Five years ago, the story of a group of gay men claiming to be men who were enthusiastic about historically black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha set some corners of the internet aflame. According to circulated reports, a group of men (super, super, super gay ones!) were prancing around Texas Southern Southern University wearing the official colors of AKA and using official cheers of AKA and generally gaying all over AKA's proud history. Now, the gaggle of would-be sorority boys are back — and this time, according to several news outlets, they're filing suit against the sorority. This would be a fascinating story that could lead to an interesting discussion about homophobia, female spaces, and where LGBT students fit in at historically black universities if it didn't stink to high heaven of bullshit.
The current version of the story goes like this: Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically black sorority founded at Howard University in 1908 and boasting the likes of Toni Morrison and Wanda Sykes as alumnae, is going to be sued by a group of gay men who allege that the sorority's exclusion of men is discriminatory and homophobic. Called MiAKA (Men Interested in Alpha Kappa Alpha), the group has already formed chapters on various campuses throughout the country. They wear the sorority's signature pink and green, they act like women, they raise their pinkies. There's video! The Huffington Post has reported it, so it must be true, right?
Not really. In none of the reports did any news outlet quote a source or attorney from MiAKA. Stories on MiAKA's alleged recent actions are accompanied by the same pictures that went with stories reported on back in 2008. HuffPo and other outlets used as primary sources blog posts that don't use actual quotes. I couldn't find anything on the group aside from dozens of homophobic blog posts accompanied by the same pictures, all from the same slide show on Kollege Kidd, which is also the blog that, from what I can tell, started this current round of rumors. MiAKA has no Facebook page, no official website, no established leadership, and no official organization. I asked a few people who work for organizations that work closely with the gay community, and none of them had heard a thing about MiAKA, either. No reports detailed where the lawsuit was being filed, who was representing MiAKA, or any of the other sort of little, important details lost in a bloody industrial accident in the behind-code internet rumor mill.
So the story here isn't AKA's "women only" policy, or whether or not MiAKA (if it exists) has a case for trying to breach it. The story is that a modern urban legend-based bit of unsubstantiated gay folklore was believable enough to enough people that very few are questioning its legitimacy. And, of course, everyone has an opinion. Instinct mag said, "While we applaud anyone that has a healthy appreciation for women (where would be without our girls, after all?), this is a bit much." NewsOne says, "The men, all homosexual, have imitated everything AKA, from their signature calls and attire, to their probate shows. but have been refused admittance because they are not women." (Well, it's a good thing that we know they're all homosexual. Important detail!) Your Black World says, Black women associated with the organization are furious, but the men in MIAKA are holding firm to their rights as gay men to be a part of the organization they respect so much."
Other sites are a little less nakedly gullible from jump. The Color Curve noted that "Nothing has been officially confirmed as of yet. There is no official lawsuit placed yet. MIAKA has no official website (that I know of) or leader to speak on nor confirm this issue." But rather than assuming that perhaps this was just a rumor started by a bored blogger who ached for viral fame, they then went Full Metal Homophobe —
You have to hand it to LGBT community leaders on a media/political/power playing level, because everyone is sort of scared to speak against them. And I mean everyone. Church pastors, politicians, actors, rappers and public speakers want no parts of the wrath of the LGBT. They take jobs away from white men if they're disrespected. Ask Brett Ratner. No one wants to take a swipe at them, no one wants to speak out against them and no one is willing to eat the backlash for any sort of publicly chastisement.
Yikes. So this story is unsubstantiated and looks like a fake, but it must be true because GAY AGENDA. BEWARE.
Another blogger notes that he believes the story because he saw something similar himself back when he was a schoolgoing lad,
This Greek gender-bending is not a new phenomenon. The children have been imitating sororities for years, although it has historically been underground. The first time I saw this was during my undergrad years when I was attending a small HBCU in Austin, Texas. Back in the day, HBCUs were not exactly accepting of gay folks, so much of the culture was done discreetly or out at the clubs.
I remember going to one club and seeing a group of guys wearing pink and green, stepping, throwing the AKA sign and "skee weeing" all over the place. This was not a drag show; these guys really thought they were AKAs.
And that's the rub, isn't it? It's not a matter of whether Alpha Kappa Alpha is the appropriate social place for gay men who appreciate and admire the sorority; it's a matter of where gay black kids fit in when they go of to college. And, argues HBCU Digest, it's about their struggle for acceptance and visibility at historically black colleges and universities.
The merit of a lawsuit for men to join a sorority isn't the question with this story; it's the ongoing effort for LGBT students at HBCUs to find inclusion. Gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are looking for their lifestyles, their perspectives and ideas to be considered and valued within the entirety of HBCU academic and social culture.
Another question remains: why was this story so believable on a mass scale in the first place? Because it exploits that antique homophobic fear that gay men aren't interested in being men at all, but rather co-opting women's space? Because, despite apparent advances in acceptance of LGBT individuals, there still exists something very ugly and fearful in our collective attitudes toward non-straight sexuality? I'm sure that soon, a rumor will come along that explains everything.