Step Three: Enlist the Assistance of the Pre-Existing Power Structure

Leverage Community Support

Understanding that you are likely to encounter resistance from some parents, in addition to potential school resistance, be prepared with support to counter that resistance.

Reach out to the sources of support listed here, to ask them to advocate on behalf of GSA creation, pro-LGBTQ+ staff-wide training, and an enumerated anti-bullying policy. Ask them to write letters of support addressed to school administration and the school board.

If possible, arrange panel discussions in which pediatricians, mental health experts, and LGBTQ+ community advocates discuss the importance of GSAs to the entire school climate.

Additionally, your school (or district) psychologists, social workers, and counselors can speak to the support their professional organizations have for GSAs and the other listed safe-school measures.

More voices = More power

Sources of Community Support

Local LGBTQ+ parent organizations (Mayberry, 2012)

Allies in the school district

School board members

Local pediatricians

Local mental health providers

Local NASW chapter President

State-wide NASW President

Local university Education Department professors/chair

LGBTQ+ graduates of the school

Administration from schools with a GSA


Create an Advisory Board


Especially if one is working to form a GSA in a school or community with an anti-LGBTQ climate, enlisting the support of the pre-existing power structure can go a long way toward ensuring success (Underhill, 2017).

While the law will likely be on the side of GSA formation, having an administration and staff which is vocally supportive can facilitate the process of creating and running the GSA (Underhill, 2017). Additionally, supportive administration can prove very beneficial in advocating for your GSA to parents, the school board, and the community (Start a GSA: 10 Steps, n.d.).

Additionally, reach out to your School Board members and district employees. Having one or more allies on the School Board or the district offices will help facilitate the process.

One teacher found, in forming a GSA at her school, that creating an advisory board for the club’s formation helped smooth a lot of the initial processes, and helped the club garner support within the school community (Underhill, 2017). Her club’s advisory board consisted of the principal, the dean, guidance counselors, and multiple members of the faculty and staff (Underhill, 2017).

Consider as well having several of the more outspoken LGBTQ+ students and several vocal student allies join the advisory board. Creating an environment conducive to dialogue and communication will help the school move toward greater appreciation of individuality and diversity (Underhill, 2017).

Find Allies Throughout the School


Boundary spanning – is a process of creating bonds among multiple groups with different inherent characteristics and identities. Boundary spanning can help a movement gain traction and support (Sutherland, 2019).

Often there are allies to a group or movement who don’t make themselves known, either because they do not see the need, or because they do not understand the value of their voice.

The majority of people in the United States support LGBTQ+ rights (McCarthy, 2021). While many people are not outspoken about their beliefs, they will come forward if they know they can make a difference.

Speak with the student body, the faculty, adminstration, and staff, to identify allies who can support the creation and growth of the GSA. Help them to recognize and understand the ways that the GSA will benefit LGBTQ+ student and the school as a whole, and enlist their aid as vocal supporters. Ask them all to attend at least some GSA meetings, to show the students who attend that there is support throughout the school.

Additionally, counselors might know students who would be interested in joining your GSA (Start a GSA: 10 Steps, n.d.).

Teamwork with allies improves the inclusiveness of a school (Underhill, 2017). Allies are a valuable resource that should not be overlooked in the fight for recognition, respect, and equality.

Diversity Representation

When school power structures work to incorporate different voices and identities, as by giving voice and representation to LGBTQ+ students and staff, the climate of the school can fundamentally change. In such cases, LGBTQ+ life experiences integrate with school culture and policy. This helps to overcome both unintentional and overtly hostile discriminatory and negating practices. Additionally, it transitions the role of members of the LGBTQ+ community from one of needing protection to being active participants in change (Cerezo & Bergfeld, 2013).


References

Cerezo, A., & Bergfeld, J. (2013). Meaningful LGBTQ inclusion in schools: The importance of diversity representation and counterspaces. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 7(4):355-371. doi:10.1080/15538605.2013.839341

Mayberry, M. (2012). Gay-straight alliances: Youth empowerment and working toward reducing stigma of LGBT youth. Humanity & Society, 37(1):35-54. doi:10.1177/0160597612454358

McCarthy, J. (2021, June 8). Record-high 70% in U.S. support same-sex marriage. Gallup. https://news.gallup.com/poll/350486/record-high-support-same-sex-marriage.aspx

Start a GSA: 10 steps. (n.d.). GSA Network. https://gsanetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/10StepsGSA.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

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

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