The GSA, or ‘Gay Straight Alliance Network‘, is a youth leadership organization. They connect school based gay-straight alliances to one another and to community resources. They do that through peer support, leadership development and training. Here, Angie Clark, a youth leader at GSA Austin tells me a bit more about the organization and the teens that run it.
What role do youth play in the Gay Straight Alliance Network?
Youth ‘are’ the Gay Straight Alliance. They take on new heights of responsibility and become leaders in their community of peers; stepping forward to claim a working role in how the country is run. They work to enlighten those unaware, create secure spaces for those vulnerable and forward the progress of queer justice. This justice takes place on sidewalks, in front of computers and over speakers, but its most imperative setting is in the schoolhouse. The schoolhouse is where allies can be made and where ideas are impressed on others invited by the call of justice.
What role do youth occupy in the overall queer justice movement?
The magnanimity of GSA is recognition of youth leadership, which extends from personal interrelations to community resolution. As youth, we take empowerment and place it in our cores to illuminate the coming roads. Not only are we given the tools to maneuver ignorance, intolerance and oppression, but we take these tools and whittle new pavements in society. We change up the social infrastructure, call it ‘social justice innovation’, at grass root levels.
What are some of the activities, or actions that the GSA has done locally and more broadly?
Locally, GSA clubs hold trainings that help cultivate safe spaces; they create awareness in schools and provide a social and supportive environment. They insulate the growing national movement with other movements like Day of Silence, a campaign to honor those silenced by hate. The national movement builds with other organizations like the Alliance for Educational Justice, a national youth-led coalition. The GSA network and its youth leaders are now helping develop effective ways to implement safe school programming. It aims to support the safety and well being of LGBTQ youth, resist the criminalization of youth and interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.
The statewide queer youth zine is a good example of one of the projects GSA networks commit themselves to. The zine serves as a tool for combating isolation, self-expression and circulation. It is also a tool for youth leaders and organizers to bring their visions to a community platform.
In Austin it isn’t so difficult to run across a zine. There are zines on just about everything imaginable, but Texas is so much bigger than Austin and not everywhere has easy access to this mode of communication. The Texas Gay Straight Alliance Network is currently working on its statewide queer youth zine project and upon finishing will send it out to the youth in Texas. This is significant because these enlightening, diverse and powerful voices will come together in one uplifting – and rather historical – source. That will give marginalized voices a platform.
Zines have been used by just about everyone throughout history; some of the most electrifying, awe inspiring and wily messages have come from the depths of teendom. Maybe it’s the freshness, maybe it’s the cheekiness, or maybe it’s the boldness. If you haven’t already seen one of these kick ass, shoot out and middle finger up refineries of youth, there is still a chance. All you need to do is get down to your nearest grubby idealist bookshop, concert, indie hub, or just around a corner in the gutter. For now take a look at the Texas GSA zine here.
Thanks so much to Angie for her help and contributions. Find her here.