts.

After a broad show of interest last April, Holachek spent the summer refining the idea of creating a student group for queer-identified students in greek life.

Seperately, Fannis had been exploring social justice issues in the greek community, crystallizing at the yearly Provincetown retreat in September under the name “greek rainbow.” Shortly after, Abigail Francis, the director of the Rainbow Lounge, connected the two ideas together and helped arrange a meeting.

Although the ideas of promoting inclusivity and of social justice are distinct, both groups met and quickly realized that all were interested in both issues. The name temporarily evolved to be “Lambda, Gamma, Beta, Tau” but was quickly rejected since it was “too greek:” it did not include the Independent Living Groups. The group finally settled on “Affiliated,” seeking to be as open as possible. By November, the group was on the path to ASA recognition, only finishing a week before kickoff. Holachek described the year-long process, consisting of “useless meetings,” long delays, and poor communication as “extremely frustrating.”

While the struggle with the ASA clearly annoyed both Fannis and Holachek, both were thrilled about the support they received from students through the Panhellenic Association, the Interfraternity Council, the Living Group Council, and individual houses and chapters, as well as from administrators through the FSILG office and from LGBT@MIT. This support is key in their efforts to create an environment that reflects both their affiliated and queer identities.

“One of our core missions is helping students wanting to create a safe space in their houses being able to do so,” Fannis said.

Another issue that has occupied them is that of recruitment, which is necessary to make their efforts sustainable, Fannis said. Both expressed hope that the presence of Affiliated will encourage otherwise uninterested undergraduates to participate in rush. They also wonder if the presence of Affiliated will end up being a deciding factor.

In order for those dreams to be realized, however, they are working hard to reach out to every fraternity, sorority, and independent living group. 

“We can’t be that group of three FSILG brothers hanging out, we need to be well-connected” Holachek said.

In the heavily-gendered environment of fraternities and sororities, the acceptance of transgender and genderqueer individuals is a hard question.

At the kickoff, Panhel president Caitlyn Mason ’17 clarified that Panhel accepts any trans or genderqueer individuals, though a National Panhellenic Association policy forces sororities to be women-only. Official language, with constantly gendered terms, feels alienating to non-binary individuals, according to Haley Cope ’18.

The IFC does not have any overarching policy, but Fannis clarified that Sigma Phi Epsilon welcomes anyone willing to be called “brother.”