GSA, or the Gay-Straight Alliance, is a club formed in most public schools. Just like any regular club, there is an advisor and fundraisers, yet unlike most clubs, the GSA gets little to no support from the school administration. Recently, my school has been facing budget cuts, and one of the first things on the list to cut? The GSA.
It would be one thing if the club had no members or if there wasn’t a lot of interest in it, yet the GSA has 20 members, all of whom need this support. GSA gives those who aren’t out to their parents the strength and support it takes to open up to them. And to those who are out yet receiving judgment from their parents, get support in a safe environment.
To take this safe space away from those in the LGBTQ community, would be detrimental to everyone involved. According to The Trevor Project, LGBT youth are almost five times more likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. This number could vastly increase if GSA is taken away or unsupported.
I talked to the co-director of my school’s GSA, Xander, and asked him a few questions as to how the lack of support and awareness affects those in the club.
How does the lack of support in GSA’s affect those involved?
It makes it difficult to feel comfortable in the school climate. Some are more openly out than others, and the main reason some are still in the closet is that they would feel unsafe and think they would be an easy target for bullying.
What could schools do differently to spread awareness about GSA and also the struggles those in the LGBTQ+ community face?
Schools could make open statements saying that they are accepting of LGBTQ+ students, and reinforce that bullying and discrimination will not be tolerated. Also, schools need to practice these policies, and not just give infinite warnings with no consequences.
What should a student do if they want to join GSA but are scared of facing any backlash from parents or other students?
Students can find clubs that meet on the same day and use those to say that’s why they stay after. Or, they could say they’re just hanging out with friends. While it’s not ideal, it’s a safety measure some have to take.
A school’s first priority is to make everyone feel safe, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. A GSA cannot be successful if the school doesn’t support it. It’s up to the school to take accountability for their actions and problems facing discrimination of LGBTQ youth. Schools need to set an example for their students, by showcasing support for the LGBTQ community. Simply having a GSA does not mean you’re an accepting environment.
Schools need to do more than just the bare minimum.
*Note: This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.
Featured image courtesy of LGBTQ Nation