Improvement in the Lives of LGBTQ+ Students


Going into its second active semester, the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) has made some significant strides in bettering the lives of Delta State’s LGBTQ+ students.


The GSA’s presence on campus has brought a feeling of comfort and safety to LGBTQ+ students: “I have never really been able to find or talk to other people like me or in similar circumstances before finding out about it,” said Lauren Burkhead, the GSA’s treasurer.  “I think it is great that we are on campus and provide a space of information and safety to those who want or need it.”


This sentiment is shared by many of the GSA’s members, including Silas Julian, who said, “Growing up in the Delta as a queer NB (non-binary) Trans person has often been a really lonely experience. It’s really nice to have a local GSA at my school that does stuff together.”


For a new organization, the GSA accomplished a lot during its first active semester. They held two on-campus fundraisers; a bike raffle using a bike donated by Regions Bank, which was won by GSA member Samantha Plunk; and a bake sale in which members of the GSA donated bake goods. Proceeds from the fundraiser went both to benefit the GSA directly and the local animal shelter, Paw Prints, with whom the GSA has partnered.


The organization also hosted a series of movies nights during October, National Coming Out Month. Each of the films shown tied directly to LGBTQ+ issues. The screenings were followed by open-panel discussions led by GSA president, Jess Bennett. The movies were so successful that the GSA has chosen to continue hosting screenings monthly during the Spring semester.

Bennett said of the movie nights, “they’re not just for enjoyment. These films offer profound perspectives from the LGBTQ+ community.”


Dr. David Baylis, the GSA’s faculty advisor is currently attending the National LGBTQ+ Task Force convention in Philadelphia. When asked what is being done to make the campus safer for LGBTQ+ students he said work is being done to modernize safe space training post-Orlando as “Brave Space.” This, Baylis says, “involves creating environments for sustaining productive dialogue on a host of identity topics that include race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, class, regional identity, and spirituality.” New policies for classroom spaces like gender pronoun and preferred name requirements are being promoted for syllabi.


The GSA has brought visibility of an LGBTQ+ presence on campus. Visibility is an important issue to students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. “Considering the long standing (and unfortunately often true) stereotype that Mississippi has little acceptance to offer its LGBTQ citizens,” said Bennett. “And especially considering recent decisions made by Mississippi’s state government, Delta State’s GSA offers solace to DSU’s disenfranchised LGBTQ students. Furthermore, the GSA also aims at increasing the visibility of DSU’s queer community; by doing so, our goal is to show that we’re here—we exist—and we have a right to happiness just the same as anyone else.”


The GSA will have the first of its meetings on Friday, Jan. 20, at 4 p.m., in Kethley 231. Anyone wishing to contact the GSA for more information can reach them at [email protected]. The meetings are open to all students interested in helping make the campus a better place for DSU’s LGBTQ+ students.