High school inclusion and representation is being further expanded by the Smithtown High School West GSA. Run by Mrs. Santora and administered by President Issa Adil, the club is making great strides this upcoming year from a smaller, recreational club to a more involved organization at Smithtown West. According to Issa, “LGBTQ+ outlets are crucial for making students who are apart of the community feel safe when expressing themselves; it also encourages others to educate themselves by witnessing diversity and uniqueness first hand.”
For years, members of the LGBTQ+ community have suffered social turmoil and taunting from peers, especially in school. This adversity led to the addition of Gay-Straight Alliances/Gender-Sexuality Alliances, better known as GSA in schools across the world. In just ten years, there has been a rise in openly LGBTQ+ teens in the U.S. from roughly 5% to 8%. Moreover, 77% of those LGBTQ+ teens report feeling depressed. Safe spaces such as a GSA are necessary for not only members of the minority, but the majority as well. GSA President Issa says it is often the internalized homophobia of the student body that discourages kids from joining GSA, hence their stagnant growth at West in past years. “The Smithtown GSA has had a small presence for many years with little to no straight allies too. The GSA has also gained a bad reputation for simply being inclusive to kids that are seen as different from the close-minded cishet students in our school. Internalized homophobia prevented other LGBTQ+ students I know from joining because they fear looking ‘too weird.’” However, this is set to change this year, with a new roster of participants, more events, and activities that everyone at West is welcome to take part in. “This year the GSA is doing its best to expand and personally connect with other students on a level unlike before. We want to be a part of the school, not just another club in it. We will do our best to make sure that people know that our lives matter. We all know that black lives matter, and we will do our best to let others know that trans lives matter and queer lives matter. Maybe we’ll even get a pride flag or two up somewhere in the school or a Pride Day (like spirit day).”
It is abundantly clear that now more than ever, with such a rise in openly LGBTQ+ teens, especially in such unprecedented times, that there is an outlet provided for members and allies of minorities here at Smithtown West. Issa remarks, “only recently have we begun to see changes in our school’s treatment of LGBTQ+. The faculty have been fine for as long as I’ve been here, but not the students. The presence of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance has been expanding, and the bigotry of younger classes are fading away.”
The Smithtown West GSA meets virtually every Thursday at 3:30.