Breaking gender stereotypes in Greek Life

Kappa Psi Nu non gendered sorority creates an inclusive space for students at NMU


Photo courtesy of Bailey Gomes

SIBLINGHOOD – Bailey Gomes, Aja Miller and Karlene Howard (left to right) made Kappa Psi Nu sweatshirts during one of their siblinghood nights this semester. Kappa Psi Nu is a recently established non gendered sorority that focuses on creating an inclusive Greek Life experience.

Katarina Rothhorn, Features Editor

The longevity of the relationships she had discovered through Kappa Psi Nu first struck Karlene Howard, junior psychology major, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was her second semester as a member of the Kappa Psi Nu non-gendered sorority and as the group sat around the dinner table, they discussed how they would continue to support each other from afar during the pandemic. 

“That was a moment where I was like, ‘wow, these people truly care about everybody in this group. We want each other to be as safe as possible and as comfortable as possible and are willing to help in any physical way possible to make that happen,'” Howard said. “That was really cool.”

The following year, Howard took on the role of president for Kappa Psi Nu and continues to be one of the three active members for the organization. Other members of Kappa Psi Nu are inactive members or alumni who are still a part of Kappa but have chosen to take a less active role in the group. 

“We really want your school health, physical, mental, everything to come before [Kappa],” Howard said. “Being a part of Kappa, there’s a lot of responsibilities that come with it, so if that’s too much stress, if you just need to focus on yourself for a little bit or you need to focus on your schoolwork, you can choose to go inactive.”

Creating this supportive and inclusive environment is exactly why Kappa Psi Nu was established in 2019. This sorority is a non-gendered Greek organization that maintains Greek life traditions while also promoting a community that supports people of all backgrounds and identities. 

Co-founder and previous president of Kappa Psi Nu, Molly Liford, graduated from NMU in 2020 and spent a lot of her senior year helping turn Kappa into the organization it is today.

Liford and other founding members of Kappa originally joined a different sorority in 2016. But after a few years with the group, they felt changes needed to be made. 

“We were just finding a lot of struggles with being heard in this larger national organization and having members be seen as individual members,” Liford said. “We had a lot of gender and sexual diversity in the group and it just wasn’t really working … so we kind of hit a crossroads with that national organization where we had to choose either are we going to have certain members have to leave, or are we going to leave the organization so our members can stay together.”

One of the other co-founders of Kappa Psi Nu, Micah Morley, had anticipated being asked to leave the original sorority after he came out as a nonbinary transmasculine person about six months after joining. However, his experience and the identities of other members encouraged people like Liford to officially break away from the women-only sorority and create a new Greek organization.

“I came to [Liford] who had become one of my best friends at that point and I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t know what to do because I joined a sorority that is typically for women. I found out I’m not a woman, but I’m already in this. What the heck am I supposed to do?’” Morley said. “It was just a really awesome moment to come to this group of people that I had just started seeing as a family and be like, ‘Hey, I’m worried about your reaction.’ And they all just went, ‘Oh, no, we love you. That’s what we’re here to do so don’t worry about anything. Just let us know if you need anything.’”

Liford, Morley and other sorority members who were looking for a more inclusive environment decided to explicitly state their decision to be a nongendered sorority and that anyone was welcome in their group regardless of sex, identity or religion. 

“The idea of being Greek is that you have a family, a legacy and a group of people who will support you,” Liford said. “If you get accepted but you’re still worrying about things like ‘can I be true to my race, to my religion, to my gender or my sexuality,’ you are not living fully in that sibling hood. We spent an entire summer just trying to make sure that nobody would have to feel like that as long as we were on campus.” 

The founding members of Kappa Psi Nu spent the summer of 2018 reworking the language, rituals and name for their sorority to establish the inclusive Greek organization they were looking for. 

They knew they wanted their name to include Kappa to continue the legacy from their parent sorority and created spreadsheets with 96 different iterations of Kappa names before deciding on Kappa Psi Nu. They also developed rituals and adjusted long-standing traditions throughout their extensive research on other sororities throughout the United States. 

Despite being explicitly nongendered, they also decided to keep the title of a sorority.

“It felt a little bit like reclamation. I knew that it would probably bother people and I wanted them to have to interrogate why it bothers them so much when the inverse of things like a women’s fraternity or a nongendered fraternity didn’t,” Liford said. “We weren’t just a nongendered Greek organization either because … we wanted it to be as authentic to that original experience as possible, while still kind of having people interrogate why it might upset them.”

Kappa Psi Nu officially started recruiting new members as a nongendered sorority in 2019, receiving some pushback from some members from other Greek organizations on campus. 

“Much in the same way that I joined a Greek Life organization to be a part of a long-standing tradition, I think sometimes other people did as well but the traditions that they wanted to cling on to were more toxically entrenched ones,” Liford said. “I think that it really bothered [some people] that they couldn’t just say that it was a boys’ club or a girls’ club anymore and that they would have to start acknowledging that people in the Greek system might use different pronouns than them and that if we are all part of a Greek community you do have to accept and acknowledge that.”

However, many people in leadership positions in Greek Life, such as NMU’s Greek Council president at the time, offered Kappa Psi Nu unconditional support.

“At the core, Greek organizations are supposed to make you a better person,” Liford said. “I think that the people who took on leadership roles while we were going through this really took that to heart.”

The support Kappa Psi Nu received during their first few years on campus helped the sorority continue on even after the co-founders graduated NMU. 

Current Kappa Psi Nu vice president and junior forensic biochemistry major, Bailey Gomes, joined her freshman year and immediately found the diverse and inclusive family Liford and Morley were trying to create within the sorority. 

“In all honesty, my first semester here was pretty rough and I didn’t make any friends. All of the Greek organizations hosted a social and I figured ‘what do I have to lose?’” Gomes said. “I just immediately felt like I fit in [with Kappa Psi Nu] and that I belonged with that group of people. It kind of sounds cliche and corny, but it really did feel like I found my group of people.”

Gomes is not the only one who has found a family in Kappa Psi Nu. For Liford, the relationships she made in the sorority have lasted even after graduation.

“I think having access to this family has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done because I get to look back and know that I have people who love me and who I love,” Liford said. “We truly function as a family. Sometimes I’ve wanted to strangle some of them … but I also know that they wanted to strangle me and I also know that at the end of the day, if it was me against the world I would have them on my team.”

Kappa Psi Nu has weekly meetings as well as siblinghood events at least once a month where they have fun activities such as movie nights, game nights or even semi-formal brunches. 

Besides bonding with their siblings in Kappa Psi Nu, members also get the chance to meet other people in Greek life at NMU. 

“Because Greek life isn’t that big at Northern, we have an opportunity to get to know almost all of the other Greek members as well,” Howard said. “That’s really cool because it’s just this huge social network where we go and we hang out and … build those relationships between all of the Greek organizations. It’s a really great way to just get to know people.”

Since Kappa Psi Nu is not a national Greek organization, they can recruit new members throughout the semester. The only requirement is that they are able to complete the four-week education and initiation process before the end of the semester.

“Us being on the smaller side is honestly one of my favorite things about us because it does create such a close-knit community there,” Morley said. “We always have the same five-ish people with a few new people that we can make really feel at home. They’re not just being shoved into a giant group and joining the ranks. It’s truly adding members to the family that are individual.” 

Despite Kappa Psi Nu’s small size, Gomes hopes the concept of nongendered Greek Life is able to spread to other areas and inspire more diverse and inclusive living on other campuses. 

“I would love to see Kappas everywhere someday,” Gomes said. “The idea that we can take Kappa and plant that seed somewhere else and give another university the opportunity to have this type of diversity and inclusion in Greek life, I think it is something that is desperately needed in other areas. I think that it would be great if Kappa could extend its wings out to those places.”