Denver, CO – One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) Coloradans and their families, supports all Colorado students. Today, we stand in solidarity with LGBTQ+ students and allies uniting together through local Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) in their schools and communities to serve as safe spaces for self expression, peer to peer connection, and leadership development. 

One Colorado released the following statements: 

“One Colorado will always take the lead in providing support to school advocates and leaders who are seeking to create brave spaces for LGBTQ+ youth and their allies to be seen and heard. We take pride in school and community leaders who take a stance in promoting anti-bullying, prosocial, safe spaces for our youth to be themselves and thrive.” – Nadine Bridges, MSW (she/her), One Colorado Executive Director

“As a former GSA leader and attendee, it is a staple in every space to ensure everyone involved is there on their own accord, as they may feel a desire to create environments where everyone is welcomed and able to be their authentic selves free from persecution and harassment. I have been in a handful of GSAs and they have provided me with support and help that I could not have received anywhere else, from people whose experiences mirrored mine. The support I felt from spaces I attended gave me the strength to create my own GSA which encouraged more empathy and community within my school. The people and the experiences from my times in GSAs have given me the drive to strive to be the best person I can be, as well as supporting and uplifting communities to the best of my ability.” – Navaha (they/them/theirs), Former GSA youth leader 

“Taking part in a GSA shows students that other people share similar identities, have faced similar challenges, and are exploring their own identities, too. Many youth do not feel safe being themselves at home for fear that their family won’t accept them, so it is crucial they have a safe space at school where they can get support and know they’re not alone. Having a community where students feel accepted and loved can be life saving, especially for students who struggle with their identity, mental health and self image. Creating this environment where students can learn about empowerment and be yourself is a vital resource that must be present and supported by our education system. It is never detrimental to create more inclusive spaces for kids to express themselves, learn about safety, and how to empower yourself and others. GSA not only helped me find safety and community in my school, hosting a GSA also built my leadership skills and my confidence.” – Noah Jansen (he/him/they), Former GSA student leader

“GSA creates safe environments for youth who feel unaccepted. It’s a space where they are able to express themselves unapologetically and can escape the fear of unacceptance from family members. In removing these GSAs that have been a foundation to hold schools accountable when they are not being safe enough for queer youth and removing a safe space to escape their problems, it promotes unsafety and a decrease in emotional and mental health.” – Anonymous, Current GSA student leader

Schools are often places where LGBTQ+ young people don’t feel safe or included. LGBTQ+ youth consistently face high levels of biased language, harassment and assault, and anti-LGBTQ discrimination at school that nagatively impacts their educational experiences and psychological well-being.1  It is imperative we continue collaborative efforts to build a climate across our state where LGBTQ+ students can express themselves authentically in a safe and respectful school environment. Since 2011, One Colorado has worked with both statewide education associations, as well as community leaders, local educators, parents, and students to create and sustain the Colorado GSA Network to support and empower LGBTQ+ young people and their allies against the bullying, harassment, homophobia, and transphobia often experienced in their schools. 

As a statewide GSA Network affiliate, One Colorado supports local Colorado GSA clubs with student and school resources, as well as guidance and training when appropriate and requested. 

The presence of a GSA in a school reduces suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth.2 Students with GSAs in their schools hear fewer homophobic remarks, feel more connected to their school communities, are two times less likely to experience harassment based on their sexual orientation or gender expression, and educators and school staff are twice as likely to intervene when hearing homophobic remarks.3

GSAs are akin to volunteer club, book club, and hiking club because they are noncurricular, student-initiated clubs and are permitted under the Federal Equal Access Act. The law ensures any school that receives government funding and has at least one other non-curricular club must also allow all such clubs, with access to school facilities. As the law states, “It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance…to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting …on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.”

Under the protections guaranteed by the Federal Equal Access Act, and the resources made available by One Colorado, local GSAs operate independently, focusing on their unique, student-led,  and school-based community goals. GSAs are student-initiated and student-led. Some GSAs may be school-initiated and sponsored, are also student-led, and receive support from an employed school advisor. Many GSAs create their own programming and invite presenters to speak at their own discretion. One Colorado commends Poudre School District’s promise, “to create and uphold equitable, inclusive, and rigorous educational opportunities, outcomes, and experiences for all” as stated in their commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

One Colorado affirms the  Colorado LGBTQ+ students and allies who are choosing to find community together, leading the way to create LGBTQ-inclusive school spaces. Whether in a GSA, on the soccer field, or in math class, together these students share in supporting, socializing, learning, empathizing, empowering, and fostering deeper respect for one another. We celebrate Colorado’s youth as the incredible leaders they are, and are proud of the future leaders they will become.

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  1. Kosciw, J. G., Clark, C. M., Truong, N. L., & Zongrone, A. D. (2020). The 2019 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN. https://www.glsen.org/ research/2019-national-school-climate-survey
  2.  Saewyc, E. M., Konishi, C., Rose, H. A., & Homma, Y. (2014). School-Based Strategies to Reduce Suicidal Ideation, Suicide Attempts, and Discrimination among Sexual Minority and Heterosexual Adolescents in Western Canada. International journal of child, youth & family studies : IJCYFS, 5(1), 89–112. https://doi.org/10.18357/ijcyfs.saewyce.512014
  3.  Kosciw, J. G., Clark, C. M., Truong, N. L., & Zongrone, A. D. (2020). The 2019 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN. https://www.glsen.org/ research/2019-national-school-climate-survey

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