GSA: creating a more open-minded school

An+LGBT%2B+flag+to+represent+the+tolerance+toward+LGBT%2B+people+that+the+GSA+aims+to+spread+across+the+school+this+year.+According+to+the+GSA+Network%2C+this+club+%22empowers+and+trains+queer%2C+trans%2C+and+allied+youth+leaders+to+advocate%2C+organize%2C+and+mobilize+an+intersectional+movement+for+safer+schools+and+healthier+communities.%22
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GSA: creating a more open-minded school

An LGBT+ flag to represent the tolerance toward LGBT+ people that the GSA aims to spread across the school this year. According to the GSA Network, this club

An LGBT+ flag to represent the tolerance toward LGBT+ people that the GSA aims to spread across the school this year. According to the GSA Network, this club "empowers and trains queer, trans, and allied youth leaders to advocate, organize, and mobilize an intersectional movement for safer schools and healthier communities."

Bilyana Stoyanovska

An LGBT+ flag to represent the tolerance toward LGBT+ people that the GSA aims to spread across the school this year. According to the GSA Network, this club "empowers and trains queer, trans, and allied youth leaders to advocate, organize, and mobilize an intersectional movement for safer schools and healthier communities."

Bilyana Stoyanovska

Bilyana Stoyanovska

An LGBT+ flag to represent the tolerance toward LGBT+ people that the GSA aims to spread across the school this year. According to the GSA Network, this club "empowers and trains queer, trans, and allied youth leaders to advocate, organize, and mobilize an intersectional movement for safer schools and healthier communities."

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Acceptance and tolerance of LGBT+ people has been growing for years now; however, with the Trump Administration’s recent decisions, the community – including Patterson Mill students – are beginning to worry. Though the country is taking big steps to spread tolerance of the LGBT+ community, 80% of gay and lesbian young people reportedly experience severe social isolation. Patterson Mill High School has taken steps to reduce that 80%, with most of the efforts from the school’s Gay Straight Alliance – or GSA – club. The GSA would like “others to view LGBT+ people as no different than themselves and deserving of the same rights,” as Conner Welker puts it. The club’s work to spread tolerance is important because, whether they’re aware or not, most people are close to an LGBT+ person and are affected by how they’re treated. 

The GSA’s numbers have been growing this year. There have always been gay people and students, but thanks to many progressive moves both nationally and school-wide, more people are feeling comfortable coming out and spreading tolerance. One of the best ways to help that open-mindedness grow is to join or support the GSA, run by Conner Welker and sponsored by Ms. Brockmeyer and Mr. Bruce. The GSA meets on Thursdays, welcoming anyone to join, and has already hosted many events to spread tolerance for the LGBT+ community. Some of these events include a lunch set-up for people to show their support for the community during Ally Week, morning announcements, posters about tolerating LGBT+ people and educating people on terms, and more. They plan to continue to host special events and make posters for nationwide LGBT+ celebrations, such as posters informing people about and supporting transgender individuals during Transgender Awareness Week.  

Jessica Brockmeyer, a teacher here at Patterson Mill for Journalism 1, English 11, and Drama 1, 2, and 3, is one of the teacher sponsors for GSA. She has been sponsoring the GSA since 2005 and ran it at the last school she worked at before taking it over here. The reason she’s so passionate about GSA is that she herself is a member of the LGBT+ community, stating that she came out when she was 37 and, though her family was surprised, they accepted her. She believes that it’s easier to be a gay student now than it was ten years ago because of many factors, such as that there are famous celebrities who have come out and that school faculty are trained in how to be more sensitive to LGBT+ issues now. She has made sure that students know her classroom is an open and safe one; she also wants closeted students to know that “there is no rush or perfect way to come out… [Coming out] has to be 100% on your terms and your time.” In order to help spread the open-mindedness that she herself has demonstrated, she has emphasized that the goals of the GSA is to “first and foremost…create a welcoming space…Those students, both LGBTQ and allies, have a place to go to feel supported and accepted.” The GSA contains many students that have made an impact on Mrs. Brockmeyer, such as Conner Welker. 

Skylar Cassel
From left to right and top to bottom: Jada Alston, Conner Welker, Alyssa Binns, Michael King, Alex May, Matt Hadaway, Mackenzie Dowell, and Noelle McWilliams are all helpful members of the GSA. They help boost the club’s supportive messages across the school through posters, announcements, and other platforms.

Conner Welker is a bisexual eleventh grader who is the president of the GSA. He realized he was bi in the middle of 6th grade and, when he was a freshman, went to a GSA meeting with his friend and decided he’d like to help the club spread tolerance across the school. He became the president of GSA in freshman year when the previous president graduated and left no successor behind, and since has been elected as president each year. Similar to Ms. Brockmeyer, his advice to closeted students is “not to rush things; you can come out when you’re comfortable with yourself and with those around you. Know that some people are not going to accept that and that’s okay. Those are people that…you can move on from.” He stated that the goals of GSA “…used to be to spread acceptance, but that’s something that we realized about two years ago that it was just not something…that was realistic. Now our goal is to spread tolerance.”  

In a country where 42% of LGBT+ people have reported living in an unwelcoming environment, schools are working hard to spread awareness to help LGBT+ students. Here at Patterson Mill, the efforts aren’t any less prevalent. The GSA considers tolerance and awareness for LGBT+ students as the main goal. With all of the recent pushes for open minds and hearts toward the community of PMHS, it seems that this year might just be a successfully tolerant one. In addition to the GSA efforts, EdLine has a new feature called Huskies Helping Huskies that, after scrolling to the bottom of the home page and clicking on the link, allows people to anonymously submit any concerns they have about friends. If an LGBT+ person is having trouble or feeling bad, an anonymous tip can be sent to the guidance office so that person can be helped. However, if they don’t want to deal with this at school, they could call a variety of hotlines; the LGBT National Youth Talkline (1-800-246-7743) and the LGBT National Hotline (1-888-843-4564) are both options. Though it might’ve been more difficult to spread this awareness and tolerance a while ago, Patterson Mill can be proud of its open-minded and compassionate students today. 

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