Gay Straight Alliance discourages hurtful word

By Bailey Monsees
Staff Writer
The Round Table
Northern High School

This story appeared originally in The Round Table, the school paper of Northern High School, which has partnered with the Durham VOICE.

I think I just heard you say, ‘that’s so gay’,” This slogan has been brightly plastered on posters throughout the school as part of the campaign to reinvent Northern’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club. The aim of these posters is to encourage students to recognize how using the word “gay” as a replacement for “stupid” is offensive.

GSA advisors Sean Mournighan and Michelle Garst pose with members DeAngelo Cox and M.J. East before a September pride rally in downtown Durham. (Photo courtesy of the Northern High School’s The Round Table)

In the past few years, the GSA has usually only had a few very infrequent members. This year, however, the advisors are new to Northern and are bringing a new energy along with them. Michelle Garst, pre-calculas teacher, and Sean Mournighan, English teacher, are the new advisors of the GSA and are determined to improve the club.

“During the first meeting, we decided to make our goals to promote awareness about the GSA and about the derogatory terms kids use [when talking about gay people],” Mournighan said.

“This club is really helping the gay kids or the kids that are questioning their sexuality,” Garst said. “It offers students a space to talk about what they are going through and ask questions that they could not talk about with other people”.

Garst and Mournighan feel that by having meetings frequently (every Thursday at 2:32 in H-29), constantly advertising their club, and emphasizing the open nature of the organization, many students will be prompted to join.

“I would join, gay people are so much fun, they have swag,” freshman Tyasia Johnson said.

Since some students are uncomfortable around gay people, the club is also trying to promote the club to straight students who have misconceptions concerning gay people.

“Ironically, over half of the crew is straight,” freshman Keanne Jones said. “A lot of kids are learning more about  gay people and are not believing that they are bad anymore, which is really good.”

Creating an inclusive environment at Northern starts with using respectful language.

“A major goal we have is to give every student the vocabulary to combat hate,” Mournighan said. “I have gay friends that all say that high school was the worst time in their life, so now I’m motivated to make it better for this generation of students”.

Whether students are attending these club meetings to learn more about gay people or to talk about their sexuality, it is a very open club that is determined to have as many students involved as possible.

“The more people in the club, the more exciting it is, so more people join. It’s wonderful, every week we have new members,” junior DeAngelo Cox said.