How To Start And Manage a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance)
How to Start a Gay‐Straight Alliance at Your School
Gay-Straight Alliances are often considered "safe spaces" for LGBT+ students, especially those who don't feel accepted. They can bring together LGBT+ people, and if the club wants to, they can choose to educate other people about topics and issues regarding LGBT+ people. The purpose is to make everyone feel welcome and accepted, and if you want to learn how to do so, it can be done - maybe not without resistance, but you can do it.
Follow your school's guidelines.Establish a GSA the same way you would any other group or club. Look in your Student Handbook for your school’s rules regarding clubs. Some schools require students to go through a process for establishing a club, this could include writing a constitution or showing student interest.
Inform school administrators of what you are doing.It can be very helpful to have them on your side. They can work as liaisons to teachers, parents, community members and the school board. If an administrator opposes the GSA, provide them information about the Federal Equal Access Act (EAA).
Find a faculty member or teacher to run your club.School groups often require a teacher be involved to oversee things in order for a group to be officially recognized. Find teachers or staff members who you think would be supportive or who have already shown themselves to be an ally around sexual orientation and gender diversity issues. Let them know this is something you are serious about and how important it is to you.
- See your school rules for more information about who can be a club advisor.
Write a GSA goal for your alliance.With the help of your teacher or staff advisor, write a mission statement which outlines explicitly what your GSA will and will not be. This can make it clear whether the GSA will be a club that will only be a safe space, or whether the club might get involved in activist events.
- Make sure it says it is all inclusive and non-discriminatory. Be sure to mention that it is for the purposes of peer education and support.
- Outline the type of activities you plan to have, as well as the reason a GSA will be an asset to the school and community as a whole.
Find other students to join the GSA.If you can demonstrate that there is a significant enough portion of the student body interested in joining or supportive of a GSA at your school, you run a much better chance of getting the club to start. Work with a diverse range of students who are interested in such a group. You may check with other existing clubs for students who might have an interest.
Pick a meeting place.You may wish to find a meeting place within the school that offers some level of privacy, yet is still accessible.
Advertise your club.There are many ways to advertise – think about how you’ve seen other clubs advertise. This could be any combination of using your school bulletin, announcements, flyers, or word-of-mouth. Advertising your group and having words up such as “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit and queer” or “homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, cissexism, cisgenderism, heterosexism etc..” can be part of educating the school, and can actually make other students feel safer – even if they never attend a single meeting.
- If your flyers are defaced or torn down, do not be discouraged. Plan to have people check on them throughout the day and replace if necessary. Eventually, whoever is tearing them down will give up, or be reprimanded by the school.
Plan your meetings.Of course you want to have a good meeting, so plan ahead of time. There are tons of things you can do, from discussions to inviting speakers, workshops to games. Visit Student Pride online for ideas.
- Obviously, you can't plan out the details of every single meeting well before they happen, but you'll need to plan out your first meeting, as well as the general "format" that your GSA meetings will take.
Hold your first meeting.You may want to start with a discussion about why people feel the group is needed or important. You can also brainstorm what things your club could do this year.
Establish your club's rules.Many groups have ground rules in order to ensure 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.
Be prepared to face hostility.While it would be nice to believe that students and teachers at your school will be completely supportive of your GSA, this probably won't be the case. You will likely face hostility from the community and from students and parents, and possibly even school staff. But don't let this discourage you. Just remember you are helping hundreds of students have a better understanding, support and change of opinions about being LGBT+, and overall providing a more friendlier environment and community.
QuestionI live in the very conservative South. How could I establish this club when there are so many people against it?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGather like-minded people and start putting up posters to advertise your group. Talk to teachers, parents, and principals about this.Thanks!
QuestionMy school does not consider discrimination against sexual orientation as harassment, and therefore no support group is "necessary." What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTalk to your guidance counselor or try starting a petition. If that doesn't work, try starting one on your own and holding meetings off campus. FYI, if you live in the U.S, you are entitled to protection against discrimination, even at school. If you or someone you know is being harassed and no one is helping you, call the local media, school board, and/or the ACLU.Thanks!
QuestionMy school has a vague and unclear policy, but they say that it is useless since we have a 100% hetero and cis student population. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou should still try! Just because people are not out, does not mean they are straight or cis. I'm sure as your club starts, more people will join. Tell the administrators that there is no way everyone in your school is straight and cis. Bring some research to back up this assertion. There's no guarantee they will listen to you, but they'll respect you for putting the work in and probably give it some serious thought.Thanks!
QuestionWhat should I do in the event that the school board denies my request based on the grounds of discrimination towards LGBTQ+?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerI think you should raise awareness at your school by making a petition and asking others to sign it to encourage the school board to change their minds. If that fails, you could try attract your local newspaper, which is bound to raise curiosity and interest.Thanks!
QuestionI go to a private school and I want to start a GSA club, but the school's faith kind of "opposes" it. Should I still try to make one?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, but you probably won't be able to get around their rules, so I suggest you just have meetings off campus.Thanks!
QuestionI am going to a new school and really want to continue being part of a GSA (it keeps me out of a dark place), what do I do to form the club when I am new?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTry talking to the principal or school board about forming this group. Be professional in your delivery, use statistics if need be. Many students struggle with these types of things, and showing charts or graphs may help adults understand that you are serious about this group and want to help others.Thanks!
- Hold out reach events with other clubs at your school that will allow for students to realize that you are not as bad as they might think. A good example is hosting a movie night with your drama club (or department) and showing the movie RENT. If possible, provide pizza and drinks to encourage attendance.
- Make meetings as fun as possible. Play games and activities that allow members to get to know each other and have fun. You're building a support group by doing this, and your strength in the school community will increase in time.
- Network with local clubs and organizations in your area or state that will provide resources for your benefit.
- Try to create a firm base for your club government. If you start out strong, there's a better chance that the club will continue to exist after you graduate. Avoid single person governments and try to train younger members who will replace existing members.
- Make sure you've talked with the principal. if they disagree, remind them, (from the policies of the school), that your school does not discriminate against anything, including sexual orientation.
- Keep your principal updated on your events and attempt to reach an understanding about everything. But if things get out of hand, don't hesitate to remind them of the EAA, as long as you're positive you're correct.
- Visit www.glsen.org for more resources, handbooks, national events, support, mailing lists, tips and much more!
- Read up on the Equal Access Act and know the ins and outs if you really want to be able to be successful. Under the EAA, you have the same rights as any other non-curriculum school club.
- Remember to also focus on your studies. School is also important.
- Try to also incorporate your GSA with your school's anti-bullying alliance if they have one.
- People who are homophobic might try to hurt you, so be careful about what you're doing. You're trying to help people, not hurt them.
- The Equal Access Act on applies to schools in the United States who are government funded. Private schools are not affected by this act. Be sure of your school's status before using the EAA as a resource.
Video: How to Start a Gay-Straight Alliance
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