Gay-Straight Alliance


Kathleen Gaskins

The Gay-Straight Alliance or GSA is an up-and-coming club at school that is striving to create a safe environment for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation. This national organization’s goal is to stop abuse against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender or LGBT students and to promote LGBT awareness.

Senior Saad Daniari is one of the co-founders of the West sector of this club, along with seniors Vivian Chiang, Irene Jea and Gabby Harrison. The idea for this alliance began this summer and, at the beginning of the school year, the group was determined to make it an official club at West.

“We always say that the bullying of LGBT teenagers needs to stop,” Daniari said. “But we decided instead of just saying that it needs to end, we should actually do something about it.”

Plano West showed its support for the LGBT community even before the formation of the GSA club this year. In 2007, West theatre performed The Laramie Project, a show based off over 200 interviews from the residents of Laramie, Wyoming. It was on the outskirts of this town that a gay student named Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die. In addition to the play, there was also a previous attempt at a GSA group a few years ago, but it only lasted one year.

“There was another GSA created four years ago,” Chiang said. “But they never got anything done.”

Chiang, along with the other officers, has big ideas for this organization and hopes to make a lot of changes to the school and local community.

“This is our chance to make progress with this,” Chiang said. “We are hoping to create awareness and acceptance at this school so the LGBT community knows they are not alone.”

Many of the GSA members are passionate about the cause for many different reasons. Whether they have friends, family or are themselves a part of the LGBT community, they believe it is important for students to be involved.

“I decided to get involved because a lot of the world can be really intolerant of the LGBT community,” Harrison said. “I think it is really important to bring awareness and tolerance to schools where there is so much bullying towards the LGBT community because they are different.”

While GSA supports LGBT rights, its members are both gay and straight alike. The club welcomes all members, no matter what sexual orientation they are.

“The GSA is not only for the LGBT community but also for straight allies,” Harrison said. “A lot of people have the misconception that this is a LBGT club. It’s not. It’s for everyone who wants to promote tolerance and promote equality regardless of your sexual preference.”

One of the focuses of this club is prevention of physical and mental harm. With stories like those of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who committed suicide after his roommate streamed a live video of him having a sexual encounter with another man, and more recently Corey Jackson, the Oakland University sophomore who committed suicide after “coming out” to his friends and family, it is important to the club that members of the LGBT community feel safe.

“There are a lot of teenagers who don’t feel comfortable or don’t have the support at their home,” Daniari said. “We wanted to create a safe environment for them to come if they feel like they need to find support elsewhere.”

Throughout the year, GSA plans to participate in events in support of LGBT rights.

“We, as a group, hope to create a support system for people who need it to bring tolerance and equality throughout the school,” Harrison said. “We want to bring attention to that through things like Ally Week and Day of Silence.”

Ally Week was celebrated across the nation Oct. 18 through Oct. 22. Starting that Monday, there were daily activities or discussions in recognition of allies of the LGBT community. Another important GSA event will be Day of Silence, a nationwide holiday that will be held on April 15, 2011. It is a day honoring those students who have died because of anti-gay violence. While these days are specially set aside to support the LGBT community, the purpose of GSA is for every day to be an opportunity to support equality.

“There is so much intolerance from people, people I sit next to in class and, even people who are my friends,” Jackson-Young said. “I think we should try to see how we can get rid of that. I really hope that we can make people see that being gay or bisexual or anything isn’t a bad thing. Just because they are that way doesn’t mean they are any different from anybody else.”