Last month, The Washington Blade obtained a copy of the “diversity statement” Zeta Phi Beta sorority adopted in January, which states, “An individual must be a cisgender woman” to join the organization. Cisgender is defined as a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with his or her birth sex. That language, therefore, would ban transgender women from joining the sorority.
After receiving harsh feedback on the policy, the organization has reversed the decision and issued an apology.
“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,” said Zeta Phi Beta in a statement to Essence. “Sadly, a previous diversity statement made by our organization fell short of that goal and for that, we offer our deepest apologies.”
The sorority also noted the organization “already includes transgender women” who “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. To be clear, there is no ban.”
In addition, “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,” the statement read.
Zeta Phi Beta has more than 100,000 members and more than 800 chapters in the U.S., Africa, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.