When I told my parents I was gay, they were bewildered. My parents hadn't ever heard of an openly gay 10-year-old, yet there I was. They tried their best to support me, but they couldn't be everything. There are few resources for young gay kids. Fortunately, a friend told my parents about the high school Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). I started attending meetings and I loved it because hiding my secret from everyone had been ripping me apart. At the GSA meetings I could finally be me!
GSA is about having fun, getting to know each other, being supportive, and learning how to make our community stronger. Even when I felt public school wasn't a safe place for me, I could go to GSA meetings and feel like a normal student. GSA encourages us to face our fears and help with difficult things like talking to unsupportive parents. GSA supplies a safe space by being respectful of everyone. Just by being visible and active, we encourage the school and the community to be accepting and open-minded. My fellow GSA members and I even gave a presentation to our superintendent in hopes of educating the administration about the needs of LGBTQ students in our district. The best part of my GSA, is where we eat delicious food like my mom's rainbow Jell-O!
Being in GSA has taught me not just about the LGBTQ community, but about life in general. When I was younger, I believed many stereotypes. I thought only women could sing high notes, and I believed men only sang bass. I also thought all Christians hated gays and that being different was wrong. GSA showed me I should not be ashamed of who I am, that different wasn't wrong. I also learned in addition to accepting myself, I should accept others. I became more aware of the assumptions I was making. GSA opened my eyes to being more accepted and accepting.
One of the most important things I've learned in GSA is about the struggles of a wide variety of people. A short time ago my GSA played an interesting Game of Life. We divided into groups and were assigned an identity. A challenge was presented and each identity rolled two dice to determine their outcome. The outcomes and ability to succeed were different depending on the individual identity. For example, the white male identity had to avoid rolling two specific numbers in order to succeed, while the black male identity was required to roll two specific numbers to succeed. We discovered how students faced with similar situations can have completely different outcomes. By the end of our game, most of the minority students had been arrested or expelled. We also discussed real life instances which reflected those in the game. Real kids are being affected just the way they were in the game.
That Game of Life showed me how school pushout is quite real and harsh. School pushout is the set of policies, practices, and procedures which cause students to leave school rather than graduate. Things like "zero tolerance," unsafe schools, or lots of police impact LGBTQ students, students of color and students with disabilities much more harshly. From Saturday September 28 through Saturday October 5, students across the country are pushing back against school pushout for the National Week of Action. Organized by the Dignity in Schools Campaign, GSA Network is helping students to protest, demonstrate, push back, and demand solutions. Together we are helping to ensure students aren't forced out of eduction, but are embraced by it.