Kentwood’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance Welcomes All
Nicole Harris’s social studies classroom at Kentwood High School is a welcoming and inclusive space for all students, especially those whose identities have historically been erased or ignored.
Signs and posters on the classroom walls explore current and historical events from different sides, welcoming students to voice their differing opinions. This classroom is also where the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) meets each week. Students arrange their desks in a circle, share their preferred names and pronouns, and plan for upcoming events and community service opportunities.
“We’re trying to spread awareness and teach people about the LGBTQ community,” Junior Amandisa Kady, who is the president of the GSA, explained. “We’re moving forward, but you still hear people casually call each other [homophobic] slurs in the halls.”
A recent national survey found that LGBTQ students experience bullying at a higher rate than their non-LGBTQ peers. Almost 60 percent of students surveyed responded that they felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and 70 percent of students said they had been verbally harassed because of it.
“GSA helps people to feel more accepted,” a student who asked to be identified only as Fynn for this story said. “The first time I came, I felt like I was adopted in.”
Having a safe space like the GSA to connect with other students helps students process their thoughts and feelings as well as advocate for change.
“Representation matters,” Amandisa said. “It’s really helpful to see people like you in movies and popular culture.”
“We’re like a family”, added Sophomore Amelie Walkatake, who is the vice-president of the GSA. “It’s nice to know there are other people struggling with the same things because sometimes it can be hard to feel included.”
Creating Safe & Inclusive Learning Environments for All Students