What is a GSA?

Gay Straight Alliances

GSA stands for Gay Straight Alliance. GSAs are student-run groups for queer, trans and allied students, and have many functions. GSAs are safer spaces for students to hang out and establish a sense of community and belonging within their school. GSAs create a safe space within the school for students to learn about homophobia, transphobia, and other oppressions as well as gender identity and sexual orientation issues. In learning about such oppressions, GSAs provide leadership opportunities for their members to help implement positive change within their communities.

What’s in a name?

The name of a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) is important, but calling it a GSA itself is not necessary.  There are many wonderful alternatives that can replace a GSA.  Many students are opting to go with QSAs (Queer Straight Alliances) and QTSAs (Queer Trans Straight Alliances) These alternatives are more inclusive and reflect a shift in the language that many youth are using.

The one thing that is critical to the GSA is the name actually reflecting the participants.  There is significant pressure put on many groups as they are forming to call themselves Diversity clubs.  Diversity Clubs are a different entity with a different focus; they are clubs that are designed to talk about intersections and connections between different groups, but are not necessarily a safe space for LGBTQ students.  It is this safe space that is so vital for GSAs.  As such, we at altView advocate for the existence of both clubs, each with their own mandate and hopefully non-overlapping schedules.  Because the clubs are related, it is reasonable to expect some crossover of both clubs for participants.

These are the top five reasons GSAs are important for schools:

  • Students who experience homophobic and transphobic bullying could feel ashamed, isolated, depressed, unsafe, and/or stressed out in school.[1] GSAs provide safer spaces for students to talk through experiences and find support from their peers.
  • GSAs foster a greater sense of belonging and a more inclusive school community.
  • GSAs provide leadership opportunities.
  • GSAs reduce homophobic and transphobic discrimination in schools.
  • GSAs are proven to reduce chemical dependancy and alcohol abuse amongst many youth demographics. [2]

[1] “Homophobic Bullying,” last modified August 2014, http://humanservices.alberta.ca/documents/homophobic-bullying-fact-sheet.pdf

[2] “Anti-homophobia measures reduce binge drinking for all students,” last modified August 2013, https://news.ubc.ca/2013/08/15/gsa/


Tertiary Outcomes of GSAs
(Academic, non-participant benefits, school culture)

  • GSAs can lead to a greater understanding of LGBTQ2S+ identities and experiences among the larger school population of students and teachers, which can increase allyship significantly.
  • The presence of a GSA demonstrates to students and staff that discrimination is not tolerated.
  • The positive outcomes of GSAs transcend the walls of the school and affect the greater community. Teaching acceptance and inclusivity in the school will extend to the community as students and staff lead by example.