GSAFE has roots going back to 1991 when we were two all-volunteer grassroots organizations functioning out of members’ homes, Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination in Education (GLADE) and Gay and Lesbian Educational Employees (GLEE). In 1996 we became a local chapter of the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). After becoming a highly independent organization, we amicably left GLSEN and became a self-governing 501(c)3 organization in 2006 – when we became known as Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools. For many years GSAFE focused our programs in South Central Wisconsin but incrementally broadened our geographic scope and now serve the entire state.
In 2014 we announced that we were officially changing our name to “GSAFE’, a long-time organizational nickname, recognizing that the phrase “Gay-Straight Alliance” is not representative of the many identities that make up our community.
With intentional planning and a commitment to cultivating steady streams of revenue and sources of support, GSAFE has grown from an all-volunteer organization operating under a larger national body to an independent 501(c)3 with three full-time staff and one half-time staff. Specific accomplishments include:
- Growing from a primarily South Central Wisconsin organization that supported a few dozen GSAs around Dane County to an organization with statewide reach that connects with more than 200 GSAs around the state.
- Working with both the Madison and Middleton Cross-Plains school districts to successfully add “gender identity/expression” to their respective student non-discrimination policies in 2004.
- Fostering a partnership with the Department of Public Instruction and becoming their go-to organization for issues of school safety for LGBT students.
- Working with Wisconsin Public Television, the Madison Metropolitan School District, and the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board to create the “Bystanders into Allies” curriculum, which teaches middle school students concrete skills for addressing and challenging bullying in their schools.
- Organizing our first LGBTQA Student of Color Summit in the Madison area.
- Bringing the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals” traveling exhibition to Madison, which was viewed by over 1,000 high school and middle school students in November-December 2008.
- With support from local historians and school teachers, creating LGBT-specific Wisconsin and U.S. history lesson plans.
- Holding the Lieutenant Governor’s Conference on LGBT Youth in 2010 in Oshkosh, which was attended by nearly 300 educators, school professionals, and other adult advocates.
- Launching Foundations of Leadership in partnership with UW-Madison and the Madison Metropolitan School District, a weekly course for students who are gifted in the area of leadership that focuses on the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth of color.