Search form

Scroll To Top

How I came to celebrate my gay identity as a member of a Black fraternity

Members Recognize Our Pride Community LGBTQ people historically Black university fraternities sororities HBCU
instagram @recognizeourpride

The founder of RecognizeOurPride describes building a ‘digital yearbook’ celebrating LGBTQ+ members within the Black Greek organizations known as the Divine Nine.

Growing up, I thought I was my stepfather’s biggest disappointment. I wasn’t a “normal” Black boy. I hated sports. I wasn’t tough. I was a little too flamboyant for most adults and nerdy for most kids. At age 6, I had the first hint that I was attracted to other boys. Still, I wanted to impress my stepfather, and his encouragement became a driving force that made him proud. I was a college sophomore when my stepfather encouraged me to join a fraternity, and I quickly began learning about Black Greek Letter Organizations.

The Divine Nine, or the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), are lifelong communities for college students and alumni who use service, philanthropy, business, and politics to uplift the Black community. They’re comprised of four sororities and five fraternities: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated (est. 1906), Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (est. 1908), Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated (est. 1911), Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated (est. 1911), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated (est. 1913), Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated (est. 1914), Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated (est. 1920), Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated (est. 1922), and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Incorporated (est. 1963).

With nearly 2 million members, thousands of undergraduate and graduate chapters worldwide, and decades long community-based programs, the Divine Nine has profoundly impacted the African-American experience and supported our nation’s progress toward equal justice. Its prominent members include Civil Rights icons, trailblazing entrepreneurs, world-renowned scholars, and decorated athletes.

After connecting with members on campus and researching, I knew Alpha Phi Alpha was my fraternity of choice. I believed I aligned with the ideals of the fraternity and would make a great Alpha man.

In fear of alienating my potential brothers, I quickly decided to hide my queer identity. I leaned into old masking habits to present as my most masculine self: not to smile too wide or laugh too hard, tempering my excitement and slowing my movements. Ironically, the closet I thought I was hiding in was evident to others. Thankfully, my sexuality didn’t lead to my rejection.

On a snowy April night in 2007, I joined five other men in becoming new members of Alpha Phi Alpha. But in a few years, the wounds of secrecy became too much to bear.

I slowly stepped away from my fraternity because I no longer felt comfortable diminishing my sexuality to fit in. Over time, with the help of friends, I leaned into my queerness and grew to love myself as a gay Black man. This time, I kept my fraternity identity secret, never thinking I could be openly gay as an Alpha. But a small yet powerful gesture would change this.

In early June 2022, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity publicly recognized LGBTQ+ Pride Month on social media. While Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority was the first to publicly recognize Pride Month in 2020, this was the first time I saw some of our nation’s oldest Black institutions celebrate Pride Month.

Historically, there have been LGBTQ+ members of Black Greek Letter Organizations. Sadly, these members and their accomplishments are often erased, overlooked, downplayed, and excluded from acknowledgment. Additionally, some LGBTQ+ members have been threatened or ostracized by fellow members or ignored for leadership positions within their chapters because of their queer or trans identity.

After seeing this surprising recognition, I was inspired to create a platform to encourage the other Divine Nine organizations to celebrate Pride Month. In June 2022, I launched RecognizeOurPride on Instagram as a digital yearbook featuring past and present LGBTQ+ members.

Ultimately, only six of the nine organizations acknowledged Pride Month in 2022, and only four did so in 2023. This was disappointing because to paraphrase my fraternity brothers – novelist Rashid Darden and author George M. Johnson -- we’ve always been here and deserved recognition. And that’s what I wish to do.

RecognizeOurPride has featured more than 300 queer and trans members of the Divine Nine, including such queer history makers as author Alice Walker (Alpha Kappa Alpha), Civil Rights visionary Bayard Rustin (Omega Psi Phi), and entertainers Wayne Brady (Phi Beta Sigma) and Hattie McDaniel (Sigma Gamma Rho). Inspired by research and writings by LGBTQ+ members, the account has called for more inclusion within our organizations by posting open letters directed to NPHC leadership and resource guides on fostering allyship and trans-inclusion within the Divine Nine.

Likewise, RecognizeOurPride is a trusted resource and collaboration with other Black Greek community platforms, like OutGreekFest and WatchTheYard.

Several LGBTQ+ members said they finally felt seen and appreciated because of RecognizeOurPride and were able to connect and build community with other LGBTQ+ members of their organizations. But the most significant impact has been on me.

I became interested in Greek life to impress my stepfather. However, by developing this platform, I realized who I really wanted to impress was myself. Through this journey, I learned there’s nothing wrong with being different, and I didn’t need to hide any part of my identity to be celebrated. I found comfort in showing up as a proud gay member of Alpha Phi Alpha and began the journey of reconnecting with my fraternity and the Divine Nine community. As someone who has longed to feel worthy for who I am, promoting self-worth and reassurance for queer and trans members of the Divine Nine has been the greatest gift.

I hope queer and trans members see themselves celebrated through this platform and are inspired to reconnect with their organizations. I hope RecognizeOurPride continues to serve as an avenue of healing and connection for queer and trans members and a powerful example of inclusion within the NPHC. I also hope one day, more communities will fully realize Black History Month by embracing and celebrating the contributions of queer and trans-Black Americans, including members of the Divine Nine.

Corey Booneis the founder of RecognizeOurPride, a digital platform that celebrates the LGBTQ+ members of Black Greek Letter Organizations. Follow them on Instagram at @recognizeourpride

Have an inspiring personal story to tell? Want to share an opinion on an issue? Learn more by visiting

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Corey Boone