What is a GSA?
Gay-Straight Student Alliances (GSAs) are student-run and teacher supported, school-based groups that promote welcoming, caring, respectful safe and inclusive spaces for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and two-spirited) students and their allies. GSAs help LGBT students feel valued, respected, and empowered. They help build awareness for the whole school. It creates opportunity for interested students to become allies. A successful GSA promotes healthy relationships and welcomes diverse people in the school community.
Why have a GSA?
LGBT students may have particular challenges as they grow and develop. They may have more questions and concerns about how to talk to friends and family about their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Many may be isolated because they are afraid of rejection or bullying from others. These students can be the most marginalized students in your school. GSA’s can create a positive, caring, school climate that help LGBT students to have improved self‐esteem, friendships and supports, and confidence to be successful at school.
I have been asked by a teacher or student to start a GSA at my school. How do I do this?
Provide the same status and visibility to the GSA as you would to any other student group or club (for example, by making the club official, including it on your school web site, etc.) and make sure the teacher-advisor feels supported in their role. Promote the GSA as a positive peer support group open to all students and school staff who want their school to be a Positive Space. The group should explicitly welcome straight allies as well as those from the LGBT community, and be a safe place that is welcoming, inclusive and confidential. GSA’s can be a space for friendship and support, and they can also organize and host events and activities school wide. There are many excellent Canadian resources for starting and running a successful GSA (see list below). Your school public health nurse can also provide direct support to a teacher-supervisor in starting or maintaining a GSA. If you do not know who your school public health nurse is, please call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or toll free at 1-877-721-7520, Monday to Friday, 8:30a.m. - 4:30p.m.
Resources for Teacher-Supervisors
- Gay-Straight Student Alliance Handbook. The definitive GSA resource for Canadian teachers and GSA student leaders.
- Supporting Transgender and Transsexual Students in K-12 Schools: A Guide for Educators. Intended to increase professional knowledge, understanding, and sensitivity around transgender and transsexual students, whom research indicates are among the most at-risk students for bullying, discrimination, and violence in our schools today.
- Challenging Silence, Challenging Censorship. A professional and practical resource for taking action and positively changing the educational and social climate for youth and children from same-sex parented families.
- Seeing the Rainbow. Presents the social and political contexts of bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender and two-spirited issues in education.
- Lessons Learned. A collection of stories, articles and research studies providing insights into the bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender realities of teachers and students.
- Egale Canada: My GSA – Canada's web site for safer and more inclusive schools for GLBT students.
- International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – Promotional resources (free and orderable), information and support for celebrating International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17.
- PFLAG Canada – Supporting, educating, and providing resources to all individuals with questions or concerns (including parents), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youthline – A toll-free, Ontario-wide peer support phone line for young people 26 and under.