Home away from home

GSA provides safe space for kids in the LGBT community

Lily Yoss, Staff Writer

Last year, Maytong (May) Haengkham, class of 2018, and sophomores Cadence Johnston and Layne Gray, started a new club, the Gay-Straight Alliance.
GSA is completely confidential and its purpose is to provide members of the LGBT community a safe environment to discuss matters with others who can relate to the issues, educate those who aren’t aware of the issues, bring safety and support for those in the community who need it, bring awareness to allies, and also give students a place to make friends.
Gray, Johnston and Haengkham all started this club to help others.
“I was questioning my sexuality since freshman year and I did not have a support system where I could go and talk to others, be introduced to new people, and learn about the community,” Haengkham said. “So for about two years of questioning and learning things by myself, I came to the conclusion my junior year that what this school needs is a GSA.”
Haengkham had a difficult time being completely comfortable with coming out, because she knew that “Gardner had a bit of an issue with being accepting. So it then took another year for me to come to terms with myself and be ready to fight.”
Similarly, Gray said he founded the club because, “middle school wasn’t the best experience being gay, and I thought ‘I don’t want to deal with that in high school’, so I wanted to make sure everyone knows that there is a community there.”
Johnston wanted a safe space for those in the LGBT community and to ensure that everyone knows there is a place to go to for those who need it.

“I was doing it for other people to make sure they were comfortable in the future. That they wouldn’t be alone along the confusing journey. And that is what it means to be successful. Not necessarily how long the club is up and running, or if it’s a well known club, or how many people are in it. It’s the impact we made on kids. To make kids more comfortable, feel safe, and meet new people. ” –”

— May Haengkham

“Layne is the one who really pulled me into it and had the idea for us … We decided to team up, all three of us, with the help of Mr. Lady and Mrs. Heller as our sponsors to have our safe space,” Johnston said. “We knew that in this small town, there’s a lot of intolerance and ignorance, and we thought it was a great way to help the people close to us.”
Johnston describes GSA as serving the purpose of “education and a second home for the kids who don’t have that safety at home.”
“Unfortunately, a lot of kids that come in there with us have families that don’t accept them for who they are, and could be so ignorant to the point where they don’t let them be who they are,” Johnston said. “The other students that haven’t heard of those things before could legitimately learn, and the kids who have lived it can be safe.”
Members suggest that students who are debating on going to meetings just come, sit down, have a discussion, make some friends, learn something, just listen.
Meetings are held every Wednesday during seminar.
According to Gray, students should join GSA because, “it shows that there is support, when sometimes it can feel like there isn’t at all. Having that weekly, it really just shows that there is a reason to come to school and you’re not always singled out.”
Sophomore Kira Turner, a weekly attendee of the meetings, also said the club is important because, “it shows support, especially allies, because we don’t want this club to be “the gay club”, we want it to be what it’s supposed to be, the Gay-Straight Alliance. We want people to feel like they can rely on everyone.”