Westmont’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) 

By Rachel Ulrey 

Walking down the halls at Westmont, you may have noticed a new mural depicting the LGBTQ+ flag. Designed by Lauren Lochner, this mural is intended to convey how Westmont—in particular the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA)—supports and welcomes all members of the LGBTQ+ community. In efforts to foster a more inclusive and amicable environment on Westmont’s campus, members of the GSA as well as students from Westmont’s greater community have contributed to painting the mural, while participating in good-natured discussions surrounding news and topics related to the LGBTQ+ community. 

      During typical club meetings, Westmont’s GSA offers a safe space to further openly discuss topics such as recent laws affecting the members of the LGBTQ+ community, interactions with peers or family members regarding sexuality and gender, or simply the newest show with LGBTQ+ characters. While board members generally lead meetings, club members are welcomed and encouraged to contribute information and stories. GSA strives to establish an environment where each individual feels comfortable and recognized, and ideally, less alone. Through having an “open floor” at the conclusion of each meeting, the club hopes to hear and incorporate members’ thoughts and ideas into shaping the GSA. In case members can’t make it to meetings, GSA also shares educational information related to the LGBTQ+ community on their instagram (@westmont_gsa) such as discussing Black LBGTQ+ individuals or books depicting stories about LBGTQ+ characters.

Over the past few years, Westmont’s GSA has held many events in support of the LGBTQ+ community. In 2018, the GSA initiated “Unity Week”—similar to other spirit weeks, the club established themes each day with coordinating recommended outfits and activities. Starting off the week with pride day, individuals were encouraged to wear any and all pride gear; purple day included (of course) wearing purple to promote anti-bullying, and similarly, tie dye day suggested individuals wear tie dye (rainbow tie dye in particular, if they wished). Personally, my favorite day was “What Makes You Special Day.” Despite the cheesy title, I enjoyed the intention and activities related to this day. GSA organized “Special Grams” to be ordered and delivered to people’s friends, and created a poster on which individuals could place their handprint and describe themself in a single word. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the words people wrote—characteristics they felt differentiated themselves from others or maybe a personality trait they felt most proud of. The poster represented what GSA stands for, establishing a welcoming environment where everyone feels safe to be themselves, yet members are also unified by their similarities and values. 

In addition, GSA organized an event to write letters to congressmen in protest to the ban in 2019 on transgender individuals participating in the military. GSA also continued offering “Special Grams” to raise money for organizations dedicated to aiding the LGBTQ+ community, such as the Trevor Project: a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing suicide rates and attempts among members of the LBGTQ+ community. The club has also created and distributed essential kits (bags with food, water, basic and basic toiletries) for LGBTQ+ individuals. 

With the club’s newest addition to campus— the pride mural—GSA hopes to continue promoting a safe and inviting space for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies on Westmont’s campus. If you have free time during Wednesdays at lunch, stop by room 41 to check out Westmont’s GSA.