Growing Up Gay in Rural America: Creating a GSA in Kansas

during Pride month, it’s sometimes easy to forget that in places (even in this country) people still try to prevent LGBTQ+ safe spaces. I was shocked to hear about a story in Cheney, Kansas – where Aaron, a high school student has been trying to make a GSA (gender sexuality alliance) for three years, only to be constantly refused by the administration. I traveled to Kansas to meet Aaron and his family, in hopes of helping them finally start their GSA by rallying the community and speaking to the school’s principal. Watch to learn more about this story of small town queer resilience, and our conversation with those who try to stop it.

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DIRECTED BY:
Nathan Flanagan-Frankl & Tyler Oakley

EDITED BY:
Jake Dunlap

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SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Aaron Mounts
Jessica Mounts
Cheney High School
Liz Hamer
DaShawn Usher
Rebecca Wolkiewicz
The Big Red Barn
Cheney Library
Lisa Filipelli
Raymond Braun
Alex Rocca

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42 COMMENTS

  1. I just wanted to say, almost a year after this video came out, we have started a highly functioning GSA at my school, and I have been working very hard with the teachers and staff to get one started at the middle school as well.

  2. GAY FRIENDLY PEOPLE! GIVE US A CALL!
    KANSAS Amber Cox, Christopher
    Cox, Dawna Cox, Ida Cox, Jane Cox, Jarrott P. Cox who runs Cox Vending
    from home, Joyce S. Cox, Lynnette R. Cox aka Lynnette Rae Roth, Sarah
    Teresa Lee Cox, Susan L. Cox, Vivian Minor
    524 North Pine Street
    Olathe, Kansas 66061-2526
    913-764-1789.

  3. Gays aren’t fucking special you don’t get special treatment because it’s not a big occurrence if you feel offended by this stay out of Cheney we don’t need you here.

  4. Omg @tyleroakley!! I had no idea you visited my state and were just a few short hours away from me this past summer!!!! Thank you for your outreach and help in Kansas!!! Love you Queen!!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  5. Why is having a GSA such a big deal for that principal!? My high school has had one for over 15 years! My school is the third most culturally diverse school in the US, so seeing many different types of people is normal for me. Idk i just dont get racism, homophobia, or discrimination of any kind! It's stupid!

  6. This makes me cry, it touches my heart, we will not stop till we have safe place for every LGTBQ+ or Ally in Every school in the U.S, and hopefully the world 🙂 🏳️‍🌈

  7. If your school dosent do the Gsa , you may not know how many Students feel like they are not accepted not loved, it Also gives a place for LGBTQ+ students and Allys to have fun and be who they are. 🙂 🏳️‍🌈

  8. Stories like this, are a wake up call. YES!! We have definitely made so much progress in the media eye and I’m so proud of this video.

    Thank you so much Tyler, we all have work to do ❤️

  9. I know Aaron and when he told me about this video I was so happy for him. He's such an amazing person. Thank you for helping him!

  10. The fact that their saying, "Oh this is a small school, that's why we don't have one." Pisses me off, because my school is middle school and a high school and still has only six hundred students all togther. Though, we still have a GSA, except we call ours "Gay Straight Alliance, to let the fellow LGBTQ community know who there allies are. So this "Small school" bullshit is exactly that, bullshit.

  11. i feel like from experience (at my school) a GSTA really helps because i go to a really homophobic school where the GSTA is a place we can go and not feel bad for who we are, and i really think that a gsta really helps a school (if this makes sense ; i'm not good at wording things)

  12. Tyler you are honestly the best! You're an amazing support system those you meet and thank you for inspiring me and so many others. I am so glad they were able to make a GSA on their own terms.

  13. It’s great what these kids are doing, it just pisses me off so much that when they held the town hall meeting and one of the parents asked everyone to stand up, less than half of the people in the room did. And that principal… he should be ashamed of himself. Don’t try to sit there and say you have to look at the big picture and that it doesn’t fit into curriculums. It’s social sciences and history like Aaron’s mom said, as well as psychology and sociology, and the big picture is that you are teaching a generation of kids to express themselves instead of being pulled into depression because they can’t be who they want to be and love who they want to love. It’s not a crime and they’re not hurting anyone.

  14. I got pushed into virtual school which has a lot less support for you and a lot less communication, but it's way better than being back at my homophobic, unaccepting, school, where anything other that what they considered "normal" would get you bullied. I lasted a semester and a half there. Then I got sick of everything and stuff happened, I was in a mental health facility for a while. When I got out I had to go to meetings about what happened and I ultimately got expelled. I went to a different School. I lasted about a week before I got kicked out. These kids turned around and started making fun of my gender identity. I said I wish I could kill them. The staff took it literally and expelled me. Now I'm in virtual school. Even though I don't have classmates I can talk to, I feel a lot safer and better about things. Yeah, I still feel bad about things but I'm on meds now too and I have some great online friends that are usually there for me. I don't know where I'm going with this, but I wanted to share. Thanks for listening.

  15. As a person who has graduated from cheney High school I have to say there is a problem. I am gay and am currently in a relationship with a woman and have been since my sophomore year of high school but when it came time for dances and prom I was not allowed to bring my girlfriend so u had to go to dances by myself while everyone else got to be with the people they loved I had to miss out on that experience.

  16. I'm so proud of my niece and her son! You all my me cry tears of frustration and pride.
    Keep going, Ty and Aaron — the world needs you. Thank you, Ty, for bringing this story to light.

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