It’s 2016 and communities, especially schools, need to become a more open environment. Fortunately, at Westhill High School there is a GSA club which stands for the Gay-Straight Alliance. Typically students in it identify as being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, or as allies looking to make a difference. This group meets every Monday after school until 3 pm. Former club president Minh Nguyen (’12) said, “It’s a safe space for anyone and everyone. In this club we think of ways to spread awareness of the LGBTQ+ community.”
This past year the club did a presentation in all of the health classes to talk about gender identity, since rights for transgender individuals have become a hot topic. They also raised awareness about suicide among LGBT youth, and what can be done to reach out and provide these students with the support they need. There is a day of silence to remember these individuals.
Jessyca Ryan, the club’s new adviser, said, “I can help students with private issues they don’t want to talk about. Students talk about their highs and low’s and I’m their advocate where they feel safe about talking to me about different topics instead of someone else.” Ryan wants these kids to have their own voice. One of the students, Haydon Eaton (’11) even met with the principal, Camille Figluizzi about having gender-neutral bathrooms and she agreed to it.
Outside of school the GSA pairs up with the Rainbow Café, which is an organization that spans all of Fairfield County. They have Halloween parties, Christmas parties, and the Rainbow Ball, which is a prom that is LGBTQ+ friendly.
Cathy Manning, former advisor and math teacher at Westhill, holds this club very close to her heart. “My personal moral code is such that all people are equally deserving of equal rights, but in addition I have a gay child, a gay sister and a transgendered nephew. This is my family and that is of the utmost importance.” She said.
Promoting acceptance is key to influencing Westhill’s community as a whole. “I found so much comfort in the GSA because I learned a lot about myself. With the past 3 years leading up to the end of my senior year you can defiantly tell that I have changed completely and have grown more to love myself and be comfortable with who I am. If I did not have the GSA I would not have been the person I am today.” Minh said.
Many students join the GSA so they can be who they want without feeling judged. We need to make this environment a more open place for these people. Each year the GSA does amazing things for their community, especially Westhill High School.