Queer-straight alliance groups are popular in high schools and colleges, and for many people, they are a great place to gain resources and to touch base with their queer community.
QSA’s are thought of as the go-to resource for any queer kids in school who are looking for support or for advocacy. However joining a club isn’t the answer for everyone, and there are certain things about QSA’s, both good and bad, that may not fit what everyone is looking for when they decide to join one.
I joined my school’s queer alliance the first week I arrived, hoping to make a connection with the queer community in ways I wasn’t able to in my small, conservative home town.
My first meeting was everything I had hoped for — fun, open, and honest. I came back every week for the rest of the year, and eventually climbed my way up the ladder to become vice president of the organization by the time I was a sophomore. However, about a month into the semester, I started to realize that my position as a leader of the organization required much more of me than being fun and compassionate towards the other queer kids at my school; it also required me to be political. My small, private, southern university wasn’t the most welcoming place to be a queer student, and as vice president of the only safe space on campus for them, I felt that I was responsible for not only their happiness, but also for their safety.
I spent the new few months doing surveys about LGBTQIA campus climate, raising money for events, and planning memorials for Day of Silence and Transgender Day of Remembrance. What started as an opportunity to make friends turned into a full time job. I became known as the “angry queer girl” on campus, getting picked on during class discussions about sex and gender and receiving an endless string of Facebook messages and emails asking me to do interviews for the newspaper on whatever LGBTQIA issue had popped up that week. The separation between my activism and my personal life no longer existed, and I was constantly physically and emotionally exhausted.
Half way into my sophomore year, I stepped down as my QSA’s vice president. It was a tough decision to make, but I felt that it was necessary so that I could take care of myself. The queer community at my school was very small, and the politics both within the organization and between the individuals who participated in it were beginning to suffocate me. I feared that if I stayed in it much longer, I would start to resent the place that had once given me a sense of belonging.
Today, I am a casual participant in the QSA’s events, and I still have a close friendship with many of the people in it. I believe that QSA’s are entirely necessary to a university’s ability to serve their queer population, however there is also a fine line between trying to make a difference, and sacrificing yourself for the good of others. If you’re trying to decide if a QSA is the right place for you, my suggestion would be to give it a chance, but to also be aware of how much you are willing to give before you commit to it full time. There is a happy medium between supporting your local QSA and drowning in it, and though it may take you a few years to figure it out (like it did me), the trial and error phase will ultimately be more rewarding than the regret you might face if you never try.
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK.