#SigEpPride: How my fraternity brothers helped me come out and live my truth

Happy Pride Month! As we all celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, I’ve spent time reflecting on some of the people who play an influential role in my own Pride experience.

My SigEp fraternity brothers Marquette University helped me come out.

SigEp found me.

Me and my big, Anthony Massino.

Joining a fraternity was not a real priority for me when I was a freshman at Marquette. The idea of being a “frat guy” seemed appealing, but it wasn’t important. That changed when the VP of Recruitment, Anthony Massino, found me at The Dogg Haus.

He quickly befriended me and told me about this fraternity he was a member of. Within an hour I was surrounded by 20 members all trying to tell me what they loved about SigEp. The highlights included: brotherhood, learning opportunities and national programs.

I drank the Kool-Aid and became a brother within a week.

The Wisconsin Zeta Chapter taught me how to be a leader.

Within a matter of months, brothers discovered my passion for storytelling through photography, video and writing. I blinked and became the VP of Communications.

During that time I was also interning with Marquette’s Office of Marketing & Communications, the Marquette Tribune, Penfield’s Children Center and Pablove.

My brothers gave me an opportunity to master my craft. Then, they gave me the opportunity to be President. This is when everything changed.

SigEp brothers care for each other.

As the Chapter President, I was able to learn a more about each brother, their passions, their beliefs and goals in life.

Once we got through fall recruitment and welcomed many new brothers, I had an opportunity to reflect on my life. At the time, coming out was scary because I was worried about my brothers and how they would react, among other fears of course. Then I had an epiphany — my brothers care for each other. SigEp is Brotherly Love.

That’s when I decided to come out to the chapter via an email during Christmas break.

They embraced me.

Within minutes, a dozen brothers called and texted me telling me how much they love me. Many said they couldn’t wait to celebrate when we all returned to campus in January. And a few characters expressed curiosity if they’d get free drinks at the local gay bar.

My chapter brothers embraced me. They changed my life. They helped me live my truth.

SigEp is different.

If you think Brotherly Love only occurs in a chapter, then think again.

As it turns out, SigEp has a history of embracing brothers from all walks of life.

At the 1959 Conclave, SigEp legend Bruce Hasenkamp, Dartmouth ’60, led the effort to pass legislation that opened the fraternity to members of any race, religion or creed. The vote came at a time when some in America still believed in “separate but equal,” and many large universities remained segregated. | Read more.

Wait. There’s more!

In August of 1999, the 46th Grand Chapter Conclave voted to add sexual orientation to SigEp’s non-discrimination clause in the Grand Chapter Bylaws.

When I first learned about this 1999 legislation, I was shocked. Most people wouldn’t believe that one of the largest fraternities in the country would open its red doors to GBTQIA+, but SigEp did.

Past Grand President and Order of the Golden Heart recipient, Donald C. McCleary, Texas ’71.

Recently, I learned more about some of the men who led the fraternity to that historic moment. One of them is Past Grand President and Order of the Golden Heart recipient, Donald C. McCleary, Texas ’71.

McCleary helped found the Human Rights Campaign’s Federal Club, the major donor program that funds a significant portion of the organizations’ lobbying, organizing, campaign and public education work for lesbian and gay equal rights and health issues.
In 1991, McCleary joined HRC’s board of directors, going on to serve as co-chair.
In 1995 Brother McCleary was presented with the The Kuchling Humanitarian Award, named in honor of the late Raymond Kuchling, a leading activist in Dallas’ LGBT community in the 1980s. That same year, Governor Ann Richards and Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk awarded McCleary the Anti-Defamation League’s Jurisprudence Award for his support of cultural diversity. | Learn more about Don.

Forever grateful.

I’m blessed. I’m privileged. I’m one of the lucky ones.

I’m forever grateful for my Wisconsin Zeta brothers. They helped me come out and live my truth.

Though I did not have the honor of knowing him, I’m forever grateful for Don McCleary and the people who step up the plate to continue his legacy every day for the betterment of the world.

Thank you, Don.

My name is Aaron.
I’m Catholic.
I’m Gay.
I’m Me.

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