Gender and sexuality alliances
What is a GSA?
A Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) is a student-run club, typically in a high school or middle school, which provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and work to end homophobia and transphobia.
While school administrators sometimes balk at allowing students to start GSAs, federal law guarantees that students at public high schools have the right to do so. Under the law, there are two types of clubs in public high schools: curricular clubs (those that relate directly to things that are taught in the school, like the Math Club), and non-curricular clubs (those that don't relate directly to things that are taught in the school, such as the Key Club or Chess Club). The federal Equal Access Act says that if a public high school allows students to form any non-curricular clubs at all, then it must allow students to form any non-curricular club they want — and it also has to treat all non-curricular clubs equally. If you're trying to start a GSA at your school and your administration tries to stop you, or if doesn't allow the GSA to do things that it lets other non-curricular clubs do, please refer to the ACLU website to direct to information that may assist
what a gsa does
GSAs Provide Support
Many GSAs function as a support group and provide safety and confidentiality to students who are struggling with their identity as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning or those who are experiencing harassment at school because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. These groups often provide one of the few safe spaces for students to express themselves.
GSAs Build Community
GSAs are also social groups. They provide a sense of community and a space for LGBTQ and straight ally youth to build a social network where their identity is respected. Lots of GSAs organize barbeques or movie nights, organize field trips to a local LGBT prom or an LGBT pride parade, and attend conferences together. GSAs are a great way to build community at your school and lessen the isolation that LGBTQ students might otherwise experience.
GSAs Take Action to Create Change
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 LGBTQ history. They may organize a "Pride Week" or "LGBTQ Awareness Events" and offer a series of educational workshops, panels, and pride celebrations. Some GSAs organize a "Teach the Teachers" staff development day, which focuses on teaching school staff how to be better allies for LGBTQ students. There are many other types of educational and activist events that GSAs can do.
how to start a Gsa
Follow Guidelines:Establish a GSA the same way you would establish any other group or club. Look in the Student Handbook for the rules at the school. This may include getting permission from an administrator, finding an advisor, and/or writing a constitution.
Find a Willing Faculty Advisor: Find a teacher or staff member whom you think would be supportive or who has already shown themselves to be an ally around sexual orientation issues. It could be a teacher, counselor, nurse, or librarian.
Inform Administration of Your Plans:Tell administrators what you are doing right away. It can be very helpful to have an administrator on your side. They can work as liaisons on your behalf with other teachers, parent groups, community members, and the school board. If an administrator is resistant to the GSA, let them know that forming a GSA club is protected under the Federal Equal Access Act.
Inform Guidance Counselors and Social Workers About The Group: These individuals may know students who would be interested in attending the group
Pick a Meeting Place: Find a meeting place that offers some level of privacy or confidentiality.
Advertise: Figure out the best way to advertise at your school. It may be a combination of school bulletin announcements, flyers, and word-of-mouth. If the flyers are defaced or torn down, do not be discouraged. Keep putting them back up.
Besides, advertising for your group and having words up such as "gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning" or "end homophobia" or "discuss sexual orientation" can be part of educating the school and can actually make other students feel safer -- even if they never attend a single meeting.
Hold Your Meeting!: You may want to start out with a discussion about why people feel having this group is important. You can also brainstorm things your club would like to do this year.
Establish Ground Rules: Many groups have ground rules in order to insure that group discussions are safe, confidential, and respectful. Many groups have a ground rule that no assumptions or labels are used about a group member's sexual orientation. This can help make straight allies feel comfortable about attending the club.
Plan For The Future: Develop an action plan. Brainstorm activities. Set goals for what you want to work towards. Contact Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network in order to get connected to all of the other GSAs, get supported, and learn about what else is going on in the community.
Register Your GSA: Now that you've started it up, register your GSA with the GSA network in your state! Visit the GSA Network National Directory to find your state's GSA network.
For more information on how to build up your GSA after setting it up please refer to the GSA Network website: gsanetwork.org/resources/building-your-gsa
Video of 10 top things to do with your GSA: youtu.be/QMJSksK2nUI