FHC’s GSA seeks new ways to represent and create a safer environment for the LGBTQ+ community


The final bell of the day has rung, and students flock out of English teacher Sarah Velie’s classroom. But instead of packing her bag or pulling out her computer to work, she lays out a tray of cookies and preps the room for guests. Today is the day that the Gender Sexuality Club (GSA) has its weekly meeting.

GSA is one of the numerous clubs here at FHC, where students are allowed to discuss and involve themselves in our school’s active representation of the LGTBQIA+ community; as well be made to provide a safe space for members of the community to hang out with friends or fellow members.

“I think the [GSA members] see it as kind of a safe place to be with friends and like-minded people individuals where they don’t feel judged,” Velie said.  “And I can see that they like it for that fact.”

GSA is mostly student-led, with members often deciding for themselves how each meeting will go. This mainly student-led agenda allows for the unique structure of the GSA club, where members are allowed to pitch their ideas for how to better representation in the school community.

For example last year, the club pitched the school board for the construction of non-gender bathrooms on the upper floors of FHC. Even though the commission was arduous for GSA members, they were successful in their feat, and by the next spring, the non-gender bathrooms were fully implemented and ready for use.

Another goal accomplished by the members of GSA—which allowed for further LGBTQ+ representation in FHC—was The Day of Silence.

“The Day of Silence is a day where the GSA members—and really anybody who wants to—remain silent for the day,” Velie said.  “[To] reflect all [mistreatment] that has been given or done to the members of the gay community through violence and lack of representation.” 

And even beyond the walls of the school, GSA strives to make connections between students who feel similarly to them and those who support them. The club consistently encourages inclusivity in its members both in-school and outside communities.

And even beyond the walls of the school, GSA strives to make connections between students who feel similarly to them and those who support them.

Later in the year, the club might participate in virtual GSA community meetings where members have the opportunity to meet and share experiences with diverse GSA clubs in other schools spread across the Grand Rapids area.

And even in their school community, members of GSA are constantly encouraging further acceptance and inclusion in their activities. 

“You can come to one meeting and if you don’t like it or if you don’t enjoy it, then you don’t have to come again,” an anonymous member of GSA said. “Just try it.”

And most weekly club activities are simple things such as board games or parties. Just last week, the club celebrated its thrilling Halloween party where members brought various Halloween foods and dressed as their favorite ghastly characters.

These common yet fulfilling bonding activities provide each member of the GSA community with a supportive and safe environment the club seeks to provide for each and every member to feel more comfortable being themselves. 

“[I] like being able to be in a community like that.” an anonymous member of GSA said. “Seeing other people that aren’t afraid to be themselves kind of helped me do the same thing.”

And it’s not just the member who try their best to build a safer community for the pride family, but also the administrators. Alongside working during school hours, newly hired social worker Lisa Gernand occasionally supervises the club activities as well.

Although only just introduced to the FHC family and the vivacious agenda of the GSA club, Gernand has high hopes and ideas for more involvement in FHC’s long-standing traditions with the GSA club.

“In that sense in our school, while I still like supporting some long-standing traditions, but just opening things up a little more. I would love to see that,” Gernand said,  “But again, the agenda of this club, it’s not my agenda, it’s theirs. So what are the students most interested in or passionate about? I want to help support them as an adult that helps out.”

And what Gernand hopes is that by supporting their members of GSA, the community can become more friendly towards the LGBTQ+ community as a whole and gain more favor in the school’s board and curriculum.

And by furthering this favor and acceptance, maybe future generations of students will feel more comfortable and accepted for who they truly are. 

“There’s no requirement of gender identity or expression or sexual orientation to join GSA,” Gernand said. “It’s inclusive and it’s for everyone.”