The offensive is being led by RSC/RVSV member Davine Perik and two other members, Maarten and Annabelle . In a sunny, stately room in the RSC/RVSV association building, 21-year-old Davine explained what motivated them to create more attention for inclusivity. “After I stood up for my sexual orientation during the lockdown, I began to notice that many things are heteronormative in the association. The traditions surrounding galas, date dinners, do not really consider the possibility that someone is not heterosexual.” So she and Maarten and Annabelle came up with the idea to approach the new chair Friso van der Werf and to encourage the association to move towards more inclusivity.

The reaction of her fellow club and debate team members to Davine’s  coming out and new girlfriend was very accepting, said Davine. But not everyone finds it easy to come out of the closet: “Sometimes other members will admit to me at a party that they find it scary to share their orientation in the association. There is not always room to come out of the closet in the association, so some remain inside. From Maarten, I understand that boys are less accepting about homosexuality than women, for example.” Since August they have been making plans – supported by the board – about how to make it clearer that all members are free to be who they are.

You do not have to conform

Voorzitter Friso van der Werf en Davine Perik.
Chairman Friso van der Werf and Davine Perik.

It started this year with the initiation. Davine and Van der Werf described proudly how a lesbian member spoke to the 400 prospective members about her sexual orientation. She made it clear that you do not have to conform and you may be yourself.

A successful pride drinks event, appointing a confidential counsellor to support LGBT+ members, and setting up the first pride party were also mentioned as successes achieved in the first month of the initiative. It’s a good start, but Davine and Van der Werf have indicated that they want to go further on this path. They are still aware of the fraternity’s position in society. Davine said: “The problems that LGBT+ students encounter are found throughout the student world, not just in our association. There is an incorrect assumption about RSC/RVSV that we are more conservative than other associations, but that makes our determined step towards inclusion an even stronger statement. We hope that other associations will follow our lead.”

Culture of silence

Chair Friso Van der Werf felt that another stereotype, that of a culture of silence, is somewhat accurate. “But we specifically want to break that taboo on bringing misunderstandings out into the open.” He wants to move away from the image of a fraternity as an elitist club in which everyone has to conform to one ideal model. “I expect that image will change over time because we are consistently showing that everyone is welcome here. We started on a cultural change a few years ago, I consider this a positive continuation of that change.” Proudly he added: “I think it’s fantastic that the initiative came from the members themselves. They have only just started with this project, but I expect they will have many more great plans to implement.”