Everywhere you look, teens are discovering and exploring their sexuality. Teens finding out who they are is important. One Godwin club aims to guide students through this time.
Olivia Washinton is a senior at Godwin and president of the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA). This past September, Washington conducted an interview with OutRVA, an organization focused on LGBTQ+ tourism in Richmond. They spoke about advice for LGBTQ+ students living in Virginia.
The GSA, originally labeled the ‘Gay Straight Alliance’, was rebranded by Washington in 2020. The purpose of the rebranding was to be more open to all students – no matter how they identify.
“We relaunched the club last year as ‘Gender Sexuality Alliance’ to be more inclusive and productive for all sexualities, identities, and students,” said Washington.
Washington talked to Kevin Clay, the president and founding partner of Big Spoon, the agency that manages the media and public relations of OutRVA. The purpose of the conversation was to take away key practices that could be used to benefit Godwin’s GSA.
“Learning how to make a community for yourself is a big part of the advice that Clay allotted and that’s exactly what we all hope to do in the GSA,” said Washington. “I decided to reach out to OutRVA because they are a more official branch of Richmond’s many outreach departments and I thought that [OutRVA’s] specialization with LGBTQ+ issues would be really helpful for teens in our area.”
Through their website, OutRVA tells the story of local members of the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+-owned businesses, as well as sharing events happening throughout the community.
Clay gave advice on a variety of topics, from teens working through questions about their sexualities to making friends in the community.
“Richmond is a much more open place than you might think, it just depends on where you look. [Richmond has] a very thriving queer community that has been built over many decades of advocacy and hard work,” said Clay.
An important part of Richmond is its inclusivity. Clay believes Richmond has made a big change over time. He mentions that when he was in high school, organizations like the modern GSA didn’t exist in the past.
“[The best part of] being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is watching it evolve over the past decade. With Richmond being a smaller town, you can really make a big difference by just being ‘out’ and advocating for yourself and other LGBTQ+ people,” said Clay.
With his final piece of advice, he offers something he had wished he’d been told as a teen.
“Being who you are is always okay and you are loved no matter what. Be who you are. If you are confident, people will be attracted to you, and making friends will be a lot easier,” said Clay.”
Support groups and teen nights are hosted in Richmond by Side by Side, an organization focused around giving and serving at-risk youth and their families. A calendar of LGBTQ+ event in and around Richmond is available on the OutRVA website under Events.
Washington emphasizes that finding the right people is an important message that she hopes to achieve with the GSA.
“Learning how to make a community for yourself is a big part of the advice that Clay allotted and that’s exactly what we all hope to do in the GSA,” said Washington.
The GSA’s first meeting of the year was held in Godwin English teacher Catherine Cooper’s room 107. It was Washington’s first meeting as club president, and the first in-person meeting after the relaunch of the club. They talked about expectations for the club, new projects, and how they hope to make a safe space for students at Godwin.
Washington offers some advice of her own to her peers after talking to OutRVA, and comments on how discussing LGBTQ+ issues openly is important.
“No matter how you identify, just being yourself is what makes you truly valuable. I think that, considering that we are in a more suburban area, it can be hard for people to see themselves in those around them. That’s why visibility is paramount with issues like these,” said Washington.
The GSA meets every month in Cooper’s room 107 after school, with an upcoming meeting on December 9th at four p.m. Anyone is welcome to drop in.