Within school systems, there are sexual minority students that are not treated with the same amount of attention that the sexual majority gets. These minority students include individuals that identify as bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, or questioning. These students would fall under the category of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, or pan/polysexual (LGBTQQIAP). Many LGBT students in high school report feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation (Hong, Espelage, and Kral 885- 886). Many of these students, especially in rural areas, require some form of support within the school system for healthy positive development. Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) are especially notable when they are student-run and student-built. There are many positive correlations between the presence of a GSA and the success of the LGBT students within that school system. Internalized homophobia is a major mental health issue that can be reduced by utilizing certain forms of support for adolescents, especially within school systems. GSAs, especially student-made ones, provide a unique opportunity to help educate not only the student body, but the teachers and staff of the schools as well. The more educated the staff is, the more likely they are to provide some intervention when sexual minority youth are being harassed; it would also provide them with ways in which to deal with common sexual minority issues such as parental rejection and peer rejection. GSAs may provide the necessary feeling of inclusion for LGBT teens that helps reduce the effects of verbal and physical harassment (Russel, Muraco, Subramaniam, and Laub 891-892). This paper first considers research on the consequences of heterosexism or internalized homophobia, research on where heterosexism comes from, covering (hiding) one’s sexual identity, how to reduce heterosexism, and finally how GSAs combat heterosexism in schools.
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