Hey, Hey, Hey – Where’s the GSA?

So pretty much since the beginning of the school year, I’ve been in quite a go-around with Seth and Owen’s middle school about starting a GSA. The principal early on told me that yes yes yes we want a GSA and go see this guidance counselor, who is interested in running the thing. The guidance counselor is a first-year staff member, very enthusiastic, ready to go, but is stymied by the small matter of there not being a stipend for the club, and her union won’t allow her to volunteer her time after school. Back to the principal, who gives me mixed messages, saying things like, “I’ll find the money!” “We have the money!” but secretly believing (as far as I can tell) that the guidance counselor should just buck the union rules and volunteer her time. As a result, not only is the stipend not forthcoming, but the principal bruits around that the guidance counselor is young and untried and quite overwhelmed by her job, so, gosh he worries that she won’t be able to handle starting the club. Which makes the guidance counselor furious, since she’s been bringing this up every week at their meetings, saying very clearly, “I am ready to start. Get me the stipend.” Other players in this drama are a school committee member who I’m friendly with, the kids at the high school GSA who have been trying to get the middle school GSA going since last year, and in fact, went over to the middle school and bearded the principal in his den (to no avail, so far), and various parents and middle school kids. I just talked with the guidance counselor today who is feeling VERY FRUSTRATED and just wishes the principal would be honest with her – if there really isn’t money this year, can we get the promise to earmark money next year? Also, she’s unhappy that he keeps attaching her name to this whole thing, making her into the fall guy, when the entire guidance department is behind the GSA, will, in fact, probably all contribute, and it’s up to the principal, not the guidance counselor, to cough up the stipend.

I’ve written a letter to the editor of the local paper (cc’ing the principal and the superintendent), I’ve informally encouraged other concerned parents to contact the principal, I’ve talked with the school committee member who says he’ll follow up, and every time the PTO has a meeting (I’m the self-appointed LGBT Coordinator, intrepid parent voluteer) I ask about the errant stipend once more.

I know the principal has about 8 million things on his plate, including very nasty budget cuts looming in the near future. On the other hand, this is something he says he wants, and a middle school GSA is imperative – a sanity saver, a life saver. There is no question about that. The guidance counselor says the principal is a yes man who spreads himself too thin, makes promises he can’t necessarily keep, and wants everyone to be happy . To which Seth, when I was telling him about this, asked, “Even the neo-Nazis?” Maybe not them. But a yes man can be a difficult creature to deal with, and I’m feeling a little out on a limb here. Next on the agenda is a mass email to a bunch of parents I think will care, giving them step by step instructions on how to contact the principal in order to show that the GSA has a lot of parental support. I have a feeling that if we just keep pushing, he’s going to have to cough up the stipend, but it’s a long haul, I tell you, and it’s very tricky – am I dealing with a lot of homophobia, or just incompetence, or both or what?

These days, I find myself opening my big gay mouth a lot. I find myself somewhat involved in politics. I find myself doing community activism. These are all things I never really thought I would be doing, but here I am, doing them. It doesn’t come exactly easily, but it feels pretty good. And I find myself engaged and interested, even though it’s frustrating and can feel odd, out there on a limb, all by myself. Calling things out that other people don’t much seem to notice or care about. Are there enough LGBTQ books in the middle school library, in the town library? Why does this town still have an Indian mascot? What’s the deal with the beloved town tradition of doing “Colonial Days” in all the grade schools, where kids dress up in colonial garb and no mention is made of the Indians who were already living here? Don’t all the queers living here want to have a more coherent community so we can, say, have an organized response to things effecting queers, like when those nutjobs from that Kansas Baptist church were going to come picket a production of “The Laramie Project” or right now, when the middle school needs a GSA? These and many other niggling questions and observations occupy my mind, and along with writing (I’m a writer, used to sitting around thinking all by myself) I find myself wanting to push a little, engage a little, see what can be changed.

Maya Angelou said, “If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities,” a quote I find extremely inspiring, especially since I’m not aiming for a million – just a few townies would do.

 

Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 5:43 PM  Leave a Comment  

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