GSA builds welcoming and tight knit community that accepts all

A chilly New England afternoon saw the high school’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at a local orchard, picking apples among the changing leaves in the first of many bonding activities scheduled for this year.

Since the 1990s, the GSA has created a safe space for students who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, fostering both healthy and difficult conversations.

According to GSA faculty adviser Kathryn Leslie, the separation of socialization from activism is a hallmark of this year’s GSA, along with a variety of initiatives such as the addition of accessible gender-neutral bathrooms to the science wing and the Old Lincoln School (OLS).

Leslie said the club is embracing the importance of building community.

“There’s a recognition that part of what brings people to GSA is the social stuff, activities that don’t seem queer in any way,” Leslie said.

GSA student facilitator Olivia Fox said October’s after-hours apple picking excursion was an important opportunity for members to get to know each other.

According to Leslie, the club has achieved a record number of members this year.

Leslie said this growth in popularity is partially due to the changing culture in the community and that teens are coming out to their peers earlier than in past years.

The GSA has a long history at the high school. Leslie said there was a time where LGBTQ+ issues were only just coming to the forefront of public attention.

She said during her first teaching job in New Mexico, the bullying of LGBTQ+ students she witnessed made her uniquely tuned in to the consequences of an unsupportive school environment.

“I’ve seen what happens when you don’t build a safe place at a school, and so I think that the memories of those things keep me fully interested and committed to my role as adviser,” Leslie said.

Working closely with Leslie, Fox said she uses her personality to connect with others in the GSA.

“I can be quiet sometimes, so other quiet people find that as a good quality and will talk to me about things that they’re having trouble with. I think that’s just as important as being a loud speaker,” Fox said.

Fox also said that the conversations GSA has can be difficult and it is important to make sure everyone feels not only heard, but understood.

Sophomore and member of the GSA Ezra Weintroube said the alliance provides a comforting space for him at the high school.

“It’s given me a wonderful space where I can feel safe and included. It’s great to know that your voice is being heard,” Weintroube said.

Weintroube also said students who aren’t sure if they should join GSA should consider all of the different opportunities it brings.

“There are so many different people and so many different things you can do,” Weintroube said. “Even if you don’t think you’ll fit in well, or you don’t know anyone, in the club, you’ll absolutely make a bunch of new friends, no matter what type of person you are.”