Gay Straight Alliance – Making HI a Safe Space
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For years, Holy Innocents’ has been one of few schools in the Atlanta area lacking a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Club. While in past years it could have combatted our school’s Episcopal faith, the Episcopal Church now openly supports homosexuality; students and faculty have favorably responded to this overdue change of heart by charting the preliminary steps we need to take to welcome a GSA into the community with open arms.
The GSA network defines their mission as “bring[ing] together LGBTQ and straight students to support each other, provid[ing] a safe place to socialize, and creat[ing] a platform for activism to fight homophobia”. While classrooms at HIES sport “Safe Space” stickers, a safe environment has not been actively pursued until this school year when a group of students took the initiative to start a GSA with the support of a select few faculty members. Senior and co-leader of our GSA program, Maria Crosswell, has noticed the lack of support for the LGBTQ community at HIES for quite some time, and as a student who defines herself as “fluid with [her] sexuality,” she would love nothing more than to see this change. “High school is an essential time for teenagers to question and discover their sexuality,” says Crosswell. “It is important that we provide students with an outlet where they feel comfortable opening up about their journey. Whether you choose to be involved in the GSA for your own personal benefit or as a supportive friend, persons of any sexuality can take part in creating a safe, supportive school and defeating homophobia.”
May Lieberman attended Atlanta International School (AIS) for her freshman year, a school that prides itself on its goal of acceptance. Participating in GSA educated her not only on LGBTQ life but also of the power of tolerance and coexistence. Lieberman says GSA creates a fostering environment where “LGBTQ or simply questioning kids can feel safe, and where heterosexual kids can learn how to be allies. Let me tell you, being a good ally takes a bit of work”. She believes the most important thing GSA gave back to her school environment was a vocabulary and a forum with which to talk about LGBTQ issues. “If we don’t talk about societal injustices, nothing will be done to address them,” says Lieberman.
Many students have voiced their support for a GSA on campus. They stress the fact that GSA is for students of all sexualities, whether you’re gay, straight, or anything in-between. As senior Sydney Coleman puts it: “A GSA will show the HIES community that you don’t have to have the same preferences as somebody to be a friend to them and support them. It’ll show everybody that equality is about giving people the right to live their life they way they want to, everybody should have that right and nobody is entitled to take that right away.”
“Our school strives for diversity and they’re desperately working towards racial diversity, but what about sexuality?” questions senior Alex Robitaille. “We need a GSA to let queer and questioning students know we’re here, we’re accepting, and our school will support them.”