By Cate Tarr | Photography By Shalicia Johnson
According to Ali Muldrow, co-founder of GSAFE, a nonprofit organization in Madison that creates safe schools for LGBTQ+ youth, “when school districts have policies and implement actions that affirm LGBTQ students, students are safer.”
For the past 19 years, GSAFE, which began as a volunteer organization, has worked with families, educators and students to ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals are welcome at schools across Wisconsin. Not only does GSAFE actively engage in LGBTQ+ advocacy, but they cultivate leadership opportunities for students to pursue their own activism ideals.
The organization has actively helped school districts across the state pass policies that combat discrimination of LGBTQ+ students on the basis of gender, gender expression or sexuality. GSAFE has played a tangible role in lowering levels of self-harm for LGBTQ+ students, educating about bullying and uplifting the overall climate for LGBTQ+ students within schools across Wisconsin.
“Students [overall] are much more welcoming, affirming and are safer because LGBTQ+ kids don’t face as much discrimination once the adults in their life have the tools that they need to address exclusion or discrimination as it comes up in school,” says Muldrow.
Currently, GSAFE is working to create a comprehensive guide for middle school educators on how to navigate LGBTQ+ issues. The nonprofit also welcomes volunteers, and GSAFE hosts events throughout the year to get involved. Their website (gsafewi.org) has a wealth of information on LGBTQ+ topics, such as how to support your child, conferences that discuss LGBTQ+ issues and ways to support the LGBTQ+ community.
“There are all kinds of ways that folks can get involved and there are also ways in which you can do this work without GSAFE, like reading an inclusive book [to your kids] before bed and making sure that kids know that there are all kinds of ways to [be themselves] and all [types of] families,” says Muldrow.