PCHS alum shares her story with GSA
When Melissa Larsen graduated from Park City High School in 1992 there were only about 400 students and it was considered socially unacceptable to come out as a gay teen. Larsen is now the program coordinator for Equality Utah, the state’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political advocacy group. On Thursday she came back to Park City High School as the guest speaker for the Gay Straight Alliance. "I like to say I get paid to be gay," Larsen said. Larsen, who did not reveal her sexual orientation until she was 25, said she wished she had a place in high school where she could have safely talked and confided with peers.
"I would have killed for a GSA when I was in high school and I was dealing with coming out issues," she said. Derek Painter, co-president of Park City High School’s GSA, said the group plans to get involved in volunteer work in the community this year. "The GSA is a safe place for gay and straight students to come together and meet one another," Painter said. "This year I am hoping to take it a step further and get the gay community and straight allies working and spreading the name."
Painter, a senior, said the GSA has doubled in size from last year and now has approximately 20 members. The group meets bi-weekly on Thursdays. "I think we all need to have equality and respect each other," said Co-President D.J. Crosby, a senior. "It’s not just for gay kids, but for straight kids who want to make the world a better place."
Painter said the GSA is also in the process of adding college scholarships. He said the GSA has secured over $1,000 in scholarship funds from donors and the selection guidelines are being established.
GSA Vice President Tyler Anderson, a senior, said he got involved in the GSA because he believes the fight for gay rights is the civil rights issue of his generation. "No one is really equal until we are all equal," he said. There are over 3,000 GSAs in the country, with 13 registered in Utah. "As Utah becomes more diverse, they have to look at all the different kinds of clubs and make them acceptable," Larsen said. Larsen said the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender movement will only prove successful with the help of straight allies. "Someone you know and love is gay," she said. "It is inevitable. We make up 10 percent of the population."
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