Monday, November 26, 2012

GSA stories: Newton High School

The Newton High School Gay Straight Alliance
By Justin Prendergast, Newton GSA Vice-President

Our Gay Straight Alliance divides each month into a topic for discussion, learning, and activism.  In October we cover LGBT history, in November we cover rejection and homelessness within the LGBT community, in December we cover transgender identities, issues, and rights, in January we cover HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, in February we cover the anti-racist movement and famous queer people of color, in March we talk about how feminism and women's issues tie into the queer rights movement, in April we discuss bullying and self-discovery, and in May we discuss media portrayals of LGBT people.  Then, we have a movie night for each topic to increase understanding and give faces and media representations to each point.

For instance, in November we discuss homelessness and rejection in the LGBT community, then we have a coat drive for an LGBT friendly homeless shelter, and we watch Pariah, a movie about a teenager embracing her identity as a lesbian while parents reject her for it, and But I’m A Cheerleader, about a teenager who is sent to an ex-gay camp by her parents in an effort to “cure” her of lesbianism.  In January we discuss HIV/AIDS, then we have a bake sale and we donate the money to an AIDS related charity, and we watch Philadelphia, a film about a man who sues his former employers after he is fired from his job for having AIDS, and Rent, a musical about a group of New York City residents who struggle with life, love and AIDS.

Other things that we do throughout the year include making a list of all of the LGBT books in our school library (so students can have free easy access to queer media and resources), putting up posters of famous LGBT activists and celebrities during LGBT history month (in order to inform the students at our school), taking tallies of the number of anti-LGBT slurs that are heard by Gay Straight Alliance members during a single week (in order to have statistics specific to our school to use when talking to people about the stigma surrounding LGBT students), trips to The Garden (a gay nightclub that has “teen night” on Sundays where teens can watch a drag show), the Day of Silence (in which students take a vow of silence for a day as a way to illustrate the silencing effect of bullying and harassment), going to Pridefest (a parade and celebration of queer lives, culture, and the advancement of LGBT people) and attending LGBT conferences and coalition meetings.

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