Gender and sexuality alliance revamps with mentorship program


Felix Gilbert

Max Centobene, pictured above, and Felix Gilbert greet each other on a mentorship video call. Each week, mentorship pairs get together virtually to answer check in prompts and get to know each other.

In high school, it is common to feel left out or ‘othered’, but for students in the LGBTQ+ community this ‘otherness’ is too often a reality amongst straight and cis-gendered peers. Enter the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), a club geared towards fostering community and conversation between queer students at White Station. 

Started fifteen years ago by teachers Monique Fisher and Tricia Phillips, White Station’s GSA has revamped in 2020 to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ students. Felix Gilbert (10) has struggled with his sense of belonging at White Station but has found a home in GSA.

“As an LGBT student, it’s really hard to be a part of a school community when you feel like you’re the only one like you. When I discovered that our school had a GSA I was like, hey, I should be with people like me,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert also takes part in GSA’s new mentorship program, which pairs together under and upperclassmen, so younger queer students have someone to go to for advice and friendship. Gilbert is paired with Max Centobene (12), who came out as transgender his sophomore year and wishes mentorship would have been available sooner to smooth his own transition. 

“In high school, I was starting to figure stuff out more, but I still didn’t realize I was trans until sophomore year because I had only seen one or two experiences of trans-masculine people…” Centobene said. “I feel like if I had had an in-person resource that had a similar experience to me, I would have realized who I was a lot sooner and been a lot more comfortable.”

This older mentor is an aid to students like Gilbert, for whom high school is not always a safe environment. Many queer and transgender students do not know who will be accepting of their identities and who will ostracize them, so safe spaces like the GSA and the mentorship program are indispensable.

“It reminds you that you’re not weird or different. There’s someone that connects with you on that level,” Fisher said. “We have a few students who are still not out to their parents or their families, and so it gives them someone that doesn’t make them feel out of place.”

While advice and support are fundamental aspects of mentorship, perhaps the most important part of the program and GSA is the sense of community built through discussion and fun. In a space where they can purely be themselves, queer students have come out of their shells to form friendships in GSA.

“At the end of the day, even though I am giving advice and stuff, my mentee is my friend. I get to meet him; I get to learn new things about him, and learning new things about people is very important to me,” Centobene said.