Tolerance of Gay-Straight Alliances in Public Schools: LGBT+ Adolescents’ Struggle for Support and Coexistence

No Thumbnail Available
Stone, Robin
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University Honors College, Middle Tennessee State University
Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT+) people has been prevalent throughout U.S history. Through the endurance of much legislative and social oppression, same-sex couples now have the right to marry. However, there is still social opposition. A commonly recognized support organization for LGBT+ individuals, primarily high school-age adolescents, is the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), an extracurricular student organization in public schools that provides a supportive place for these adolescents to unite with heterosexual allies away from an atmosphere that otherwise maybe occupied by homophobia and bullying. In 2016, Franklin County High School (FCHS), in rural Tennessee, established the county’s first GSA with much unanticipated resistance. This study examined 8 community members’ support for and opposition to the GSA through semi-structured interviews. Participants were divided into three groups based on their positions toward the GSA: Group 1: Strong Support, Group 2: Conditional Support, and Group 3: Strong Opposition. Findings show that supportive participants felt that LGBT+ adolescents needed a place to escape bullying and find allies. Conditional Supporters thought that LGBT+ adolescents experienced much more bullying than heterosexuals, but the participants were concerned that the GSA would get special treatment as a school club. Those who strongly opposed the GSA felt that LGBT+ adolescents were not bullied any more than other students and that the GSA was unnecessary and dangerous to have in school. Each participant gave recommendations of ideas that might lower conflict between students of differing sexual orientations, which are accompanied by any available research.
gay-straight alliance, GSA, LGBT, tolerance