LGBTQ Youth's Views on Gay-Straight Alliances: Building Community, Providing Gateways, and Representing Safety and Support

Carolyn M. Porta, Erin Singer, Christopher J. Mehus, Amy L. Gower, Elizabeth Saewyc, Windy Fredkove, Marla E. Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) are school-based clubs that can contribute to a healthy school climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. While positive associations between health behaviors and GSAs have been documented, less is known about how youth perceive GSAs. METHODS: A total of 58 LGBTQ youth (14-19 years old) mentioned GSAs during go-along interviews in 3 states/provinces in North America. These 446 comments about GSAs were thematically coded and organized using Atlas.ti software by a multidisciplinary research team. RESULTS: A total of 3 themes describe youth-perceived attributes of GSAs. First, youth identified GSAs as an opportunity to be members of a community, evidenced by their sense of emotional connection, support and belonging, opportunities for leadership, and fulfillment of needs. Second, GSAs served as a gateway to resources outside of the GSA, such as supportive adults and informal social locations. Third, GSAs represented safety. CONCLUSIONS: GSAs positively influence the physical, social, emotional, and academic well-being of LGBTQ young people and their allies. School administrators and staff are positioned to advocate for comprehensive GSAs. Study findings offer insights about the mechanisms by which GSAs benefit youth health and well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-497
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of School Health
Volume87
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2017

Keywords

  • adolescent
  • gay-straight alliance
  • school-based
  • sexual minority

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