A Haven For All


There is a thriving community within the walls of AHS, both online and in person. It continues to grow, expanding to become a safe place for those who need it most. The community is for those who are LGBTQIA+: found in a club at the high school that meets every other week after school, and an online community found in a server on the messaging platform Discord.

The Gay Straight Alliance, otherwise known as GSA, meets every second and fourth Thursday in G114, and is open for anyone who wants to attend. Members of the club often congregate and seek support from each other during the meetings, using the time to connect to people they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to.

“I just want to make sure that anyone who comes in looking for a community can find it there and feel like they can be accepted, at least in this small club,” sophomore Karma said. “We’re here to support you if you need it.”

GSA offers a safe place for members to discover and explore identities, with easy acceptance and many willing to offer a listening ear. Karma, who said they attend every meeting they can, is only one of many regular members who attend GSA meetings, and admits to having helped some students understand the LGBTQIA+ community and explore more identities.

“I think the main thing is just to not force labels on anyone,” Karma said. “Labels can be comforting, but they can also feel restricting and it’s important to know that a person is a person. They don’t have to fit into any sort of certain box. If they choose a label, that’s good for them, but there’s no need.”

Many students have found friends within GSA, seeking the meetings out as a way to connect with other students and share ideas and experiences. Students find solidarity in their shared experiences, valuing the opportunity to meet other queer students.

“It’s helped me meet people who are going through the same thing. It’s not very apparent in the school that there are a lot of people who are going through similar situations as you and share the same identity,” sophomore GSA officer Nathan Beeman said. “Really, it’s a place to talk.”

GSA strives to be an open community, led by officers who volunteer their time. The role of an officer to make sure the club runs smoothly, and maintains an open atmosphere during meetings. Occasionally, officers plan events for the club, such as rock painting.

“We painted rocks, and some people painted pride flags on theirs,” Beeman said. “Some people put their pronouns down. I mean, I made a paper weight for my teacher. It was just a kind thing. I think a lot of us gave our rocks away.”

Officers also have been planning for more events for the next school year specifically, although there isn’t much set in stone right now. Potential plans include collaborating with other clubs like the environmental club, and activities for the beginning of next year, such as a beginning of the year bash.

Although GSA offers an in-person opportunity to meet other members of the LGBTQIA+ community at AHS, there is a non-school sponsored online community started by students on the messaging platform Discord, called Haven. Haven, first created on April 12, 2020, amidst the start of the COVID pandemic and the worldwide quarantine, is an invite-only community for members of the AHS LGBTQIA+ community, grown mostly by word-of-mouth. Organizers say they designed it as a safe space for members of the LGBTQIA+ community to connect with each other and express themselves in a place without judgment, in a place of diversity and acceptance.

It was created by senior PJ, more commonly known as Podge on the server, who was a sophomore at the time. He was inspired by his friend, who wanted to get to know more people in the queer community, but could not do so as a result of the pandemic.

“Upon realizing that I couldn’t go to school to meet these queer kids, I decided to create a Discord server in Allen, and I just invited every single queer kid I knew in my personal life and we only had 20 people originally, including me and my friends as admins,” Podge said.

The server has grown in the two years that it has been active to include about 120 members from Allen High School. As the server continues to expand, admins have had their list of responsibilities grow as well.

What used to be just maintaining the server now includes creating roles for each member to help correctly identify who they are. Available roles include preferred gender, pronouns and sexuality. Roles such as lunches and off-periods are available so that members can meet outside of the server and get to know each other better. The admins have created sub-servers for people who identify in the same way, watching the chats to make sure everyone feels comfortable, included and safe. Admins have become listeners as more members look to them for advice, or role models that others in the AHS queer community can look up to.

“I have gained the experience of being a role model, I think is the best thing I can say,” Podge said. “There’s a lot of kids who come into the server and they’re so worried about how they’re feeling and what they identify as and what this means for them in the future and all of these really big questions, and they’re like 15. So I just kind of sit them down and I’m like ‘you can be vague and say you don’t know, and that’s okay’.”

And for the members of this server, Haven has been an amazing opportunity to get to know others in the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s a safe space to express who they are, somewhere to go when they need help, surrounded by people who accept them and help their growth as individuals and strengthen their confidence in themselves.

“I naturally was an extroverted child, and lost that during quarantine, and I think having access to the server and this whole community is helping me find my extrovertedness,” sophomore Nyx said. “Having the server gives you connections to the people around you who are queer just throughout the day, throughout life, and it makes it easier to form bonds with people, it makes it a lot easier to connect with people you’re kin with.”

Haven isn’t just a safe place for people to connect with others. It’s a place where members can learn more about the vast community they are in. Members gain knowledge about not only themselves, but others in the community and how being LGBTQIA+ helped shape their lives and who they are.

“I think part of finding myself was understanding a lot of other people’s perspectives on where they found their identities,” Nyx said. “And so it’s made it easier for me to see multiple sides of a conversation or debate over something.”