Drops of Ink

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Forming the Alliance

Senior+Felisa+Umadhay+%28far+left%29%2C+an+active+member+of+GSA%2C+relayed+that+GSA+was+created+as+a+safe+space+for+members+of+the+LGBTQ%2B+community.
Senior Felisa Umadhay (far left), an active member of GSA, relayed that GSA was created as a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Senior Felisa Umadhay (far left), an active member of GSA, relayed that GSA was created as a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Anya Belmoina

Anya Belmoina

Senior Felisa Umadhay (far left), an active member of GSA, relayed that GSA was created as a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

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    The Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA, is a club at LHS that provides a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies to meet.

    According to the LHS website, GSA “aims to provide and advocate for a safe environment for all students at LHS, paying particular attention to issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community.

    GSA was started in the fall of 2004 by junior Danny Sweeney. Sweeney decided to start the club after Mr. Carl Generick, the then-head of the physical education department, wrote a homophobic letter to the editor in Drops of Ink in response to a story DOI wrote on homosexuality. Sweeney explained how disappointed he was that a teacher at LHS had these thoughts and wrote his own letter to the editor in response to it.

    In Sweeney’s letter, he described his disappointment, saying LHS is “better than this, we’re better than close mindedness, we’re better.” Sweeney’s letter quickly became the talk of the school and although his name was withheld, he was very open to tell people that he wrote it.

    “I didn’t want anyone to think it was anyone but me [who wrote it]. I wanted ownership over this,” he said in a recent phone interview. The letter was also the way Sweeney came out to the majority of the school. After the letter, students and teachers helped support Sweeney and pushed him to start GSA.

    The club did not receive much backlash from Sweeney’s peers, he said; most of the retaliation came from parents. “That was more difficult, just to see parents, who are supposed to be the example, being closed off to [GSA] was upsetting because adults should know better.”

    Sweeney felt he “had to do something, not only for myself but for people who feel this way or don’t understand how they feel or people who just need somewhere to hang out.”

     Although Sweeney is gay, he says he did not start the club just for the LGBTQ+ community.

    “Most part people who came to GSA weren’t gay, they were just ‘other,’ ya know? They were punks, emo, weirdos, and we all fit in together,” he said.

    This diverse group of people was what made the club so special to Sweeney. An important foundation of the club was the fact that it was a safe space for everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation was.

    This environment continues at GSA today. Senior Felisa Umadhay, who is the publicity relations officer of GSA, said “it’s not only a safe space for gay kids, it’s a place for people to learn and become more of an ally.”

    A focus of GSA is educating people on the LGBTQ+ community and problems that people in the community might face. Umadhay explained that students will often make presentations to inform the club about issues facing the community.

    The goal of these presentations is to help teach students about important topics that they might not have heard about otherwise, Umadhay said.

    “[We want] to bring more awareness in the school to LGBTQ+ topics,” she said. “This year we did National Transgender Remembrance Day, [and] in the past we’ve done fundraising for Aids month and the Day of Silence.”

    This education goes beyond issues faced only by the LGBTQ+ community, but also tries to correct common myths and judgments people have towards them. According to Umadhay, “it’s a good resource to learn [how to] break down your own misconceptions about the LGBTQ+ community.”

    Sweeney is impressed with how GSA has changed at LHS and how the club has helped the LGBTQ+ community: “Now GSA is perceived as a normal club, so we have kids growing up to know it’s normal.”

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