GSA Works Towards Ambitious Future Goals


Photo by Jose Pablo Garcia on Unsplash

Jones Walther

Bellingham High School’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) has been working hard to create a more accepting and supportive environment for the school’s LGBTQIA+ students.  

Recently, they have organized events surrounding the Day of Silence, a national demonstration taking place on April 14th where students across the country, and even around the world, refuse to speak for the day to call attention to the silencing of LGBTQIA+ individuals. Due to some conflicts, however, GSA decided to celebrate the occasion during the week of April 17th through April 21st instead. 

“Our school decided to push it back a week because the week after spring break is a difficult time to do something, because not a lot of people are here and then it’s hard to spread the word, and people just forget,” said GSA president, Avery Catlin.  

But the date change is more than made up for with the numerous activities scheduled throughout the week. On Monday the 17th GSA held a Mamma Mia movie night, followed by a health talk on Tuesday. On Wednesday they kept up the momentum with a lunchtime Kahoot and a panel for teachers to ask questions about how they can make the classroom experience more inclusive. Then there was a pride spirit day on Thursday where students could dress in rainbow, or whatever made them most comfortable.  

And finally, Friday the 21st was when the delayed Day of Silence began. Participants could not stay silent forever though, so there was also a coffeehouse stage with poetry, artwork, and music held to break the silence. 

“I think this is a pretty good tradition to keep it up, because it also just is a good reminder of ‘we’re still here in the school.’ Like, a lot of things are for the better, but there’s a lot of stuff that still needs to improve. Not just in the school but just in the world,” said Catlin. 

GSA doesn’t intend to stop with this event either.  

“Our goals for moving on though is to get it in motion to get GSA to be a program rather than a club,” said GSA vice president, Andrew Murdoch. 

GSA leadership hopes that if they become a program, they would have more opportunities to do some of the bigger projects they are interested in doing, and hope that they would have a much bigger sphere of influence than they currently do.  

Currently, the main projects GSA is working on are queer prom and a drag show for the middle schoolers on May 26th. But they have also been working on some projects for years.  

“We’ve had a bathroom thing in the works for a while, and we just need it to be approved by the district because we’re trying to change the art hall bathrooms- that’s been in the works for years, at least since last year. Where we’re trying to change the art hall bathrooms into gender-neutral bathrooms with big stall doors that have a better lock,” says Catlin.  

They also have many ideas for projects the club could take on in the future.  

“I really want to do more community outreach and volunteering with GSA. I really want to do something with a teen shelter or something like that and get our club to start volunteering at those things,” says Catlin. 

In addition to helping students and youth directly, GSA wants to help teachers improve their students’ experiences themselves.  

Vice president Murdoch says making education more inclusive is “educating the teachers on how to make an inclusive environment to make their learning, student’s learning, the best it possibly can be. And it’s as little as when a substitute comes in, rather than reading off their first names, going by their last names and then telling the students to tell them what they want to be called.” 

Among their more ambitious and far-off endeavors is GSA’s dream to create a support network not just within BHS, but into the general community as well. They hope to be able to offer support to graduates who have left the school, and to also make alliances within the community that they can rely on to pursue even bigger projects. 

GSA does not intend to abandon the student population though; their main focus will still be on BHS students. 

Despite their lofty goals, GSA has still run into several setbacks. One of which is improper succession procedures.  

“I think the problem with the program in the last couple years is once the seniors graduate, they don’t really have a plan. You know, they didn’t really have anyone stepping up into it, which made it really hard for the program to grow because every year it would restart. So, I think our goal for that is really just, keep the interest going, keep doing more projects that will get more people interested,” says Catlin. 

Izzy Forster, GSA’s treasurer, expressed a similar sentiment. They believe that the club needs to “have a foundation too, that’s not just getting washed away in a generation. We want to have the same people that keep coming and the same energy, but we also want to be advancing the things that we do and we want to have a structure.” 

Alongside trying to make GSA’s momentum more long-lasting, president Avery Catlin is trying to create a service board with seats for every club. This may make it easier for clubs that tend to be brushed under the rug to argue for their needs more powerfully. Not only would this benefit GSA with its many in-the-works projects, but many other clubs as well.  

GSA has been working very hard to change the programs and systems in the school to make the education experience more bearable for LGBTQIA+ individuals. Their endless activities and programs are bound to create a stronger sense of belonging and community for BHS’s LGBTQIA+ students.