It seems like Gay-Straight Alliances are always in the news; a lone renegade parent trying to close a well established group down; questions about use of school facilities; problems with signs advertising clubs being torn down. But a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Science reveals that despite the difficulties and controversy, GSAs are once again shown to be worth fighting for. Although other research has shown that presence of GSAs improve school experiences for LGBT youth while they were actually in school, this is the first research that showed the long term benefits of such clubs.
A study published in the November issue of Applied Developmental Science, which is based on data from the Family Acceptance Project's survey of LGBT young adults (ages 21-25) examined school based experiences of almost 250 young adults. They found that LGBT adults who had involvement with their school GSA were statistically
-More likely to have better mental health as young adults (eg less episodes of clinical depression)
-Less likely to drop out of high school
-More likely to attend college and stay in college once they had begun.
One thing that surprised the researchers on the study was that the presence of a GSA did not seem to mitigate the negative effects of true victimization. For example, students who experienced what the researchers called “low level bullying” such as name calling reported that the presence of the GSA helped mitigate the negative effects of these experiences. Students who experienced what the researchers called “high level bullying” (physical threats, destruction of personal property) reported that the presence of the GSA did not actually decrease their experience of victimization.
This is an important fact to highlight so that school administrators and LGBT youth advocates will not consider GSAs a one size fits all solution to LGBT youth safety.