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Clemson’s Alpha Chi Omega chapter institutes policy to accept trans* women as members

All women will now have the opportunity to become members of Alpha Chi Omega (AXO), as the sorority has announced it will allow chapters to accept transgender women.
In a Feb. 17 statement, AXO’s National President Angela Harris said, “If we are to continue to live this important mission in today’s world, Alpha Chi Omega must be inclusive of all who live and identify as women, regardless of their gender assigned at birth.”
Harris said the decision is a response to broad social trends that “challenged [us] to reexamine the concepts of sisterhood and sorority through the lens of a quickly changing landscape.”
The new policy will allow each independent chapter to decide whether or not it wishes to accept transgender women. Kayla Schilling, AXO’s Theta Lambda Chapter President at Clemson, said, “Nationals decided to spread the news via social media and they are currently in the process of sharing details with individual chapters.” Schilling declined to comment on what the school’s chapter will do until she has “more information on the hard details.” In any case, all AXO chapters will continue to recruit based on their current standards of academic interest, character, financial responsibility, leadership ability and personal development.
Currently Kappa Kappa Gamma is the only sorority on Clemson’s campus that has a formal policy allowing transgender women to be extended a bid.
Jessie Bailey, President of Clemson’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance, said she was excited to hear about the decision of AXO’s national organization to accept transgender women. “Trans and non-binary women who want to join sororities and have a perfectly normal college experience – just like any cisgender woman – should be able to do so,” Bailey said (Non-binary individuals do not identify as male or female; cisgender individuals are those whose biological sex and gender identity are aligned). Bailey said that there are at present “LGBTQ-focused sororities” across the country, but only a handful and none are currently at Clemson.
In knowing that there is a choice to be made by each chapter, Bailey said, “I hope more sororities follow in AXO’s footsteps, and I hope that individual chapters make an intentional effort to follow these guidelines.”
Although the first AXO chapter was founded in 1885, transgender inclusion has only become an issue in the last few years, as society’s views on gender and gender identity have begun to change. Harris said the sorority was prompted to revise its bylaws in response to many inquires from transgender women interested in joining. She said the new policy reflects a “sincere desire to create a sorority experience that more fully reflects the realities of today’s women, in today’s world.”
AXO has more than 230,000 members nationwide, although the decision is not being universally embraced. Some comments posted on Harris’ video announcement have included negative reactions such as, “I am very disappointed and am withdrawing all support,” as well as positive reactions such as, “So proud to be an Alpha Chi Omega today!” Although some backlash has been received in response to the announcement, the majority of feedback has been positive.
Harriett-Graham Courtney, the Associate Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life at Clemson, said she does not know of any transgender women who have come through Clemson’s sorority recruitment thus far.
Courtney also said she does not know if other sororities will decide to become more inclusive. In regards to other chapters on campus, “Each international/national organization sets their own membership requirements,” she said. “So, it is unknown whether it will affect other organizations.”
Through her announcement Harris stressed the belief that “the power of women’s organizations is real and necessary,” and that with these changes Alpha Chi Omega will continue to embrace their mission to “develop and empower strong women.” Harris said she hopes that others “will stand with me, and the rest of the National Council, in embracing Alpha Chi Omega’s inclusive approach.”

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