by Melanie Zhang ’22
Published May 10th, 2021
High school is often a time when LGBTQIA+ students struggle with identity and acceptance. MHS’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) hopes to change this by providing a place where these students can be themselves while also working towards change in both local and broader communities.
First and foremost, the GSA is a place where all are welcome. “Our primary goal is always to provide [a] safe space for our LGBTQ+ students and their allies. At our meetings, no one ever has to worry that they’ll be targeted or criticized because of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” says Ms. Muzaurieta, the club’s advisor. The GSA provides students with a sense of community and a place to relax and decompress after school. Members create new friendships and memories while learning about LGBTQIA+ history usually left out of mainstream media.
In addition to providing a welcoming space, the club is a place where members’ voices are heard and valued. “The club holds many discussions about identity and fun activities such as movie viewings with positive representation… We [also] have community speakers provide advice and stories,” says Victoria Lang ‘21.
The impact of the club also extends beyond its members, Victoria adds, explaining that “the club has also provided basic information and training about LGBT identity to staff in digestible chunks” to help staff better understand both their students and methods to be better allies.
The GSA has also introduced club members to community leaders and organizers, participated in large events such as New Jersey’s annual GSA Forum, and worked on curriculum updates to reflect and celebrate diversity at school. In general, the club seeks to educate, inspire, and make lasting positive change in the world.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has had a detrimental effect on the club’s efforts. Whether it’s because of a lack of privacy at home, or the eye strain of longer periods spent on a computer, fewer people have been attending club meetings.
“Just showing mild attendance and stopping by would definitely be appreciated,” Victoria says, adding that she hopes membership and interest in the club will increase again. “When members who [sic] get what they need out of the club and go their separate ways… the club dwindles down a bit. Those who would need the club in the future may not get the same experience since the group won’t be at its prime.”
The club also wants to let other students know that they have more in common with GSA members than they think – the club is a place for everyone, not just LGBTQIA+ students. After all, they’re just ordinary people with hopes, dreams, and lots of homework.