Imagine if there were a group of students more likely than their peers to be depressed. Imagine if they were more likely to be bullied, to get low grades, to be suicidal. Imagine if they were ultimately more likely to be victims of violence.
For young people who are harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, these things aren’t hard to imagine. That’s because they’re unfortunate daily realities for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students — and for straight or gender-conforming students who are perceived as LGBT. When school days are spent hearing homophobic slurs or avoiding transphobic bullying, it’s hard to study, to make friends, to be happy, or even to feel safe. It’s even harder when you’re trying to do it all alone.
Now imagine there’s a way to help those students.
That’s where Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) come in. GSAs are school clubs that aim to create safe and supportive environments for students to learn about homophobia, transphobia, and other types of oppression and prejudice. They are places to have important discussions, to make friends, and to get support from peers. They can help educate the school community — even people who aren’t in the club — about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity. And they can help fight the discrimination, harassment, and violence that plague so many students.
Research has shown that students at schools with GSAs experience less harassment and are more likely to feel safe — which makes every day a whole lot easier. That’s why we at the ACLU are such big fans. And that’s why we’ve put together this step-by-step video on how to start a GSA! It guides you through five steps for starting a GSA, from explaining why you want a club to things to do when you start meeting.
The Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), has registered over 4,000 GSAs across the country and in every state in the U.S., so chances are everything will go smoothly! But if you’re worried that your school administration won’t be supportive, it’s particularly important to make sure you follow the steps laid out here. These tips will make it easier for the ACLU to support you if you need our help. And we have lots of additional resources on our website that may be helpful too. We’re here to support you through every step of starting a GSA - before you start, when you’re putting up posters, if you run into opposition, and during your meetings.
No one should be bullied. Starting a GSA helps ensure that everyone feels safe at school. It might sound like a big project, but it’s a hugely important one — and if you have any questions or just want to get some general advice about starting a GSA at your school, please contact us. You don’t have to do it alone!