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Club Launched as Safe Space for LGBT Students

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Posters around Burlington High School advertise the Gay Straight Alliance club, which was relaunched as an after school program this year. | Photo: Lucy Govoni/Register
Posters around Burlington High School advertise the Gay Straight Alliance club, which was relaunched as an after school program this year. | Photo: Lucy Govoni/Register

Think of a club and BHS probably offers it. BHS students have the option to participate in clubs such as, bowling, Leap environmental club, detour literary magazine, Model UN, there is even a minecraft club. In addition to the list BHS also offers a club tailored to LGBTQ + students and allies.

The current co-advisers are Abby Baker of Rockpoint School and Ashley Hoyt, who works in the support center at BHS and has a passion for LGBT rights.

I was talking to the after school director about after school stuff and I was surprised that there wasn’t a GSA,” she said. “That’s what I studied in college and that’s what I have a passion about so I was like, we need one.”

Baker, an English teacher at Rockpoint, was the adviser for a Rockpoint-only small GSA. The club grew when BHS students became interested, and the two schools combined forces to create a joint GSA.

The Gay Straight Alliance is a club where students can relax, meet each other, discuss current topics surrounding sexuality and the LGBT community and participate in humanitarian events. Every Wednesday afterschool, about 15 students either walk to Rockpoint or meet in a room at BHS to be together. It is meant to make LGBTQ+ people feel safer and more connected within BHS and the community.

Students from Both Rockpoint and BHS are welcome in the GSA, and the club is not only for LGBTQ+ students.

The GSA is typically organized in one of three ways, supportive social, or activist, however Hoyt said that the BHS and Rockpoint GSA are a mixture of both.

“We are social in the sense that it is a social group. Sometimes we hang out and talk or check in how our weeks were and stuff, and we have snacks which is social,” Hoyt said.

The GSA also partakes in activism.

“We just wrote a letter to administration about name changes being official in Powerschool (Student Management Software) for transkids. That’s super important because a lot of kids were missing attendance calls and not being recorded because their names are being called that they don’t go by,” Hoyte said.

In addition to writing letters to administration, the GSA also participates in LGBT activism events outside of the school.

“Two Fridays ago we marched in the trans visibility march. It was a youth speak out so we heard a lot of youth in the area speak out about what it’s like to be gay and trans and it was really powerful,” she said.

LBGTQ+ students can also meet with the GSA to gain support, and to meet more of their peers.

“As a social GSA we introduce students to other students that you wouldn’t think identify as that. We are supportive and talk about what we’re struggling with, what we’re getting accomplished. It can be anywhere from a family not being supportive or that a good thing happened like you’re now getting hormonal treatment,” Hoyt said.

The Rockpoint-BHS GSA is still in it’s developmental stages, and Abby Baker hopes that the GSA will evolve and grow.

“I hope that we are able to plan more events that are fun, and that help us reach out to our community to make changes especially about the issues of gender, sexuality and inclusion,” Baker said.

Of of the senior members of the GSA is Liam Patullo, who is using his position as a peer educator to help inform members.

I joined because I am a peer educator with Planned Parenthood​ and I wanted to have more discussions with my peers, to be a resource to answer questions and to have another supporting community,” Pattullo said.

The purpose of meetings vary; however, members usually get together and participate in some kind of an activity.

“We usually start with a 20-45 minute check in and discussion where students bring up anything that has been on their minds or the news that relates to gender or sexuality,” Patullo said. “Then we ​have some sort of guided activity that is lead by volunteering students with some relation to gender or sexuality. We discuss LGBTQ+ media accomplishments surrounding gender and sexuality,”

Patullo believes that the club is essential in creating a safer environment within BHS and Rockpoint.

“I think that it provides a ​safe space for queer youth to interact and talk about queer issues without the social distance that occurs when these topics are broached in a non-GSA context,” he said.

Hoyt feels that administration is generally supportive.

“I don’t think that it’s the school’s prime focus but I do think the school’s prime focus is being a welcoming and supportive environment,” she said.

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