RAINBOW QUEST! is PERFECT for your school Gay-Straight Transgendered Alliances, community centers, support groups, or just for fun with family and friends!
Gay Straight Transgender Alliances (GSTA’s) are also known as GSAs (Genders and Sexualities Alliance) and are promoted by education and mental health experts as a life-saving support system for helping all youth, many of whom may be questioning or struggling with issues of sexual identity and orientation and their non-queer identified allies who are there to show support for their peers (ACLU, 2014; Hannah, 2011; Miceli, (2005); Miller, 2010; O’Connor, 1995).
A Recent Ladies' Home Journal Article
In a recent Ladies’ Home Journal article, a Brooklyn College Professor of School Psychology acknowledged that ‘despite recent cultural shifts, kids still get the overwhelming message from society that homosexuality is not acceptable. It’s not uncommon to hear fierce condemnation from politicians and preachers as they debate gay civil rights… This trickles down into the schools, where bullying occurs’ (Miller, 2010).
LGBT students are five times more likely to miss school because they feel unsafe after being bullied due to their sexual orientation, and about 28% of LGBT students feel their safest choice is to drop out of school altogether. Though not all students actually skip school after bullying incidents, an astonishing nine out of ten LGBT students reported being bullied because of their sexual orientation (Bullying Statistics, 2013).
Research by GLSEN
Research by GLSEN, (the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) has found that schools which are fortunate enough to have a GSA not only find that attendance improves for LGBT students but overall academic measures improve as well for all students (GLSEN, 2013).
So where GSTAs make school more productive for all students, establishing a GSTA takes courage, time, and energy. Very often by the time a GSTA gets started, organizers have convinced themselves that they are going to make a big impact, but the truth is that many students are still reluctant to participate, for fear of being bullied if they show up or even speak up in support of the GSTA and its members (Miceli, 2005).
How Do You Connect?
GSTA leaders want to attract large numbers and provide effective educational and fun programming, but numerous factors impact attendance, and sometimes a solid core group of regulars is seen as a ‘failure’ if attendance doesn’t increase in response to bigger and more expensive programming efforts. Ironically, one of the criticisms of such groups is that they spend too much time discussing ‘issues’, passively listening to presentations, or watching films together — and not enough time doing what they come together for — getting to know one another to build trusting friendships, share their own thoughts and listen to others.
Another factor that makes GSTA membership, or any type of support group challenging, is that often people seek out support because they’ve been isolated, marginalized, and denied the same level of healthy interpersonal skills development as their non-queer counterparts. This can make approaching even a supportive resource like a GSTA a courageous action, and if the group doesn’t find a way to quickly welcome and put new attendees at ease, they may feel unwelcome.
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In reality, many group leaders are so busy finalizing agendas, arranging refreshments or taking care of their own responsibilities that a ‘welcoming ritual’ doesn’t get established, such that even when publicity or programming has been successful, people may not return for a second time.
When best efforts at ‘wonderfully fabulous’ programming fails to attract a crowd, organizers may become demoralized and lose motivation, not realizing that there may be another really great event happening at the same time, that severe weather or the flu may be shrinking attendance, or people may just be ‘too busy’ in general to have the time to attend.
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