Celebrating and Supporting Sexuality, Gender and Pride Clubs in the UGDSB
What is a GSA/Pride Club?
A Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) or Pride based groups are student-initiated and led clubs (supervised by a staff member) found in many UGDSB schools. These clubs are a safe and supportive environment for members of the LGBTQ+ community and others to work within allyship*. These groups address marginalization and promote advocacy with the intent of supporting safe UGDSB schools free of discrimination, harassment and intolerance.
Student-initiated and led GSA/Pride Clubs function within several UGDSB elementary schools (for grades 5 and older), as well as UGDSB secondary schools.
Through Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, the Ministry of Education requires school boards to allow students to form groups at their school to raise awareness and understanding of important topics including gender identity and sexual orientation.
Students and staff who have straight and cis-gendered** identities or family members and friends who identify as LGBTQ+ are often part of the GSA/Pride work within our schools. Working within allyship, these youth and staff can share their passion to make our schools safe for all LGBTQ+ people.
*Acting in allyship – supporting a marginalized group though not necessarily identifying as part of that marginalized group.
**Cis-gendered – a person whose gender identity and/or expression match the sex they were assigned at birth.
What do GSA/Pride Clubs do?
In these spaces students discuss, plan and lead actions (supervised by a staff member) focused on creating awareness and reducing ignorance, stereotypes, homophobia and transphobia. Each GSA/Pride Club within the UGDSB is unique based on student interest and community need.
Often times schools have social justice or equity themed clubs that address issues of oppression across a wide spectrum of concerns (racism, poverty, ableism etc.). These groups will often celebrate, support and facilitate LGBTQ+ needs similar to those of a GSA/Pride Club.
Why are GSA/Pride Clubs important?
GSA/Pride Clubs are important as they increase awareness of LGBTQ+ identities and foster safe spaces for marginalized students, families and staff. The work of these clubs also serves to provide new information and understanding about LGBTQ+ people and families.
As a safe space for marginalized students and those wishing to work within allyship, GSAs and Pride Clubs can support students as they learn about identities and grow as adolescents and into adulthood. The safe space created in a GSA/Pride Club can help reduce feelings of isolation and increase self-esteem and self-worth.
Another benefit of GSA/Pride Clubs is the action work that comes from many of these groups. As a venue for student voice, students within these groups can lead information and awareness campaigns or activities supporting their school communities to be better informed about gender and sexuality. From this advocacy work, schools can continue to be safe and inclusive places for all students, families and staff.
What if having a GSA/Pride Club is against my personal values and beliefs?
We believe that our schools are safe and inclusive spaces for everyone. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Additionally, regardless of your personal values and beliefs, we all must follow the Ontario Human Rights Code that protects marginalized groups from discrimination and harassment. We support GSA and Pride Groups and our Rainbow events as a demonstration of our commitment to stand up against discrimination and harassment of any kind within our board.
How does my child become involved in a club such as these?
Students are encouraged to speak to any staff member or administrator at their school about an existing club or group, or to find out more about starting a club. All schools within the UGDSB have an equity representative on staff who can provide more information and connect them with system supports. Jessica Rowden, the UGDSB’s Equity and Inclusion Lead, may also be contacted at [email protected].