The Eagle Angle

GSA: Ten Years of Acceptance

A look back on the Gay-Straight Alliance and it's importance at Allen High

Stephanie Scarano, Staff Writer

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In 2008, the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club was started by a small group of students with the help of Debbie Richmond, a sociology/psychology teacher at Allen, in room A226. Since then, the club has had its highs and lows: dwindling populations some years, and sweeping participation in others. Last year, meetings of the GSA had less than 10 members, incredibly small when compared with other social clubs, such as Harry Potter Club for example, which had around 10-15 members on average in past years. However this year the GSA has near record numbers: more than 50 students gathered in A226.

GSA clubs were first started in the ‘80s, but were not widely accepted in America. Even after 10 years of making a difference, the Allen GSA continues its mission statement of “[making] our school community safe and welcoming to all students regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to the GSA’s official statement on their website.

 

“Some of the kids are out to their parents, some are out to this group or that group, and they can come [to GSA knowing] no one will point them out or make them feel different,” said Richmond. “It’s a safe haven.”

 

According to senior and GSA President Kyle Bendiksen, the club had 12 members at their most attended meeting last year. Numbers were incredibly low throughout the year, often staying around the 6-8 range in GSA attendees.

 

“Normally the kids who meet [at the first meeting] decrease by about half after the first meeting,” Bendiksen said.

 

More recently, the club has been becoming more popular, as the officers make changes to the club’s focus and theme. The GSA used to be a club focused on raising awareness through politics and history, taught and led by the club’s officers. Now however, the club focuses heavily on making sure that the meetings are relaxed and feel safe.

“We want it to be chill. We want people to be able to joke around and have fun and we want everybody to have a chance to talk.” Bendiksen said. “We don’t want it to be totally dictated by the most outspoken individuals. We want everybody to have a place.”

 

The GSA officers offer many social activities, like making small posters to define each member, and less political discussion. This is a shift from previous years’, which focused heavily on queer history and politics.

 

“I don’t want [GSA] to be a club that’s super political because being a member of the LGBT community isn’t about politics” Bendiksen said. “It’s not a choice, and no one should try to force it to align with anyset of political beliefs.”

 

Although the GSA is only based at the high school, its influence spans further and encourages participation and tolerance at the middle school level.

 

“I get lots of calls from parents of middle school kids, they always try to get a club at the middle school but I don’t know how successful they’ve been, but they know that as soon as they get to Lowery, they’re always welcome” Richmond said. “They’re never too far away.”

 

The club also collaborates with Allen Teen Arts Council, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Allen Arts Alliance, to provide artistic outlets for youth in the Allen, Plano, Frisco and McKinney area. The Allen GSA also partners with other GSA’s from across the DFW area to spread awareness.

 

“We did some collaborations with other GSAs from other local high schools and that was a lot of fun, so we’re going to try and connect more to the community and really bring the club together by focusing on LGBT-type stuff,” Bendiksen said.

 

The GSA has started focusing more on longevity and inclusivity, specifically focusing on making sure that even after the officers of today graduate, the GSA continues to offer a safe and organized haven for all of the LGBTQ+ students at Allen High.

 

“We’re telling more people about GSA than we were in the past,” Seals said. “Not because we couldn’t, but because it’s easier to reach out now.”

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About the Writer
Stephanie Scarano, Staff writer

Stephanie Scarano is a senior with a passion for gaming, obscure theatre and the X-Men. She plans on studying Hospital Administration.

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