GSAs Build Power

GSA clubs–originally called Gay-Straight Alliance clubs when they first established in the 1980s–are student-run organizations, typically in a high school or middle school, which provide a safe place for students to meet, support each other, and talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. There are three typical functions of a GSA club: Support, Social, and Activist.
While GSA clubs have traditionally served as safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth to build awareness and community as well as prevent discrimination and harassment in schools, they are now emerging as vehicles for deeper social change that extends beyond individual schools. Trans and queer youth are building their power through GSA organizing and connecting to state and national campaigns on a variety of issues that affect all students across the country.

How do GSA’s support school communities?

Every GSA can create its own mission and goals to meet the different needs of its members and their individual school climates. The three most common types of GSAs:

  • Social GSAs — Students meet and connect with other trans and queer students on campus
  • Support GSAs — Students work to create safe spaces and talk about the various issues they face in school or their broader community, such as discrimination from teachers or school administrators
  • Activist GSAs — Students take a leadership role to improve school climate through campaigns and events that raise awareness and change policies or practices in their schools.

All of these GSAs can make a direct impact for LGBTQ+ youth and help improve school climates. Many GSAs begin as social or support GSAs and over time students are motivated to use their collective voice and power to create real changes in school through anti-slur campaigns, days of LGBTQ+ sensitivity or awareness, teacher trainings, and even speak to school district officials about what they need to live authentically and thrive in school