From Carpool to Classroom: Irvington’s GSA Club


Photo courtesy of Julia Dil

Students create various beaded accessories to represent their identities/flags at GSA’s Beads and Bracelets event.

Many may be familiar with Irvington’s former club, the Gay-Straight Alliance; however, co-founders Sasha Mahmud (12) and Julia Dil (12) have started Irvington’s very first Gender-Sexuality Alliance club, an acronym that intentionally spans broader to include all types of identities. GSA’s purpose is to form a close-knit community among students, especially those who are under-represented and unrecognized at Irvington. The school’s lacking curriculum addressing LGBTQ+ issues has inadvertently led to greater neglect and taboo around topics of sexuality and gender. To promote the active inclusion of all people, GSA hopes to bridge the gap by providing an important space for both Queer students and Allies to come together and share their experiences. 

“At the beginning of the school year when Sasha and I started carpooling, we talked about how the school doesn’t have a GSA club,” recounted Dil. “We talked about the missing representation at Irvington, and how we wanted to take on that responsibility to start this club. We also brainstormed some ideas for how to run it, and began working with Mrs. Linton, our club advisor, and ASG to create a constitution and other materials for GSA.” 

The club now holds meetings every alternate Tuesday in Room 232 during lunch, hosting enjoyable activities for its members that connect back to the club’s mission. For example, in an event where students made keychains and bracelets, they were able to express their various identities and flags by stringing colored beads together in these accessories. 

Currently, the GSA Presidents Dil and Mahmud are trying to create a Pride Week at Irvington. Other projects within the club include raising funds for organizations like the Trevor Foundation, and working with the district to establish mandatory inclusivity training for teachers. 

“Right now we’re making a Google Form for students with questions about how being Queer has impacted their life at school, and how to help students feel more included. This way, the district can gather direct feedback from students about their positive and negative experiences, and then tailor the teacher training accordingly,” stated Mahmud. 

Through normalizing practices such as asking for pronouns during the beginning of the year or writing pronouns with one’s name on assignments, all students can be respectfully addressed, instead of perhaps being singled out and required to justify their pronouns. Additionally, hoisting Pride flags in rooms can make classes feel more welcoming and accepting. These changes, along with an active effort to introduce a more diverse curriculum in the classroom, can make a big impact on many students’ learning experiences. 

“Growing up Queer, I never felt unity at the school, and coming out was definitely scary, especially when not knowing how people would react. I felt comfortable enough to come out, but I know there are other people who don’t, so when we had our first GSA meeting the entire room was packed. It felt nice having other people of all different identities coming together to create a safe environment,” reflected Mahmud. While teachers and staff are partly responsible to cultivate an inclusive atmosphere for students, students themselves are largely responsible for creating this culture as well. The various slurs and offensive jokes thrown around campus negatively perpetuate false stereotypes and contribute to an unwelcoming environment at Irvington. However, this culture can be improved through students being more cognizant of their own behavior, and furthermore allying with LGBTQ+ students at GSA meetings. 

“I feel like I can actually be myself now at school, and I feel very safe here,” stated club member Carina Docena (12). The very establishment of this club has enabled students to find a comfortable place to converse and feel validated.

Although this club is newly-founded, many members appreciate GSA’s events and mission to create inclusivity and normality around being Queer and hope to see more frequent meetings. While Irvington’s old GSA club dissolved over time due to lack of publicity, this new club hopes to leave a long-lasting impact at the school by being active on social media and having engaging events. 

“The club is definitely for everyone. You can come to support your friends, you can come to learn about other identities, and you can also come to be an ally,” said Mahmud. “As we continue the officership, Julia and I are making sure to pass it down to someone who is equally as passionate about GSA as us, so that the club can continue serving students and will be there for years to come.”