A GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) Club in a Latinx High School

The GSA club at Vaughn International Studies Academy is a good example of the steps other GSA club could take and how things do get better for the LGBTQ+ community.


Versión en español

Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) is a club made up of members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies. The first club was formed in the 80’s. Today, according to GSAnetwork.org, there are now more than 1,100 registered GSA clubs in California alone.

At the high school Vaughn International Studies Academy there is a GSA club that was formed in 2008. In that moment there was only four students in the club. Times were more difficult for the members of the LGBTQ+ community. They would meet every day in the counselors office because they didn’t feel safe. Proposition 8 took place in the year 2008. The proposition indicated that only marriage between a male and female was official. In that year at school there was comments against the LGBTQ+ community.

Years later, when the Supreme Court made same sex marriage legal and that changed the dynamic of the club. The class of 2016 was able to see the change and they felt brave and able to express themselves at school and the community. In that year, there wasn’t a queen or queen at prom. Instead they had a court of elected people.

“It’s crazy what laws can do”, says Nicole Mohr the current Vaughn GSA teacher advisor.

Lesley Estrada was the president of GSA in her last two years in high school. She joined the club because of a trip that was organized by the GSA. Since then, she became a member. She was just joining she heard that the club was fun and is accepting environment. She felt comfortable and warm walking into the meetings. She knew that no one was going to say something rude and that everyone was accepted. That was her favorite part.

Daisy Domínguez also joined GSA in her last years. Like Lesley, she felt that it was a safe place for someone like her that still didn’t know how to identify herself. Two different stories, with the same experience in the club.

Class poster. Photo: Cristal Morales Rodríguez / El Nuevo Sol.

After the class of 2016, when the Trump administration arrived, things changed back to feel unsafe for the club. After Trumps words against the LGBTQ+ community while running for presidency, he changed the way the community felt, and things haven’t changed since then.

“It is not true, that everyone accepts gay people now, the battle is not over,” Says Mohr.

First, teachers need to step up to form a club or to be visual allies for the students to feel that they are accepted in their schools.

Second, they need to find a private place to meet. Many of the students that have not came out feel scared that someone is going to see them leaving the GSA meeting.

Third, what Mohr thinks is working in her GSA meetings is have support groups inside the club. Students can communicate in a smaller environment where they feel safe.

Fourth, train the teachers. She feels that the training in her school helped. In 2015, they had a training for teachers to be able to use the right words without having gender in them and how to react when a student come out of the closet them. Response like: Does anyone else know? Have I said something that offended you? Is there something I can do to make you feel safe?

Mohr also talked about the change in the curriculum when the Fair Act of 2012 occurred. Luckily for her she had the school coordinator in her side as an ally to the community. With that they were able to work together to get literature and history books that include the LGBTQ+ community.

Gender Neutral Sign. Photo: Cristal Morales Rodríguez / El Nuevo Sol.

With the help of Mrs. Mohr, Vaughn International Studies Academy opened a gender-neutral restroom, which means anyone can use it. With the help of the school director, the bathrooms have been kept there even after many have tried to make problems. Him and Mohr have not given up. With the help of the school director being an ally, the attendance roster has been changed to add an extra column for the students preferred name, to assure that when a substitute teacher comes in, they know which name to use.

Fifth, educate the family. For someone who lives in a conservative and traditional household, coming out of the closet is something dangerous. Vaughn is 90 percent latinx, many of those being part of the LGBTQ+, there has been times where they’ve been kicked out of their homes.  Many adolescents fear that this could happen to them if they come out of the closet.

Because of this, families need to be taught that kicking their kids out of their homes is something frown on. That’s why, Vaughn is having a parent forum with a social worker and a bilingual ally to talk to the parents and teach the families that it is not acceptable to kick minors out of their homes.

For students like Lesley and Daisy and also Mrs. Mohr, it is important that the latinx community like the one in Pacoima, that the people become educated in the LGBTQ+ community. The GSA club is very important for the members to not feel scared in their communities and know that they have a safe place if not their home.

Vaughn has posters up in classrooms to let students know that it is a safe place for them.

For Mrs. Mohr, the fight keeps going and students need to know that it gets better.

“When people think it’s over, it’s not over. We all still have work to do, we all need to put policies in place to make people feel safe.”

Code of Conduct for Gender Neutral restrooms. Photo: Cristal Morales Rodríguez / El Nuevo Sol.

Tags:  Cristal Morales Rodríguez Gay Straight Alliance gender neutral bathroom. latinx community Vaughn International Studies Academy

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