Gay-Straight Alliance Promotes Equality, Expression


(From left) Andrea Peterka, Mary Caroline Peek, Monte Toney, Miriam Ashford, Cailen Cobbs, and Lawliet Ryker participate in the Gay Pride parade on October 16 at the Clinton Presidential Center to show off their support for the LGBT community.

Lola Simmons, staff writer

With over 60 members and a positive attitude, the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) has promoted tolerance, acceptance, and equality for over a decade.

Despite the name, the Gay-Straight Alliance hosts a number of diverse students who identify with a sexuality other than gay or straight. Assistant sponsor of the club and social studies teacher Judith Warren estimates that less than 30 percent of the club is straight, but she says that it’s the diverse sexualities that make the club the “Gay-Straight” Alliance.

“It’s a group where you can feel free to be yourself,” Warren said. “We’re trying to promote social justice, equality, and community awareness.”

The GSA strives to promote tolerance and acceptance. Their mission began around 2006 and became increasingly active over the years. Current president, senior Lawliet Ryker has been apart of the organization since she came to Central as a sophomore.

“I want to provide a space where people can ask for help if they need it and where they have a network of people who can support them,” Ryker said.

Many members agree that the club has a very welcoming environment. Members encourage people of all sexualities to join.

“My favorite part about the GSA is that there is a club that celebrates who I am and my sexual orientation and that there are other teenagers who know what I go through,” senior Monte Toney said.

In the future, the GSA will likely participate in the Community Walk for Unity and will partake in a day of silence. On Oct. 16, GSA attended Pride Fest on the grounds of the Clinton Library and participated in the parade.

Central Arkansas Pride began in 2013 and grew from just a parade to a well-attended festival, and according to their website, their mission is to raise awareness of the diversity in the LGBT community.

“I love coming to a festival that celebrates who I am in such a bright and positive way,” Toney said. “I feel like Pride is a way to show everyone who you are and what you stand for.”

Many GSA members in attendance at the festival saw it as an opportunity to connect with the LGBT community.

“Pride Fest is a place where I can feel free to be myself and show other people that it’s totally fine to be themselves too,” senior Mary Caroline Peek said.

It’s evident that the welcoming and friendly environment that the Gay-Straight Alliance advertises will recruit more members to its diverse group, and will keep it alive for many years to come.