Sensible ideas for conducting an efficient GSA in your college
The presence of a Gender and Sexuality Alliance (formerly the Gay-Straight Alliance or GSA for short) in a school has a profound impact on the well-being of LGBTQ youth. GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey found that LGBTQ students with a GSA were less likely to be victims of victimization and felt a greater sense of belonging to their school communities. We know how important they are, but how exactly do you manage them? Just in time for Pride, we used the expertise of the GSA consultants in our WeAreTeachers helpline group and summarized their most important tips for running an effective GSA.
Know your role
We’ve heard time and time again how important it is for your GSA to be run by students. Teacher and GSA advisor Becki Clesse recommends, “Let the children be your guide. You are there to support them and create a safe space for them to meet. Be the adult in their lives who unconditionally loves and cares for them as they thrive in the leadership roles of the students. “
But letting them steer the ship doesn’t mean they don’t need your guidance. They can be of great help to them when it comes to knowing their rights, discussing pronoun and name changes with other teachers, and taking care of their general wellbeing. You also need to be able to walk them through “ouch”.
Consultant Brooke Bivona explains, “There is a lot to be taught to be an ally. Our clubs are full of different genders and orientations. Just because a student understands their identity does not mean that they cannot harm another student with their words and actions. We have had many times where we had to unwrap a statement because it was offensive to another member of our club. “
Students may also need some ideas for and facilitation of public relations and activities. Some of them are among others: guest speakers and book lectures; School integration events or assemblies; Participation in Pride, No Name-Calling Week or the Day of Silence; Potluck dinners; and fundraising campaigns for LGBTQ youth.
Use the resources available to you
Two national organizations were added again and again. First, you should check out GLSEN, which has great resources to get you started. You should also register your group with the GSA Network and download their new Virtual GSAs In Action Toolkit. Both sites offer tons of information on everything from LGBTQ history to queer and trans wellness resources. And if you can attend HRC’s Time to THRIVE conference in support of LGBTQ youth, you won’t regret it!
Don’t forget your local resources either. Look for LGBTQ community organizations (like GSAFE in Madison, WI) that can talk to your group or set up a booth in the cafeteria. And use your advisory team. Several counselors we spoke to had a school counselor or psychologist attend meetings to help them cope with difficult conversations.
Prepare for pushback
Teacher Brandice Snowden is the mother of a student trying to start a chapter. She told us, “Some districts / campuses have rules targeting organizations like the GSA to make it difficult to even start. Or, when they start making membership so inconvenient and / or dangerous (e.g., forcing students to come out to the family to join) that students are afraid to join. “They have to so be ready to stand up for your students. (Note: if your school allows other extracurricular clubs, it must also allow a GSA).
One idea to make the GSA more accessible to children in non-affirmative families is to change the name. Middle school GSA advisor Debra Calle explains, “Some students may be there and their parents don’t know what exactly the club is. Offering a name that students know what the club is about but not fully advertise allows them a place to go if they are not accepted at home. ”Calle’s group is called the Safety Zone.
Remember that every year can look different
Each group is on its own journey. Bivona reminds us, “Don’t judge your success by what you’ve done in the past. In some years you have a team of students ready to protest and educate their peers. In other years there is a group of students who just need a sounding board and prefer to have tight, intimate events and want to relieve stress. “