The Importance of a GSA at Your School
By Erin Rebello
You’ve probably heard of the term GSA and you probably have a GSA in your elementary or high school. But what is a GSA and what makes it so important and relevant? The term GSA stands for Gay Straight Alliance, and is used in reference to a club that supports members of the LGBTQ+. Although they’ve existed for a long time, you’ve probably seen a GSA pop up in your community in the more recent years. If you don’t identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you may be wondering what exactly a GSA does and why they’re so important, especially in this day and age.
A GSA works to bridge the gap of understanding between cisgendered heterosexual individuals, and queer non-heterosexual individuals. Although we’re all humans, members of the queer community face issues that someone who is straight wouldn’t have to think twice about. It’s important to remember that gay marriage has only been legal in Canada since 2005, which is about 15 years ago. Meanwhile, in other countries such as India and parts of Africa, it’s still a crime (sometimes even punishable by death) to be in a same-sex relationship! Even in developed countries like the US, there are states that may not exclusively ban gay marriage, but also do not have exclusive laws in place to prevent queer individuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. GSAs help to bring awareness to the issues that members of the LGBTQ+ community face on a regular basis.
Another reason why a GSA is important in schools is the fact that it offers a sense of security and belonging to its members. Although we’ve come a long way, the LGBTQ+ community is still marginalized in many ways. Be it through a lack of representation in the media or the absence of crucial rights, there are many aspects of culture that straight and cisgendered people take for granted. As well, it’s important to note that not everyone has parents who are supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. Some parents may not be openly homophobic, but also may not be accepting if their child were to come out as homosexual or non-cisgendered. As a result, there are a lot of closeted queer youth who cannot open up to their parents and instead seek support among their peers in a GSA. Gay Straight Alliance clubs in schools and communties offer a much-needed safe-space for LGBTQ+ youth.
Finally, GSAs also do a lot of good for the LGBTQ+ community both locally and on a larger scale. For example, the GSA at my school has a special GSA spirit week every year which involves many festivities that spread awareness locally and raise money for larger LGBTQ+ organizations. Every day, there would be a special event that worked to spread awareness within the school community, as well a fundraising opportunity for charities that work to help marginalized queer youth. In this way, the GSA did a lot of good not only for members of the LGBTQ+ community in the school, but also on a more global scale.
Even though we’ve come a very long way from 60 years ago, there are still many issues that members of the LGBTQ+ face that straight individuals simply couldn’t understand. For that reason, it’s crucial to have a club like a GSA that allows for open dialogue between the two parties in order to provide fair and safe opportunities to marginalized communities like the LGBTQ+ community.