Rural LGBTQ youth: starting a GSA

The United States historically oppresses marginalized people. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) community is an example of an oppressed group. Activists groups such as the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis have been fighting for equal rights since the 1950’s, and LGBTQ people still face oppression. In the educational system, LGBTQ students often feel unsafe to attend school for fear of being victimized, harassed and unsupported. LGBTQ youth experience higher rates of absenteeism, suicidal thoughts, depression and substance abuse (Kann, et al., 2016). Rural youth are even more likely to experience victimization because of because of the high intolerance of homosexuality and conservatism in these communities (Kosciw, Greytak, & Diaz, 2009). Starting a successful gay straight alliance is one essential solution to providing support for LGBTQ students. A gay straight alliance helps to build tolerance on a school campus, provides support for LGBTQ youth and allies, and builds self-efficacy in a group of students who generally do not feel supported. The handbook designed in this project provides a heuristic of how to start a GSA. It suggests activities for building relationships between students to create safe space for LGBTQ students and their allies. The handbook provides essential information on getting started, recruiting members developing goals for what to accomplish in the first few meetings.