Club Spotlight: The GSMA

Formerly known as the Gay-Straight Alliance, the Gender & Sexuality Minorities Alliance (“GSMA”) is a club that welcomes everyone. Last year, students changed the name of the club in order to make it more inclusive, not wanting to only focus on the terms “gay” and “straight”. The purpose of the club is to provide a safe space for all students, whether they identify as gay, straight, transgender, or non-binary. The club is a welcoming, fun environment where students can be themselves and support eachother on their personal journeys in finding their own identities.
Wilcox’s GSMA has been held by club advisor Ms. Magagna since 2010. She took on the responsibility after the previous advisor, Jan Getty, left the school for another job. Ms. Magagna was initially reluctant to take on the role because she already served as an advisor to Best Buddies. She also was concerned that since she identifies as a straight woman, she might not be viewed as the best person to serve as an advisor. However, having been an ally of the gay community for some time, she reconsidered her doubts, not wanting to see the club end. It is a decision she does not regret, having worked hand-in-hand with students to ensure that the GSMA is a welcoming, safe environment for all.
Ms. Magagna describes GSMA as a “social club” that provides a safe and open atmosphere for students across gender and sexual spectrums. The club meets once per week and members vote on activities like movie nights, theater outings, dance parties, and tye-dye t-shirt nights. They also host educational activities like inviting speakers from local parent and team support groups. The largest event planned by the club is its annual trip to the Yes! Youth Empowerment Summit, a free conference for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and ally youth activists who are dedicated to racial, economic, and educational justice for LGBTQ+ youth.

Clubs like Wilcox’s Gender & Sexuality Minorities Alliance, which were once a rarity, are becoming increasingly common in high schools across the country. According to NBC News, a recent study by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network showed LGBTQ students reporting that 60 percent of schools had a Gay-Straight Alliance club as of 2015, which is a large increase from the 20 percent reported in 2001. However, a 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control found that only 38 percent of U.S. high schools had an active Gay-Straight Alliance club. Both studies show that GSA clubs are increasingly common and popular hubs for student interaction around sexual and gender identity issues in modern high school life. GSA clubs are serving as an important resource more than ever following the 2016 election. Schools that have a GSA on campus ensure that students know there is a safe space and that there are students and teachers who don’t discriminate against students. This is particularly important in the current socio-political climate because there has been an increase in anti-LGBT opinions since the 2016 election cycle. A January 2017 survey by the Human Rights Campaign (“HRC”) showed that 70 percent of survey respondents have witnessed bullying, hate messages, or harassment since the election with more than a quarter of LGBTQ+ youth reporting that they personally had been bullied or harassed since election day. The HRC survey also showed that almost half of the LGBTQ+ youth reported feeling nervous and hopeless following the 2016 election and has taken steps to delay coming out, dressing differently, or questioning their plans for the future.
Against this tense backdrop, the GSMA provides a critical resource for students at Wilcox, serving not only as a place for students to relax and have fun in an open and safe environment, but also providing a forum for education in an ever-polarizing political world. Students who are interested in joining the GSMA can contact Ms. Magagna or drop in to a meeting on Tuesdays in B122.