Op-Ed: The Sorority Will Be Entirely Inclusive

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Dear Swarthmore Campus Community,

On behalf of the Alpha Beta chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta at Swarthmore College, I submit the following clarifications regarding the issues of gender identity, financial means, and general rush policies expressed in response toSorority to Accept Bids on Saturday.

In a written, binding agreement between the College (President Chopp and Dean Braun) and Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity, it was stipulated that any Swarthmore student who self-identifies as a female, regardless of what sex they are registered as in the College’s records, is eligible to join the sorority.  The statement in this article that, “Women will only be offered bids if they are listed as female in the College’s records,” was a misleading and inaccurate statement.  It is the College’s understanding that admission to the sorority will be entirely inclusive, and this includes transgendered students.  The invitation to come to Swarthmore College was extended to Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity with the understanding that they would allow all female-identifying students to join and would not ask them for proof that they are in fact women, and President Chopp and Dean Braun plan to hold the sorority to that.

Every effort is being made to ensure that the sorority remains a viable option for all students, regardless of their financial circumstances.  Members may apply for academic scholarships offered through Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity that specifically pay for a student’s tuition.  Our chapter member dues were not, as stated in a comment, “several” hundred dollars to begin with.  However, in an effort to make membership even more financially inclusive, this past week the Dean’s Office requested that the dues be further significantly reduced, and Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity gladly complied with this request.  In addition, sorority members will be working on fundraising efforts this semester to provide additional financial assistance to any member that may need it.

Lastly, all 65 women who applied for membership and underwent an interview on Bid Day were all offered bids for membership in the chapter.  The general criteria for membership and the selection process were not discriminatory in any way. It is our aim to start the chapter with the fundamental philosophy that we have about Swarthmore inclusivity.  We take these community concerns of possible discrimination and exclusivity very seriously, and will remain transparent and responsive if any such concerns should arise again in the future.

We hope that even those community members who have no interest in Greek Life will support our right to form a distinct and diverse community of women within the broader Swarthmore community.  We are deeply committed to upholding the values of diversity, inclusivity, and community building that defines Swarthmore.


Ashley Gochoco ’14

Member of Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity at Swarthmore College


  1. This looks like an excellent point by point response to many concerns.

    One thing I’d advise: while some or even many are fine with “transgendered”, it is probably better to default to “transgender”. Why?

    1. “Transgendered” implies a discrete process, which may misrepresent many people’s experiences. While some may describe their experience as a distinct change from one gender to the other, others have always known who they are and the only thing that might be changing is how others see them. “Transgender” avoids choosing one type of experience to describe everyone.

    2. “Transgendered” also implies that something was done to a person to make them this way and removes agency.

    3. Interesting and new to me (via the article linked below, which got it from GLAAD): apparently, “transgender never needs the extraneous ‘ed’ at the end of the word. In fact, such a construction is grammatically incorrect. Only verbs can be transformed into participles by adding ‘-ed’ to the end of the word, and transgender is an adjective, not a verb.” Who knew?

    See here for further discussion, as well as GLAAD’s reference guide as soon as it’s available–I’ve tried several times just now and it’s not loading for me.

    • Thank you for providing such a helpful and level-headed response. This is amazing. I think too often at Swarthmore we assume that people should automatically know what words they should use–and it’s really helpful to have clarification. It shouldn’t have to be the burden of the trans* community to educate those with cis* privilege about how to discuss their identities, and unfortunately this burden often falls in the midst of other, highly emotionally-charged conversations (or confrontations.) In spite of the fact that I have many people close to me who are trans*, I was never sure of whether “transgender” or “transgendered” was preferable (and so generally have just stuck with “Trans*” for that reason!) Thanks for the info–I will remember this!

      • Thanks! And I’m with you on your discussion of the burden of education.

        You also brought up another useful term:”trans*”.

        “Trans” being pretty obvious, and the asterisk being a sort of wildcard for all the words that could be appended to “trans” (including not appending anything at all).

        And similarly with “cis*”.

        Yay for inclusive terms!

  2. Would you please explain how you think about inclusivity? Inviting lots of people to the table is a good first step IF (and only if) you’ve thought about what you’ll do with this diversity of backgrounds, identities, and priorities when the people you’ve reached out to actually show up. (For that matter, are you reaching out?)

    It seems like you’ve got some of your inclusive language down: “it was stipulated that any Swarthmore student who self-identifies as a female, regardless of what sex they are registered as in the College’s records, is eligible to join the sorority.”

    But then immediately after you wrote this: “they would allow all female-identifying students to join and would not ask them for proof that they are in fact women.”

    “in fact women”? Really? What happened to self-identification being wholly and utterly all that is needed to be a woman? I emphasize be a woman, not just be proclaimed eligible for membership in a women’s group.

    I’m nervous about your insistance you are “inclusive” of trans people yet continue to write in a distinctly cis-normative and gender policing manner, even in this short article.

    • I read this statement of Ashley’s very differently, it would seem. I think she was attempting to emphasize that it would be ridiculous to request some such “proof” from people who were clearly female-identifying and choosing to participate in an organization for female-identified people, and that it is the sorority’s position that regardless of any external documents, etc., their pledges are female by virtue of their self-identification.

  3. “The invitation to come to Swarthmore College was extended to Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity with the understanding that they would allow all female-identifying students to join and would not ask them for proof that they are in fact women.”

    Wow. Sounds like a trans person would feel right at home in your community.

  4. Thank you for the clarification to the previous article and misinformation in the comments section. This is a great response. I’m looking forward to seeing what the sorority does!

  5. glad to see such relevant, “helpful” comments on this article. it’s always easy to spot people with too much time on their hands.

  6. Really, I don’t want to be that nit picky person, but this transphobic language is thrown around in literally every article that mentions how trans* friendly the sorority is going to be.

    “The invitation to come to Swarthmore College was extended to Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity with the understanding that they would allow all female-identifying students to join and would not ask them for proof that they are in fact women.”

    Transwomen really are women, believe it or not. I want to assume the best intentions but the fact that this language seems to always be used is really concerning to me.

    • But that’s not necessarily problematic language. What its saying is that required to “prove” you are a woman based on some sort of official documentation because the only criteria will be personal identification.

  7. Kudos to Ashley for this article. To those complaining about the phrasing of the inclusivity statement, the intent was quite clear that anyone who identifies as female can join and not have to prove or evidence their being a female beyond saying that they are. This policy is as open as any at Swarthmore and possibly more so, in a few instances, such as athletics. Transphobic language exists, this isn’t it, conflating the two just makes dealing with actual hostility that much more difficult. Grow up.

    • Thank you, David Hill, for schooling us all in what is and isn’t transphobic language. The queer community must surely appreciate you clarifying for them when they should ot shouldn’t be upset.

    • While the language employed in this article may not be overtly or even intentionally transphobic, we can’t police what is and is not perceived as hurtful or exclusive. Good intentions do not by necessity exonerate a person from any misdeeds he/she/they have committed. I’m personally shocked by how many dislikes comments have been accruing despite the commentor’s acknowledgement of how “nit picky” they are being by pointing out language that makes them uncomfortable.

      Minorities are already hyper aware of their differences. It is good and fair for us, whoever we may be, to bring to light language that marginalizes or misrepresents anyone– whether that be the sorority or the trans* community.

      Furthermore, when someone, ANYONE, speaks up about something they find oppressive, exclusive, offensive, whatever, the grown up thing to do is to apologize and work to do better next time. What’s immature and childish is trying to weasel out of the situation by telling that person they interpreted your actions or words the wrong way. “They didn’t mean it/you’re reading this all wrong/stop being nit picky” is oppressive language.

      Obviously, the sorority is trying damn hard to be as good a group for Swarthmore as it can be. I’m proud of my friends joining Kappa Alpha Theta, because I know they will do their best to revolutionize the sorority-college dynamic. That being said, everyone deserves to be heard here, and absolutely no one ever should be told to “grow up” when they express feelings of exclusion.

      • ^ YES, to everything that you just said. I think one thing people need to note is that our own interpretations are not necessarily everyone else’s, nor do our differing interpretation’s mean that another person’s is invalid. Although I happened to read Ashley’s comment differently than some people did, I would never go so far as to say that *because* I did not read it as transphobic, that meant there was nothing transphobic wrapped up in the comment or its wording. I think that people with cis* privilege should step back and listen to those who do not have that privilege, and when it is appropriate defer to their judgments of what is or is not transphobic. I can understand that some people become frustrated that, at times, Swatties may appear to sacrifice the good in the pursuit of the perfect–but that does not give us cis* people the right to determine what is or is not transphobic.

    • I so appreciate you speaking on behalf of the trans* community and telling me how I should be dealing with hostility and exclusive language. This comment really personally offends me unlike most of the others.

      Nearly all those who commented noted that they appreciated the inclusive intention but that the language was transphobic, which objectively, it is. These comments are both diplomatic and constructive.

      Then you, who is not a trans* or queer person as far as I know, comes in to tell everyone how they should and should not be feeling despite the productive conversation that was taking place.

      I’m not sure why you feel that you have the right to speak on behalf of a group of people who aren’t your own while simultaneously belittling and demeaning others.

      Comments like these actually hurt. They make me feel like I don’t have a right to engage in respectful and productive conversation. They make me feel like I should just shut up and accept whatever is around me.

      I’m asking you kindly to please stop making comments like this. This is not just an impersonal argument. This is about people and who they are. Comments like yours really, really hurt.

  8. I applaud this article as one of the first that actually addressed point by point concerns. I urge the leadership of the sorority to listen to some of the comments that have been made. While I am sure that Ashley’s intent here is not to be trans phobic, the intent doesn’t really matter: what does matter is the way that a trans* member of the community might respond and that is what should be taken into consideration. Also as a point of interest, there are members of our community that identify as neither male nor female. What is the sorority’s response to these folks?

  9. Though I usually stay out of these comment wars, I feel compelled to jump in on the discussion of trans* phobic vs trans* inclusive language.

    First, I salute Ashley and KAT for making a formal statement on the inclusivity of the sorority at Swat. There were a lot of rumors flying around, and I (along with others, I’m sure) am glad to hear of KAT’s commitment to being a welcoming and inclusive women’s organization. Though I’m still skeptical of the inclusivity of sororities and greek life in general, I hope that the ideal put forth in this editorial can be strived for at Swat.

    Now, on to the comment “…that they are in fact women” comment. This comment is transphobic, and I think it needs to be replaced by something like “without needing to prove their legal or officially listed sex”, because, as many have pointed out, “in fact women” implies that trans women are not “real” women.

    With regards to David’s comment above, lots of language in our culture is cissexist, transphobic, and exclusive of folks who identify outside the gender binary. I do think that Ashley did not intend to be transphobic with this comment, and that the best we can do as we discus the creation of more welcoming and safe spaces at Swarthmore, especially for trans* people, is to point out ways in which our language is such and provide more inclusive alternatives. The kind of fighting happening in the comments (with sarcastic remarks and telling those who feel excluded by this language to “grow up”) does nothing to encourage more inclusivity in the future.

    • When Kappa Alpha Theta was founded, the word “Sorority” didn’t exist–a group of women decided that rather than be house-mothers or mascots for men’s fraternities, they would form a Fraternity For Women.

  10. I second Marian’s comment. Regardless of whether Ashley’s intention was to be transphobic (which I very much doubt), I think that even her *language* does not need to be read as transphobic. She says that the invitation to Theta was extended with the understanding that Theta “would not ask [bids] for proof that they are in fact women.” Many people are interpreting this to mean that Ashley believes that there could be some sort of proof of womanhood other than merely identifying as a woman. However, she could have meant that the founding members of Swat’s chapter expect that the KAT representatives will not ask for such proof (perhaps because the Swatties recognize that there IS no proof of womanhood other than identifying as a woman!).

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