Update (May 14, 2019): Following a storm of criticism, historic Black sorority Zeta Phi Beta released a statement on Mother's Day officially announcing all women are allowed to join the student organization.

The backlash stemmed from a late April report published by the Washington Blade claiming the sorority wanted to exclude trans women. International Executive Board members purportedly issued a diversity statement on Jan. 12, assuring members that Zeta Phi Beta “values all people, regardless of race, age, gender, gender expression, ability, disability, creed, religion, or walk of life” but will only permit cisgender women to join.

In response to the uproar, the sorority rebuked charges of bigotry and made it clear all women can be part of Zeta Phi Beta and there is no ban as previously believed. The organization did admit, however, to releasing the controversial January diversity statement. Apparently, the diversity statement was taken out of context. The organization was in the midst of updating its membership guidelines.

"Since our founding on January 16, 1920, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. has sought to create a sorority that embraces and values all of our members. Sadly, a previous diversity statement made by our organization fell short of that goal and for that, we offer our deepest apologies," the exclusive statement issued to Essence read.

"We have always aimed to foster an inclusive and diverse sisterhood and remain committed to being an organization that embraces scholarship, provides true service and sets the standard for sisterly love."

There was never a ban, the statement continued. Zeta Phi Beta said they currently has trans women members and will continue to welcome all women of all walks of life to join.

“[Transgender members] have always been entitled to the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other member and shall retain the rights, privileges and responsibilities they were endowed with once they took the oath and became a member.”

Original story:  Few, if any, Greek organizations have national policies concerning transgender people, but it was recently announced that Zeta Phi Beta was going out of its way to explicitly ban any transgender women from joining their house. 

The Washington Blade obtained a copy of a new "diversity statement" that was released by the Zeta Phi Beta International Executive Board on January 12, which says that in order to become a member of the organization "an individual must be a cisgender woman.”

Zeta Phi Beta is one of the biggest greek organizations in the world, with over 100,000 members and over 800 chapters in the U.S., Africa, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. The sorority dates back to 1920 and was originally created at Howard University. 

On their website, they say the sorority was created by five women who "believed that sorority elitism and socializing overshadowed the real mission for progressive organizations and failed to address fully the societal mores, ills, prejudices, and poverty affecting humanity in general and the black community in particular."

Although most greek houses do not have explicit policies on transgender members, The Blade said many fraternities and sororities are seen as hostile toward LGBTQI people, particularly black trans women. Some local chapters of sororities have made an effort to change for the better but most have either ignored the issue altogether or held up their bans on trans women.

Thankfully, some houses are changing their ways and committing to being more open to a diverse array of members. In 2017, the 132-year-old sorority Alpha Chi Omega lifted its ban on transgender women.

 The Washington Blade said Zeta Phi Beta did not respond to requests for comment.

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