Step One: Demonstrate the Need for a GSA

With Statistics


The first step to demonstrating need is presenting statistics showing just how dire the situation is for many LGBTQ+ youth in our society today. You will find a list of statistics that you can cite to your school administration and school board, and the sources of the statistics, below.

Click here for a printable version with references

Click here for a printable infographic

Many people who identify as allies do not understand the degree of bullying and isolation that LGBTQ+ students often experience in the school environment. Seeing the statistics – for example, the rate of mental health issues, substance abuse, homelessness, and suicide among LGBTQ+ adolescents – can prove to be eye-opening to many allies.

With Student Interest


Another way to demonstrate need is to show student interest in a GSA club (Underhill, 2017). Talk to students – both LGBTQ+ and straight, cis-gender allies – and create a list of students who believe that a GSA would benefit the school community as a whole.

Even though the majority of LGBTQ+ adolescents are bullied and/or physically assaulted because of the sexual and gender identity over any given school year, most non-LGBTQ+ students identify as allies (Sinclair & Reece, 2016). When allies make their voices heard, the entire school environment becomes safer.

A GSA is an alliance between LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff, and the more voices there are in that alliance, the louder they become.

With Education


A third way to demonstrate need for a GSA in your school is to invite local LGBTQ+ community members to speak to the adminstration, faculty, and staff about some of the difficulties LGBTQ+ people face, in school and in the community (Underhill, 2017).

LGBTQ+ speakers can share their stories and help school personnel fully understand how much a GSA can make a difference in the life of an LGBTQ+ student.

One teacher, working to show the need for a GSA at her school, asked a group of transgender and non-binary students from local colleges educate the faculty and staff on the unique needs of LGBTQ+ students. These speakers were able to demonstrate that LGBTQ+ students are often underserved by the school, even by well-meaning allies (Underhill, 2017).


The following organizations endorse supporting LGBTQ+ youth / the presence of a GSA (Murphy, 2012)

American Academy of Peditrics
American Association of School Administrators
American Counseling Association
American Federation of Teachers
American School Counselor Association
American School Health Association
Interfaith Alliance Foundation
National Association of Secondary School Principals
National Association of School Nurses
National Association of Social Workers
National Education Association
National School Boards Association
School Social Work Association of America

Statistics

LGBTQ+ youth report overwhelming “rejection and harassment” from “families, schools, religious institutions” and members of their communities or neighborhoods (Higa et al., 2014, para. 33).

LGBTQ+ youth are 2-7 TIMES more likely to attempt suicide than students who identify as heterosexual (Youth.gov, n.d.).

The mental health risks faced by LGBTQ+ youth are most associated with experiencing “discrimination, negative interactions, harassment, and bullying” – especially from peers and adults at school (Swanson & Gettinger, 2016).

Even though 85% majority of LGBTQ+ youth experience harassment and bullying at school each year, according to one study 57% opted not to report the incident to a teacher or administration, and, of those who did report the indidents, 62% stated that nothing was done (Sinclair & Reece, 2016; Swanson & Gettinger, 2016).

Transgender youth are at a significantly greater risk of some types of harassment or maltreatment than their gay peers. These include being scorned, physically attacked, and being kicked out of their homes (Sutherland, 2019).

One study found that 25% of transgender youth had attempted suicide in the past year (Swanson & Gettinger, 2016).

42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth (Youth.gov, n.d.).

LGBTQ students were more than 2x as likely to have been physically assaulted at school than their non-LGBTQ peers (Underhill, 2017).

57.6% of LGBTQ students stated that they feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation. 43.3% said they feel unsafe due to their gender expression (Hannah, 2017).

LGBTQ+ students who experienced school-based harassment and victimization had “lower grade point averages, missed more school, and were more likely not to pursue higher education” than their non-LGBTQ+ peers (Sinclair & Reece, 2016, p. 110). In fact, LGBTQ students who have suffered bullying and harassment are 3x more likely than their non-LGBTQ peers to miss school, 4x more likely to drop out of school, and 2x more likely to reject the concept of attending college (Murphy, 2012; Hannah, 2017).

75% of non-LGBTQ+ youth identify as supportive of LGBTQ+ youth, yet 92% of LGBTQ+ youth report receiving negative messaging about their sexual and/or gender identities at school. When the majority of non-LGBTQ+ youth are vocal supporters, school-wide LGBTQ+ negativity decreases (Underhill, 2017).

95% of LGBTQ youth report hearing negative remarks about their sexual orientation and gender expression (Hannah, 2017).

Some LGBTQ students have reported hearing statements hostile to the LGBTQ+ community from school staff, faculty, and administration (Stonefish & Lafreniere, 2015). More than half say there is a nonsupportive faculty or staff member in their school, and 41% reported teachers telling anti-LGBTQ jokes (Murphy, 2012).

MIddle school LGBTQ+ students are more likely to miss classes or skip school due to feeling unsafe than high school LGBTQ+ students (Murphy, 2012).

All students in schools with Gay Straight Alliances are more accepting and inclusive of all forms of diversity – not only in terms of gender and sexuality, but diversity of religious beliefs, race, and ethnicity (Mayo, 2013).

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that by 4 years old, most children have a sense of their gender identity (Lititz Chooses Love, 2022).

Having just one supportive adult in their lives can reduce the chance of an LGBTQ+ adolescent committing suicide by 40% (Lititz Chooses Love, 2022).

Download a pdf version of these statistics

Download a printable infographic


References

Hannah, J. L. (2017). One student at a time: A reflection of support for a first-year GSA club and its impact on perceived acceptance for LGBTQ students. The Clearing House, 90(3):98-102. doi:10.1080/00098655.2017.1301154

Higa, D., Hoppe, M. J., Lindhorst, T., Mincer, S., Beadnell, B., Morrison, D. M., Wells, E. A., Todd, A., & Mountz, S. (2014). Negative and positive factors associated with the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Youth & Society, 46(5), 663–687. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X12449630

Lititz Chooses Love. (2022, January 24). A space to be yourself! Supporting LGBTQ+ youth : A Lititz Chooses Love presentation with Kate and MK [Video]. Youtube.com. https://youtu.be/21qjsW1bum8

Mayo, J. B. (2013). Critical pedagogy enacted in the gay-straight alliance: New possibilities for a third space in teacher development. Educational Researcher, 42(5):266-275. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23462392

Murphy, H. E. (2012). Improving the lives of students, gay and straight alike: Gay-straight alliances and the role of school psychologists. Psychology in the Schools, 49(9):883-891. doi:10.1002/pits.21643

National survey on LGBTQ youth mental health 2021. (n.d.). The Trevor Project. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2021/

Sinclair J., & Reece, B. J. (2016). Gay-straight alliances in the battle for rights: A tipping point for progress over prohibition. Interchange, 47:109-120. doi:10.1007/s10780-015-9257-3

Stonefish, T. & Lafreniere, K. D. (2015). Embracing diversity: The dual role of gay-straight alliances. Canadian Journal of Education, 38(4). https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1086834.pdf

Sutherland, D. K. (2019). The push for transgender inclusion: Exploring boundary spanning in the gay-straight alliance. Sociology Compass, 13:e12739. doi:10.1111/soc4.12739

The 2019 national school climate survey. (n.d.). GLSEN. https://www.glsen.org/research/2019-national-school-climate-survey

Underhill, C. (2017). Navigating spaces: Moving along the (dis)enfranchisement spectrum through a high school GSA. Theory in Action, 10(4):89-99. doi:10.3798/tia.1937-0237.1728

Youth.gov (n.d.). Behavioral health. https://youth.gov/youth-topics/lgbtq-youth/health-depression-and-suicide

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