Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) are youth-led groups, typically in school settings, focused on creating safe spaces for Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and all other gender and sexual minority (2SLGBTQ+) students and their allies. The GSA umbrella includes Queer Straight Alliances, Pride Clubs, Rainbow Alliances, and numerous other LGBTQ2S+ focused youth groups. Aimed at providing welcoming, inclusive opportunities to socialize and learn to support one another, GSAs represent a haven for 2SLGBTQ+ students and their allies where no assumptions or projections are made regarding an individual’s sexuality or gender identity.
The first GSA in Alberta began as a sub-committee of a student group focused on addressing discrimination at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School in Red Deer in the late 1990s, the second, a standalone group at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute in 2003; in the following years groups formed in both public and private high schools, and more recently middle and elementary schools, across the province and launched the creation of community-based groups for youth without access to a GSA at their schools.
While considerable attention has been paid to connecting these groups with each other, and the rise of the internet and advent of social media has in some cases facilitated biographies of sort, there is to date no comprehensive historical record of GSAs in Alberta. This project aims to create such a record, with particular focus on the voices of participants and facilitators, by capturing the oral histories of those involved in Alberta GSAs from the first formal, organized, standalone groups in the early 2000s to the present day. These oral histories hold critical significance in terms of the experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ youth in a largely politically conservative landscape.
This project aims to center the voices and experiences of GSA members and facilitators in Alberta, Canada. Towards this end, our objectives include:
- To record, preserve, and showcase the oral histories of facilitators and members of GSAs through the creation of an online, open-access repository
- To inform academic, community-based practitioner, educational, and non-profit organizations as to the lived experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ youth across the province
- To provide resources for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals and allies for advocacy and policy work
- To ensure these oral histories are properly archived for future research purposes