In a press release sent to the Teton Valley News last week, seven Teton High School students have introduced Teton Valley to its first ever gay-straight alliance (GSA).

“A lot of LGBTQ+ have mental health issues and we wanted to create a group where they could get the resources,” said THS senior Kyran Cates this week. “Being gay is not readily accepted,” he added of growing up in a small town such as Teton Valley. “The term, ‘in the closet’ is pretty applicable here. Just finding people who are ready to show the world who they are is difficult.”

Cates, who is, “100 percent out of the closet and gay,” said that the core leadership of the group is made up of a variety different students, some gay, some not, some still figuring it out, and that the group was born from the VOICE Project at the high school, a mentoring program that works to serve students through mentorships.

GSA is described as, “A group where all are welcome to learn, share, connect and rediscover themselves. While the main focus of the group is to help the youth, all are welcome to join us at any meeting regardless of sexuality, age, religion, political parties, etc.; all that is required is an open mind and an open heart.” Cates said the group is focused on serving middle school and high school age students.

Cates said the group is not an official part of the high school and has been meeting since April off campus and in the community. Their last meeting was Tuesday, July 9. Through only word of mouth, Cates said that the new group has seen a variety of students attend meetings – some simply to ask how they may better serve a family member or friend who was LGBTQ+.

The press release said, “GSA leadership has reached out to the community and are giving support and information regarding sexuality to those who don’t know where to go for guidance. It’s a big step towards spreading acceptance and love for the LGBTQ+ community around the valley.”

“A lot of people who we didn’t expect came (to meeting) and asked questions and got help,” said Cates. “One friend whose brother was gay, but her family was LDS came because she wanted to know how she could talk to him (about being gay).”

The group is in touch with the Teton Valley Mental Health Coalition, who Cates said will help them navigate emotional and mental health needs as they arise.

“It takes courage to stand up for something like this in a conservative place such as our home. The leaders of the Teton Valley GSA hope that they can make a change in the world, and impact those who need them,” read the press release.

For more information, Cates may be reached at kyrandean4242@gmail.com.

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