A friend/colleague is teasing me that, despite my best intentions, I have signed on for a crazy monkey parade, because I have volunteered to be the co-advisor for the student Gay-Straight Alliance.
I actually didn't volunteer so much as acquiesced gracefully to a heartfelt plea. The previous advisor didn't want to do it anymore because she was taking on an extra duty elsewhere on campus, and the dean of students turned to a new-ish faculty member and asked if she'd do it. She has a lot on her plate already but said that she'd do it, but only if (a) she could have a co-advisor, and (b) that co-advisor wasn't straight, since she herself is straight. So this faculty member -- let's give her a pseudonym, Ms. Macedonia -- turned to me and asked if I'd join her in this enterprise.
The previous advisor had also asked a couple years ago if I'd co-advise with her, and I'd reluctantly said that I'd consider it, but she didn't follow up; my reluctance must have been clear! It's a weird club in that it's kind of high profile -- the school's badge of being open-minded and accepting -- and yet doesn't really do anything much and generates very little student interest. Honestly, if it were up to the students, the club would probably have died a long time ago; it's the faculty who insist that it keep going. Plus, I'd been a "professional lesbian" the whole time I was at St. Martyr's, and I didn't want to do that again. I'd been the co-advisor for the St. Martyr's GSA, and it was a vital club for the school's gay students (many of whom have kept in touch with me) but absolutely exhausting in that very fraught atmosphere.
But FGS is definitely not St. Martyr's. Besides, I'm now in my 8th year at FGS, and I've clearly developed a reputation by now that has nothing to do with my marital status or sexuality. And I really like Ms. Macedonia. And there could be something satisfying about taking a club that's practically defunct and having it actually do something. FGS has lesbian faculty running around all over the place, but very, very few openly gay students, and those who are out have apparently run into some derision by other students, at least when they're all young. So there is work to be done.
The one activity that's been a GSA staple -- often the only activity that they do all year -- is the Day of Silence, an event that I really hate, at least as its been enacted over the years at FGS. So one condition of my taking on advising is that we're not doing that. So now, we get to decide what we're actually going to do instead!
It could be a good rebuilding year, because it's got two club co-heads, one of whom is openly bisexual but a major flake and the other of whom is apparently just an awesome kid. Ms. Macedonia and I were impressed that the two of them sought us out at the all-school retreat on Friday, and the four of us are getting together Thursday after school to start making plans.
So, here's the moment for reader input: what do you think a GSA could ideally or productively do at a school? What is the point of such a GSA? I think we need to get back to basics: what is our mission, our purpose? What role should we play at the school? Is this about educating straight students? Providing a social outlet for lesbian students? Trying to change the atmosphere of the school (and how exactly does one do that?)? Highlighting the plight of gay people in other countries?
My friend is right that this could be something of a crazy monkey parade, but it's one that I'm choosing, and I think it will be a very small parade anyway.