What is a GSA?
A Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) is a student-initiated and student-run student club. 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., Together they work to create a school environment free of discrimination, harassment, and intolerance. While each GSA is unique, there is never an expectation that students disclose their sexual or gender identity.
What is the function of a GSA?
Many GSAs function as support groups that provide safety and confidentiality for students struggling with their identity. Some also educate themselves and 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. Others are also activist clubs that work to get LGBTQ issues more represented and work for more inclusive policies.
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.
Can straight youth become involved in GSAs?
Yes. Straight youth are often members of GSAs because they have LGBTQ parents, family or friends. Straight youth who have been perceived as LGBTQ may join to help stop harassment and intolerance in school. Many straight youth are involved because they recognize that ending homophobia and transphobia are important civil rights and human rights issues.
What types of activities do GSAs become involved in?
GSAs will often conduct student and teacher sensitivity trainings typically see a decrease in slurs, name-calling, and harassment following their advocacy efforts. GSAs also create safe spaces for students to meet and socialize in a harassment-free environment. Student clubs are a valuable part of teenagers’ high school experiences. By facilitating student-run clubs, students have the opportunity to learn about running groups, planning social, spiritual, political or academic activities, and working with others.
Why are GSAs important?
Adolescence is often stressful as teens develop rapidly toward adulthood. That passage can be especially difficult for youth beginning to realize their sexual orientation or wanting to express their gender identity. If these teens are isolated from supportive peers and adults, the outcome frequently is low self-esteem. Isolated LGBTQ youth often have a very difficult time focusing on their education.
GSAs help to reduce feelings of isolation, and to increase self-esteem in all members. Student-run discussions, social events, and political organizing are safe, healthy ways to work through a growing time that can otherwise be very confusing, depressing, or alienating.
GSAs help combat an atmosphere of verbal/physical harassment and an environment that limits self-expression just by meeting and bringing up examples of bigotry and punishment for gender non-conformity. Even other students (not in the GSA) will be drawn into the school-wide discussion of homophobic and transphobic incidents and attitudes. This school-wide discourse is very productive.
How do GSAs benefit the whole school community?
Homophobic and transphobic harassment and violence are very common in schools and among teenagers. GSAs that conduct student and teacher sensitivity trainings typically see a decrease in slurs, name-calling, and harassment following their advocacy efforts. GSAs also create safe spaces for students to meet and socialize in a harassment-free environment.
GSAs help combat an atmosphere of verbal/physical harassment and an environment that limits self-expression just by meeting. Even other students (not in the GSA) will be drawn into the school-wide discussion of homophobic and transphobic incidents and attitudes. This school-wide discourse is very productive.
- Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network - GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community.
- Gay-Straight Alliance Network - Gay-Straight Alliance Network is a national youth leadership organization that connects school-based Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) to each other and community resources through peer support, leadership development, and training.
- Pride Education Network - The Pride Education Network of teachers, administrators, support staff, youth and parents strives to make the B.C. school system more welcoming and equitable for LGBTQ students and staff, and queer families.