The art show held March 7 by Grandview Heights High School's Gender-Sexuality Alliance was the latest effort by the group to create a more tolerant atmosphere for all students.

The show featured original art, poetry and creative writing that represented and articulated the LGBTQ experience, said high school visual arts teacher Bethany Black, who serves as adviser for the alliance.

"It's all art from the LGBTQ community, which is incredible," said senior and GSA president Sophie Beacom.

The art show was a way of "expressing the identity and the perspective of the LGBTQ community in Grandview," she said.

Students approached Black about their interest in forming the GSA six years ago and asked her to serve as the club's adviser.

"They wanted to make Grandview inclusive for all students and to make sure all students feel safe to be themselves," she said.

The group first was known as the Gay-Straight Alliance, but the name was changed this year to make it more inclusive and representative of the range of sexual identification and orientation, Black said.

"Gender or sexuality is more than just a matter of being gay or bisexual," she said.

"Grandview's already a pretty accepting place, but it can still be hard for someone who wants to come out," Beacom said.

Beacom said she decided to come out when she was in middle school.

"We didn't have a group like this, so when I started my freshman year and found out about GSA, it had a huge impact on me," she said. "It lets you know there are others like you and who will support you."

"Some people still don't feel comfortable about coming out, but even if they don't, it's reassuring to know there's a group like GSA," said senior Liz McDermott.

The first GSA meeting of the year typically is attended by a large number of freshmen, she said.

The GSA group offers a way for straight students such as senior Sophia Longaria to support and encourage their LGBTQ friends.

"I'm straight, so I can't speak for them, but I can be part of the effort to help support them," she said.

Longaria came up with the idea of holding an art show as a way to help students, parents and community members gain more insight and understanding of LGBTQ students.

"What I hope is that they walk out of the art show with a greater understanding and acceptance of who their friends and children are," she said.

The art show was on display throughout the school day March 7 and students were invited to stop by.

"I came by two or three times and it was really nice to see that people weren't just coming in here to take a break from classes or socialize," Longaria said. "It seemed people were really taking time to look at and think about the work that was on display."

Visitors were encouraged to leave a message to an LGBTQ student at one display.

The messages left by students "were all supportive and positive, which was great to see," McDermott said.

The GSA generally meets every two weeks and hosts movie nights featuring films with LGBTQ themes, along with other activities, Beacom said.

The group also helped head up the effort that led to the district including recognition of LGBTQ students in its anti-bullying policy in the student code of conduct, she said.

The student group also is helping to educate teachers about encouraging a safe environment for LGBTQ students in their classroom.

"We bring in representatives from the Columbus chapter of GLSEN to do a series of staff training sessions," Black said.

GLSEN, formerly the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is a national organization working to create safe and inclusive schools

The sessions in Grandview have been designed to help teachers recognize and understand when inappropriate actions or comments are taking place in their classrooms and how to address the situation.

The March 11 program also addressed the concept of "microaggression," McDermott said.

"It's when you say something, usually unintentionally or accidentally, that reinforces a stereotype," she said. "It could be saying something like, 'I need two strong guys to help me move this heavy object.' You may mean it as a compliment, but it's still following a stereotype."

Many Grandview High School teachers have placed signs in their classrooms to give notice that their rooms are welcoming spaces for all students, Black said.

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