BY CLAIRE CUDAHY
Just in time for Pride Month, Red Lake District High School (RLDHS) has formed its first official Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).
Six students and two teachers meet weekly to discuss events and initiatives designed to foster a more supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) students.
“Students were initially reluctant to attend meetings until they saw the play ‘Outside’ which dealt with homophobic bullying of a gay teen and saw the kind of support friends from the GSA could provide,” says RLDHS Principal Liz Sidor.
The group is currently planning events for September and working on its mission statement, which focuses on raising awareness, supporting LGBTQ students, being available for any newcomers to GSA, and actively fighting stereotyping and homophobia.
“I feel it’s important because as a school we are accepting, but there are still some things that we could work on. We want to make it safe for everyone to be themselves,” says Kelsey Pattison, a Grade 12 GSA member.
To get started, the group connected with other GSA organizations in Kenora, Dryden, Sioux Lookout, and Fort Frances through a video conference to share ideas.
A colour run–a paint race inspired by the Hindu festival of Holi–followed by a BBQ and the distribution of informational sheets on GSA is one potential event members are working on for September.
“We are also possibly going to do an assembly with a person who is already ‘out’ to talk to kids and speak about how they feel our community treats them,” adds Pattison.
Over the summer GSA members will be reading and reviewing LGBTQ literature for the RLDHS library.
“We’re going to see which ones are best for the school environment and some of the English teachers are going to have the books in the library and might even have kids read them in classes,” explains Pattison.
This month, GSA is preparing “Safe Space” signs to hang on teachers’ doors.