IU’s first trans sorority sister on why you should rush
‘I went through plenty of rejection during recruitment, but we all do’
She wanted to be surrounded by strong, independent and hard working women, but Jenna Comins-Addis wasn't ready for 2016 fall recruitment. She had just come out as trans and needed more time to adjust to her new life.
A year later, she registered with Panhellenic to go through the strenuous recruitment process. At Indiana University, the process for joining a sorority is long and grueling. Over the course of a couple weekends, participants visit 23 different chapters and speak with hundreds of girls before they're selected to join a pledge class on "bid day."
Each chapter prides itself as being uniquely different, but Jenna didn't care. "It didn't matter where I got in, as long as I got into a chapter that I was happy with," she said.
Not everyone who enters rush comes out with a golden ticket, but Jenna did. Last spring, she became the first trans woman to join Delta Phi Epsilon. Even more remarkably, Jenna became the first trans woman to join IU's Greek life.
“The trans and queer community can know that they can find safety and support at any sorority at Indiana University, and especially at Delta Phi Epsilon,” Jenna said.
Today, Jenna is a junior studying cinematic production and design. Aside from being a proud member of the DPhiE sisterhood, she works in the marketing department for IU Rec Sports, writes for the Hoosier Flipside and is in the Indiana All Media Club.
We sat down with Jenna to talk about her experience as a trans woman in Greek life.
What was recruitment like?
Well, you know what it's like to go through recruitment, it's hard for everybody — it's part of the process. I enjoyed going through recruitment; getting to meet very nice, beautiful women in every single chapter…it was so much fun. Even though we had to walk around in the cold it was still worth it. I really enjoyed meeting new people and having unique conversations. The experience was like no other.
I also loved my RhoGam, she helped me out so much and so did the people around me. Honestly, I didn’t feel all that different from those going through recruitment, [being trans] it was a side note.
How has the Greek community welcomed you?
A sister of another chapter at IU said that she would be so excited to hear if I was going through recruitment. And that second I knew I wanted to try it out. I was so excited. Now that I’m in Greek life, I feel really welcomed. It’s not like I'm getting any special treatment from Panhellenic, I just get treated like a person.
There's nothing special about me being trans in a sorority, that’s just an afterthought. I would love to see more transgender people go through recruitment in the future, whether that would be rushing a fraternity or going through recruitment.
Have you encountered any challenges since joining a sorority?
I face so many challenges, but I face the same challenges as anybody else. Sometimes you get frustrated with people, and sometimes you work really hard. Like during philanthropy and you wish it went better, but honestly that's what everyone feels.
The only difference with my experience is that I'm trans. That's such a small thing. Anyone can go through recruitment. Anyone can join a sorority. It's not anything to be afraid of or intimated by—it's something to be excited about.
What advice do you have for members of the LGBTQ community at IU that may want to go through recruitment?
I want to be someone who can help people who want to go through recruitment but aren't sure yet. I hope I can be their way of knowing that they're safe, they can be excited about it, and that they don't need to be afraid of it. I went through plenty of rejection during recruitment, but we all do.
Somebody getting a perfect rush is so rare. Never go in expecting a perfect rush. Never go in expecting to get the exact chapter you want. In fact, don't even know what chapter you want. Go in not knowing anything. It doesn’t matter where you get in, as long as you're happy.
What has been your favorite part of being involved in Greek life and DPhiE?
My favorite part of being in Greek life is feeling like I have a place where I belong and having these opportunities that I've never had before. I like being apart of something that's larger than myself. It's really great to have sisters who can help you, and you can help them.
Delta Phi Epsilon has the most open and accepting communities and chapters nationally. We just had a big policy change in our bylaws that allows for all transgender and transgender non-conforming people to join. We're really excited about that. I'm not the only queer sorority sister in Delta Phi Epsilon. It's so exciting to talk to sisters in different chapters and learn their stories too.