How your teen and/or young adult can start a Gay-Straight alliance at his or her school

By on Nov 25th

Photo by jglsongs, used under Creative Commons license.

Remember when we talked about alternative club ideas for teens? Well, Towleroad recently linked to a video by the ACLU that explains how to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at your school or university, and it's pretty rad.

Research has shown that students at schools with GSAs experience less harassment and are more likely to feel safe — which makes every day a whole lot easier. That's why we at the ACLU are such big fans. And that's why we've put together this step-by-step video on how to start a GSA! It guides you through five steps for starting a GSA, from explaining why you want a club to things to do when you start meeting. — Start a GSA today.

I'm a member of my alma mater's Gay-Straight alliance, so I thought I'd ask Heather Shelton, the brains behind it, about their process. You can read her answers and see the ACLU video below:


And here's my interview with Heather:
What is the name of your alliance and what school are you affiliated with?
UAHuntsville Gay-Straight Alliance and we're affiliated with the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Why did you start your alliance?
I felt that Huntsville didn't acknowledge GLBTQ issues nearly enough and that students could benefit from a safe, accepting, and fun environment in which everyone can relax and be themselves. At that point it just seemed like orientations aside from heterosexuality and gender identity weren't talked about and I was noticing that the climate was positive for a GSA to start because GLBTQ have been publicized in the media much more frequently in recent years. I wanted a group to spread awareness and understanding of GLBTQ issues that would double as a social group. Since 1.5 to 2 years ago (when we started the GSA), other GLBTQ groups have been founded and a "gay community" outside of a night scene has been developing.

What demographics make up your alliance? What's the age range of the members, sexual orientation/preference, etc.?
Members are ages 18 to 24 (most members fall between 19 and 23) and we have homosexuals, heterosexuals, and bisexuals, though the majority of our members are gay and there are notably fewer straight members than bisexuals. The number of our transgendered members is comparable to that of our heterosexual members.

How active is your alliance? What events do you hold?
Last year we had an average of three or four events a month. Over the summer and this fall that average has risen to seven or so events a month. Every month we have Movie Night, Craft Night, a Bake Sale, Electronic Game Night, Non-Electronic Game Night, a monthly meeting, and we acknowledge any GLBTQ holidays that occur each month. Sometimes we have speakers to commemorate special occasions or to speak on a topic that we believe members would be interested in learning more about. We also have a social each fall and spring.

Are faculty involved in your alliance? How so?
UAH faculty members are involved in that many (particularly in the liberal arts departments) have expressed support and show support through donations at bake sales, volunteering to speak to the group, and occasionally attending simply because they believe in what we're doing and are interested in certain events that we hold. Overall we've gotten a positive response from faculty.

Do you work with other alliances in your region (if they exist)?
We've mostly only made contact with GSAs in the surrounding area, but we are currently hoping to be able to work with the new Calhoun Gay-Straight Alliance (which is in our immediate area) that has formed in the last year.

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About Stephanie Kaloi

I am the former editor of Offbeat Families, and owner/photographer at Stephanie Kaloi Photography in Portland, OR.