Audrey Schockett’s parents were both involved in Greek life when they were in college.
Despite the past lineage in her family, Schockett was uncertain of whether or not to join Greek life at Ball State University when she arrived on campus as a first-year student. However, at an activity fair, one sorority caught her eye.
“I hadn't heard about a sorority that was LGBT inclusive,” Schockett said.
The sorority in question was Gamma Rho Lambda, the “first all-inclusive, college based sorority” in the United States.
Throughout her time at Ball State, Schockett became more and more involved with the sorority, which she described as a “close-knit community.”
Schockett said the COVID-19 pandemic hit Gamma Rho Lambda hard. Coming into the 2022-23 academic school year, Schockett was the only remaining member.
“We just didn't have a chance to really grow our numbers,” Schockett said. “And then everyone else graduated.”
Schockett noted that those who didn’t graduate left for personal reasons. She said the help she got from alumni was very crucial.
After the struggles of the pandemic, Schockett hopes to attract new members with the values of Gamma Rho Lambda: “Truth in tolerance, knowledge through diversity, bonds of unity and strength in trust.”
The Nu Chapter of Gamma Rho Lambda was founded Nov. 16, 2013. With the founding of the Nu Chapter, Gamma Rho Lambda became Ball State’s first, and only, all-inclusive sorority.
Avery Uñate joined Gamma Rho Lambda after he began his studies at Ball State in 2015. Uñate was drawn to the sorority because of the acceptance of others in the sorority.
“It was my first time feeling really comfortable around other queer people,” Uñate said.
Coming from a small, conservative town near Valparaiso, Indiana, Uñate never had the opportunity to express his identity as a queer person until coming to Ball State.
Uñate found out about the sorority through both his resident assistant (RA) and a friend who was on Hall Council at LaFollette Complex with him.
“I really loved everything about it,” Uñate said. “So I decided to fully join.”
Gamma Rho Lambda has partnered with Muncie OUTreach, a partnership which was already underway when Uñate joined, and has continued to this day. Uñate also was voted to be the sorority’s representative in the Polar Plunge one year, a fundraiser for the Special Olympics.
Uñate, 2019 graduate from Ball State, said the core values of Gamma Rho Lambda have guided him in his life ever since joining the sorority. He credits the sorority with his work to become a better person and become a more comfortable leader.
Uñate, a queer transgender man, still does activism work and does drag performing in his free time. He hopes to tell stories through his drag work.
“I always try and think about the ways I can go about being a better person and a better ally to communities,” Uñate said. “It just brings me a lot of fulfillment.”
Uñate still helps with Schockett and Nu Chapter at Ball State, and is now the mentor for the newest Gamma Rho Lambda chapter, the Alpha Epsilon chapter at George Mason University in Fairfax County, Virginia.
“I'm excited to work with them to get better at communicating and problem solving on their own,” Uñate said. “So they can just be an independent chapter without my help.”
A graduate that helped Schockett out was Mack Yote. A former president of Nu Chapter, Yote was persuaded to join the sorority, just like Uñate, by an RA in her residence hall.
“A discussion about identities came up,” Yote said. “I had mentioned that [my identity] was in their [LGBTQ+] community. She asked me if I wanted to join a queer sorority.”
Yote joined Gamma Rho Lambda in spring 2017. What drew Yote to the sorority was, just like Schockett, the sense of community within the sorority.
“They just made me feel like I was home,” Yote said.
Yote pointed to the first recruitment event that she went to and how comfortable she felt.
“I just remember sitting in the room and thinking, I haven't been afraid to say something this entire time,” Yote said. “I felt that sense of, I can be myself here.”
Yote also noted how far the understanding of the LGBTQ+ community has come since she began her first year at Ball State in 2016.
“It was still very common to hear the ‘F’ slur on the street,” Yote said. “Transgender issues were just not in broad daylight at all.”
In her time in Gamma Rho Lambda, she helped organize events with the purpose of educating the Ball State community about the LGBTQ+ community.
“We did it to help bring visibility to queer students on campus,” Yote said.
Schockett hopes to help increase the awareness of Gamma Rho Lambda over the course of the 2022-23 academic year, including plans to partner up with other clubs on campus.
“My game plan is to get through new member education and then plan for spring recruitment,” Schockett said.
Schockett hopes to foster the same sense of community and closeness that brought her to the sorority in the first place.
“I still want to get involved as an alum and continue to help them after I've graduated,” Schockett said. “Just so I can help them foster that community I had when I first joined. I'm around people who can relate to some of the same experiences that I've been through.”
Yote noted that the people involved with Gamma Rho Lambda get to be a part of “something far bigger.”
“It is a family. It is a community of people doing really great work,” Yote said.
Contact Grayson Joslin with comments at Grayson.firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GraysonMJoslin.