Spotlight on GSA Club

Brooklynn Johnson, Reporter

West Anchorage High School’s student population is notoriously diverse in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomic status and culture. Another area of diversity exists in the sexuality of our students. In an effort to support our sexually diverse students, West has our very own Gender-Sexuality Alliance, or GSA.

GSA is a club that helps our LGBTQ+ students by providing them with a safe place to spend time as well as discuss the topics of health and safety. Started in 2001 by English teachers Barb Clark and John Ruhlin, this club is for students who may be questioning their sexuality, students who seek support from peers and adults, and students who know who they are and want to express themselves. The club contains a variety of people from different backgrounds but none fail to contribute to group discussion. Tesla Sarber is the co-president. “This club is about feeling safe and welcomed,” Sarber says. “Some [people] have never felt that way.”

Clark has been the GSA Club’s sponsor for 18 of the 20 years she’s worked at West, saying it’s been one of the most fulfilling things she’s done while working here and that every year has been a new experience. Clark believes that although there are still many kids who don’t ever participate in GSA, the club still creates an open, safe haven for them.

When asked why it’s so vital for teenagers to express all of who they are, Clark talks about how if there’s anything a teenager wants to do, it’s express themselves. “The notion that anybody can make any of these beautiful people feel that they are less than, that they are broken, is offensive to me,” she says.

When asked about how she felt about the initiation of GSA 18 years ago, Clark responds, “At the time, having a GSA club was still kind of cutting edge…it had a bad reputation, and was quite controversial. There was still some agitation, not from inside, but more on the outside on whether this was appropriate. But the club pushed through and now thrives with varying numbers of students attending meetings each week.”

Luckily for the current GSA members, homophobia-related bullying has rarely affected them at school, though there are occasional acts. Sarber, some weeks past, came to their locker during the school day to find a derogatory homophobic word carved into it, starting with an “F”. Sarber removed the slur them self, and reports that there was no face-to-face bullying accompanying the graffiti on their locker.

Although West students seem to be generally accepting of each other, there is still much we can do to improve the culture and environment of our campus. Jokes such as “No homo”, or jokes about gender can still be offensive. “These [jokes] can actually end up being more deep-seeded and hurtful than having homophobic slurs carved into your locker,” Sarber explains.

President of the GSA Club, Brooke Quintana mentioned that this is the third high school she’s attended and she feels that the people here at West have been more supportive compared to other schools. The GSA presidents encourage all students to attend a meeting. Whether you’re cisgender, straight, gay, or transgender- you’re welcome there. “[We’re] helping people know that we are also people,” Quintana says.

Along with lunchtime meetings, the GSA also participates in the Pride Parade in June with their very own float. They also hold a Valentine’s Day flower sale, where they resell flowers to West students to give as gifts for their friends or loved ones.

You can find them in room 14 during lunch. Not to mention, they have pizza on Mondays during their meetings!