Our Community Forum on Middle School G/QSAs was very fun and informational! We shared experiences across ages, and heard from the ACLU, mental health experts, and middle school student trailblazers. Scroll down for the details!
Here are the notes from the Community Forum on Middle School G/QSAs:
UpsideDown hosted this awesome GSA/QSA community forum!
Nov 10, Monday, 5-7pm
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Hillsborough
55 participants, including Cedar Ridge GSA, Stanback Middle School GSA, Carolina Friends School, Smith Middle, Centennial Campus Middle, Chapel Hill High QSA, and more!
From the American Civil Liberties Union, works to support GSAs
ACLU tells school systems what legal obligations they have
Orange county is one of the most supportive counties
Equal Access Act- provides equal opportunity to all extracurricular clubs ( its funny because Rick santorum supported it for christian clubs)
All court attention to gsas has led to the conclusion that GSAs don’t interfere with the school ( one exception of the equal access act, the club can’t interfere with the school)
places tried to ban “sex” clubs saying GSAs were sex based (which is silly obviously) and these places were unsuccessful
It is important to talk about our needs and the rights we have!
gender and LGBTQ mental health specialist
need for GSAs from a mental health perspective
time of figuring out your identity is in middle school
middle school is kinda rough, and people are already comparing themselves to others, which is unfavorable if you don’t fit the mainstream
9/10 LGBTQ middle school students report verbal harassment. 6 of 10 report physical harassment, 5/10 missed school in past month due to harassment, according to GLSEN
if there isn’t a safe space like a GSA, there isn’t a safe space to develop your identity
there are more bullying issues in middle school- so why aren’t there more gsas?
important to have a space to connect with people, which really helps with issues of depression and anxiety
safe space for trans/queer kids leads to much progress in therapy!
Intersectionality- Layers of oppression intersect
there is high importance in making a safe space available to everyone, not just white students, because typically not much participation is seen by students of color in GSAs
the most marginalized people should be included, if not at the center of each group
teachers can be afraid to come out too, and if the staff feels unsafe than how can there be a positive environment for LGBTQ students?
GSA leader at Smith Middle School
It was scary at the beginning even though they had enthusiastic support from the principal
max amount of club members per meeting 8 people (most girls), wanted to increase male participation
wanted to find a better meeting time (not afterschool because of transportation/sports issues)
What middle schools in our area have GSAs?
5 we know of: Smith, Carolina Friends, Stanback, Phillips and Centennial
What is the format of a typical GSA meeting?
it varies greatly from club to club but:
Smith- introductions with pronouns, and activity or game, possibly discussion of events
Cedar Ridge High- celebrated LGBTQ history month with trivia, tries to build a community and promote positive awareness
How can a middle school teacher be more supportive if not approached by students?
say something to administration
bring it up to discuss in classroom setting
show your acceptance with safe zone stickers
be open to students teaching you more about LGBTQ stuff
stand up and defend against slurs and bullying
use inclusive language (saying “all genders” not “both genders”, saying partner instead of girl/boy friend, use pronouns requested by students)
What do we think about a the name “tolerance club” instead of GSA?
its vague and confusing
tolerance is a bad word choice, no one should just be tolerated, they should be accepted
it might be good because joining some GSAs could be like outing
everything should be included in the club even if they don’t state it because we need to fight all forms of oppression to solve them (intersectionality) so everything is connected even if its not in the name
a “tolerance club” and a GSA have different goals, its misleading and not goal specific
by using other names you are trying to hide it
making it ok for allies to be in the group makes it ok for people to slowly come out without fear of being outed