How to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at your school
- Follow Guidelines. Establish a Gay/Straight Alliance in the same way as you would establish any other group or club at your school. In your student handbook, there should be a section detailing the procedure for forming a club or group. Follow those guidelines. You may need to get written permission from an administrator. Or it may mean that you simply have to put up flyers announcing the first meeting and find a faculty member to act as your group advisor. Schools sometimes have rules about where and when you can post flyers, make announcements or set up information tables. Learn what the policy is at your school.
- Enlist the support of your administration. It is important to inform the school administration about your plans to establish a Gay/Straight Alliance. Having an administrator on your side can be very useful. They can help you to arrange Days of Awareness, speakers for school assemblies, teacher trainings and other events. They can work as liaisons to the community and school committee.
- Find a faculty advisor. Some Gay/Straight Alliances have advisors who are teachers; others have faculty advisors who are guidance counselors, nurses or librarians. Just like student members of a group, the faculty advisors don't have to be gay identified to be part of the group. Many existing groups have straight allies as advisors. How do you pick a faculty advisor? Ask a teacher or staff member whom you think would be receptive.
- Inform Guidance Counselors and School Social Workers about the group. Guidance staff may know students that you don't know who would be interested in attending meetings. They may be able to encourage students who are dealing with these issues to attend the group, whether they are questioning their own sexuality, know someone who is gay or lesbian, or are interested in issues affecting gays and lesbians. It can be useful to invite social workers and guidance counselors to come to meetings to help facilitate discussions about difficult issues like "talking to your parents about homosexuality," "coming out to friends and family" or "supporting a friend or relative who is gay." The meetings may also bring up issues that students will want to discuss in greater detail with a supportive adult.
- Pick a Meeting Place. If possible, find a classroom spot in your school that is off the beaten track. At first, students may feel a little nervous or uncomfortable about attending a meeting. They may feel worried that others will harass them or make assumptions about their sexual orientation if they join the group. Try to find a meeting spot that gives members a sense of security and privacy.
- Advertise. Advertising the formation of the group is one of the first important steps you can take to fight discrimination in your school. For some students, seeing Gay or Lesbian on a poster can be the first time they feel that there are other people like them in their world. The posters can also spark discussions. Traditionally, there has been silence around issues of sexual orientation. The posters can be a reason for people to bring up their own feelings, questions or thoughts about homosexuality. Of course, not all these feelings will be positive and supportive. However, breaking the silence is an important first step. Don't be discouraged if the posters are torn town or are defaced. Keep putting them back up. Include in the poster: meeting time and place, describe what the group does, highlight that everyone is welcome and keep the posters positive.
- Get snacks. Providing food at your meeting is a great idea. Food gives people something to do with their hands. It is a good icebreaker and can give people an excuse come to meetings. Finally, food also makes meetings fun.
- Hold your meeting. Now that you have a faculty advisor, food, a meeting spot and posters advertising your group, you're ready to actually hold the meeting. Some groups begin with a discussion about why they feel having such a group is important.
- Establish ground rules such as ... no one will make any assumptions about members' sexual orientation, confidentiality will be maintained—names and identities should never be revealed, everyone must respect each other—remember, everyone is learning about the issue, and faculty advisors participate on an equal basis with the students—they may encourage discussion or participation, but they are not there to teach or lead the group.
- Plan for the future. You may want to write an outline of goals that you would like to work towards for the future.