Sexuality and Gender Alliance student clubs blossom in Katy schools as anti-LGBTQ+ attacks ramp up across the state

Across Texas and much of the country, LGBTQ+ people are at the center of a renewed culture war. In suburban Katy, west of Houston, young people are coming together to find community, to support one another — and to protest.

By Dominic Anthony Walsh, Houston Public MediaJune 20, 2023 10:00 am, ,

From Houston Public Media:

In mid-May, the school board in Katy, Texas, met to swear in three newly elected trustees.

Before the oath of office, community members had a chance to speak. The trustees heard a familiar voice.

“Hi, board, I promise to make this short and sweet,” Logan McLean said. “You guys remember me.”

This wasn’t McLean’s first time behind the podium, but it was her last as a Katy ISD student.

“I’ve been in Katy ISD since kindergarten, and for 13 years this school district has given me the best opportunities and the best education I could have ever asked for,” she told the trustees.

Over the past couple years, she’s spoken to the board about internet filters that blocked digital resources for LGBTQIA+ youth — which the district subsequently lifted in high schools — and she’s criticized changes in the way the district handles complaints about library books.

In May, she aimed her message at the newly elected trustees. The three new members won with the help of a right-wing PAC called Texans for Educational Freedom, which has reshaped local school boards across Texas.

Members of Cinco Ranch High School formed a GSA. Photo by Logan McLean

“I can look past who endorsed who, as long as my freshman friends have enough teachers to teach them and enough bus drivers to drive them,” McLean said. “It doesn’t matter to me how you feel about removing books, as long as students can continue to see themselves represented in them and learn to love to read the same way that I did growing up here. I don’t care who you vote for in elections, as long as students continue to have access to the vital resources, especially those mental health resources like the Trevor Project and my Gay Straight Alliance at my school that helped me get through high school and I’m sure will continue to serve the students of the future.”

She mentioned the “Gay Straight Alliance,” or GSA — that’s a type of student-organized club. In some schools, the club is called Sexuality and Gender Alliance, or SAGA. McLean started a GSA at Katy ISD’s Cinco Ranch High School, and it’s not the only one in the sprawling suburban district.

We spoke with Jarred Burton, Zeo McGehee, and Arson Paz from the SAGA at Tompkins High School, Megan Raz and Basil from the SAGA at Jordan High School, Jasy Turcios at Mayde Creek High School and, of course, Logan McLean.

We wanted to hear from them what it’s like to grow up in Katy, where it can be hard for young people to find community.

“I think Katy is a little more accepting,” Zeo said. “But it’s still Texas, and you’re not gonna see, you know, gatherings of queer people or pride events or anything like that.”

“Like in my neighborhood, especially, it’s a very suburban area,” Megan said. “So it’s not like it’s not the most accepting area. I mean, it’s not awful, but it’s not great either. I do not have a lot of friends who don’t have accepting parents, don’t have accepting households.”

“I had come to realize that I identified as a trans man about two years ago, and at that time, I didn’t see anyone else that was very open about their identity in terms of being transgender at all whatsoever,” Arson said. “And so I decided to make the initiative to put myself out there as a person, in order for people that were younger than me, or my age even, to feel comfortable being themselves.”

Logan McLean

Members of Cinco Ranch High School formed a GSA.

And that’s why they formed these clubs at their schools. These students found community with one another and created space for more young people to join.

“It’s so much nicer to have a community that you know is going to listen to you and is going to validate your existence rather than brush it off and say, I don’t see why it’s such a big problem, or I don’t see why it matters so much to you,” Basil said.

“It just felt open,” Jasy said. “It felt like it wasn’t a place of judgment. It was just a place of like, you can be comfortable. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, anything like that. You could be with people that are like you.”

“We talk about queer history, we talk about how to respect other people’s identities and such,” Jarred said.

“That’s especially why I think having SAGA and other GSAs is really good and important,” Megan said. “Because, you know, even for me, I had never really talked about these kinds of issues or discussions with any of my friends. So it was great to have a place for that and be able to build that place.”

Once they were organized, they protested against the slate of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation in Texas that’s passed this year, targeting everything from gender-affirming care for minors to library books with queer characters.

In April, McLean and the others put together a protest. For much of the day, it actually didn’t involve speaking out. Instead, there was silence.

“You take a vow of silence as kind of a silent protest against the harassment and censorship of LGBT people,” McLean explained. “And then at the end of the day, you’ll have a breaking the silence rally or event or whatever that you want to do.”

In this case, the students had a picnic.

“Just existing as a queer person is loud,” McLean said. “And it says something, especially right now in today’s times when we’re having all this pushback telling us that they don’t want to see us. So yeah, we didn’t need confetti. We didn’t need a megaphone. I think just existing in a space together and showing that we’re here, and we’re proud, and we’re larger than we think we are, we’re not alone. That was breaking the silence for us.”

Cinco Ranch High School livestream

Logan McLean graduated from Cinco Ranch High School and wore a Pride flag in her sleeve.

One month later, Logan McLean walked across the stage with a graduate cap on her head and a progress pride flag in her hand. She’s headed to McMaster University in Canada. She’s mostly going because it’s less expensive (she’s a dual citizen), and it has a good public health program.

“But I also want to be in a space where I feel like I’m safe,” she said. “Because it can take a toll a lot to always be thinking about, you know, is someone going to try and limit who you are through the law?”

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