Content warning: suicide
Kristin Griffith’s life has taken turns she never saw coming. Before going to college, she never pictured herself as a sorority woman. Before her ex-boyfriend came out to her as bisexual, Kristin never thought she might not be straight. Now, Kristin has published a memoir about her experience as a college student and sorority woman in the ‘90s who struggled with her sexuality and gender identity.
Building a Network
Before going to college, Kristin never saw herself joining a sorority. She was shy, she described herself as a total tomboy and she never really had any female friends. All things many assume are the opposite of a sorority woman. When a friend who lived in her dorm encouraged her to go through recruitment, she was pleasantly surprised at how well she fit in with the women she talked to. “When I went through, I was surprised. People were asking me questions and interested in what I was saying,” Kristin said.
Joining a sorority gave Kristin a community of women she had never had before. She was able to make friendships and network in ways she never expected. But, the best thing she says she got out of the experience was the social skills. Kristin’s membership really helped with her shyness and encouraged her to step outside of her shell. Communication and social skills are something Kristin continues to use in her career working with large, well-known companies.
“When I look back, the experience helped me gain more social skills,” Kristin said.
But, when Kristin came to the realization she was a lesbian, she was afraid of what that might mean for her membership in her sorority.
Discovering Her True Self
When Kristin’s ex-boyfriend came out to her as bisexual during her sophomore year of college, the idea of being anything other than heterosexual had never occurred to her. “This was before the internet and there wasn’t a lot of public knowledge about it,” Kristin says. “It was then I thought ‘this is a thing, you can be gay?’”
After that moment, Kristin did a lot of self-reflecting. She began thinking about her own sexuality and realized she was gay. In a time when there were not many openly gay people on campus, and none in the sorority community, this realization worried Kristin.
“At the time, I was worried that people wouldn’t accept me,” Kristin says. It was that fear that kept Kristin from telling many people about her new realization.
Luckily for her, Kristin already had someone in her corner she knew would support and accept her – the same ex-boyfriend who had come out to her. He would be the one to introduce her to a group of students that helped Kristin become comfortable with who she is.
Joining a Community
During her junior year, Kristin’s ex-boyfriend invited her to an unofficial LGBTQ group on campus. He told her it was a great way to connect with others who were going through similar experiences. At the time, there were only 10 or 15 members who would meet in the basement of a dorm. It is this group that helped Kristin become confident in her sexuality.
“People from underrepresented groups can find confidence by being around others who can validate who you are,” Kristin said.
It was also in this group that Kristin met her first girlfriend. After they started dating, it became harder for her to hide who she was. And, hiding this part of herself became mentally taxing. So, Kristin decided she was going to tell her sorority sisters.
Being Her Authentic Self
Dance parties are common events for sorority chapters to host throughout the academic year. One time that her sorority was hosting a dance event, Kristin decided it was time to bring her girlfriend as her date.
When they arrived at the dance party, no one seemed to notice her guest was actually her girlfriend. So, they danced and had a great time until a slow song came on. “When the slow song came on, I wanted to dance,” Kristin said. “But, we didn’t because it would have been me officially coming out.”
Afterward, Kristin felt awful. She was hiding who she was and to her, it was hard to keep doing that. At the next dance, Kristin again brought her girlfriend and requested the same song they hadn’t danced to at the first event. While the song played and they danced together, Kristin says everyone began looking at them with surprise. Many of her sisters and their guests had likely never seen a gay couple together before and were unsure of how to react. After the dance ended, most people didn’t say anything to her about it. Though, she did have a few confidants that she leaned on, like her roommate who was also a Kappa Alpha Theta. They supported her and accepted her for who she was.
“It felt so much better to be myself,” Kristin said.
Sharing Her Story
Beyond college graduation, Kristin’s life changed a lot. She earned a master’s degree in organizational psychology from Rice University before earning an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. She has also worked for well-known companies such as Netflix, Warner Bros. and Adobe in addition to authoring several publications on LGBTQ topics.
“I want people to know you can be out and be successful,” Kristin said.
Her most recent publication, Rush: Memoir of a Gay Sorority Girl, is a project she is particularly proud of. Because so much has changed since Kristin came out in the ’90s, she wasn’t sure if her story would resonate or be helpful to others. But, after a friend’s daughter died by suicide because she thought she was a lesbian, Kristin felt compelled to tell her story so no one else would feel the same way.
While she hopes members of the LGBTQ community find support and see themselves in the memoir, Kristin says she also wrote it for straight people. “I hope others understand what it is like to figure out you are gay and to share that with others,” Kristin said.
Writing this memoir has allowed Kristin to connect with members of the LGBTQ community, their families and even her sorority sisters. After sharing the news of the publication of her memoir with some sisters, some have come to her since reading it and thanked her for telling her story as some of their children are now going through similar experiences to Kristin.
“They were so crazy supportive and excited,” Kristin said. “There was so much interest and sisters have been doing book clubs and posting about it on Facebook.”
While Kristin has many hopes for her memoir, her biggest one is that it impacts people and touches their lives.