This is Out Here in America, a podcast by the Sun Herald and McClatchy that explores what’s like being LGBTQ in the Deep South and in other rural communities across the United States.
On the August 27, 2018 episode of Out Here in America, host Justin Mitchell is going back to college with Austin Gaddis, a University of Alabama graduate and former president of the Kappa Sigma fraternity on the Tuscaloosa campus.
Gaddis gave the inside story told of being in the closet inside one of the most influential fraternities on campus.
“I knew that in order for me to have the experience that I really wanted, the Greek system was what I needed,” Gaddis said.
Years of hiding his identity at home in the small Alabama town of Scottsboro made Austin feel trapped — and it taught him to hide again within one of America’s largest Greek systems.
“I found that I could be myself more if I took things like leadership roles (in Kappa Sigma) because it allowed me to be more of the facilitator instead of the star of the show,” he said.
But it was also at Alabama where Austin came to terms with his identity as a gay man and became part of an underground dating network that thrived right under his brothers’ noses.
“There was this whole subculture of fraternity guys,” Gaddis said. “And finally, for the first time, we’re able to interact without it being by something like word of mouth.”
Gaddis, who works in the legal field in Washington, D.C., talked about mothers, fraternity brothers and some favorite TV shows and podcasts, while bringing it all back to one common theme — identity.