Edited By Elizabeth J. Meyer and Dennis Carlson
21. A GSA’s Impact on Students’ Beliefs and Attitudes Toward Civic and Political Participation, Civic Engagement, and Social Justice
A GSA’s Impact on Students’ Beliefs and Attitudes Toward Civic and Political Participation, Civic Engagement, and Social Justice
This chapter presents some of the findings from a study of LGBTQ students and a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in one suburban high school in the Northeast USA, and the impact of participating in the GSA on students’ sense of civic engagement—both in the school and in wider communities of action. I employ a number of critical theoretical constructs as well as empowerment, oppression, domination, alienation, marginalization, and social justice—to interpret the data and speculate about the role of student organizations such as GSAs in helping LGBTQ youth construct a community of civic engagement that involves them in multiple sites of civic action. The study employed a mixed-methods approach (quantitative and qualitative) to examine the impact of student participation in a GSA. Data sources included participant interviews, surveys, field notes, observations of training and/or meetings, and GSA documents. Data were first analyzed separately and then triangulated to investigate consistency in the findings.
The findings from this study suggest that student groups and clubs such as this GSA have the potential to help LGBTQ youth develop self-affirming and empowering forms of civic engagement. However, they face challenges that have risked lessening their potential impact. At the same time, this study also suggests that LGBTQ youth continue to feel marginalized as the “other,” and thus often alienated from the...