Northwestern Oklahoma State University has a wide variety of clubs for students to join, ranging from intramural sports to fine arts and so many more. Although Northwestern has over 70 clubs and organizations, there is one topic that has yet to have a club at this school; the LGBT+ community. Many schools across the United States have some sort of GSA club, otherwise known as a Gay-Straight Alliance or a Genders and Sexualities Alliance, and studies have shown these clubs reduce the rate of LGBT+ student suicides as well as reducing discrimination from other students by bringing together a support group for students incorporated in the LGBT+ community. GSA’s typically function to provide a safe space for LGBT+ students to meet, support each other, discuss topics related to sexuality and gender orientations and expressions, and put an end to homophobia and transphobia.
It takes a lot of work to build a GSA. To show this, I’ve summarized a list entitled “10 steps for starting a GSA” from the GSA Network website:
1. Follow your school’s guidelines
Establish a GSA the same way you would establish any other group by looking in your Student Handbook for the rules at your school. This may include getting permission from an administrator, finding an advisor, and/or writing a constitution.
2. Find a faculty advisor
Find a teacher or staff member whom you think would be supportive or who has already shown themselves to be an ally around sexual orientation issues.
3. Inform administration of your plans
It can be very helpful to have an administrator on your side. They can work with other teachers, parent groups, community members, and the school board.
4. Inform guidance counselors and social workers about the group
They might know students who would be interested in attending the group.
5. Pick a safe and neutral meeting place
You may want to find a meeting place which is off the beaten track at school and offers some level of privacy or confidentiality.
It may be a combination of school bulletin announcements, flyers, and word-of-mouth. Advertising for your group and having words up such as “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning” or “discuss sexual orientation” can actually make other students feel safer — even if they never attend a single meeting.
7. Hold your first meeting
You may want to start out with a discussion about how people would like this group to end up.
8. Establish ground rules
Many groups have ground rules to insure that group discussions are safe, confidential, and respectful, one of which could be that no assumptions are used about a group member’s sexual or gender orientation.
9. Plan for the future
Brainstorm activities, set goals, contact Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network to get connected to other GSAs, and learn about what else is going on in the community.
10. Register your GSA
Register your GSA with the GSA network in your state! Visit our National Directory to find your state’s GSA network.
National Coming-Out Day is October 11, so as this day approaches, please be kind to one another as we don’t truly know what all is happening in others’ lives.