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GSAs are good

Kevin Jennings started one of the first gay-straight alliances in 1988 in Concord, Massachusetts.  Two years later, he established the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).  They currently have over 3600 gay-straight alliance registered throughout the country.

So, what's so great about GSAs?  GSAs succeed because of the simple fact that humans understand other humans best when they interact in person, on a personal level.  A school with a GSA can be a safe haven for an LGBT youth.  A gay person can go to the GSA to find support and acceptance.  A straight person can go to learn more about gay people and understand them better.  An alliance is formed.  Where two groups of people were previously at war (or, rather, one group bullying the other), they are now at peace, hugging each other and experiencing mutual understanding.  Those who fear homosexuality can learn about it and resolve those fears.

This is an idea that I think we need to incorporate much much more into society.  Yes, we need to have gay-straight alliances.  But we also need to have democrat-republican alliances.  We need to have teenager-adult alliances, skater-cowboy alliances, fat-skinny alliances, masculine-feminine alliances, and so many more.  Think how political discussion would be different if we had a democrat-republican alliance in every town, where people of differing political views got together in love and mutual respect to discuss the issues at hand.  Politics would no longer be a forbidden topic in polite conversation.  People would be able to discuss their feelings without becoming angry or feeling a need to coerce the other person into agreeing with them.

What if we had a smoker/non-smoker alliance?  People could come and express their feelings about wanting to be able to smoke but having so many laws which restrict their freedom to do so, and others could talk about their concerns with being able to breathe clean air.  What if in every facet of life we placed empathy for other human beings above our own personal opinions, or above our need to be "right".

What if there was a safe haven for overweight people, where they could discuss their insecurities about how they look and have their voices heard by loving, respectful peers?  People who tease them could start to understand what kind of damage they do to others when they make those kinds of comments.  We might see a significant decline in eating disorders.

What if we had theist-atheist alliances, where believers could discuss their feelings about being ridiculed and skeptics could raise their concerns about the harms that dogmatic religions often cause?

What happens all too often is that people of differing views each shout more loudly and say harsher and harsher things about the other party.  What if we focused instead on understanding the other party?  What if we took some time to imagine what the other person is going through, and how they feel?  I believe that forming alliances, such as gay-straight alliances, is a far better approach than crusading.

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