Gay-Straight Alliance Organizing

YouthSAFE & Carrie Hart (Greensboro, NC)

What is a GSA?

GSA traditionally stands for gay-straight alliance. A GSA is basically any group that works within a school to address and enhance school culture around issues of homophobia, transphobia, and all other sorts of isms that make it difficult for students to learn and live to their fullest potentials. GSAs are usually led by students and sponsored by a faculty member who works at the school.

Why should you start or join a GSA?

GSAs are a good way to meet other people in your school who want to create change and equity around issues of gender, sexuality, and other forms of identity. Have you ever felt frustrated by how often your classmates use homophobic and transphobic slurs? Have you ever wondered why your classes don’t address anything but straight, cisgendered people in history, art, and literature? Chances are some of your classmates are wondering these things too. A GSA can be a great place to start dialogue about these (and other) questions and to think about how to change them.

GSA Organizing Tips

Members of YouthSAFE, a community-based GSA in Guilford County, NC provided some tips for GSA organizing:

  • make a facebook group for your organization and use it to communicate with members, share resources, and publicize events
  • find out when your school’s club day happens (usually at the beginning of the school year) and have a table and a sign-up sheet to collect names and contact info (email, phone numbers, etc.)
  • give members the option to receive text reminders if you want to communicate via group text
  • search online for resources and activities to do with your group
  • collaborate with other groups in your school on events, fundraisers, and other activities
  • support future leadership in your group – pick dependable future leaders and include them in decision-making processes the year before they step into their new role
  • find a faculty sponsor who is knowledgeable of LGBTQIA issues and who will be active (look for someone who isn’t too busy with other commitments)
  • cultivate a family environment in your group in which people feel comfortable talking and having conversation
  • provide a space for conversation in group meetings – see what your members have to ask or offer
  • discuss the whole LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, questioning, intersex, ally, asexual) spectrum, not just one part of it
  • ask your group members if you think there are other letters that should be added
  • have conversations about school culture and language (inside and outside of school)
  • address social norms and how they impact people differently (LGBTQIA people also have other identities – racial, ethnic, ability, etc.)
  • initiate creative and active projects that invite conversations about differences and how to navigate them

GSA Organizing Resources

  • YouthSAFE provides a safe, welcoming, confidential, regular social networking program for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning youth in Guilford County, NC. YouthSAFE can help you with GSA organizing materials. They meet in person the 3rd Thursday of each month from 7 – 8:30 pm at Higher Ground House, 210 E Bessemer Avenue, Greensboro, NC 27401 (contact youthsafeGSO@gmail.com for more info)
  • iNSIDEoUT provides a list of North Carolina GSA’s here:  http://www.insideout180.org/network/
  • The Gay-Straight Alliance Network provides resources for GSA’s around the country. Visit: http://gsanetwork.org/ for more info
  • The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLESN) provides some resources for educators and GSA organizing: http://www.glsen.org/