LGBT Profile: Laila Al-Shamma, College Student; GSA Leader

EcinitasPatch and U~T San Diego gives us some insight on what we might be able to expect from future leaders and advocates in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community:

From the EncinitasPatch:

Laila Al-Shamma wrote a column last year where she publically came out. The U-T explains, “One of the tipping points, Al-Shamma said, came a year ago when a fellow student who attended several GSA chapter meetings committed suicide. She worried that other students struggling with their sexuality had very few “visible allies” on campus to serve as role models. She decided to step into that void herself, no matter what the consequences.”

She wanted to show other students that it’s OK to be gay. “I am gay and I take AP classes and I have a lot of friends. I’m just like anyone else,” she told the newspaper.

Coming out wasn’t the only step for Laila in creating LGBT visibility and hope, she wanted to transform her college’s Gay-Straight Alliance from being just a safe space to having more of a presence. From U~T San Diego:

When Al-Shamma arrived at La Costa Canyon 31/2 years ago, she could count on one hand the students who were openly gay, and many of them were bullied by their peers. She joined the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance chapter — first identifying herself as a “straight ally” — but was disappointed in its disorganization.

The tiny group rarely met, members had little interaction with faculty or administration, and when they did hold an event on campus — a confrontational silent protest in the cafeteria — “the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife,” Al-Shamma said.

[snip]

Under the teen’s guidance, the chapter began posting fliers, holding weekly meetings, working closely with school staff and holding positive campus outreach events. Club membership grew from five active members to 30.

Chapter adviser Carissa Mattison said that before Al-Shamma came along, the group was a safe hangout for teens but not an active voice for change. Al-Shamma’s leadership skills, maturity and approachable personality made all the difference in how the group was perceived by staff and students.

While we may be disappointed in some of our leaders today; even those within our own community, people like Laila Al-Shamma show us there is more hope and more progress to come with the generation that is coming up behind us to lead.

Read the EncitasPatch article

Read the U~T San Diego article

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