CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The nationwide battle over the places where transgender people may belong has flared at the University of Wyoming, where a lawsuit filed by seven sorority members challenges the induction of a transgender woman into their local chapter.
The woman, identified only by the pseudonym “Terry Smith” in the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, made residents of the Kappa Kappa Gamma house uncomfortable in part by sitting on a common-area couch for hours and staring at them without talking, 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,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit against the national Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, its national council president and Smith claims national sorority officials pressured the local chapter to violate sorority rules, including those for voting to induct new members.
The lawsuit asks for a judge to declare Smith’s sorority membership void and to award unspecified damages. The damages should reflect the local chapter’s decline in financial stability and donations because of Smith’s induction last fall, the lawsuit alleges.
Like Smith, the seven women suing are anonymous, referred to in the lawsuit as Jane Does I-XII.
Smith did not immediately return an email message Thursday seeking comment. She had no attorney listed in court records.
The lawsuit “contains numerous false allegations,” but the sorority couldn’t comment in detail, Executive Director Kari Kittrell Poole said in an emailed statement. Kappa Kappa Gamma does not discriminate based on factors including gender identity, she added.
Smith, 21, doesn’t live among the 44 women currently residing in the Sorority Row house because of housing commitments elsewhere, according to the lawsuit that identifies Smith as male.
Smith has spent much time at the sorority house, however, including for a slumber party she allegedly did not leave until two hours after promised. The next morning, Smith became “sexually aroused” while watching other pledges change their clothes, the lawsuit alleges.
Smith, who identifies with female pronouns on Twitter, wears women’s clothing “only occasionally,” has not undergone medical gender transition and identifies as male on a Washington State driver’s license even though she legally could have identified on it as female or “X” gender, the lawsuit alleges.
“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,” the lawsuit says.
While inducting Smith, the sorority improperly relied not on official bylaws but a 2018 “Guide for Supporting Our LGBTQIA+ Members” that says Kappa Kappa Gamma is a “single-gender” organization that admits both “women” and “individuals who identify as women,” the lawsuit alleges.
The University of Wyoming campus in Laramie has a long history of wrangling with LGBTQ+ issues since the murder of gay freshman Matthew Shepard in 1998 heightened attention to them nationwide. Wyoming, along with South Carolina, is one of just two states that has not yet adopted a hate-crimes law since Shepard’s murder.
Republican Gov. Mark Gordon recently allowed a ban on transgender athletes in precollege interscholastic athletics to become law without his signature.