SAGA creates connections in the community
In the 1970s, student-created groups began to form that advocated for and promoted awareness of LGBT+ issues in the United States called Gay-Straight Alliances. The first gay-straight alliance was formed at the Concord Academy in Massachusetts, by recently-out teacher Kevin Jennings and student Meredith Sterling. The Gay-Straight Alliance Network, or GSA Network, was founded in 1998 by Carolyn Laub, to empower youth activists to create gay-straight alliances of their own.
The network started with 40 clubs in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1999. In 2001, the network became a statewide organization and by 2005, it was a national organization. In 2008, it became a 501c non-profit organization, and in 2016, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network formally changed its name to the Genders and Sexualities Alliance Network. Currently, it represents over 4000 GSA clubs across the country, with that number growing still, according to their website.
The Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) club at RPA has about 20 members, ranging from freshman to juniors. When asked about the club, Elena Hazzard, the club’s president, said, “I want to make sure that SAGA is a safe and fun place for people to feel comfortable and express themselves.”
One of the major goals of SAGA is making people feel comfortable being allies, out, closeted, or anywhere in between. “I love the community feeling. I go to SAGA, and I feel at home,” one student said. “ I can be myself and not have to worry about judgement.” Many other students expressed similar feelings.
Elena also touched on how she wanted SAGA to be inclusive for straight allies and how she wanted it to be comfortable for people who were still in the closet.
For some, the goals of SGAs may be unclear. One freshman said, “It’s not just a ‘gay club,’ it’s a place where people who are bullied for things that they cannot control can go for safety. It’s a place where we can work together to change our world for the better.”