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Soc. Sci. 2015, 4(3), 563-581; doi:10.3390/socsci4030563

The GSA Difference: LGBTQ and Ally Experiences in High Schools with and without Gay-Straight Alliances

1
Department of Sociology, McMaster University, 1280 Main St W, Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4M4, Canada
2
Division of Basic and Applied Social Sciences, Keuka College, 141 Central Avenue, Keuka Park, New York, NY 14478, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Melanie D. Otis
Received: 10 July 2015 / Revised: 29 July 2015 / Accepted: 3 August 2015 / Published: 7 August 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue LGBTQ Lives in Context: The Role of Place)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [205 KB, uploaded 7 August 2015]   |  

Abstract

We examine the lived experiences of high-school students who participated in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ)-centered activism of some kind, highlighting the promise of gay-straight alliance groups by comparing the experiences of students at schools with gay-straight alliances (GSA schools) with the experiences of students at schools that did not have an LGBTQ-specific group (no-GSA schools). We compare students at GSA and no-GSA schools based on their experiences of harassment, experiences of support from authority figures, and patterns of friendships. We find that students at both types of schools experienced harassment and heard negative comments about lesbian and gay people. However, students at GSA schools reported more support from teachers and administrators than students at no-GSA schools, who have stories of teachers and administrators actively opposing equality for LGBTQ people. Students at GSA schools reported a wide variety of friendships across sexual identities, while students at no-GSA schools felt more isolated and withdrawn. This much-needed qualitative comparative analysis of students’ experiences brings a human face to the improved quality of life that schools with gay-straight alliances can bring to young people. View Full-Text
Keywords: youth; gay-straight alliance; education youth; gay-straight alliance; education
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Fetner, T.; Elafros, A. The GSA Difference: LGBTQ and Ally Experiences in High Schools with and without Gay-Straight Alliances. Soc. Sci. 2015, 4, 563-581.

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