by Justin Kamimoto
What is G.S.A? Girl Scouts of America? No wait. it’s Granny Smith Apple! Of course not! It’s a Gay Straight Alliance. Read on to learn more…
A Gay Straight Alliance is a LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) and straight ally-friendly, student-run club mainly in high school, but also on some middle school campuses. G.S.A’s focus is on providing a safe environment for students to meet, support, and to talk about issues related to sexual orientation. The resulting efforts are to end homophobia and transphobia. Although G.S.A’s focus is mainly on implementing LGBT related concepts, we also offer workshops that help create team building and participation in our community.
G.S.A groups throughout California’s Central Valley fall under the guidance of Joey Fernandez, a role model and supporter, promoting educational awareness in an attempt to fight against homophobia and transphobia.
Many positive things are happening on one local campus, Clovis North High School. Through the efforts of its G.S.A, the students involved have been able to promote a more caring and safe environment for all students.
Students are establishing strong relationships through motivational and personal reflection workshops as well as community participation through leading national LGBT events. Examples: the Day of Silence (April), Harvey Milk Celebration (May), Transgender Day of Remembrance (November), and LGBT History Month (October).
To further the impact, guest speakers from the community bring their expertise and knowledge to the Clovis North campus. Each guest provides new information on how to be an active member of society, as well as insight into their LGBT experiences. At Clovis North G.S.A, a panel was created where students were allowed to ask questions anonymously and receive answers publicly.
Coming up, the Clovis North Gay Straight Alliance will be hosting a Valentine’s Mixer for G.S.A members across the Central Valley. This will allow G.S.A members to network and find new friends as well as find some Valentine magic during the season of love. For more information, please go to our Facebook Page or follow our blog.
G.S.A members, including the Clovis North G.S.A, and community members across the Valley are participating in an effort to raise awareness. Some other local campuses with G.S.A. clubs include Reedley and Sanger High Schools. The Rainbow Delegation, established and run by Matt Mazzei, is a new movement in the Central Valley whose main goal is to demonstrate support for the LGBT community through the simplicity of wearing a rainbow colored wristband. By wearing a wristband, wearers show acceptance to all people. This is a powerful and recognizable symbol of support for the LGBT community. Every wristband is free to those who wish to participate and is a great way for G.S.A members to see who our supporters are in our schools and in our community.
The main issue faced by members of the LGBT community and its allies is the growing level of harassment and bullying. Community Organizer Scotti Maldonado had this to say about G.S.A. “One issue is the recent awareness of suicides that are happening among LGBT students due to bullying. The [G.S.A] club serves as a conduit to create an attitude of acceptance and safety for our LGBT youth.”
When members of Clovis North’s Gay Straight Alliance were asked to relate their personal experiences with bullying and harassment, some of the answers were shocking. The common theme behind many of their answers was summed up with this: “A lot of people are not open to others that are different, and will not let them in their group of friends.” One such example surrounds two young women who were reprimanded for holding hands, while posters concerning the G.S.A were torn down. Students are often subject to cultural slurs and demeaning comments such as “fag” and “les”, even in a classroom setting.
Supporters (parents, faculty, and staff) are essential to the success of any G.S.A., though there still exists an air of resistance even among learned adults. One student had this to relate. “[I] was cussed out in class for being gay and the teacher did not step in and stop it from happening.” This sort of behavior is exactly what G.S.A is trying to prevent. The students at Clovis North, as well as students in G.S.A clubs across the Central Valley, are fully appreciative and honored for those adult men and women who have chosen to stand with them in their fight for equality and acceptance. A special thank you to Glenda Reynolds and Debbi Lindstrom at Clovis North and to all the sponsors through California’s Central Valley.
California alone has 831 Gay Straight Alliances, 79 of which are here in the Central Valley. G.S.A. clubs are not only a California organization, but also exist nationwide under varying names, depending on their specific mission. This year in the Clovis region, we were more than happy to welcome the Clovis East High School G.S.A under the leadership of Katlynn Melendez, meaning that every Clovis Unified School District high school campus is currently operating a student run G.S.A with the help of a teacher, supporter and adviser.
Support your local Gay Straight Alliance. Be proud that it is there. For information on starting a G.S.A at your school or campus, contact Joey Fernandez, firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember what Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”