Allied Powers

KHS’s Gay Straight Alliance helps students of the LGBTQ+ community feel more comfortable in school—something often disrupted by the opinions of their peers.

The halls of KHS are flooded with more than 1,780 students, which means more than 1,780 different opinions and beliefs radiate through the school. Some opinions are alike—others are far from it—but for a group of 11 kids who meet every Tuesday in Julie Sutfin’s room, the school of 1,780 doesn’t feel so divided. For a group of 11 LGBTQ+ high schoolers, the Gay Straight Alliance provides them this space.

The Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) was a club created in an effort to give the rising number of students coming out a place to converse and discuss their similar hardships, as well as organize various fundraisers and clothing drives. Kylie Rollings, senior, who identified as lesbian, said she joined the club in 2017 to surround herself with others in the same position as herself.

“[GSA] has been here for a while, but it was started because [uncomfortable] gay [students] needed a safe space,” Kylie said. “I think GSA can do a better job providing this safe space, but right now it is definitely adequate.”

Ryleigh Palmer, junior, who also identified as lesbian, said members like Kylie and herself were making strides toward giving students with similar struggles a supportive outlet to deal with what happens outside of the club. She said for freshmen especially, a club like this is largely helpful.

“Middle school is unpleasant, it’s not fun, but coming to high school people care less [about other’s sexualities], which is nice. It definitely got a lot better in high school—it got a lot easier,” Ryleigh said. “[Having a club like GSA] is very beneficial. I’m pretty comfortable with myself and Kylie is too, but for freshman coming I think that you can definitely see [they are not].”

Both members said the number of participants in the club more than doubled since their time in GSA, but as more people began to join, more people began to generalize opinions about the club. Kylie said there are plenty of misconceptions, all of which she said she wanted to clear up.

“The biggest misconception about GSA is that it’s a dating place. It’s not,” Kylie said. “You don’t go there to find people to date, you go there to support people.”

Both Kylie and Ryleigh said GSA helps plan events from clothing drives, to lobbying in Jefferson City once a year against the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act—a law that justifies the legal firing or denial of housing of a person who is gay or transgender. While the other 1,769 of KHS may not have truly known what takes place on Tuesday afternoons in Ms. Sutfin’s room, Kylie said they don’t focus on the opinions of others.

“At the end of the day, people are going to think what they are going to think. You can’t get all up in what other people are doing,” Kylie said. “The club is more about embracing who you are.”