Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) are student clubs that work to improve school climate for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Found in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. military bases, GSAs have become one of the fastest-growing student clubs in the country.
The Facts About GSAs:
Like the name, GSAs are made up of straight as well as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students.
GSAs are like any other club: they have advisors, hold regular meetings, host events and are open to anyone on campus committed to their mission.
The first GSA was formed in 1988 when a straight student wanted to do something to educate fellow students about anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. She went to her history teacher, GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings, and proposed a club: “You’re gay and I’m straight, so let’s call it a Gay-Straight Alliance.”
GLSEN offers GSAs a place to register so club members and advisors can receive resources and network.
GLSEN defines GSAs as any club that works to make their school safer while specifically addresses anti-LGBT behavior. The majority of clubs registered with GLSEN refer to themselves as Gay-Straight Alliances, though some go by other names.
1,000 GSAs – 2001
2,000 GSAs – 2004
3,000 GSAs – 2005
4,000 GSAs – 2008
Students are legally allowed to form GSAs in schools under the 1984 Federal Equal Access Act, which was initially created to protect students’ rights to form religious clubs. Judicial precedent has established that under the Equal Access Act, if a school allows one non-curricular club, it must allow all others, including GSAs.
GSAs improve school climate for LGBT students. When a GSA is present, LGBT students hear homophobic remarks less often, experience less harassment and assault, feel safer at school, skip school less often and have a greater sense of belonging.
GSAs typically participate in GLSEN’s Days of Action: Ally Week in October, TransACTION! in November, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Organizing Weekend in January and the National Day of Silence in April.