The Chateauguay Valley Regional High School (CVR) Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) has been around in some fashion or another for many years. This year, the club has been particularly active, creating a safe space for queer students and their allies to meet and learn more about what it means to be queer.
CVR tenth-grade student Ava Jeuris explains that “This year, the GSA has been having meetings once a cycle – sometimes having guest speakers from the Valley, other times just being there for each other.” She adds that in the works currently are plans for the club to hold “an assembly with LGBTQ+ people from the Valley for senior students, and some activities for May 17, International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.”
As a gay person herself, Jeuris explains that she is “very glad that CVR Pride has finally started so that we can spread awareness and educate people about queer identities and history.” Having a space like this has made it possible for students to be more open and honest about their identities. It helps prevent some of the shame and fear that can come with figuring out who you are. “I am also very happy to see all the young and confident GSA kids in middle school, because when I was their age, I never thought coming out was a possibility. To see them smiling brings peace to my seventh-grade self,” she says.
Jeuris does mention that there are still “some intolerant people who poke fun at the club.” However, the vast majority of the school is supportive of the initiative and most folks just seem happy that queer students and allies have a judgment-free zone where they can be themselves.
The importance and impact of having a GSA is huge for Jeuris: “I believe every high school should have a GSA club, because in so many places, queer people are told that they need to stay in the closet because cisgender and heterosexual is ‘the norm’. To have a place where you can unwind and share your feelings with people who are similar to you, it is a fulfilling experience.”
Her thoughts are echoed by other students from the club. One student shares that “I see it as a safe space and somewhere to relax and feel like myself. It’s necessary because everyone needs a safe space. Some people can’t have a safe space at home and so need one here.” Another club member adds that “People can feel more free and feel like they’re not alone. It’s good to have a space like this because what we share stays in the group and doesn’t get shared with others.” The GSA has allowed students to find community and explore their identities with like-minded people, which is very important for the safety of queer youth.