Using Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) to Transform Schools

By Richard Tench posted 04-03-2017 07:37

GSA clubs are powerful tools that can transform schools – making them safer and more welcoming for LGBTQ youth, youth with LGBTQ parents, and straight allies.

What is a GSA?
A Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) is a student-run club, typically in a high school or middle school, which provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and work to end homophobia and transphobia.

There are three typical functions of a GSA club: Support, Social, and Activist.

GSAs Provide Support: Many GSAs function as a support group and provide safety and confidentiality to students who are struggling with their identity as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning or those who are experiencing harassment at school because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. These groups often provide one of the few safe spaces for students to express themselves.

GSAs Build Community: GSAs are also social groups. They provide a sense of community and a space for LGBTQ and straight ally youth to build a social network where their identity is respected. Lots of GSAs organize barbeques or movie nights, organize field trips to a local LGBT prom or an LGBT pride parade, and attend conferences together. GSAs are a great way to build community at your school and lessen the isolation that LGBTQ students might otherwise experience.

GSAs Take Action to Create Change: In addition to support, some GSAs work on educating themselves and the broader school community about sexual orientation and gender identity issues. They may bring in outside speakers to cover a particular topic such as LGBTQ history. They may organize a "Pride Week" or "LGBTQ Awareness Events" and offer a series of educational workshops, panels, and pride celebrations. Some GSAs organize a "Teach the Teachers" staff development day, which focuses on teaching school staff how to be better allies for LGBTQ students.

Now that you know more about GSAs, does your school need a chapter?

Follow these steps to start a GSA chapter at your school:

For those that have a GSA chapter established at your school, here are some tips to aid in making your club have a larger impact.

Establishing Your Club’s Purpose
  • Is your club going to be a support group, activism club, or social group (it doesn’t have to be just one)
  • Develop a mission and vision statement for your GSA – this gives the group some identity and allows others to understand the nature of the organization
Create an Action Plan
  • Based on your GSA goals build a plan to address the needs that have been identified by your group
  • Make committees and distribute the responsibility among the students so that all can take an active role
  • Set solid deadlines, follow a schedule, and take your deadlines seriously
GSA Leadership
  • Establish how your club will be led and to whom will they report
  • Hierarchy-based leadership (president, vice-president, etc.)
  • Board-based leadership
  • Committee-based leadership

These leadership styles can be modified to meet the specific and unique needs of the club.

Advisor of GSA needs to ensure that quality communication is maintained with leadership of the GSA. This is a student-led group; however, the advisor should be aware of what is being planned to ensure that the students are following all school or district guidelines.

Now that you have been introduced to Gay-Straight Alliances take a look at to explore the endless amount of information available to GSA Clubs.