After almost losing their voice last school year, the Gay Straight Alliance for Equality club is really looking forward to the coming school year. Especially excited is Sonja Greiner, a reading professor here at Arizona Western College, who came in new as the advisor for the club last fall.
Under new leadership
GSA4E, a student club centered around LGBTQ (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transsexual-queer) issues, has been active at AWC for a few years now. As of last fall semester, there was no longer going to be a GSA4E club, but at the beginning of the fall semester when Professor Greiner was offered the chance to be the advisor for the club.
"I have too many friends, too many children of my friends who are gay or lesbian, and I couldn't see it go away," said Greiner.
Greiner took over as an advisor, coming in completely blind and not knowing anything about the club or how to run it. She only knew a little bit about the club because she had met with the previous advisor for a few hours.
During the year, the club had its ups and downs. It went from being really active during the fall, to losing members in the spring, when it was difficult to find a meeting time.
"We couldn't come to anything in the spring semester because it's such a busy semester," Greiner explained.
GSA4E ended the school year with six or eight active members. However Greiner had a mailing list of about 25 students. When it came to doing events, students who could set time aside from their busy schedule would show up to help because they were being updated through email on what was going on with the club.
GSA4E was everywhere last school year. They wouldn't say no to any invitation that came up. They showed an LGBTQ-themed movie each semester, and their goal is to keep doing the same this year. In fall, 25 people showed up to the movie they screened, and in the spring 12 people came. The club also had a private get-together for just the members at Sonja's house.
"It was really fun to see the difference being away from campus and knowing there was no judgment at all," said Greiner.
Greiner plans to make the gathering a regular semester tradition and will definitely be having it again this year.
The biggest event of the spring semester was Day of Silence. On this date, the club and whoever participates get together at one point of the day to break the chain of silence.
"It's a national day of silence, and the whole idea behind it is that students should be allowed to show their support for the gay and lesbian community on campuses across the country, said Greiner. "Refusing to speak on that day represents the fact that that's how many gay and lesbian people feel -- that they have no voice."
An anxiously awaited event this year is Queering Arizona, an LGBTQ leadership conference where participants improve their advocacy and strengthen their activism and then bring those skills back to their campus. Last year the University of Arizona sponsored the club, paying for transportation of the six members who attended.
"It was an incredible experience for these kids," says Greiner.
Join the alliance
If anyone wants to join the GSA4E, Sonja Greiner says, "Be watching within these first weeks of school for new flyers."
Anyone can join, not just those who are LGBTQ. The purpose of the club is to have as many allies as possible. As the new advisor last school year, Greiner learned a lot, and she is ready for a complete fresh start. The club and she have learned from their mistakes and they have been planning since the end of this past spring semester to get ready for this year.
Greiner wants to thank all those who contributed to GSA4E last year and is excited to work with them this year all over again.
For information about GSA4E, Sonja Greiner can be found in her office at LR 233 or at (928) 344-7735.
Graphic by Pam Black