What is a GSA?
The term “GSA” may stand for Gay-Straight Alliance or Genders & Sexualities Alliance. A GSA is a student-run club, typically in high school, sometimes in middle or elementary school, which provides a safe space for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, and work to end homophobia and transphobia. Many GSAs function as a peer-support group, and provide safety and confidentiality to students who are struggling with their identity as LGBTQAI2+.
In addition to support, some GSAs work on educating themselves and the broader school community about sexual orientation and gender identity issues. They may bring in outside speakers to cover a particular topic such as LGBTQAI2+ history or healthy relationships. They may organize a Pride Week or LGBTQAI2+ Awareness events, or offer a series of educational workshops, panels, and pride celebrations. Many participate in the National Day of Silence, a day when participants remain silent all day as a way of acknowledging the silence induced by homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in our society. Some GSAs organize a “Teach the Teachers” staff development day which focuses on teaching school staff how to be better allies to LGBTQAI2+ students. For example, GSA members would present scenarios about discrimination or harassment and ask teachers to brainstorm how to respond to those situations.
Other GSAs are activist clubs and work to get LGBTQAI2+ issues represented in the curriculum, in reading material in the library, and in district-level policies. For example, many GSAs in Texas are working to ensure that their school district adapts a progressive, detailed policy which prohibits discrimination in schools on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, many GSAs have participated in a coalition of clubs focused on other social justice issues, and in activism outside of their school, on a community, city, or state level.
All of these different types of GSAs also provide a social outlet for queer students and cis/het allies. Lots of GSAs organize barbeques or movie nights, go to a local LGBTQAI2+ Prom or a Pride Parade, and attend conferences together. GSAs are a great way to build community at your school, gain leadership experience, and lessen the isolation, prejudice, and bullying that LGBTQAI2+ students might otherwise experience.
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