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social sciences

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Gay-Straight Alliances  
page: 1  2  

Schools continue to be particularly unsafe for many glbtq youth. GLSEN's 2003 School Climate Survey of 887 youths from 48 states and the District of Columbia found that 39.1% of the glbtq youth surveyed had experienced physical violence at school and 84% had been verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation. The prevalence and severity of violence toward glbtq youth has implications for their immediate and long-term health and well-being.

As several studies have shown, the protracted stress of growing up in a homophobic, heterosexist society can lead to behavioral and mental health-related problems. Certain experiences, such as social isolation, alienation, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal behavior, are commonly experienced by glbtq youth, especially those who live in rural areas.

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School- and Community-Based GSAs

School- and community-based GSAs provide similar activities for participants, but typically differ in their organizational structures. School GSAs meet for activities during the school day or after school, while community-based GSAs meet in the evenings and on weekends. School-based GSAs may have a room dedicated for club use or they may meet after school in the sponsoring teacher's home room.

Community-based GSAs may meet in a designated community space, such as a drop-in or community center or in another public space (for example, churches, libraries, parks and recreation buildings) that is supportive of the group's mission. School-based GSAs typically rely on teachers and school administrators, while community-based GSAs usually organize advisory boards of community adults for support, mentorship, and advisement.

Whether located in a school or the community, GSAs typically provide both organized social activities and opportunities for informal socialization. The number of meetings and level of structure in the activities vary, reflecting the resources and interests of the group and its members. Activities may consist of educational discussions of topics such as safer-sex education, history, the signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse, and strategies for verbal and physical self-defense. Groups often organize programs to explore favorite activities, such as sports, movie night, art projects, or special events, such as gay and lesbian pride weekend, National Coming Out Day, and National Day of Silence.

In addition, community GSAs sometimes participate in community change activities, such as providing community education (workshops, newsletters, and films), giving media interviews with local TV outlets, radio stations, and newspapers about issues that have an impact on the lives of glbtq youth, lobbying for changes in school board, community, and state policies, and publicly protesting discrimination against minority groups.

The proliferation of Gay-Straight Alliances is an important development, one that may help ease the difficulties that many glbtq youth experience as they cope with homophobia among their peers and in their schools and communities.

Carol A. Snively

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social sciences >> Overview:  Adolescence

The ordinary sexual uncertainty and confusion confronted by all adolescents is compounded in glbtq adolescents by fears of being stigmatized and often by internalized homophobia.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is a national organization in the United States dedicated to creating safe school environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.

social sciences >> Overview:  Hate Crimes

Hate Crimes are crimes towards persons or groups motivated by the victim's race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

social sciences >> Overview:  Homophobia

Homophobia was originally defined as a "dread of being in close quarters with homosexuals," but it is now sometimes used to describe any form of anti-gay bias.

social sciences >> Overview:  Rural Life

Rural life offers both challenges and satisfactions for glbtq people.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sex Education

Sex education programs are vulnerable to the attempts of religious radicals to hijack the sex education movement as a means of disseminating their own repressive blend of intolerance and fear.

social sciences >> Overview:  Student Organizations

In a little more than thirty years, the number of glbtq student organizations has grown from a handful found at large universities to several thousand spread throughout the country to nearly all college campuses.

social sciences >> Overview:  Teachers

Historically, glbtq teachers have faced all manner of social pressures, including open hostiliy and expectations that they hide their sexuality; now, however, teacher groups and individuals are working to improve the climate for glbtq teachers.

social sciences >> ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project

For more than four decades, the ACLU has been at the forefront of litigation and education designed to secure glbtq rights on a variety of fronts.

social sciences >> Human Rights Campaign (HRC)

The largest glbtq political organization in the United States, the Human Rights Campaign has emerged as the leading national organization representing glbtq concerns.

social sciences >> Jennings, Kevin

Kevin Jennings transformed his anger at bullying and gay bashing in schools into founding the first national organization to address the homophobia experienced by glbtq youth in schools.

social sciences >> Kinsey, Alfred C.

The most important sex researcher of the twentieth century, Alfred C. Kinsey contributed groundbreaking studies of male and female sexual behavior in America.

social sciences >> National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)

The oldest continuously operating national glbtq interest group, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has played a significant role in the development of the glbtq movement for equal rights.

social sciences >> National Center for Lesbian Rights

Founded in 1977 as the Lesbian Rights Project, the National Center for Lesbian Rights is a public interest law firm committed to advancing the civil and human rights of glbtq people through litigation, advocacy, and education.

social sciences >> Shepard, Matthew

Matthew Shepard led an unremarkable life, but his shocking death transformed him into an icon of the glbtq movement for equality.

social sciences >> Suicide

In addition to the general risk factors for suicide, such as depression and substance abuse, glbtq people also face stressors such as discrimination and harassment, which put them at an increased risk for suicidal behavior.

social sciences >> Takano, Mark

In 2012, Mark Takano, a Japanese American from Riverside, California, became the first openly gay person of color to be elected to the United States House of Representatives.

social sciences >> The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project, a Los Angeles-based educational organization, operates the only national 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention hot line in the U.S. aimed at glbtq youth.


Barry, Richard. "Sheltered 'Children': The Self-Creation of a Safe Space by Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Students." Construction Sites: Excavating Race, Class, and Gender among Urban Youth. Lois Wise and Michelle Fine, eds. New York: Teachers College Press, 2000. 84-99.

Blumfled, Warren J. "Gay/Straight Alliances: Transforming Pain to Pride." The High School Journal 77.1-2 (1994): 113-21.

D'Augelli, Anthony R., and Lawrence J. Dark. "Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youths." Reason to Hope: A Psychosocial Perspective on Violence and Youth. Leon D. Eron, Jacquelyn H. Gentry, and Peggy Schlegel, eds. Washington, D. C.: American Psychological Association, 1994. 177-96.

DiPlacido, Joanne. "Minority Stress among Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals: A Consequence of Heterosexism, Homophobia, and Stigmatization." Stigma and Sexual Orientation: Understanding Prejudice Against Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals. Gregory M. Herek, ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1998. 138-59.

Doppler, Janice E. A Description of Gay/Straight Alliances in the Public Schools of Massachusetts. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2000.

Evans, Sara M., and Harry C. Boyte. Free Spaces: The Sources of Democratic Change in America. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

GLSEN. "About Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs)." January 1, 2004 .

_____. GLSEN 2002 Annual Report. January 1, 2003.

_____."GLSEN Tallies 1,000 Gay-Straight Alliances." November 20, 2001.

_____. "The 2003 National School Climate Survey: The School Related Experiences of Our Nation's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth." December 8, 2003 .

Gustavsson, Nora S., and Ann E. MacEachron. "Violence and Lesbian and Gay Youth." Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services 8.3 (1998): 41-50.

Harbeck, Karen M. "Invisible No More: Addressing the Needs of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth and Their Advocates." School Journal 77.1-2 (1994): 169-76.

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Inside-OUT: A Report on the Experiences of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals in America and the Public's Views on Issues and Policies Related to Sexual Orientation. Publication No. 3193. Menlo Park, Calif.: Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, 2001.

Human Rights Watch. Hatred in the Hallways: Violence and Discrimination Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Students in U. S. Schools. New York: Human Rights Watch, 2001.

Hunter, Ski, Coleen Shannon, Jo Knox, and James I. Martin. Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youths and Adults, Knowledge for Human Service Practice. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1998.

Lipkin, Arthur. "Project 10: Gay and Lesbian Students Find Acceptance in Their School Community." Teaching Tolerance 1.2 (1992): 24-27.

Morrow, Deana F. "Social Work with Gay and Lesbian Adolescents." Social Work 38 (1993): 655-60.

Platt, Leah. "Not Your Father's High School Club." The American Prospect (2001): 37-39.

Robinson, Kristin E. "Notes for the Field, Gay Youth Support Groups: An Opportunity for Social Work Intervention." Social Work 36.5 (1991): 458-59.

Russell, Stephen T., and Kara Joyner. "Adolescent Sexual Orientation and Suicide Risk: Evidence from a National Study." American Journal of Public Health 91.8 (2001): 1276-81.

Safren, Steven A., and Richard G. Heimberg. "Depression, Hopelessness, Suicidality, and Related Factors in Sexual Minority and Heterosexual Adolescents." Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 67.6 (1999): 859-66.

Savin-Williams, Ritch C. "Verbal and Physical Abuse as Stressors in the Lives of Lesbian, Gay Male, and Bisexual Youths: Association with School Problems, Running Away, Substance Abuse, Prostitution, and Suicide." Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 62.2 (1994): 261-69.

Singerline, Hugh. "OutRight: Reflections on an Out-of-School Gay Youth Group." High School Journal 77.1-2 (1994): 133-37.

Smith, James D. "Working with Larger Systems: Rural Lesbians and Gays." Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services 7.3 (1997): 13-22.

Snively, Carol A. "Building Community-Based Alliances Between GLBTQQA Youth and Adults in Rural Settings." Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, Special Edition on Building Coalitions and Changing Communities 16.3-4 (2004): 99-112.

Uribe, Virginia. "Project 10: A School-Based Outreach to Gay and Lesbian Youth." High School Journal 77.1-2 (1994): 108-12.

_____, and Karen M. Harbeck. "Addressing the Needs of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth: The Origins of PROJECT 10 and School-Based Intervention." Coming Out of the Classroom Closet: Gay and Lesbian Students, Teachers and Curriculum. Karen M. Harbeck, ed. Binghamton, N. Y.: Harrington Park Press, 1992. 9-28.

Yoakam, John R. "The Youth and AIDS Projects: School and Community Outreach for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth." Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies 9.4 (1999): 99-114.


    Citation Information
    Author: Snively, Carol A.  
    Entry Title: Gay-Straight Alliances  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated June 8, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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