LGBT teens are twice as likely as straight teens to report incidences of physical assault at school, according to a recent survey of more than 10,000 LGBT youth by the Human Rights Campaign, and a shocking 92 percent of LGBT teens say they hear negative messages about their sexuality at school. However, HRC officials also note that "these youth are quite resilient. They find safe havens among their peers, online and in their schools."
This is why high school Gay-Straight Alliance clubs, typically created and run by students, are important and supportive spaces in so many local communities. In honor of Pride Month, we're showcasing 10 of the most inspiring high school GSAs in the country.
From one student leader who stood up to a presidential candidate, to another who gathered 55,000 signatures on a Change.org petition, to a small group who took their cause global, these teens actively work to promote acceptance and make their schools safer every day. Check out the slideshow below to be inspired by the work of these young equal-rights activists.
Does your community have an amazing GSA? Tell us in the comments below or share your story by tweeting @HuffPostTeen.
Waverly High School - Waverly, Illinois
In December 2011, GSA president Jane Schmidt attended Michele Bachmann's town hall meeting in Iowa to challenge the politician's position on same-sex marriage. Schmidt asked, "What would you do to protect GSAs in high school an support the LGBT community?" A video clip of the meeting went viral and her story was picked up by newspapers across the country, including the <em><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/post/michele-bachman-gets-things-straight-on-gay-marriage/2011/12/01/gIQAFKgwHO_blog.html" target="_hplink">Washington Post</a></em>.
Troy High School - Troy, Michigan
When New York legalized gay marriage last June, newly-elected mayor Janice Daniels slammed the act on her personal Facebook page with a <a href="http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2011/12/troy_mayor_janice_daniels_says.html" target="_hplink">homophobic status update</a> that quickly went viral. Controversy quickly erupted, but the Troy High School GSA responded powerfully to the event. The club begun planning an anti-bullying conference and encouraged people to meet publicly to discuss further courses of action. "We're trying to pull something positive out of all of this," Troy senior and GSA member <a href="http://troy.patch.com/articles/gay-rights-group-cancels-protest-after-meeting-with-troy-mayor" target="_hplink">Skye Curtis told the Troy Patch</a> in December 2011.
Farrington High School - Honolulu, Hawaii
Farrington High School's GSA won the $1,5000 grand prize for Huffington Post's first annual <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dean-hamer-and-joe-wilson/lgbt-youth_b_949664.html" target="_hplink">Out in the Silence Award for Youth Activism</a> in September 2011. The group was awarded for "Going Loud," a day-long, student-led event with more than 200 in attendance. The day's activities included an art showcase, live music, spoken-word performances, an ethnic food fair, intended to amplify their message of tolerance to inner-city Honolulu. The results paid off!
Flour Buff High School - Corpus Christi, Texas
When Nikki Peet's principal denied her request to form a gay-straight alliance at her high school, she wasn't discouraged. Instead, she sought the help of Texas A&M's GSA, which led to legal action. Ultimately, support for Peet's cause spread to include Equality Texas, the ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League, and 55,000 signatures on a <a href="http://www.change.org/petitions/let-nikki-peet-start-a-gay-straight-alliance-in-corpus-christi-texas" target="_hplink">Change.org petition</a> in March 2011. Not only did the principal give Peet permission to form a GSA (for a temporary review period), she was also <a href="http://www.advocate.com/news/daily-news/2011/04/12/glaad-honors-nikki-peet" target="_hplink">honored by GLAAD</a> for her work in April of that same year.
Blake High School - Silver Spring, Maryland
Blake High School's GSA created <a href="http://allietheally.tumblr.com/allietheallydoll" target="_hplink">"Allie the Ally,"</a> a rainbow-colored paper doll that can be printed out and shared. Allie has been photographed on the set of "CSI" and "Desperate Housewives," as far away as Vietnam, Poland, and Austria, and in Annapolis when the Maryland legislature passed a measure to legalize same-sex marriage. Follow Allie's travels <a href="http://allietheally.tumblr.com/" target="_hplink">here</a>. Blake's GSA was honored by GLSEN in May as 2012's Best GSA.
Gulf Coast High School - Collier County, Florida
Several students from Gulf Coast High School's GSA hosted their <a href="http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2012/may/24/equality-prom-local-lgbt-youth-get-a-prom-of-own/" target="_hplink">second annual Equality Prom</a> in May 2012, an event for a hundred students to enjoy a judgment-free night of dancing. The night was a community effort; while not school-sanctioned, several GSA students, their faculty sponsor, and community organizations worked together to make the evening a success. "I think prom isn't really a part of the gay and lesbian youth experience and that's a shame," said GSA co-president Charlie Figueroa.
Carolina Friends School - Durham, North Carolina
Carolina Friends School's GSA, GLOW, which stands for "Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever," recently took a field trip to the University of North Carolina to advocate against Amendment One. The measure defines marriage in the state constitution as between one man and one woman and bans civil unions and domestic partnerships; it passed on May 8. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mimi-schiffman/amendment-1_b_1467419.html" target="_hplink">Watch</a> the brave group of middle school students learn to engage in their community to make a difference.
Paris District High School - Paris, Ontario, Canada
May 17 marked the first time Paris District High School's GSA participated in the International Day Against Homophobia. The club's goal was to express the message, "Homosexuality can't be cured, but homophobia can." A week before the event, they set up rainbow-colored pledges for students to sign. On May 17th, GSA member Tori Mercier gave a powerful speech about her personal experiences with homophobia and bullying. "I was so proud of the turn-out of our presentation," <a href="http://www.parisstaronline.com/2012/05/24/gay-straight-alliance-educates-on-international-day-against-homophobia" target="_hplink">Mercier told the<em> Paris Star</em></a>. "At the end, people wanted to help."
Columbia Central High School - Brooklyn, Michigan
Sophomore Dylan Koch knows how difficult it is to be an LGBT teen in a conservative region, which is why he's trying to make the experience just a little bit easier his peers. After a six-month struggle with his school's administration, <a href="http://www.pridesource.com/article.html?article=53727" target="_hplink">he established a GSA</a> in October 2011. Between weekly club meetings, monthly meetings with the county's only other GSA, presentations at other schools, and field trips to learn about LGBT history, Koch's goal is to promote tolerance in his county.
L.A. County High School for the Arts - Los Angeles, California
This February, the GSA at L.A. County High School for the Arts hosted "You Are Beautiful" Week. They worked to create an atmosphere of self-love and self-acceptance by inviting students to write compliments to themselves on a poster board, handing out heart-shaped lollipops, and capturing the week's most inspiring moments on film.