By Travyan Suttle
As I sat down in my chair, anxiously waiting to know what the GSA Club meeting entailed, student introductions began. It was then I heard the introduction of one particular student who preferred to be addressed by the gender pronouns “they, them, and theirs.”
For many students, joining a club is seen as a social opportunity that connects them with others who share a common interest in a particular topic.
The Gay-Straight-Alliance Club is a social network that allows members both gay and straight to have a safe place to communicate and promote the awareness of gender diversity.
The average GSA Club consist of an average 10-15 students who gather once a week every Thursday to discuss topics that range from personal interest to current social issues.
Most meetings begin with members whom chat about random hot topics that range from upcoming movies and pop-culture, to anime and comic books; In fact, most discussions that I had with members this semester involved either a comic book or video game topic.
The majority of the GSA members this semester were either comic book fans or video game fans, yet some members were just fans of modern pop culture.
During my conversations about both video games and comic books, a small majority of the club members often looked disinterested and clueless as to what myself and other members were discussing, almost as if we were speaking a different language.
Both the older students and younger students had an intimate knowledge about comic books and video games; in fact, the oldest member of the club seemed to be more knowledgeable about the origins of comic books than any of the younger GSA members.
The discussion of comic books and video games allowed the majority of GSA members despite any personality or age differences, to communicate and form friendships this semester.
GSA meetings typically begin a couple minutes after 4 p.m. where student introductions are held primarily to become acquainted with the new members who are attending the meeting.
Introductions include your name, a personal interest question, and your preferred gender pronoun.
The most common student pronouns that students request to be called during GSA meetings are the same pronouns that match their sex; however, there have been some students that preferred to be called pronouns that differ from their sex.
The main reason behind this exercise to respect everyone’s gender preference by addressing each individual with the pronoun that matches their gender of identity.
This is one of the main purposes behind the creation of the GSA club, to respect everyone’s gender preferences even if it differs from what society is traditionally accustomed to.
After student introductions are finished, an ice breaker is held in order to encourage each individual member to socialize with one another.
The ice breaker is typically a game that splits members of the club into different groups, which requires a moderate amount of team work in order to win the game.
One particular ice breaker I participated in this semester was a game in which I had to take off my shoes, but would not be able to put them back on until I found a common interest with the other people selected for the random group I was in.
My team ended up winning that particular ice breaker game; It turns out that we were interested in dogs, comic books, video games, and pop culture.
The winner of ice breaker games are typically given a round of applause for winning at the end of the game.
When the ice breaker concludes, the club again is divided into groups to begin “free discussion.”
Student members are divided by being numbered into groups to discuss any topic they wish to, but students are reminded not to discuss extremely controversial topics such as politics and religion.
There were very few group discussions I can recall that didn’t involve talk of either comic books or video games, other than one particular discussion that took place towards the end of the semester.
This particular discussion involved all members of the club that attended the meeting on that day since many of the regular attendees did show up this day.
During this discussion, everyone including myself told one another his or her coming out story, except for the straight member who attend this meeting, for he did not have a compelling story to tell for fact of being straight.
As everyone gathered to tell their story while sitting in a circular set of chairs similar to that of an alcohol anonymous meeting, the tension in the room began to rise as it became obvious that not everyone wanted to share this information, or sharing this information was too personal and even painful to recall.
This easily was the strongest connection I’ve felt with the members of the club, not because I could relate to awkwardness of coming out to someone close to you, but because I knew how painfully anxious and terrified the feeling of coming out to a loved one feels and not knowing if that person will choose to accept you for who you truly are.
The club concludes at exactly 5 pm, in which group discussions end and members choose to either leave or continue to hang out with one another in the cafeteria.
The GSA Club concluded at the end of May with the final meeting being held on May 25, 2017.
I spoke with several members of the GSA Club to get their opinions on what they thought about the GSA Club this semester.
“I wanted join because there is another community out there like me. I joined for two reasons in all honesty. One being I can make friends that have the same differences as me. Two, possibly lead those friendships into full grown relationships such as a romantic relationship because its hard to tell who is gay because of our social stands. Not a lot of people want to show it. Look at me, I look straight. People have their own ways of showcasing their orientation,” said Geo, who was a member of the GSA Club this semester.
I also spoke with the Director of the GSA Club Kate about what the most important aspect of the club was.
“To provide safe spaces and resources for LGBTQIA students,” said Kate.
“In the future I would like to do what we did this semester, but add more social awareness and have more gay awareness in the future,” said Kate when asked about the future plans for the GSA Club.
My experience overall in the GSA Club was amazing since I had the chance to form friendships with people who I could identify with.
Hopefully next semester, students of all genders and sexes will choose to join COC’s GSA Club