Setting Change in Motion

Meet Drew, Taryn and Statia, three Oregon High School students learning the value of–and creating–a strong GSA presence.

Tell us about yourselves!

Drew: I’m a student ally and part of the GSA Executive committee. I like anything to do with movies, and plan on pursuing a career as a film director and screenwriter. Statia: I like photography, which is what I’m going to college to study. I’m also really big into Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings—I’m a nerd. Taryn: I’m a senior and an exec of my GSA. I work as a photographer taking photos for weddings and senior portraits, and I also work with GSAFE as a student planner.

Why did you get involved in your school’s GSA? How do you think it’s viewed by the student body?

Drew: I got involved after some friends told me it was fun and sent a positive message. Our group seems to take on projects and make it known that we, too, are an important part of our school. I believe other students recognize and understand that.  Statia: I think our GSA is tolerated by the student body, although they may not accept it. There are a lot of slurs and “That’s So Gay” being thrown out in our hallways. Our teachers are incredibly accepting and there are lots of LGBT staff members that we can go to for support.

What impact do you think your GSA has?

Taryn: We have 3 missions. First, to teach and to learn. Second, to be a support group. Third, to be an activist group. Every year we get more people, so I believe it leaves an impact on them—they learn and get involved, and they learn they’re not alone. Drew: Students know it is a safe place where you can make a difference without adults telling you how. Much of this has to do with our wonderful advisor, Joan Karls, who lets us do our thing, and gets us any help we need.

What good changes have you seen?

Statia: We just had a dance to raise funds for one of our teachers, Mr. Scott Jones, to do the AIDS ride. Taryn: We’ve put together health class presentations where two people go into every health class for two days teaching them about sexuality. We teach them facts only and don’t push our opinions on them. We teach them about harassment and suicide rates and such. Since we started doing this, I’ve seen harassment go down.

Nationaly students participate in the Day of Silence (DOS) each year by taking a vow of silence to call attention to harassment and silencing of LGBT students. What plans do you have for the day?

Taryn: In past years, we have had people sign up beforehand and we send an email to teachers with the names of who’s participating. I’ve also been to the rally on State Street.

How effective do you think the DOS is?

Taryn: It depends. A lot of people don’t understand the meaning and why we choose to be silent. We get a lot of protesting at our school. Drew: I think as a whole Day of Silence is effective, however I believe that some kids just see it as a way of not talking to their teachers the whole day.

What has being involved in this group taught you?

Statia: It’s taught me to be a leader and reteaches me this lesson every week. I have to keep in mind that even though I may not realize it, people look up to me as the leader of the GSA. Taryn: I take what I’ve learned and apply it to everyday life and every situation—not just for LGBTQ reasons. It’s taught me how to be a leader and get my voice heard. It also has boosted my self-esteem and it taught me that I’m a better person than I thought. Drew: It’s helped open my eyes to some issues that people are afraid to talk about. It has taught me that even kids can stand up and fight for their beliefs.