The MTHS Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) was founded in the late 90s, to early 2000s to help LGBTQ students in the Mountlake Terrace Community.
“The club started because of the Day of Silence,” Jennifer Widrig-Hodges, the MTHS GSA advisor, said.
The Day of Silence is an event that takes place yearly on April 12 where people do not use their voices for a day in support of LGBTQ students that have been silenced, bullied and harassed for their sexuality.
“There was quite an anti-LGBTQ atmosphere at the time,” Widrig-Hodges said.
The main goal of the MTHS chapter of GSA was to promote a more positive attitude towards the LGBTQ community and show that LBGTQ students exist and have a place in the community. The main effect GSA has had on MTHS is increased education and awareness of the LGBTQ community in the school. “I think the tone here at Terrace is of one of acceptance and letting people be themselves,” Widrig-Hodges said.
GSA, formerly known as the Gay Straight Alliance, was founded nationally in San Francisco in 1998 in order to to support LGBT students across the United States, and expanded nationally in 2005. The original goal was to serve as an advocacy group for LGBTQ students.
GSA sought to create an organized and tight knit community to support all students, regardless of their sexual or gender orientation.. In 2016 the GSA changed its name to from the Gay Straight Alliance to Gender Sexuality Alliance to support other members of the LGBTQ community
The GSA has its problems, as the group struggles to increase its membership. The MTHS chapter of GSA is relatively small compared to other clubs at MTHS.
“We had some feedback that people saw the name and thought that ‘If I don’t identify as gay or straight, or if I don’t identify as one of those than this club isn’t for me’, and [GSA Leadership] wanted [GSA] to be a open and welcoming place,” Widrig-Hodges said.
Widrig-Hodges believes that many saw the club as exclusively for straight or homosexual people, rather than for the LGBTQ community at large.
Despite the club’s former name, there were not many allies in GSA, something the club hopes to alter with the name change.
“Some people have said GSA isn’t open to everybody,” GSA president Haley Gohl said. This is a sentiment that Gohl disagrees with; she feels the club is already very inclusive.
Although the LGBTQ community has become far more accepted since GSA was founded in 1998, there is still work to do. Gohl believes that students in the MTHS community should become more educated about LGBTQ students and avoid using negative language like slurs. Calling something “gay” as an insult and using other such slurs, she said, creates a negative environment around being gay. This, she believes, makes it harder to ‘come out’ as LGBTQ.
Despite these shortcomings, she does agree that MTHS is a tolerant community. She hopes the new name will bring in more members and further GSA’s mission of educating the school community.