Sophia Pizzi is NWIndianaLife.com's #1StudentNWI representative at Chesterton High School. Each month, Sophia will provide us a story focusing on some positive aspect of her school. For her first article, Sophia wrote about the school's Gay-Straight Alliance and how the school has embraced the group.
Chesterton’s GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) was materialized through the ideologies of students Matthew Villaneuva and Megan Gipson, with the help of teacher sponsor Mrs. Anne Sharp.
“Chesterton, along with the entire state of Indiana, is predominantly conservative,” Villaneuva said. “No one goes against the norm, and when they do they are scared or intimidated. Our GSA was started to show others that it is okay to be different and that people will accept you even if you don’t fit into the norm.”
Members of the GSA are supportive, welcoming and friendly. The alliance provides members with a space free of judgement that allows students to express themselves and their sexuality freely.
“When I went through my questioning phase, there was nobody to support me,” Villaneuva said. “Now, with the GSA, people who are questioning their sexuality are able to come forth and learn more about themselves in an environment that doesn't judge.”
A typical GSA meeting is how you would expect it: lively, colorful and entertaining. Those who are in charge start out the meeting by welcoming newcomers and asking them for their name and spirit animal; answers to the latter vary from bear to Beyonce to Mrs. Sharp. Afterwards, music is played and homemade cookies and cupcakes are passed around with mugs of hot tea. The energy in the room is vibrant; laughter can be heard from down the hall as students discuss their day and share inside jokes. One can’t deny that the dynamism radiating from the GSA is positive and uplifting.
“My favorite part about GSA is meeting new people,” Gipson said. “Thanks to GSA I've gotten the chance to become friends with people I never would've even thought about introducing myself to.”
The GSA meets every other Tuesday in Mrs. Sharp’s room. Activities range from making posters and tie-dying to sharing each other’s coming out stories. Although Chesterton High School has never been hostile towards LGBT students, it has never been completely unbiased towards them, either. However, “the perception of LGBT students among the staff and administration has changed for the better,” says Mrs. Sharp. “They recognize that the GSA’s purpose is to counteract hostility and promote tolerance towards LGBT students, and they fully support them.” While the student body is taking its time in showing any reaction towards the GSA, there is still hope: many members strongly believe that the GSA has the potential to raise awareness about how people are often singled out for not fitting into the norm of being straight.
“I’m not just gay, straight or bisexual,” proclaims Villaneuva. “I’m human. We are all human, so who are we to judge each other?”