Find answers to some of the most common questions and concerns that gay straight alliance advisors have voiced over the years! And you'll also see quotes from those advisors sprinkled throughout this guide.
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What kind of activities can Gay-Straight Alliances/ Student Clubs do?
Keep your meetings FUN and IMPORTANT, and always TAKE PICTURES to commemorate your achievements!
Screen a GLBT-related movie (see below for suggestions!)
Find a queer-friendly coffee shop or other fresh environment and have a meeting there
Host a BBQ/Potluck for past, current, and new members
Hold a Pride dance
Play sports together - challenge other clubs to games
Do an arts and crafts project - create something the whole GSA can display and be proud of
Organize a battle of the bands to bring publicity to the GSA
Organize a Senior farewell ceremony to honor the Seniors who have contributed, and to encourage newer members to step up
Hold a student drag show/ host a community talent show
Make documentary about the GSA
Sell "fruit shakes"
Sell gay pride paraphernalia from catalogs
Have a Bowlathon
Have a raffle
"Do something that is community organized, something that will take the group out of the school." - Jean Segaloff, Commonwealth School (MA)
"Set a few big goals for both fun and action for the year and work towards them together" - Sharon Reece Harrell (MA)
"Keep it simple, fun, and light with an activity at the meetings that makes people feel included and involved. Ice breakers, personal check-ins, etc. It's too easy to get carried away and overwhelmed if at every meeting you're trying to organize a big event." - Cassandra Mortier, Casa Grande High School Petaluma (CA)
"Try to attract a broad spectrum of students by having activities that a lot of people could support, such as painting a diversity mural, holding assemblies that work to improve school climate, anti-harassment campaigns, etc." - Sue Beers, Westford Academy (MA)
"Take advantage of things already happening in 'the community' and surrounding area. Instead of always starting from scratch - look around for things already happening that you can go to as a group and maybe invite others, i.e. Pride Picnics, Parades, PFLAG Presentations and other special events. This way you have to spend less energy doing things already being done and available - and more energy on things that your GSA needs specifically." - Jerry W. Schearer (West Virginia)
What resources are available to help educate students in an entertaining and engaging way?
Movies and books
Here are five of the videos we thought the most interesting and helpful to show to your students. Go to GLSEN's Booklink for more recommended books and videos (for a list of videos only, type "video" into the search line).
This list is limited to selected movies that GLSEN has reviewed and deemed appropriate. In judging for yourself the appropriateness of a movie not found on this list, we recommend that you consider: the rating; sexual content; violent content; treatment of stereotypes; representation of marginalized groups; and the relevance of the video for discussion material.
Out! Making Schools Safe for Gay Teens (Video) - Out! is a two-video program that promotes safer schools through sensitizing educators and teens - LGBT as well as straight - to LGBT issues, and by offering suggestions on combating bias. Includes a study guide.
Teaching Respect For All (Video) - In this educational training video, GLSEN Executive Director and former high school teacher Kevin Jennings helps a live audience of parents, teachers, administrators and other concerned citizens to understand why schools must address anti-LGBT prejudice if all of our students are to achieve their educational potential.
Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin (Video) - This documentary presents a vivid drama, intermingling the personal and the political, about one of the most enigmatic figures in 20th-century American history. One of the first "freedom riders," an adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King and A. Philip Randolph, organizer of the March on Washington, intelligent, gregarious and charismatic, Bayard Rustin was denied his place in the limelight for one reason - he was also gay. Brother Outsider contributes a fascinating new chapter to our understanding of both progressive movements and gay life in 20th-century America.
I Just Want to Say (Video) - Tennis champion Martina Navratilova hosts a candid and moving discussion of the anti-LGBT climate faced by youth in our schools today, and offers suggestions for how educators can work to teach respect for all. The video also contains trailers of GLSEN's two Public Service Announcements with Judy Shepard.
Outside the Lines: The World of the Gay Athlete (Video) - Outside the Lines, originally produced by ESPN, documents the journeys of two students struggling to compete as openly LGBT athletes in climates that are alternately hostile and welcoming. As they tell their moving stories, both students bring viewers into the world of the LGBT athlete - a world set apart by courage and resilience. An essential resource for coaches and physical educators the video is accompanied by a viewing guide that provides lesson plan ideas, discussion questions and other resources for building equity in athletics.
Other informational resources
Lambda Legal - www.lambdalegal.org -- for help and advice with the Equal Access Act
National Center for Lesbian Rights - http://www.nclrights.org/youthproject.htm
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) - http://www.aclu.org/lgbt/index.html
Strategies you can use to give GLBT issues and Gay-Straight Alliance/ Student Club's a positive and welcome presence in your school
How can I involve adults in the school and community to empower my students and help my Gay-Straight Alliance be successful?
"Always work those lines of communication with teachers and staff. You will, of course, always find colleagues who are 'not enlightened', but I have found wonderful support in the most unlikely people. The Safe Zone Sticker program was the best tool for establishing and maintaining teachers as allies." - Denise Johnson, Barrington High School (RI)
"Build a supportive network of adults at your school so that students have more contacts/places where they feel safe." - Jean Segaloff, Commonwealth School (MA)
"If you have a sympathetic administration, get them to go after staff who use inappropriate language (fag, fairy, geek, or who make critical comments about some students dress, etc.). Just raising the level of consciousness among staff can be very helpful." - Janna Bremer, King Philip Regional High School (MA)
"Invite speakers. Students need role models, since there are so few out adults around." - LeAnne North, SC Governor's School (SC)
What are some ways that my Gay-Straight Alliance/ Student Club can make itself open, welcoming and interesting to students outside of the club?
"Even if attendance dwindles, keep publicizing the group and its meetings. Just reading about its existence in the bulletin once a week might be enough to let a GLBT youth know there's someone out there who cares." - Gayle Brickert-Albrecht, Tucson High Magnet School (AZ)
"Post an agenda of what will be discussed during your meeting." - Jean Segaloff, Commonwealth School (MA)
"Put out a charter or mission statement that says what you're REALLY about (creating safety and tolerance, etc.) and distribute to staff and any parents, media, community members who are interested." - Dani Meier, Jackson High School (MI)
"Try and be as inclusive as possible. Work with other diversity organizations. Try and keep administration, faculty, staff, and students updated as to your activities. Try to work with all people rather than against. We don't attempt anything without discussion from within and outside. This helps others support us even if they don't agree with our strategies because we have already educated them and worked with them as to the reasons for our actions." - Fletcher McNeill, GLOW of Garrison Forest School (MD)
"The most important one though is make sure that each meeting has a planned topic. If you have a topic, then you can make flyers and promote it and draw in new people. For example, the topic of 'Eminem's music lyrics -- are they homophobic or not' could attract people who might not normally come to a meeting." - Cheri Gaulke, Harvard-Westlake School (CA)
What are some other general ways that my Gay-Straight Alliance/ Student Club can help raise awareness to make their school and community safer?
Start a Safe Space Program in Your School - encourage teachers to learn how to show support for GLBTQ students so that students know where to go to feel safe and appreciated
Have students train and teach student leaders in small groups
Give presentations at colleges to student teachers
Create a "Love Makes a Family" display
Get club T-shirts
"A powerful force for change in the school's culture is the faculty. Occasional informational sessions or even formal presentations at a faculty meeting, encouraging teachers to challenge homophobic comments among the students can really help create a more open community." - Trevor Drake, Conestoga High School (PA)
"Collaborate with other school clubs such as art & drama groups, other social action clubs." - Sue Beers, Westford Academy (Massachusetts)
"Have a good booklist available." - Jean Segaloff, Commonwealth School (MA)
How can students in the Gay-Straight Alliance/ Student Club be empowered to get the most out of their experience?
"Allow student members to drive the mission of the group- they may want to be activists, or they may just need to direct their energies at supporting each other." - Gayle Brickert-Albrecht, Tucson High Magnet School (Arizona)
"As the group gets going you might want to ask one of the students who attend the meetings often if they would like to Chair a meeting." - Jean Segaloff, Commonwealth School (MA)
"Remember that by definition your job is to advise. You are involved with a student organization and the students can run it. You just give them advice on their ideas. Always remain positive, no matter what happens in your school, society, etc." - Sharon Reece Harrell (MA)
"Make the club's agenda the students' agenda. Providing them with copies of relevant articles and information from GLSEN and other sources is good, but the push for action should come from their energy; this makes the club more vibrant and keeps it club student-centered." - Trevor Drake, Conestoga High School (PA)
"Elect your GSA leadership at the end of the school year for the next year. Then the co-leaders/presidents can meet over summer and plan some activities. At the end of the year, brainstorm with current members about what worked and what didn't. This has the dual function of improving the future club activities and also allowing members to see how much they accomplished during the year." - Cheri Gaulke, Harvard-Westlake School (CA)
What can students do in their communities, to extend their mission and influence beyond their school?
Safe schools action plans - plans for how to network and create legislation, etc.
Helping other schools start GSA's
Coalition-building with other allied schools, groups, etc.
Watch movie and then create action plans in response
"Go to regional networking meetings, and try to get together with other GSA's" - Sue Beers, Westford Academy (MA)