Gay youth: Leading the way


Cool to be gay? Who would have thought that is the case. LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex) youth are taking the world by storm. They have benefited from all of the activism and social change that’s gone before them and now they are starting to blossom around the world. It’s beginning to be a global thing – LGBTQI youth leading the way. In this post, Pink Families showcases some of the developments that are taking place around the world.

US: Gay-straight alliances

Gay-straight youth alliances started to form in the US as early as the 1980s and 90s. The first gay-straight alliances (GSAs) formed in California and Massachusetts.

Back in the 80s in California, there was a project called Project 10. This project influenced developments in Massachusetts. Massachusetts first started to use the term “gay-straight alliance”, and from there the GSA movement started to grow. In the late 80s three GSAs sprung up in the Boston area.

The Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network) formed after this. It was first established in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1998. The GSA Network was set up to help establish LGBT networks, and to aid legislative change in order to facilitate safe schools and enable leadership in youth.

The American Civil Liberty Union explains that there are now about 4,000 GSAs in the US. Perhaps even more will form in the future as the federal equal access act requires schools to treat GSAs in the same way they would treat any other club. This means that if anyone experiences resistance to starting a GSA then there are legal options to help address this.

UK: Gay youth networks

On the other side of the Atlantic, there is the PACE youth network. This group works toward connecting LGBT youth and hosting events for their members. They also facilitate counseling and drop-in sessions.

In addition, there is also the Queer Youth Network (which used to be called Queer Youth Alliance). The Queer Youth Network started in Manchester. The first GSA in the UK formed part of the Queer Youth Network. This was formed in Putney High School, which is based in London.

In the UK there are also a number of gay youth networks in local areas, such as the one in the North West region of England.

Australia: Minus18

Australia is the last English-speaking democracy in the world to have their leaders openly support equality for LGBT individuals. Despite this, the youth network scene is very active.

In Australia there are many local initiatives to bring LGBT youth together. For example, there’s Minus18. Minus18 is the largest network in Australia that brings together LGBT youth and those that are questioning their sexual and gender orientation.

Other local services and groups are forming in Australia. This includes the Open Doors Youth Service in Brisbane. Brisbane is the capital city of Queensland. The Open Doors Youth Service is designed to support 12-18 year old LGBT youth who are at risk of homelessness.

One of the other encouraging developments in Australia is the youth groups that are starting to form in regional areas (e.g., country towns). This includes Gay Mackay in Central North Queensland, for example. Gay Mackay offers to support groups for LGBT youth: Q&A (for 12-17 year olds) and Q-Connect (for 18-25 year olds).

Canada and New Zealand

In Canada there’s MyGSA. MyGSA is a virtual network working toward safer and inclusive schools for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) community. Plus, in New Zealand there’s Rainbow Youth which is run by youth for youth. It involves anyone under the age of 28 years.


Fetner T, Kush K. Gay-Straight Alliances in High Schools: Social Predictors of Early Adoption. Youth & Society 2008;40(1):114-30.

Photo: Onigiri studio /

One of the largest gay-youth initiatives from Australia called Minus 18 is featured in the video below.

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