June is here and it’s time to celebrate! In the United States, June became the month to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the uprising that played a pivotal role in human rights progression within the United States.
Keeping in the celebratory mood, we want to recognize Pride in the Movement by highlighting Clubs who have started Gender-Sexuality Alliances (GSA) and created welcoming, supportive spaces for all youth. Today, we are excited to hear from staff at two Clubs who have built GSAs, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Green Bay and Boys & Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana.
Kate Endries, Former BGC Greater Green Bay Staff – Current BGCA Director, Youth Development Programs Health and Wellness
BGC Greater Green Bay started their version of a GSA, Rainbow Club, in October 2018. Two of their Clubhouse locations offered one Rainbow Club group weekly to a specified age group and rotated that age group every other week. From October 2018 to May 2019, the group served 195 youth total, with 121 unduplicated youth, and is still going strong!
Youth in our middle and high school group decided that they would like to take ownership over creating an event to celebrate LGBTQ youth and spread awareness. The youth decided to host “Equality Day” in the month of May, which worked better for our schedule. The event took place at our Nagel Unit in the Zen Den, a decompression space where Rainbow Club holds meetings weekly, and was open to all Club Staff and youth. The youth decided that they would like representation from various LGBTQ identifying adults to create a panel for education and discussion. We hosted staff from the LGBT Goodwill Partnership as our experts and they lead an hour-long question and answer session for youth while snacking on pizza and rainbow cupcakes. Youth asked questions ranging from my personal favorite from one of our 7 year old friends “Out of all of the animals in the world, what is your favorite dog?” to “How did you come out and what was your experience like?” to “How do you deal with bullying?” and “How do you become a good ally?” In preparation for the event, youth created lots of posters and signs to decorate the room and Club, planned and decorated, created a photo booth area (see the photos with the chalkboard), picked out the food, and spread the word to their friends and Club staff!
BGC Kentuckiana – Interview with Kelley Luckett, MA, Site-based Director
Kelley worked with the LGBTQ Club at the Frost/Stuart Club, a Club located in a middle school.
Why was it important to host a GSA at your Club?
Being a middle school club, we noticed a lot of slurs being used, and also noticed negative remarks toward youth that identified as LGBTQ. We also had one youth that transitioned during the school year, and needed an outlet for appropriate discussion.
What resources did you use during the planning process?
The staff at this club did not feel comfortable addressing this with the youth without guidance. We used the BGCA LGBTQ resource, as well as some research into GSA’s. We also invited local community leaders to come and lead the conversations. We had the Fairness Campaign, the LGBTQ department at University of Louisville, Louisville Youth Group, and the local PFLAG. The Fairness Campaign spoke to all the youth, and all other speakers were chosen by members.
How have your members responded to the formation of your GSA?
For the members who identified LGBTQ, it created a sense of belonging and a sense of safety within the Club. For other members, many of them now see themselves as Allies and have a greater understanding of how to support their friends.
What tips would you offer to other Clubs looking to start a GSA?
I would say that the local organizations we reached out to have been more than willing to volunteer, and often remarked that they wished they had something like this when they were in middle school. So I would reach out and know that there is support.
Hear stories from the youth at Boys & Girls Clubs of Fox Valley on their creation of a Gay Straight alliance to support their LGBTQ youth and allies in this video!
In addition to the tips provided by Clubs about running a GSA, we will be hosting a webinar for Club staff on creating a foundation that supports LGBTQ inclusion in the Club. The GLSEN facilitators for the webinar have worked with Clubs in the past and are quite familiar with our culture. For more information, as well as all of our LGBTQ Inclusion resources, Club staff can visit BGCA.net.
Does your Club run a GSA? How do you create an inclusive environment for LGBTQ youth? Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email us at ClubXBlog@bgca.org to share your best tips!