James Clementi, the brother of Tyler Clementi who died by suicide at Rutgers University, has shared the story of his discovery of the importance and need for schools to have a "Gay Straight Alliance" (GSA) in an essay he wrote for LGBTQ Nation. He shares his apprehension, which he describes as a "barrier in his mind", about attending a GSA meeting at his own high school, which prevented him from ever attending one before he graduated.
It was not until recently, when he was asked to be a guest speaker at the 10th Annual Conference for LGBTQ-Straight Alliances in his home state of New Jersey, that he was able to appreciate GSA's and describe it as "such a fulfilling experience".
Ten years ago I was a high school senior as the first GSA conference was going on. I had no idea that anything like this was out there, and what I had to admit was that if there had been a program available to me I would have been way too scared to even consider attending.
I was struck by how brave these students are, because however much progress has been made the truth is that attending a conference like this one is not a popular activity for a young person to get involved with.
It was pointed out to me that many of the students in attendance did not have the support of their families and had to hide the subject matter of the conference from parents. Many of them were the targets of bullies in their schools and attending the GSA Forum put them at further risk of being targeted.
It was such a fulfilling experience to see that the students that came (and not all were LGBT, there were many allies in the group as well) were able to find a supportive and accepting community of peers and teachers that felt elusive to my younger self.
Go to LGBTQNATION.com for James Clementi's full story.