Gay / Straight Alliances haven't always been around. In fact, GSAs really only began to emerge in the 1990s as a way for GLBT teens and their allies to connect, find support and provide education.
Here is information on starting a GSA, what's it's like to be a member of one, and how to deal with schools that are hostile to GSAs.
How to Start a GSA
There are five basic steps to starting a GSA.
- Find out how to start a club at your school. Ask the administration or another student who has recently started a club about your school's policies and procedures. Make sure you follow them and keep all the necessary people in the loop about what your plans are.
- Ask a teacher or staff member to be your faculty adviser. Ideally this would be someone who you know is open to discussing sexual orientation. However, don't be discouraged if the first person you approach isn't able to be your adviser. Though it is tempting to ask a teacher you know personally, the right adviser may not be someone you have already had a lot of interactions with.
- Decide on a time and place for your first meeting and publicize your GSA. Teachers, guidance counselors, student body leaders and the school newspaper are all good places to get the word out about your new GSA.
- Make an outline of what you want to do at the first meeting. Think of something that will make the meeting fun like a a game or icebreaker to get members excited about meeting.
- Have your meeting! At the first meeting it can be helpful to think about future meetings, what people want to gain from the group, and how you will deal with any unforeseen huddles. Don't be discouraged if not a lot of people show up for the first meeting.
Additional Tips for Starting a GSA:
If you have a friend who is also interested in starting a GSA, work together. Divvying up responsibility and leaning on each other for support can be really helpful.
Know what your talking about and do your homework! You might be met with resistance, so know what to say if someone tries to block your efforts. Common administrative concerns are that GSA's try to "recruit" or that they are sex or dating clubs. The more information you can provide, the less weight these accusations will hold.
If possible, get your parents on board. A call from a supportive parent to an administration can make a big difference in a difficult situation.
If Your School Opposes a GSA
Unfortunately, some teens run into difficulties when they try to stat a GSA. If this happens to you, it is important to know your rights and the fact that if your school allows other clubs, it is legally required to allow a gay / straight alliance.
If you are told that you are not allowed to form a GSA you can explain that GSA clubs are protected under the Federal Equal Access Act. You can also contact the ACLU for support if this happens.
What's It Like to Be in a GSA?
The president of one chapter, 19-year old Sabrina, explains that while dealing with students and teachers who oppose her efforts can be challenging, the supportive community and events to group puts on, makes it all worthwhile. As she says, "What was most important was that we got people who are straight to join us, so they understand what we go through on a daily basis."
Another teen, 16-year-old Texan, Baltis, says, "I was in the GSA at my school for a while. We didn't do much but try and promote the Day of Silence and National Coming Out Day and such. It seemed more of a support group than anything. I remember the day I went to join it. I was almost too nervous to walk in the door! But then I became friends with a couple of people in there, and even dated this one guy, but he moved back to Oklahoma. Still, I've got some friends from that group. In my opinion, it was worth it."
Ultimately, a GSA can be a great support and is often worthwhile, even if creating one, or getting involved in one seems complicated.