Founding and sponsoring a GSA

Sponsoring a Gay-Straight Alliance in a school is a terrific way to support LGBT youth, and at the same time help the students educate their community.

A GSA doesn’t have to be limited to LGBT concerns; a full-spectrum club allies with other communities and pays attention to all social justice issues.

GSAs are officially non-curricular, student-initiated and run clubs. The membership and agenda depend on the student leadership, although the sponsor can have a voice and let students know about events and opportunities for youth. To start a GSA, it is important to have student leaders. If you don’t yet, email Robert at president@fcpspride.org, and we can set up a time to talk.

Some GSAs provide support for students, some are largely social clubs, some become involved in social justice activism, or educating their school community; it depends on where the student leadership wants to go, and may vary year-to-year.

For continuity, it’s important to have next year’s sponsor and student leaders established at the end of the school year.

GLSEN Northern Virginia does much work with GSAs and student leaders in the area, with leadership teams, conferences, the Day of Silence and an LGBT prom and honors dinner. Contact Gordon Baear at gbaer@glsennova.org, or follow this link: GLSEN Northern Virginia.

Metro DC PFLAG has a wonderful group for LGBT youth in the area, called FLY. Contact Carol Lewis at wf.pflag@gmail.com to be added to their notification list.

There is also a “Fairfax County Facebook GSA” at this facebook address: FCFGSA

Some other thoughts: 1) weekly meetings if possible, for consistency’s sake; 2) food always attracts teenagers; 3) programming is important: weekly “Joy’s and Concerns” giving each attendee a chance to talk, or guest , in-school (such as a counselor or DSS), or cross-GSA speakers can add to the experience. Phil Hicks of PFLAG Metro DC is happy to come to GSA meetings. Follow the lead of the student leadership.

All that said, the sponsor shouldn’t be a counselor. Rather, the sponsor should take care to have a room in which to meet, club paperwork, and finances, as any club sponsor. It should be clear to students at each meeting that the sponsor is a mandated reporter, and must seek appropriate help or referral for any student who may harm themselves or others.

As for GSAs in middle schools, there have been many in other parts of the country, but never yet such in Fairfax County. We can explore the idea if it comes up. The average age of “coming out” is now 13, so it could be relevant.

If you would like to talk more, send Robert an email at president@fcpspride.org and we can set up a time to talk by phone.

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