Student describes struggles with orientation, fraternity life
Daniel Chapman came to TCU in the fall of 2008 as an openly gay freshman pursuing a film, television, digital media major, political science minor and a closer relationship with God. He will leave TCU this May as an openly gay FTDM major with a political science minor, but without the faith he once held so strongly.
At the beginning of his first year, Chapman became involved with the Christian fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX). “I was looking for the best avenue to meet good, new people,” he said.
Throughout the pledge period and after initiation, “I had never hid my sexuality from anyone,” Chapman said. “Some [brothers] had approached me and tried to change my ways, whereas, in all fairness, others were very supportive. It’s too bad that BYX may have the ultra-conservative image that it has because there are a lot of really progressive-minded members in that fraternity and a lot of them stood by me to the very end.”
The end came for Chapman at the BYX formal that spring. He informed several brothers, with mixed reactions, that he planned to bring his then-boyfriend to the dance.
“I felt it would be good for the fraternity if I showed people on the outside that BYX wasn’t the oppressive fraternity that everyone thought it was,” he said.
The day after the formal, Chapman got a call from the chapter secretary saying he needed to speak with the chapter president, Matt Syme, and his cabinet about what happened at the dance.
“I didn’t understand what exactly he was referring to,” Chapman said. “He clarified later that someone outside of the fraternity, who wasn’t specified, had come to the president and complained about me [going to the formal] with another guy.”
Chapman was informed that, in the BYX constitution, there was a passage that said the fraternity will not accept practicing homosexual members. A “true and correct” copy of the BYX code of conduct submitted in a 2007 Florida court case stated: “we will not condone such activity as homosexuality, fornication, or adultery.” The case was appealed in 2009, where the court opinion noted that “this rule applies to all homosexuals irrespective of whether they have ever engaged in homosexual conduct.”
The BYX constitution isn’t exactly accessible to its members, either, Chapman said.
“The constitution of BYX is actually withheld from the public eye. You can’t see it unless you are a member of the fraternity...and you actually have to gain permission from a BYX officer to see it,” he said. “It’s really kind of sketchy.”
According to evidence from the 2007 court case, the BYX constitution requires that all prospective pledges agree to uphold the code of conduct, but it does not require that the code of conduct be shown to prospective pledges or initiated members. Chapman’s pledge manual from that semester does not contain the fraternity’s code of conduct.
In an email, Nathan Brasher, current president of the BYX chapter at TCU, declined to comment on our questions of, among others, whether the fraternity’s code of conduct still includes the clause, “we will not condone such activity as homosexuality,” whether that clause would still apply to all homosexuals irrespective of sexual conduct or whether a member can still be asked to leave for having a homosexual identification.
In a written message, Syme declined to comment on the specifics of Chapman’s case, but said he and Chapman have maintained a friendship.
At time of printing, the BYX national office had not replied to Image’s email inquiries on the organization’s website or phone calls made to their office in Austin.
“I [don’t] recall reading that clause, and to be judged by a clause that I had no knowledge of seems a little unfair,” he said.
Chapman said he questioned the BYX executive board’s intentions after he was approached.
“You should be ashamed of yourself to call me forward in this manner and try to get me to villianize a part of me that has been very dear in my journey with God,” he said. “It’s a defining part of me that has helped me in my faith.”
His case was taken before the BYX national board, which immediately filed for Chapman’s expulsion from the fraternity.
Chapman said Matt Syme, president of the TCU chapter at the time, appealed to the national board, which responded with an ultimatum. Chapman could rejoin, after a one-semester suspension, but he would have to re-pledge the fraternity and end his homosexual conduct.
“I respectively declined,” Chapman said.
He said he was crushed. “BYX was my family,” he said. “When BYX nationals kicked me out of that fraternity, I lost [my confidence in my faith] that after three years I haven’t gotten back.”
His faith was broken, he said.
“I think that BYX’s biggest flaw is that, deep down, I know they want to help people,” Chapman said. “What they don’t understand is that they are doing the opposite and pushing people away from their faith.”
Chapman said he believes there’s a reason why there are so many agnostic and atheist gay people.
“Homosexuals) have been told that they are less than their Christian brothers, and that’s pushed them away,” he said. “That’s the ultimate flaw of the right-wing evangelical movement.”
If these clauses are still in the BYX constitution, they may violate TCU’s new nondiscrimination policy, which protects students from discrimination based on religion or sexual orientation, among other statuses. A similar non-discrimination policy at Vanderbilt University is currently being challenged by religious organizations there, including the Nu Chapter of Beta Upsilon Chi.