LGBTQ+ Education and Knowledge

Some students may wish to attend the GSA in order to learn more about LGBTQ+ history, about laws and court decisions that affect the LGBTQ+ community, and about available resources. Other possible topics include the global LGBTQ+ community, social-justice organizing, health concerns, and multiculturalism (GLSEN Jump-Start Guide, Part 1, n.d.).

When exploring LGBTQ+ history and issues, make sure to encompass the entirety of the community’s history, to include that of bisexual, queer, asexual, demisexual, and transgender individuals, as well as LGBTQ+ people of color (Brandon-Friedman & Kim, 2016). GSAs which discuss issues of racism help LGBTQ+ people of color feel a sense of belonging in the group (Sinclair & Reece, 2016).

Transgender youth, and youth of color, are the most likely people to feel marginalized, even within GSAs themselves (Calzo et al., 2018). Therefore, ensure that discussions are geared toward all LGBTQ+ populations and issues (Chong et al., 2019; Sutherland, 2019). Additionally, addressing multiple historical and current systems of inequality creates both alliances and a broader perspective on the issue of inequality (Poteat et al., 2015).

Remember that you do not always know who is in your audience, so be inclusive of everyone.

Many of these topics intersect with advocacy, but that is largely because education and advocacy are intertwined. It is hard to advocate effectively for or against legislation if you do not understand the legislative process, but learning the process is just a preparatory step toward advocacy. Topics can be suggested by members or, in absence of those, cycled through from an existing list.

Sample topics

The History of LGBTQ+ Rights in the United States and the World (Mayo, 2013)

History of Inequality as a Whole in the United States and the World (Poteat et al., 2015)

The History of Transgender Rights and How they have not always aligned with LGB rights as a whole

The Unique Experience of being a queer person of color

Media Portrayals of the LGBTQ+ Community, Historically and Currently (Mayo, 2013)

Book Club: Discussions of Books Important to the LGBTQ+ Community (Underhill, 2017)

LGBTQ+ People in History

Current Legislation: How to Read It; How to Advocate for (or Against) It; the Legislative Process

Current Court Cases, and How the Legal System Serves as a Check on Legislation

Commonly Available Services: Clinics, Hotlines, Support Groups (Porta et al., 2017)

Mental Health Awareness: Signs to Watch Out for, How to Get Help for Yourself or Others

Invite the Faculty and Administration to Present Information to Them about LGBTQ+ Issues, and School-Based Concerns (Stonefish & Lafreniere, 2015)

Multiculturalism: How Gender, Sexuality, and Race Intersect (Mayo, 2013)

Guest Speakers on Related Topics: Lawyers, Politicians, Lobbyists, Health Care Workers, Community Advocates, Social Media Influencers

Discuss, model and teach responses to anti-LGBTQ+ actions and rhetoric in the school and the community (Mayo, 2013)


Brandon-Friedman, R. A., & Kim, H. (2016). Using social support levels to predict sexual identity development among college students who identify as a sexual minority. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 28(4):292-316. doi:10.1080/10538720.2016.1221784

Calzo, J. P., Yoshikawa, H., Poteat, V. P., Russell, S. T., & Bogart, L. M. (2018). Person-environment fit and positive youth development in the context of high school gay-straight alliance. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 30(S1):158-176. doi:10.1111/jora.12456

Chong, E. S. K., Yoshikawa, H., Poteat, P., & Calzo, J. P. (2019). Fostering youth self-efficacy to address transgender and racial diversity issues: The role of gay-straight alliances. School Psychology, 34(1):54-63. doi:10.1037/spq0000258

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.

Porta, C. M., Singer, E., Mehus, C. J., Gower, A. L., Saewyc, E., Fredkove, W., & Eisenberg, M. E. (2017). LGBTQ youth’s views on gay-straight alliances: Building community, providing gateways, and representing safety and support. Journal of School Health, 87(7):489-497. doi:10.1111/josh.12517

Poteat, V. P., Calzo, J. P., Mundy-Shepherd, A., Scheer, J. R., Yoshikawa, H., Gray, M. L., Lipkin, A., Perrotti, J., & Shaw, M. P. (2015). Contextualizing gay-straight alliances: Student, advisor, and structural factors related to positive youth development among members. Child Development, 86(1):176-193. doi:10.1011/cdev.12289 

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).

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 GLSEN jump-start guide, part 1: Building and activating your GSA or similar student club. (n.d.). GLSEN.

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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