GSA provides safe atmosphere for LGBT+ teens
The GSA has a strict confidentiality policy to protect the privacy and safety of its participants. Therefore, the names of individuals who are current students have been changed in this article.
November 3, 2016
For an LGBT+teen, most of the day can be spent hiding from the surrounding world and concealing the true person on the inside. The opportunities to “be yourself” are few and far between, which is explained in detail in a 2014 Lancer Spirit article by former LHS student Andrew Collins.
Recently, however, some of these same students have taken initiative to provide a place where the masks can come off and anyone can be anything they want.
After four years of absence, the Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA, has returned, thanks to the coordinated efforts of several freshmen and a supporting adviser and Spanish teacher, Mr. Rosa.
“We needed a place for people to go,” Rosa said. “A gay-straight alliance is a good thing to have [in a school]. As an adviser, I’m just a person to be there, for people not to be alone.”
Freshman member Craig helped bring GSA back to LHS. He said the club’s confidentiality contract exemplifies just how quickly a deep bond of trust in the alliance has been established.
According to Craig, a place like this can be crucial to the social health of a closeted teen. He believes if LGBT+teens don’t have a safe outlet for expression, it can have disastrous effects on them.
“I decided to [re-]start it for a specific person who came out and lost all of their friends,” Craig said. “Also, it’s hard to know on your own who you can talk to and possibly form romantic relationships with [without taking the risk of asking].”
The previous GSA club, which closed due to dwindling membership in the 2012-2013 school year, was also advised by Rosa, and was started for similar reasons.
“We wanted to bring awareness,” Rosa said. “There were lots of LGBT suicides [in the country] in 2012-13. Our goal was for people to choose their words more carefully and make them aware of their surroundings.”
Other members were surprised at the sheer amount of freshman allies and participants. According to freshman member Tom, the transition to high school for an LGBT+ student can be a lot more difficult than for a straight student.
“As freshmen, if someone older makes fun of you, it’s harder to defend yourself,” Tom said. “At the GSA, no one can or will judge you. You don’t feel in danger of being belittled.”
As far as the future of the club is concerned? Craig is “aiming high” and sees an unending amount of possibilities.
“We’re working on two fundraisers,” Craig said. “Possibly a short film if everyone’s up for it, a few posters, and a letter to congress trying to illegalize ‘conversion therapy’ as a medical field. And of course, I want [group members] to become closer.”
Having experienced both the loneliness of being in the closet and the relief of depending on the alliance, the members of the LHS GSA encourage any LGBT+ students or allies to come to a meeting. They hope more students will participate in the club in order to hopefully spread acceptance and diminish the struggle for those stuck in the closet in the school community.
Rosa’s advice for those who wish to contribute to this acceptance is to generally respect people as a whole and talk to each other. If you’re unsure about something about an LGBT+ student, Rosa encourages people to just ask. No one will be offended by genuine curiosity; it’s better than spreading rumors or talking behind a person’s back.
Of course to members, showing support to the GSA itself is always a good idea. Rosa thinks creating a GSA or even just showing up to one takes a certain level of bravery on anyone’s part, gay, straight, or otherwise.
According to Karen, a freshman who is an ally, or non–LGBT+ club member, one of the most vital parts of any GSA is the participation and loyalty of allied individuals.
“Having allies involved shows members that it is really an alliance, and there are people outside of the [LGBT+] community that accept them,” Karen said. “It’s really to show support.”
To those closeted students, an enthusiastic member offers this advice: “Just don’t focus on what people think of you. Work on what you think of you. Don’t search for acceptance in others. If people are accepting, great, but it just matters that you’re happy with yourself.”