PV Genders and Sexuality Coalition replaces Gay Straight Alliance
Club held first public forum focused on Trump and PV’s transgender policy
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Inclusion is the name of the game for the Pascack Valley’s new Genders and Sexuality Coalition, or PVGSC for short.
The new club, which held its first meeting before school on Thursday, Mar. 9, is a rebranding of the former Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), which started about ten years ago with the goal of raising the straight community’s consciousness towards LGBTQ issues.
Several weak factors in the GSA suggested a need for a rebranding. For one, the name excluded conversations regarding transgender and gender issues and may have come across as divisive.
“[Gay Straight Alliance] almost [sounded] like there was a competing binary between people who are LGBTQ and those who are straight,” said senior Jacob Ricco, one of the leading organizers behind PVGSC. “The new name includes not only LGBTQ issues but feminist and egalitarian ones.”
A change to the format had been discussed last spring, and discussions continued for the first half of this year. Ricco and others helped initiate the rebranding with Jasper under a new focus.
“Same sex marriage had been approved,” said Mr. Jeff Jasper, the leading advisor of the Gay Straight Alliance, “and we had transgender and gender issues, so the conversations changed.”
Ricco noted other inherent faults in the former GSA, namely the lack of participation from the gay community itself. He added that he felt that overall interest and participation in the club had been decreasing in recent years.
“It was a place for straight kids to come and feel good about themselves for being passionate and caring,” Ricco said. “It was mostly conversations between like-minded people.”
The name change also comes as a result of the school environment after the recent suicide of a former classmate. The club wanted to help prevent the much-discussed “suicide cluster” that often occurs when such a tragedy affects a community.
“We were at an important juncture,” Ricco said about the aftermath of PV’s recent tragedy, “and we felt the need to protect the groups most at risk.”
The new PVGSC is not only a rebranding but a redirection as well. The group aims to focus more on outreach, education, and support than its predecessor.
“Not only do we want to educate the public,” Ricco said, “but we also want to offer a supportive space for open and honest dialogue amongst students.”
Former GSA meetings mainly consisted of Jasper either handing out worksheets, giving a presentation, or leading a discussion with those who came.
“We were missing something,” Jasper said. “The GSA meetings were really coming from me, and that’s really not who they should be coming from.”
The first meeting was student led, beginning with a presentation from Ricco and PV senior Aria Sen regarding President Donald Trump’s recent actions in relation to transgender issues— namely the withdrawal of Obama’s title IX protections of transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms of their preferred gender.
Ricco and Sen reviewed the circumstances regarding Trump’s actions and went on to explain what it may mean for PV’s own Transgender Policy, which was put into place last May . They concluded that it was unlikely that the withdrawal would have any significant impact on PV’s policy, although it has not been brought up by the Board of Education as of yet.
Following the presentation, the floor was opened for students and teachers in the room to speak openly about state of transgender issues both in PV and in the country as a whole. At one point, Ms. Diana McKenna, the advisor of PV’s Human Rights League, mentioned that the HRL was in the process of drafting a letter to District Superintendent Mr. Erik Gundersen notifying him of their concerns about the rights of transgender students with Trump in office.
The club has started planning outreach programs as well. One of the club’s first projects will be a poster campaign. Posters will be placed around PV with information regarding gender and sexuality in an attempt to reach students who may not be well versed in LGBTQ issues and topics.
The PVGSC also plans to raise money for The Trevor Project, a suicide awareness organization geared towards protecting LGBTQ youth.
Students can get involved in the PVGSC in one of two ways: either they can join the group of organizers, which plans club’s events and activities, or they can attend one of the club’s meetings focused on open and honest discussions of gender and sexuality.
The group of organizers consists of roughly a dozen students at this time, although they are open to anyone who is interested in joining.
Pascack Valley teachers Ms. Karen Kosch, Mr. Shawn Buchanan, and Mr. Kenneth Sarajian, who participated in the old GSA, are also helping with the new PVGSC.
“A new direction, a new sensitivity, and a greater compassion about what is important to students who are directly affected by sexuality is the mission,” Jasper said, “[as well as] making our transgender students, gay students, and students of any sexuality feel appreciated, accepted, and like they have a place.”