Why having an official Gay-Straight Alliance benefits students


Sara Green '23

Graciela Tiu ’23 poses next to the Gay-Straight Alliance bulletin board in senior hallway.

As I walk past the bulletin boards in the senior hallway, I stop to look at one of them in particular. It’s the Gay-Straight Alliance board, decorated with pride flags, informational posters and colorful lettering. Looking at the board, I feel a wave of happiness wash over me. In previous years, seeing a bulletin board from this affinity group wasn’t something that I was used to. Its new presence in the hallway reminds me of the safe space that the group provides.

This year, the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) has debuted as an official affinity group at Flintridge Sacred Heart. After signing up at the co-curricular fair, members have attended the group’s first couple of meetings. It is open to any student that aligns with the LGBTQ+ community, although the group plans to host informational and discussion-based meetings with allies as well. 

Making the GSA an official group on the Hill is extremely beneficial to students, especially those within the LGBTQ+ community. 

Before the GSA became official, the group would meet discreetly on Mondays at lunch. All information would be spread by word of mouth. We weren’t allowed to have a bulletin board, meeting reminders were not allowed on morning announcements and the letters “LGBTQ” were not allowed to be posted anywhere in the school or to be included in the group’s name.

I heard about this during my freshman year at FSH, and it made me feel discouraged and scared to know that a part of my identity was not supported by the school at the time. 

Now, two years later, times have changed, and the school is taking big steps to focus on diversity and inclusion, which includes the making of the GSA. 

The official GSA now provides a safe space for LGBTQ+ students, whether to share personal experiences, discuss important issues concerning the global community or even just spend time with one another. As a queer teen, it can be hard to grapple with the idea that some people around you disapprove of your identity, but having the opportunity to be in a place where you feel completely accepted is very helpful. A student will find it easier to share their thoughts in an environment such as the GSA’s rather than one in which they feel nervous or potentially unsafe.

Making the GSA an official affinity group also shows acceptance of the LGBTQ+ students on campus. The school’s decision to grant the GSA official status validates and acknowledges the presence of LGBTQ+ students on campus, showing that they are welcomed and loved on the Hill. 

Having a safe space on campus can help support students academically as well. A 2017 study from the Institute of Education Science’s Regional Educational Laboratory Program showed that respectful school environments lead to higher student academic achievement. Feeling comfortable and valued at school protects the mental health of students, and this can be reflected in how well students do in class. If schools prioritize academic performance, they should also prioritize creating a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students. 

According to a 2016 article from US News, research suggests that the existence of a GSA benefits the entire student population. Schools with GSAs have “lower levels of victimization for all students,” not just those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Having a group that supports members of one marginalized community encourages the school to support other marginalized students that might need similar protection.

With its newfound status, the GSA at FSH has more opportunities to educate the student population on LGBTQ+ issues. The presence of the GSA helps foster communication between those part of the LGBTQ+ community and those who are not. The GSA now has the ability to work on an outreach project, like the other clubs and affinity groups. This service would impact even more people outside of the school community.

Whenever I come back from a GSA meeting, I am reminded of the feeling I got when I passed by the decorated bulletin board in senior hallway for the first time. The GSA has expanded a lot since my freshman year, and I’m looking forward to learning from the discussions we have and meeting new members. Because of FSH’s GSA, I feel encouraged by my fellow Tologs to fully accept myself and my identity in this community.