Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs).

AuthorMcKay-Panos, Linda
PositionFeatured Back to School

Gay-straight alliances (GSAs) are groups formed in schools and run by students with teacher support or sponsorship. The purpose of a GSA is to create welcoming, caring, respectful and safe spaces for LGBTQ2S+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Pansexual, Asexual, Androgynous) students and their allies. GSAs often work on advocacy, human rights and awareness projects to make their communities more inclusive. According to Calgary's Centre for Sexuality, over 100 schools in Calgary and area have GSAs.

Overview of GSAs

GSAs have sprung up in schools across the United States and Canada over the last thirty years. These groups have been formed mostly in response to some troubling statistics about LGBTQ2S+ youth. A 2011 Canadian survey revealed the following:

* one in five Canadian LGBTQ students experience bullying every day;

* 90% of those are bullied with words;

* 70% hear transphobic (fear, discrimination or hatred against transgender people) remarks every day;

* 37% of students are harassed about their parents' sexual orientation;

* 44% of LGBTQ youth reported thinking about, considering or planning suicide (compared to 26% of heterosexual youth);

* 50% of LGBTQ youth reported self-harming (compared to 35% of heterosexual youth);

* 53% of LGBTQ youth felt unsafe at school (compared to 3% of heterosexual youth); and

* 30-50% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

According to Ian Macgillivray (see: Gay-Straight Alliances: A Handbook for Students, Educators and Parents, 2007), gay-straight alliances ARE:

* student clubs started and run by students, for students;

* treated like any other student club in a school;

* a safe place for students to get support that they sometimes cannot find at home;

* a good way to address the social and emotional isolation endured by some LGBTQ students;

* an effective way to educate the school community about human rights, equality and diversity; and

* shown to decrease bullying, violence and risky behaviours.

On the other hand, he notes that gay-straight alliances are NOT:

* sex or dating clubs;

* an official endorsement of sexual orientation;

* limited to LGBTQ students; or

* anti-faith or anti-religious.

Bill 8: The Education Amendment Act will come into force on September 1, 2019.

Studies conducted in schools with GSAs indicate that GSAs make schools safer for LGBTQ students by sending a message that verbal and physical harassment will not be tolerated. Further, LGBTQ...

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