How schools reinvigorated the Stonewall Revolution

July 12, 2019 | The Atlantic

The groups have always been about a simple, key objective: Stop all the dying.

The groups are GSAs—Gender-Sexuality Alliances, though they were originally known as Gay-Straight Alliances—and that was their mission when they first rose to prominence in the late 1980s. GSAs were usually small clubs, led by a combination of students and teachers who would meet during lunch or after class and exchange advice on how to navigate problems such as depression and bullying, plan advocacy campaigns, and distribute information on topics such as safe sex and national policy trends. Perhaps, the theory was, just by existing, these groups could make gay kids feel less alone, and that itself could reduce suicide risk, which was common among gay teens at the time.

Arthur Lipkin, a former high-school history teacher, an author, and a prominent LGBTQ-rights advocate, was one of the GSA movement’s earliest pioneers. In 1988, Lipkin, then a 30-something educator who’d come out just a few years prior, founded a GSA-like group called Project 10 East at his public high school in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Lipkin, now in his early 70s, drew inspiration from another queer-advocacy school group, the Los Angeles–based Project 10, the name a reference to Alfred Kinsey’s theory that about 10 percent of men are gay. ) Of course, Lipkin says, not all queer students joined, but for “students who may have wanted to go [to club meetings] but were afraid, just knowing it was there might have been a comfort.”

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