What is a GSA?
A Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) is a student-initiated and student-run club at school. GSAs provide a safe, supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer, questioning (LGBTQ) and straight ally youth to meet and discuss sexual orientation and gender identity issues, and to work to create a school environment free of discrimination, harassment, and intolerance. These groups are a way to provide support and safety to students regarding their sexual identity. Some groups expand to provide education to the broader school community about sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression and create awareness about the effects of and how to challenge sexist stereotypes, homophobia and transphobia. All GSAs provide a social outlet for LGBTQ students and their straight allies and are a great way to build community at school and lessen the isolation that LGBTQ students might otherwise experience.
Why Is There A Need for GSA?
Students are still subjected to a great deal of harassment and discrimination facing LGBTQ youth (also known as homophobia and transphobia). Isolation, fear, lack of resources and support are the most common problems reported. Homophobia and transphobia are factors in LGBTQ youth dropping out, running away, abusing drugs or alcohol, getting kicked out of their house and even committing suicide. A school environment that is unsafe and hostile towards LGBTQ students discourages positive self achievement, good self esteem, academic achievement and a healthy self image.
All students are affected by a school environment that is unsafe. Students that identify as LGBTQ can be targets of harassment, violence and discrimination. Students who are suspected as being LGBTQ identified, or students who have LGBTQ parents, relatives and/or friends can be either targets or feel isolated, ashamed and/or fearful. Egale Canada‘s 2011 school climate survey revealed that three-quarters of LGBTQ students feel unsafe in at least one place at school, such as change rooms, washrooms, and hallways. Half of straight students agree that at least one part of their school is unsafe for LGBTQ students.
This is why there is a need for GSAs in secondary schools. A GSA works together to create a safer environment in schools, free of harassment, bullying, isolation and oppression. In turn this reduces the number of LGBTQ students that drop out, abuse alcohol and/or drugs, commit suicide, and run away from home. A GSA is also an outlet for allies to support their friends and peers in a safe environment without fear or harassment.
10- Steps Towards Starting a GSA
- Follow guidelines the same way you would start any other group or club.
- Find a sponsor teacher
- Find other students
- Inform administration
- Pick a meeting place
- Plan your meeting
- Hold your meeting
- Establish ground rules
- Plan for the future