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  • Writer's pictureEast Spotlight Newspaper

Club Spotlight: East High School’s Queer Student Alliance

Every Friday at lunch, East High School’s Queer Student Alliance (QSA) meets in room 319. As bills attacking LGBTQ+ Rights nationwide continue to rise, with over 478 bills already proposed in 2024, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the QSA provides East’s queer students with community. As Emily Webb, one of the club’s presidents said, “It’s just a place where the queer community of East can come together and not have to worry about judgment that they might get talking in another space”.


Clubs such as the QSA have existed nationally since the early 90s. Often referred to as Gay-Straight Alliances, (GSAs), studies have shown that they have several beneficial effects for queer students. According to the American Psychological Association, queer students from schools with GSA’s were far more likely to respond positively about their social, academic, and familial experiences in high school, and were less likely to report alcohol use, psychological distress, or feeling unsafe during their time in high school. Despite this, GSA’s have long been, and remain, subjected to stigmatization, and continue to face challenges from efforts to remove them. 


According to Webb, “When we originally started we were started as Halo, which was the first GSA in the state. It had always been a GSA but had the name Halo because it was still not legal or widely accepted so it was passed off as an academic excellence club.” Today, 43.7% of high schools nationwide now have GSAs according to the CDC’s School Health Profile, and several court rulings have since protected the right of students to establish GSA’s under the first amendment. 


       At East, QSA remains an important space for many students. “I joined this club towards the end of sophomore year and I really enjoyed coming in and doing all the different activities every week”, says Madelyn Arnold, another member of the club’s leadership team, “I really wanted to help plan those events and make it more accessible to other people. Besides providing a safe space for many students, the QSA also gets involved with East and Denver Public Schools as a whole, collaborating with the district in a variety of ways, such as youth summits, queer proms, and other events. Currently, the club is participating in this year’s queer prom, which will be hosted by South High School on April 13th. 


The club’s role in the East community is an important one, given its benefits for queer students, particularly as students still face discrimination at school. “A lot of students like to think that there’s no homophobia or stuff like that at East”, remarks Webb, “but I feel like both students and teachers can do a better job at stopping that behavior when they see it”. Both Webb and Arnold also mentioned that gender neutral bathrooms were difficult to access, with Arnold arguing, “you shouldn’t have to go from the third floor to the first floor and all around just trying to find a restroom where someone isn’t already in it or its locked for whatever reason or there’s someone in their doing something they’re not supposed to be doing.” Though East’s queer students continue to struggle with these issues at East, having the QSA at East is an important part in making the school a welcoming environment for all students by strengthening the East community as a whole.

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