For years at Dixie State University, there was no place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students to meet with like-minded people until the Gay-Straight Alliance was established on campus.
Beginning as the Pride Club in 2006, the GSA celebrates diversity in individuals, especially concerning gender identity and sexuality. Not only are LGBT students allowed to join, but also heterosexual and cisgender (people who accept their biological sex) students are more than welcome to join in, plan and participate.
As written on the GSA Orgsync page, the club seeks to provide:
- Support to those who need it and facilitate networking.
- An outlet for further understanding of LGBT issues.
- A safe atmosphere to disclose in.
- Information on the outside LGBT community.
GSA meetings are a fine balance of formality and frankness. During event planning forums, the members speak their minds, accept new or alternate ideas for events and show their excitement to help DSU be a better, safer place for LGBT students.
GSA leadership strives to create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.
“[Students] benefit from [the GSA] because they can [meet] other people and form a support system of students who are accepting and open to other people’s situations [and lifestyles],” said Kristian Johnson, a senior biology major from Hawthorne, Nevada, and GSA president.
GSA’s events have informative themes on gender identity and sexual orientation to create public awareness of LGBT issues.
“Most universities have had GSA-like student groups for decades,” said Matthew Smith-Lahrman, sociology program head and GSA adviser, in an email. “Our GSA has only existed for maybe eight years.”
Smith-Lahrman also said the difficulties that LGBT students face regarding their identity are challenging.
“LGBT students are often afraid to come out, yet they also want hang out with other LGBT students,” Smith-Lahrman said. “[GSA] gives them a space to interact with friends without [worrying] about their LGBT identity getting in the way. They know they are accepted for their whole self.”
To recognize the mélange of DSU students, one of the events GSA organizes is the Diversity Wall, three white canvases, where students can write and display what makes them unique during Diversity Week.
“It really shows that there is diversity here,” Johnson said. “Even when people think there isn’t. It’s good [for it] to be visible and see it.”
Last week’s Wednes “D” event, a speed mingling social, was co-hosted by GSA.
“[The event was] super fun and a great way to meet people,” said Sascha Wirth, a freshman general education major from Salt Lake City, who attended the social. “I [wasn’t] expecting to meet my true love, but new friends [definitely].”
Wirth also expressed interest in joining the GSA.
“It’s nice to know there’s support out there in the community [for LGBT students],” Wirth said.
Along with activities, GSA honors the National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, and The Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20.
On National Coming Out Day, GSA places a closet on campus and addresses what is like to come out of it metaphorically. Students use the closet to literally come out and declare themselves LGBT or as an ally of LGBT rights and ideals.
To memorialize those killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice, GSA hosts a candle-light vigil on The Transgender Day of Remembrance.
GSA is for all students, no matter their sexual orientation, to come meet new people, have fun and be themselves.
“No matter which sexual orientation we fall under, we are all human first,” said Doug Gubler, a continuing education student from St. George and one of the club’s founders, during the Monday meeting in the Gardner Center in conference room B at 4:00 p.m. “[We] never stop being human.”