GLSEN Highlights Positive Impact of GSAs with New Resources



GLSEN Highlights Positive Impact of GSAs with New Resources

GSAs Critical in Improving School Climate for LGBTQ+ Students

NEW YORK (Jan. 24, 2022) – This month, GLSEN, the leading national organization working to guarantee LGBTQ+ students safe and affirming education, will highlight the positive impact of GSAs for K-12 students with a series of new resources. GLSEN research has shown that the availability and presence of GSAs in school improves individual well-being for LGBTQ+ youth.

Gender and Sexuality Alliances or GSAs, originally known as Gay-Straight Alliances, first emerged more than 30 years ago in the U.S. and have doubled in availability in schools over the past two decades. These student-led school clubs focus on providing LGBTQ+ students a safe and affirming space within a school environment.

“GSAs in schools have nearly doubled over the past 20 years. While this is incredible progress for students, the increasing visibility has sparked backlash from anti-LGBTQ+ opponents,” said a.t. furuya, GLSEN Senior Youth Programs Manager. “Across the country, this backlash, which further stems pushback from parents at school boards and fueling recent anti-trans legislation, is zeroing in on GSAs, cultivating misinformation about the nature of these student-led clubs.”

“The most critical thing to remember is that these extreme and targeted attacks impact students who are already marginalized: queer, BIPOC, trans, and disabled students. GSAs are important spaces for students to have safe opportunities to create a system of support, develop advocacy and leadership skills, organize events, and influence positive change in their schools,” said furuya.

GLSEN’s new series of resources were created specifically for students who are interested in starting a GSA in their school, growing membership and adult support, and developing goals and initiatives that create safe and respectful spaces that are also inclusive to trans students.

New GSA Resources include:

  • Starting your GSA. Getting a student-led club, especially a GSA, off the ground can be a lot of work. Queer students who are interested in creating a safe space to make new friends, share interests, and provide support for LGBTQ+ students can take first steps to create a club of belonging in their school.
  • How to find a GSA club advisor. Having a supportive GSA advisor is necessary for the success and wellbeing of the club. Advisors can serve as supportive advocates who can help facilitate new ideas and navigate challenges.
  • Writing a mission statement for your GSA. Creating a mission statement can help set forth goals and philosophies for the group and guide the GSA’s work throughout the school year.
  • Tips for finding new GSA members. Whether it’s a group of two or a full classroom, GSAs are not defined by the number of members, but by the safe space of support and youth agency. Grow GSA safe spaces by partnering with other student-led clubs, hosting film discussions, inviting guest speakers, and more.
  • GSA space agreements for respectful interactions. GSAs have the opportunity to set agreements to guide interactions to help ensure all meetings are respectful and provide a safe space for everyone.
  • Making your GSA inclusive for trans students. Student-led clubs and its members who are inclusive commit to an ongoing process of education including how to ensure activities and advocacy efforts include trans people and their experiences.

“GSAs work to make schools inclusive for LGBTQ+ students by making sure teachers and staff have the resources and training to help students feel safe and included,” said Sarah Moore (she/her), GLSEN National Student Council member and GSA leader in N.C. “They are environments where students have safe spaces where they can be their authentic selves and connect with peers. My favorite part about being a GSA leader is witnessing and being a part of my school’s culture shift to be more inclusive and affirming for all students.”

In addition to this new series of GSA resources, GLSEN released a new research report detailing the experiences of students and staff advisors with GSAs in schools across the nation. The GSA Study Report, which builds upon more than 20 years of GLSEN research, finds that involvement in GSAs also improves individual well-being for LGBTQ+ youth.

“To many students, their GSA is the first safe place they develop healthy friend relationships with allies and other students in the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Sarah Milianta-Laffin, GSA advisor and educator in Hawaii. “Graduates who were involved with their student-led GSA have called the club as their first ‘chosen family’ and the first place at school they could be their full selves without worry or judgment.”

“GSAs are critical and liberatory spaces that provide support and foster healing for each other, to grow awareness of LGBTQ+ issues in their schools and communities, and work to improve their school climate,” said Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, GLSEN Executive Director. “When LGBTQ+ students are able to be who they are without worrying about their safety, it allows them to focus on doing their best and to thrive in school.”

To download the new series of GSA resources, click here.


GLSEN works to create safe and inclusive schools for all. GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach millions of students and educators in K-12 schools, via action at the national, state, and local level. Since 1990, GLSEN has improved conditions for LGBTQ+ students across the United States and helped launch an international movement to address LGBTQ+ issues in education.