Today, I bring you the first in a series I like to call “BC Club Spotlight”!
Bakersfield College has a wide variety of clubs available for students to join. However, it can be a little hard to find out more about them, especially if you’re a bit shy about just showing up to meetings without knowing already anyone. My aim with this series is to get to know more about the club, find out what they’re “all about”, and share it with you. There will be two specific parts— an interview, and a first-hand narrative of my experience attending the club.
I hope you enjoy!
What does GSA stand for? Well, if you mean literally (which I very much did the first time I asked) it stands for Gender & Sexuality Awareness.
Some might be confused (as I was) because “G.S.A.” usually stands for ‘Gay Straight Alliance/Association’.
“Gay Straight Alliance excludes a lot of people by just saying “gay and straight”, while ‘Gender and Sexuality’ broadens the spectrum to everyone under any kind of sexuality,” GSA President Ian Equality explained.
I met with Ian last month, as well as some of the GSA club’s board members, and got to know a little more about what else GSA stands for.
What’s GSA’s overall mission?
To create a comfortable atmosphere for the youth and younger generations in the community by providing a “safety net” We also refer our members to resources attained from the community such as info on HIV Prevention Medications, PFLAG (Parents from Lesbian and Gay families) where families meet other families going through similar difficulties dealing with LGBT.
Our bottom line mission is to bring awareness to our students that we have GSA first of all, so they know they have that support system available. Anyone who falls under the LGTB umbrella— and allies, of course— are welcome to come support the community.
What are some of the things that GSA does?
We are here to motivate others and bring out that inner confidence and acceptance for themselves and others. Not only are we here for Bakersfield College Students, we also service the community, allowing them to also join or club meetings and events. We do outreach to the community including High schools, Bakersfield AID’s Project, Bakersfield LGBTQ
“A big focus [GSA has] is to get involved with High School students, build mentorships and get them to college. A lot of them may feel closed because of having to deal with being gay, and to top it off they have to deal with the new experience of figuring out college. We try to bring them on campus and show them ‘Hey, we have a support group here and we can help you with whatever you need’”
So does the GSA connect with the GSA clubs at High Schools directly?
Yes, we have a High School committee in the club, who emails high schools about upcoming events, letting them know what we’re doing and that they’re welcome to come. We’re actually hosting a prom soon, that we’re hoping the high schools can go to. That way we can start building that relationship with those students with fun and community events.
We also go to High School clubs’ pizza nights to try and interact with the students. We even end up running the events and helping out the teachers. It really helps us with experiencing public speaking and puts us out there to the community.
Any specific examples of events the GSA has hosted recently?
Yes, we recently hosted a “Born This Way” Ball, which was mainly for high schools. We also had a pizza night where we first met the high school clubs. We had about 6 different GSA clubs attend. We didn’t know we had that many that were active, which was a big surprise and really great news.
Anything big planned in the near future?
Yes, we’ll be hosting our Spring Fling Prom on April 24th. It’s a youth prom targeted at high schools, but is open to the community. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I encourage anyone interested to attend.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/404925846334930/
When does the GSA meet?
Meetings are held every 1st and 3rd Wednesday in FA47 at 4:10 PM.
So, tell me a little about your experience being President.
This is my first semester being president. I helped bring it back along with the other board members. We’re really hoping that this semester it sticks and stays. I’ve got some really head strong board members I met this year, and I’m really excited for the future.
Anything else you’d like to communicate with students?
Aubrey (member at Large)
It’s okay to be you! The club is created for you to be who you are and be proud. Strut it or Rock it out, it doesn’t matter as long as you are confident! Don’t let others tear you down!
Paul (Vice President)
We are a Safe Space for individuals with any questions comments or concerns. Don’t hesitate to drop by.
Liam (InterClub Council Rep)
We need more Allies! This club is not limited to only those who fall in the LGBTQ representation. We are open to all who are willing to help spread the word of equality. And HAVE FUN
Drop by any of our club meetings or events, even if its brief or for just one meeting. You will gain some knowledge and might even make a new friend!
About a week after our conversation, I attended one of the GSA club’s meetings in person.
I showed up at around 4:05, and made my way to the back of the class room. Immediately, I could tell that the space was a very positive and comfortable one. Everyone was smiling, joking, and laughing.
Shortly after, Ian officially began the meeting by standing at a podium in front of the class. He started by doing a quick introduction on what was scheduled for the meeting. He then ran through a power point presentation reviewing some of the recent events that GSA had participated in, as well as outlining upcoming ones. They talked about the possibility of hosting an informational panel on the PrEP pill, that helps prevent HIV for high-risk individuals (which, as of this writing, they did indeed host!).
The club also talked about how members should support each other and look out for one another. A section of the presentation revolved around relationships (be they romantic, platonic, or otherwise) and how to recognize if they may be toxic, and what to do to help.
After the conclusion of business, since it was the first ‘regular’ meeting of the club— everyone took turns introducing themselves. There were a series of basic questions given for people to answer as an introduction:
What is your name?
What gender do you identify with?
What is your preferred pronoun?
What is your favorite movie?
I saw then why it was a good move to change the acronym to “Gender & Sexuality Awareness”. While I was previously aware of the spectrum of genders and the difference between gender and sex, this was the first time that I had truly experienced that fact in person. There is much more to gender and sexuality than just “Gay” and “Straight”, and this was an environment that celebrated and nurtured that fact. It was a positive learning experience for me, and I’m very glad for it.
It isn’t just talk— the GSA club truly feels like a safe and comfortable place where you can express yourself and have fun. Even if you don’t fall in the LGTBQ spectrum! I felt comfortable enough to share my actual favorite movie (which I sometimes feel is a little sappy to admit openly) and got a number of responses in agreement.
After the introductions, a box of kleenex was passed around with the instructions to take however many you’d like. Once everyone had their kleenex, we were instructed to share one fun fact about ourselves for each tissue. It was a pretty entertaining game to watch, especially when people who inadvertently took a large number of tissues.
All in all, I was very happy with my experience attending the GSA club meeting. I recommend anyone and everyone to attend. Even if you do not personally fall under the umbrella of “LGBTQ”, the club is a warm and welcoming student organization where one is sure to make friends, have fun, and give back to the community.