New GSA chapter focused on ‘teaching love and acceptance’


Morgan Garrett

To commemorate the start of the club as well as to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision, GSA hosted a color war at Celebration Park over the summer.

Savannah Whitmer, News Editor

The high school is now home to a new chapter of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) with the start of the new school year. Led by rising seniors Morgan Garrett and Sonali Mehta, the group participated in a kickoff picnic at Celebration Park just days after the June 26 legalization of same-sex marriage across the nation.

“There’s bullying in and out of school, so I think it’s important to create an environment where people can feel safe and secure and accepted,” Garrett said. “I feel like it’s a concern that’s really overlooked because there’s so much going on in our society, but there are a lot of people struggling with their sexuality. I think it’s an issue that really just became visible to us. I didn’t want anyone to have to deal with their issues alone, and this is just a way to help others who may be struggling.”

Garrett and Mehta were moved to promote gay rights in the community after an argument concerning same-sex marriage took place on Twitter during the 2014-2015 school year.

“We want to create a group where these people are valuable in the community,” Mehta said. “We’re trying to not infringe on beliefs or opinions, but we’re teaching love and acceptance. It’s something you really should decide on for yourself, whether you agree with that. But for the GSA, everyone is important and valued.”

Students, teachers, and high school alumni interested in joining the GSA and participating in a rainbow color war showed their support on June 30 at Allen’s Celebration Park.

“We had a great kickoff event, and it was a great opportunity to celebrate the Supreme Court decision,” Garrett said. “We just talked and played with some powdered paint, and we had a great time getting to know the group of people who will be a part of the GSA. I was really surprised to see how many people came out to support us.”

Garrett and Mehta said school administration was supportive of the students’ request for form a GSA chapter, working with the pair to find a staff member to mentor as well as an appropriate time for meetings.

“As an administration and school, we do not sponsor any non-educational student group but do provide students with the opportunity to meet if they choose and we can accommodate the facility and timing needs,” principal Chris Mayfield said. “I anticipate the GSA functioning much like our other clubs on campus and as a high school and district that promotes the fair and respectful treatment of all students, those working to start the GSA have expressed they will be working toward the same goal.”

For the GSA’s members, the recent Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage was a step in the right direction as well as a factor in the formation of the high school’s GSA chapter.

“We’re really excited about the decision to bring basic civil rights to this group of people,” Mehta said. “In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, there’s a feeling of triumph. For activists it’s been a long time coming and we still have a long way to go but it’s very exciting.”

Many students consider the safe environment the GSA offers to be indispensable, as 92 percent of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) teens experience negative messages in school and in the media, according to Human Rights Campaign.

“The GSA is important because I feel that a lot of students have been forced to repress either their sexuality or their support for LGBTQIA+ communities,” junior Ryan Allen said. “Especially in Texas, where the majority of the population is more conservative, it’s harder to feel safe with your sexuality if it’s not the ideal straight. However, having a GSA can be a great way for people who are curious or feel out of place can come and hang out with positive group of people who are accepting of everyone.”

The GSA Network, which was founded in 1998, was formed to empower youth in schools across the U.S. to fight homophobia and transphobia through group meetings, which will be held regularly.

“From the outside it’s just going to look like a group of people becoming friends and helping each other,” Garrett said. “From the inside it’s going to be a way of providing support and care for each other.”

Despite the lack of acceptance that LGBT youth may experience, members of the GSA hope to reduce intolerant attitudes without being offensive.

“We’re really fortunate that Lovejoy is already such an inclusive and genuinely family-feeling school,” U.S. history teacher Brian Erskine said. “I think every person in the building is so blessed because we are all invested in each other. As the sponsor, my hope is that the GSA will be something completely different than what many people expect in that we have really only one mission: fostering an environment where sexuality is just a part of our biology as human beings and being a resource for gay and straight students who feel the same way.”

While GSA members anticipate challenges for the group in the future, the students remain optimistic that issues can be resolved by members modeling behavior they hope to see in others.

“I can see students bullying members of the GSA or opposing the GSA,” Allen said. “I guess our hope to fix this problem is to not fight back, but hope for students to learn to be accepting of all people no matter what. Gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian, asexual, pansexual, transgender, gender-fluid, gender-queer, intersex, black, white, anything. The GSA’s goal is to influence the student body to be accepting of everyone.”

The leaders of the GSA are hopeful that the message of acceptance and equality will be embraced by students.

“It would be naive to think that there won’t be some hesitation about a GSA here and there, but I’ve seen Lovejoy students embrace difference time after time, and I think it’ll happen again here,” Erskine said. “The secret behind education is setting the bar for intellectual and emotional growth very high and then pushing everyone to meet it.”

Both Garrett and Mehta agree that while the high school’s chapter of the GSA “is not meant to change anyone’s mind or belief,” it is an effort to, in Mehta’s words, “promote love and acceptance and tolerance” in the community.

“There are so many kids that haven’t come out because it’s not an ideal place or even point in time where it’s totally accepted,” Garrett said. “I think as a teen growing up everyone comes to a point where they question things and go through some hard times. I want them to not feel alone and not think that there are not other people out there that understand because there are.”