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Institutional Queerphobia in the GSA: An Anarchist Student's Perspective

This document is primarily about my experiences with the GSA at my school. However, you are free to use and adapt it however you please if you feel it applies to your situation.

The GSA (gay-straight alliance) claims to be a safe space for LGBTQ+ students, and a place to address issues they face. However, the performative allyship of the staff running this club, and their refusal to tackle systems that perpetuate queer oppression on an institutional level, makes it actively hostile to queer youths – especially the ones who need it most.

Despite claiming to be allies, the teachers in charge consistently prioritize protecting cishet fragility over allowing queer students to express their true thoughts and feelings about the discrimination they face. Staff who are more concerned with using their power to tone-police and silence queer students who express frustration at being oppressed, than they are with actual queer oppression, have no place whatsoever in a supposed safe space.

The teachers are obsessed with enforcing assimilation and respectability politics. When queer people's very existence is automatically seen as "dirtier" than that of non-queers, forcing us to wash away the aspects of ourselves that society and school policy doesn't consider "respectable" and "age-appropriate" is utterly, inexcusably queerphobic. Additionally, chasing non-queer approval disproportionately harms queers of colour, neurodivergent queers, and other queers who are unable or unwilling to conform to the imposed standard of a "respectable queer person".

Our entire lives, we've been told that we're "wrong", "disgusting", "inappropriate", and "bad optics" simply for existing as who we truly are, and our reactions to this constant stigma have been used to justify more hatred against us. We came to the GSA looking for an escape, and the staff are not only perpetuating it, but using their authority as teachers to amplify it.

You cannot call yourself an ally to marginalized groups, and claim to provide a safe space, without reflecting on your power and internalized prejudices, dismantling the systems, ideas, and policies that perpetuate oppression on the institutional and societal level and make the outside environment not a safe space, and challenging the very idea of "respectability". These teachers do none of those things – they are unwilling to risk the slightest bit of backlash in order to use their position to make the school safe and accommodating for queer kids. Instead, they opt to throw the "bad" queer kids under the bus to maintain their authority, their image, and the status quo.

GSAs, as they exist today, do not have our best interests at heart. They simply seek to absolve the teachers running them of their guilt for participating in the oppression of queer students, and to manufacture consent for assimilationist ideas and performative allyship. Any solution intended to fix this must aim to abolish the power structures that enable our oppression, not uphold and make excuses for them. And, if teachers are to call themselves allies, they must not, under any circumstances, wield their power against us.