Room S-027 might be in the basement, but it isn’t bleak. Light from outside shines in through the pride flags hung in the windows. Dr. Baber sits at her desk, letting the students who lead the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) take the lead. A brainstorm for what people want to get out of the club is scrawled upon the main whiteboard. Members of the club pass around a squishy grey brain that they use as a talking piece. Someone cracks a joke, and the club erupts in laughter. The students seem comfortable and at home here.
Franklin has had a QSA (or equivalent club) for over 10 years now. This year, Franklin’s QSA meets once a week in the basement of the S.T.E.A.M. wing. Marla Baber, a math teacher, serves as the staff advisor for the club. She takes a hands-off approach to her role, letting the students shine. The QSA works on activism opportunities and participates in Day of Silence and Franklin’s multicultural assembly, but more than anything, they work on supporting one another. The club is relatively small, allowing for an intimate environment for connection.
But there’s the nagging question of why more people aren’t showing up.
Many teens have seen posts circulating on Instagram or Tumblr calling Generation Z “the gayest generation,” and this isn’t completely untrue. Gen Z as a whole tends to lean liberal, and only two thirds of them identify as straight, a 2017 study by Ipsos MORI found. Taking this into consideration, one might expect Franklin to have a strong and large Queer Straight Alliance (QSA). Despite this, Franklin’s QSA/SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Alliance) Club only draws about fifteen regular members. Going by that 66% figure, Franklin’s over two-thousand students should have more than 680 students identifying as queer, and that figure doesn’t include transgender students or straight allies.
So why do we not see these figures when looking at the numbers of QSA? When asked in a social media poll, a common sentiment from non-QSA attendees was not feeling gay enough. Even students who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community say that they’re worried about not appearing gay, or not being flamboyant enough for the people who go to QSA. An anonymous Franklin sophomore tells us, “I don’t have a lot in common with most of the people who go interests or personality wise.” Some people reported that they felt overwhelmed at meetings. Another common sentiment that showed up was people’s friends not going, or bad experiences at past QSAs.
There’s an overwhelming list of reasons why people don’t show up; nevertheless, the QSA maintains a strong, albeit small, membership base. This is sophomore Gunnar Sorenson’s second year being involved in QSA, and they are currently one of three co-presidents of the club. Sorenson says that they initially got involved after meeting a past leader at last year’s club fair. Sorenson says that it’s important to have clubs like QSA “to make the school more inclusive, because it’s not a very inclusive school. Smaller scale, we can give advice and offer support, and help with interpersonal conflicts.” After both of last year’s leaders graduated, Dr. Baber recommended Sorenson run in the election for a new leader, to which they responded, “You know what? I should.” Sorenson states that, at an average meeting, “We make plans about the future and sometimes eat food that several notable students bring in.” The goal of the club, according to Sorenson, is to “educate the youth about LGBTQ+ issues.”
Bennett George, another sophomore who serves as one of the co-presidents of QSA says, “I started going to SAGA because some of my friends were going, and I thought it might be a good time.” As a leader, she wants to foster discussion at Franklin’s QSA, and make it “a community within a community.” As for the low attendance rates, George thinks that “for a lot of people it just isn’t their scene, and they might have certain ideas that might not necessarily be true, like that everyone’s just decked out in pride gear all the time, and everyone talks about nothing but how gay they are.”
George also leads a similar club called Sapphic Club. Sapphic Club, George tells us, “is a club for lesbians, bi girls, and sapphic people to eat lunch and hang out.” While QSA appeals to the larger LGBTQ+ community, Sapphic Club is “specifically for the women-loving-women part of it.” Aside from that, Sapphic Club draws a smaller group of different people, the majority of whom don’t also attend QSA. This club might be a good fit for sapphic people who want a smaller, more focused club, separated from the broader audience that Franklin’s QSA draws.
For those who are considering going to a QSA meeting, but still feeling unsure, Sorenson says “Try it out! We don’t really have restrictions on who can join, we’re the Sexuality And Gender Alliance, you don’t have to be in the community to be an ally.” Both Sorenson and George stress that those worried about “not being gay enough” should remember that QSA/SAGA is open to everyone, both allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community. George adds, “I would suggest you just give it a try, worst case you wasted a Wednesday lunch.”
For those interested in joining QSA/SAGA, the club meets every Wednesday at lunch in room S-027, located in the north end of the S.T.E.A.M. wing basement, and can be found on Instagram at @fhsqsasaga. For people who might find Sapphic Club more up their alley, they meet every Tuesday during lunch in room M-233, and can also be found on Instagram at @fhssapphicclub.