How to start a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) at your school

5 Feb

Starting a Gay Straight Alliance or GSA at your school really isn’t as difficult as it sounds no matter what your age is. While they are most commonly present at middle schools and up, there are actually some GSA’s at the elementary school level as kids are feeling more and more comfortable being open about their sexual orientation and gender identity at younger ages in this era. Beginning a GSA won’t cost you any money, just a little time and the willingness to talk openly about the need of your school to have such an organization.

A GSA has the main focus of educating people as to what homosexuality and transgenderism is and is not, as well as providing support to it;s members. What has made GSA’s so successful is that they put together local peers in real time where they can work through issues as they arise in order to make their little corner of the world a better place. Imagine thousands of GSA’s across the world doing this and you can see the future outlook for a more LGBT friendly world is a real possibility. As the name implies, a GSA is open to everyone gay and straight alike. It is by working together that goals are accomplished and stereotypes are broken. We all go through life working together, living next to each other, and interacting socially, so making people comfortable with diversity of this nature at as young an age as possible is always a good thing.

To start a GSA at your school the first thing you will need is support. You likely will already have a group of people in mind who can be your cornerstones to build upon. Use these people to get out the word and gauge how receptive people are. Not everyone is going to be supportive, but that is true of any group so don’t let disappointment stop or slow you down. Once you have an idea as to whether you will have a number of people interested in participating that you are comfortable with follow these steps to kick things into high gear:

1) Find a teacher that is willing to be your teacher/staff adviser. School groups require a teacher be involved to oversee things in order for a group to be officially recognized. Again, you likely have someone in mind. Approach them with your idea and let them know this is something you are serious about and how important it is to you.

2) Petition the student body for members. It will go a long way to getting your GSA recognized if when applying for recognition 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.

3) Write a GSA Charter. With the help of your teacher/staff adviser write a charter or mission statement which outlines explicitly what your GSA will and will not be. Make sure it mentions it is all inclusive and non-discriminatory. Also 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.

4) Once all of the above mentioned are in place you will need to present to to the school administration, Generally the Principal or Vice Principal. They will most likely have questions about your GSA so be prepared to answer almost anything. Assuming everything is in order you will usually be recognized as a probationary organization for a year before receiving your permanent charter. During this time it is advisable to seek a National GSA and petition to join them as soon as your probationary status is over. This is important because it expands the resources available to you.

5) Now that you are a probationary organization you will need leadership. Hold a group election or discussion amongst your original founding members that brought your GSA to life. While activities may be run as equals, you do need a hierarchy that will represent the organization just like any other school club or group.

6) Open the GSA to new members. Make it known that a GSA is officially recognized at your school and allow people to approach you to join. Hold some open meetings so that anyone interested can show up and see for themselves whether this is something they wish to align them self with. Do not openly recruit. Recruiting often seems to rile people and give the wrong impression of what is really going on. Just make it known you are there and people will come.

7) Have a regular schedule of events. It is one thing to say you will do things and another to actually do them. In order to get beyond probationary status you will need to show you are sticking to your charter and group mission statement.

A GSA is one of the most important tools available to changing the attitudes and breaking the stereotypes down that surround the LGBT community. If you find you need help along the way forming your group reach out to parents, LGBT or straight supporters in the community, GSA’s at area schools, or a National GSA. Help is always available if you ask for it.

http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/home/index. html

http://www.gsanetwork.org/

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