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ANCHORING THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE: THE GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE

12

1990s that ultimately strengthened the

numbers and influence of GSAs around

the country. The State of Massachusetts

began to support the development of

GSAs in 1993 with its Safe Schools

Program. In 1998, Matthew Shepard,

an openly gay student from the

University of Wyoming, was savagely

beaten to death. His murder galvanized

a movement that was already gaining

ground. In 1999, a federal court

decision made it clear that a school

could not deny students access to a

GSA.

According to a 2013 study published

by the

Huffington Post

, gays and

lesbians ages 15 to 24 are seven

times more likely to attempt suicide.

Dr. Sweigart is very troubled by this.

“Groups are fundamental. It provides

an environment so that students

know they are OK. The GSA is just

as important now as it was 20 years

ago.” Today almost every campus

around the country has a GSA, and a

growing number of middle and high

schools do as well. A 2007 study from

the California Healthy Kids Survey

shows that 76 percent of students who

attended a middle or high school with a

GSA felt safe.

The name of the organization has

changed over the years to reflect the

changing political climate and the

goals of the GSA. The Drummers

represented a cautious beginning

because of the harassment and abuse

in the early years. In 1990, the group

became Students for Human Rights,

and it 1994 it was changed to Allies

and Advocates. The group gradually

became more assertive and comfortable

on campus, calling itself the Gay Lesbian

Student Union. Using the 11th letter

of the Greek alphabet, the organization

became the Lambda Student Union in

1999. The name Gay-Straight Alliance,

settled on in 2007, achieves several

goals: The organization is able to freely

assert its dedication to LGBT civil rights

and also have a name that is more

inclusive.

Angelica Wiseman, past president of the

GSA, has first-hand experience with the

value of the organization. “I went into the

GSA while in a turbulent and lonely time,

and they gave me the time and support

to heal. I went in as an ally and was not

treated any differently for it.” Wiseman

is particularly proud of the campus for

its support. “IU Southeast has been so

good on LGBT issues, and Bloomington

was one of the first to oppose House

Joint Resolution-6.” That proposed

amendment was intended to ban same-

sex marriage in the Indiana Constitution.

Michael Gardner is currently treasurer

I went into the

GSA while in a

turbulent and

lonely time, and

they gave me the

time and support

to heal.

-Angelica Wiseman, GSA Past President