For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Jul 06 2016
by Auriel Haack

How Failing to Start a Gay-Straight Alliance At My High School Changed My Life for The Better

By Auriel Haack - Jul 06 2016

At my small high school, I was known for my liberal worldview and left-leaning opinions. I was definitely in the minority on this. That being said, I had pieced together a friend group of like minded individuals, and together we celebrated all the little and huge victories that came our way. When the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in June 2015, it felt like the biggest victory I could imagine, and it inspired me to finally take steps towards one of my loftiest high school goals.

I had always felt that my school would benefit from a Gay-Straight Alliance, but I was afraid of the potential backlash I'd experience if I tried to make one. It wasn't until I saw the Supreme Court decision play out that I realized that times were changing and maybe my idea wouldn't be received as horribly as I thought. I tentatively wrote emails to two of my favorite teachers, asking if they'd be interested in sponsoring a GSA in the fall. Both teachers responded with enthusiasm and I spent the rest of the summer finding resources online and dreamily planning fun things to do with the club.

It never made it off the ground. After a handful of exhausting meetings with administrators and counselors, the school decided that we weren't quite ready for a GSA. Interested GSA members were instead offered the opportunity to become peer counselors to help students with all kinds of problems, but we didn't have the training or the experience to provide adequate help. I watched sadly as my pet project slowly fizzled out. I felt like I had not only failed myself, but all the LGBTQ kids at my school who I knew weren't getting the affirmation and support they needed.

As the year progressed, I realized that maybe my failure wasn't so one-dimensional. I'd learned a lot from the experience. I even used it as the subject of my Common App essay. More importantly, I had established myself as the kind of person who could take struggling queer kids under my wing. We didn't have a designated meeting time, a sponsor or a special location to congregate. But I still found kids coming to me to talk about their experiences dating, coming out and a world of other things. I was always deeply proud of their resilience. There are so many brave people in this world, and I'm grateful to have attended high school with quite a few of them.

During one of the many meetings I attended to try and fight to establish the GSA, an administrator who I'd recently discussed college choices with flippantly told me, "Be realistic; this is the South. You haven't made it to Boston yet." That stung at first, but stayed with me throughout the year. I wouldn't let myself get stuck somewhere where people talked to me like that, where I walked out of meetings with tears streaming down my cheeks. I told myself over and over again throughout my senior year that I would get out.

In my inbox right now is a confirmation email for my plane ticket to Boston in August. I got out. I found a place that I felt happy calling home. I may not have been able to accomplish my goals in high school, but I'll keep going. I won't give up on making this world a safer place for LGBTQ people. And if anyone who's reading this is struggling with their identity, I promise it can, and will, get better. You'll find ways to build safe spaces for yourself, to find people who celebrate you for who you are. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. I know. I think I'm almost there.

Lead Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Auriel Haack - Wellesley College

Auriel plans to double major in Spanish and International Relations at Wellesley College. She loves poetry, activism, and the Food Network.

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