I may be 'bias'ed: I stand with the GSA
December 9, 2021
At the Washakie County School District No. 1 school board meeting on Oct. 25, a number of students and members of the community approached the board with a simple request: to start a Gay-Straight Alliance club, also known as a GSA. The board unanimously approved the club.
Personally, I was ecstatic for these kids and their club. Growing up as part of the LGBT community, I didn’t have this kind of support. I didn’t know there was anyone else going through what I was until I met my friends, and even then it was difficult at times.
When I had gotten out of the school board meeting, the first thing I did was text a few of my friends about the club and it being approved. They were all just as surprised as I was that it was brought to the board, let alone approved. They all made a similar statement about being proud of the kids who started the club.
Of course, we had every right to be surprised. As far as living in the “Equality State” goes, that only applies if you’re seen as an equal to everyone else in the state. Being a part of the LGBT community seems to automatically eliminate your chances of that happening. As far as homophobia and transphobia go, there are worse places to live. I know some countries will kill you for being gay, so we’re a step up. What I’m trying to say is Wyoming isn’t known for being open minded.
With this in mind, the inevitable has happened. People are genuinely upset that this club was approved. I’m here to do my best at explaining why this club is a good thing and step in the right direction for this town by splitting this in half, one to talk about the GSA, and one to discuss gender identity ideology.
For starters, according to an article on childtrends.org by Dominique Parris and Brandon Stratford, in a recent review of LGBT-focused school policies and practices, researchers noted that, of all reviewed interventions, GSAs are supported by the most consistent evidence in showing that they improve climate and academic outcomes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning youth.
To be specific, the researchers identified several studies that documented reduced homophobic victimization of LGBTQ students in schools with GSAs. LGBTQ youth who participate in GSAs report that the clubs are a source of community, a gateway to LGBTQ-friendly resources and a marker of safety.
According to the article, evidence also suggests that the presence of GSAs is associated with benefits for all students regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity – including youth who do notidentify as LGBTQ. For example, one study found reduced substance abuse, suicide attempts and risky sexual behavior among youth in schools with GSAs – with the greatest effects seem among LGBTQ students.
It’s been proven time and time again that GSAs improve both school and personal lives of LGBTQ students. Just students knowing they are not alone is enough to make a huge difference in their lives.
According to a study found on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s National Institute of Health’s website, contemporary LGBTQ adolescents are known to be disproportionately at risk for experiencing negative psychosocial well-being and health problems. Evidence has been increasing to show disproportionate risk among transgender youth. Specifically, previous research documents that sexual minority young people are at greater risk than heterosexuals for suicide ideation and attempts, depression, substance abuse and lower self-esteem. Recent studies using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health document that the disparate risks reported by this population for suicidality and depression are particularly heightened in the developmental period of adolescence and dissipate in young adulthood for same-sex attracted males. These findings are of particular importance because they clarify for researchers, policymakers and individuals working with young people that a prime opportunity to potentially reduce risk for LGBT individuals is during adolescence.
A large portion of adolescents’ time is spent in school. Therefore, schools are a potential setting for positive youth development and resiliency. LGBT adolescents report high rates of verbal and physical school-based victimization and report that their school environments are unsafe. These negative school experiences have been linked to long-term negative mental health and health outcomes. And, before you comment ‘mental illness is all in your head,’ yes; it literally is.
The disparity in positive school experiences for LGBTQ young people lack information about positive development for LGBTQ adolescents in positive school-based contexts, such as in extracurricular activities. In fact, much like their heterosexual peers, these school-based activities may be a primary setting that fosters positive youth development.
Research suggests that the presence of a GSA can serve as a protective factor for LGBTQ adolescents, such that LGBTQ adolescents who report that their school has a GSA tend to report more school safety and greater well-being.
It’s further found that the presence of a GSA was associated with greater levels of school safety, fewer reports of missing school due to fear and greater awareness of a safe adult in the school context. Finally, a few studies have documented that the presence of a GSA is associated with a reduced suicide risk for sexual minority youth.
Now let’s discuss the fears that some people are expressing over this club.
The main one I want to discuss is that GSAs promote gender identity ideology. It seems as though people are worried that this is a bad thing, for reasons I can’t understand. Full disclosure, as many readers know, I am a transgender male. So I see nothing wrong with people exploring their gender identity. Gender is not black and white. Well, blue and pink. It’s a huge spectrum and everybody is at a different spot on it.
With religion in mind, many people have the same argument. That you shouldn’t mess with God’s design. To that, I’d like to draw attention to Botox, diet pills, face lifts, braces, nuclear warfare, deforestation, laser hair removal, hydrogenated oils, hair dye, Viagra and literally thousands of other everyday things.
Now, toward the science aspect of it, I’m going to start off by saying that, in my experience, nobody fakes being transgender. Anyone who decides ‘Hey, I want to get called slurs and wear clothes that don’t fit right so I can stand out!’ is being absolutely ridiculous.
Some transgender people experience what’s called “gender dysphoria.”
According to psychiatry.org, gender dysphoria is a clinically significant distress or impairment related to a strong desire to be of another gender, which may include the desire to change primary and/or secondary sex characteristics. Being transgender isn’t something that is taught in schools, nor can it be taught and it is not something that can be influenced upon you. You cannot inflict gender dysphoria or the need to change your gender onto someone who isn’t already transgender, or questioning their gender.
Also, the GSA Club at Worland High School is by no means mandatory to attend. Your children are not being forced to attend that club. Just because this club is happening in your school, doesn’t change the curriculum. Just because this club was added doesn’t mean they’re suddenly teaching your kids to be gay. You can’t even teach people to be gay. Being gay is something you’re born as, not something that develops or something that’s taught.
Now, I know I mentioned I’m keeping religion to a minimum, but I think I’ve been to church enough to qualify me to talk about this.
In an article written by Reverend Elder Don Eastman on religiousinstitute.org, “Christians today do not follow the rules and rituals described in Leviticus. But some ignore its definitions of their on ‘uncleanness’ while quoting Leviticus to condemn ‘homosexuals.’
“Such abuse of Scripture distorts the Old Testament meaning and denies a New Testament message. ‘You shall not lie with a male as one does with a female: it is an abomination.’ These words occur solely in the Holiness Code of Leviticus, a ritual manual for Israel’s priests. Their meaning can only be fully appreciated in the historical and cultural context of the ancient Hebrew people. Israel, in a unique place as the chosen people of one God, was to avoid practices of other peoples and gods.”
Reverend Eastman states, “rituals and rules found in the Old Testament were given to preserve the distinctive characteristics of the religion and culture of Israel. But, as stated in Galatians 3:22-25, Christians are no longer bound by these Jewish laws. By faith they live in Jesus Christ, not Leviticus. To be sure, ethical concerns apply to all cultures and people in every age. Such concerns were ultimately reflected by Jesus Christ, who said nothing about homosexuality, but a great deal about love, justice, mercy and faith.”
These kids have done nothing wrong. All they want is a safe space where they can be themselves and relate to others around them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Despite your opinions and worries, this club has been unanimously approved.
It’s bringing Worland away from its traditional state of being and onto a track in the right direction. I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled to see what this small step can do for our town.