Youths who are harassed based on their sexual orientation are more than twice as likely to seriously consider suicide, according to gsanetwork.org.
Gavin Nagatomo, president of USFSP’s Gay Straight Alliance, recalls reading in an American Journal of Pediatrics that communities that have such clubs or organizations have lower incidences of suicide and more tolerance within their schools.
The USFSP GSA has made it a point to get out into the community and reach out to those struggling. They have recently partnered with Lynn Mattiace, a director within the Pinellas County School system, to reach out to high school GSA clubs. They plan on starting in St. Petersburg and then branching out to all of Pinellas County.
“The purpose is to show kids that it gets better,” Nagatomo said. He said that the idea to do this came from the It Gets Better Project, which aims to show lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals that they are not alone—that they can be happy and accepted. Nagatomo said they want to “set up a relationship where faculty, staff, parents and students know that here in the community there is support and good people that promote acceptance.”
The GSA strives to “promote support of all students, while helping to specifically address issues, concerns, and hopes of all people regardless of sexual orientation,” according to the group’s Facebook page.
With this project in the works, GSA will also march in the St. Petersburg Pride and Street Festival, Florida’s largest gay pride parade, for the third year in a row. The parade will take place June 30, 2012, and GSA will set up an educational booth where they, along with the Diversity Committee from the university, will hand out information about things such as suicide prevention, substance awareness, tolerance and diversity. This year they plan on inviting GSA clubs from local high schools and colleges.
GSA has planned several events for the week of Valentine’s Day to bring the campus community together. The club has partnered with Voices of Planned Parenthood to distribute educational information and condoms. Their booth will be set up on Harborwalk from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nagatomo said there won’t just be free condoms—they plan on giving out treats and stickers as well.
On Friday, Feb. 17 there will be a Mardi Gras celebration with music, food and Mardi Gras themed masks. The event is semi-formal so students are encouraged not to wear jeans or shorts. The event will take place in Harbor Hall from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. A craft table will be set up where students can decorate their masks, using construction paper, feathers and glue.
The Black Student Association and the French Club are partnering with GSA to host the event. “Both of them have always historically cosponsored our major events and they’re going to continue to do that,” said Nagatomo.
In April these clubs will host the third annual amateur drag show, which Nagatomo believes will be the first Friday in April in Harbor Hall.
GSA meets on Tuesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in room 123 of the Peter Rudy Wallace Florida Center for Teachers.