Youth Blog > Happy 25th Birthday, Gay-Straight Alliances!
This year marks the 25-year anniversary of the first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA)! In 1988, a straight student in Concord, Massachusetts, wanted to do something to teach her classmates about anti-LGBT bullying. She reached out to her history teacher who had recently come out to the entire campus. “You’re gay, and I’m straight, so let’s call it a Gay-Straight Alliance.” Since then, GSAs across the nation have worked to make their schools safer and confront anti-LGBT activities within their communities.
GSAs offer students a space to spend time with their classmates and receive support. However, these groups also have bigger impacts. Students involved in GSAs feel safer and less harassed by their classmates. These students are more likely to view their school as a place where LGBT youth belong. They are less likely to miss school, and they also have higher grade point averages than LGBT students attending high schools without a GSA. These students also report less smoking, drinking, suicide attempts, and sex with casual partners than students in schools without GSAs. Check out IMPACT Program’s White Paper: A Healthy Chicago for LGBT Youth for more info!
In addition to reducing harmful habits, GSAs also provide students with a strong sense of empowerment. These are feelings of inclusion and engagement with one’s own community. By being involved with their school’s GSA, student leaders realize they can promote change around issues they care about. Many students see empowerment as using their knowledge to create change or have a voice in their community. Other students simply enjoy sharing a common understanding and appreciation with other members of the LGBT community.
If your school doesn’t already have a Gay-Straight Alliance set up, how do you go about starting one? The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) provides free resources to all interested students looking to form a Gay-Straight Alliance. Get involved today!
This article was written by Michael Hernandez, IMPACT intern.
 Heck, N. C., Flentje, A., & Cochran, B. N. (2011). Offsetting Risks: High School Gay-Straight Alliances and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Youth. School Psychology Quarterly, 26(2), 161-174. doi: 10.1037/a0023226
 Currie, S., Mayberry, M., & Chenneville, T. (2012). Destabilizing Anti-Gay Environments through Gay-Straight Alliances: Possibilities and Limitations through Shifting Discourses. Clearing House, 85(2), 56-60. doi: 10.1080/00098655.2011.611190
 Russell, S. T., Muraco, A., Subramaniam, A., & Laub, C. (2009). Youth Empowerment and High School Gay-Straight Alliances. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 38(7), 891-903. doi: 10.1007/s10964-008-9382-8