University of Wyoming Sorority Members File Lawsuit Over Induction of Transgender Student
Seven anonymous current and past members claim the national organization dismissed concerns
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Apr 04, 2023
By Ellen Fike
Special to the Wyoming Truth
A transgender student at the University of Wyoming, whose controversial induction into a sorority made national headlines last fall, is now at the center of a lawsuit filed by seven anonymous current and past sorority members.
The 153-page lawsuit was filed by Jane Does I-VII of the University of Wyoming’s Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority chapter on March 28 in U.S. District Court. It names the national Kappa Kappa Gamma (KKG) sorority, its national council president and a recently inducted transgender member, referred to as Terry Smith throughout the suit, as defendants.
The plaintiffs allege that by allowing Smith to join the sorority, national chapter officials violated Kappa Kappa Gamma’s own bylaws, which state the organization is “single-gender.”
“The Fraternity Council has betrayed the central purpose and mission of Kappa Kappa Gamma by conflating the experience of being a woman with the experience of men engaging in behavior generally associated with women,” the lawsuit said.
The plaintiffs oppose the chapter’s induction of Smith, referring to Smith as an adult man throughout the suit and claiming national KKG officials pressured the UW chapter to violate sorority rules, which call for only women to be inducted into the sorority.
“Since 1870, when a woman’s presence in a college classroom, by itself, defied societal norms, Kappa Kappa Gamma has united women in defiance of stereotypes about how women ‘should’ be,” the complaint reads. “Now Mr. Smith – a man who claims to be a woman because he thinks he knows how women should behave – has been brought into the Plaintiffs’ sorority house.”
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs asked a judge to void Smith’s membership in the sorority, declare that men cannot join the sorority under its existing bylaws and rule that the defendants violated their obligations to the sorority.
They also seek monetary damages for the alleged violation of the sorority housing contract to compensate for “Defendants’ wrongful acts” and for reimbursement of their attorneys’ fees.
“An adult human male does not become a woman just because he tells others that he has a female ‘gender identity’ and behaves in what he believes to be a stereotypically female manner,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that the sorority did not rely on its official bylaws in admitting Smith, but instead followed a sorority guide for supporting LGBTQIA members stating Kappa Kappa Gamma is a single-gender organization that admits women and people who identify as women.
“Sorority representatives not only approved Mr. Smith’s membership, but national Sorority officials also encouraged chapter officers to pursue Mr. Smith and guided chapter officers in the illegal selection process,” the lawsuit alleges.
According to the lawsuit, all chapter members must vote on candidates before they can be inducted into Kappa Kappa Gamma. The vote takes place using an electronic voting system on the application “Omega Recruit.” But in Smith’s case, not all chapter members voted, and the voting process took place through a public Google Poll, the lawsuit said.
Several of the members wanted to vote against inducting Smith, but did not do so because of the public voting system.
The lawsuit alleges that the chapter’s membership and several other officials told the members prior to the poll that they could only vote against Smith if they were able to articulate specific concerns about Smith’s personality.
The complaint also claims that chapter officials were pressured to induct its first transgender member to garner favor from national sorority leaders.
Smith lives in a dorm on the UW campus. However, the time Smith has spent in the house has made some of the KKG members uncomfortable, the lawsuit states.
“Mr. Smith stares at women walking to the bathroom,” the lawsuit alleges. “One sorority member walked down the hall to take a shower, wearing only a towel. She felt an unsettling presence, turned, and saw Mr. Smith watching her silently.”
According to the lawsuit, “Mr. Smith’s current driver license states he is male and when he presented this official document in January 2023, Mr. Smith asserted that he was male. Mr. Smith wears women’s clothing only occasionally. He regularly travels about campus wearing baggy pants as would any other male student. Other than occasionally wearing women’s clothing, Mr. Smith makes little effort to resemble a woman.”
Some of the plaintiffs reached out to the national organization to express concerns about Smith living in the sorority house during the next school year, according to the complaint, but they were allegedly dismissed and told if they were uncomfortable or concerned about their safety, they should quit the sorority altogether.
This is not the first time Smith has been in the news. Last December, Todd Schmidt, an elder with Laramie Faith Community Church, displayed a sign on a table at the campus’ student union that said “God created man and woman and [student’s name] is a man.” Students protested in a silent demonstration, and Schmidt was later suspended from having table privileges in the student union for one year.
In response, 25 Wyoming Republican legislators penned a letter to UW officials, calling on them to “condemn” the transgender student’s induction into the sorority, as well as to reverse its ban on the church elder.
John Knepper, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, did not respond to emails seeking comment about the lawsuit. The Wyoming Truth also reached out to members of the sorority, Smith and representatives from UW’s Queer Coalition Council that supports the LGBTQIA community for comment, but none responded.