Gender-based groups get active in social change


Eliza Farley

HERSPACE. Freshmen Raina Heidkamp, Charlotte Talbot, Lilly Spurgeon and Laura Kimmel cut out paper hearts during a HerSpace meeting to plan for Love Your Body Day. “We were making decorations for the HerSpace board,” Heidkamp said. “It was really fun and it was chill.”

Taryn Karasti, Staff Writer

Affinity groups, special interest groups, and clubs all play important roles in student life, such as helping students connect with others that share the same identity, or allowing students to have a safe space to talk about their identities. How can these groups go above and beyond and get involved both inside and outside the walls of St. Paul Academy?
Leaders of some gender-focused groups, including juniors Clara Ann Bagnoli and Audrey Leatham (HerSpace), senior Hannah Brass (Gay Straight Alliance [GSA], Rainbow Connections, Lovelace Society), and senior Quenby Wilson (Action for Gender Equality [AGE]) are reflecting on changes their groups have made before, and they are planning on making changes that relate to what is happening in the broader world today. These presidents talked about why these changes are important, including reasons such as: changing the world that they are going to be living in, supporting the queer community, and accommodating the rise of youth protests.
Affinity groups and special interest groups can do more outside of their meetings.
In past years, Hannah Brass, president of the Gay-Straight Alliance, said that the GSA has “pushed the pronoun initiative,” and they are “really happy that it stuck.” HerSpace has also made some big changes for the female-identifying students at school: “The biggest thing was they implemented the free-of-charge menstrual products in both of the gender bathrooms,” Clara Ann Bagnoli, co-president of HerSpace said.

In 2021-2022, “USC did a revision of the dress code for graduation with some input from HerSpace leaders and members.”
Quenby Wilson said that their group, Action for Gender Equality, had also helped in changing the graduation dress code. “We changed the graduation dress code to be more inclusive of all genders. Before it had very gendered connotations with two very specific options.”

After four years we leave SPA and we want the world to be a better place once we start living in it.

— Clara Ann Bagnoli

Now, these presidents are thinking about the future.
Brass said that in the GSA, they “want to educate people…want more members [in Rainbow Connections]” and “want to encourage more…non-binary people to get into technology.”
In HerSpace, Audrey Leatham wants to focus on “incorporating more field trips and more hands-on activities. We’ll definitely engage with the members of HerSpace a little bit more.”
Now, how do all of these changes relate to what is happening in the world today?
“Queer rights are under attack,” Brass said. “With the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bills and same-sex marriage being questioned and possibly reconsidered by the Supreme Court, the queer community needs support.”
Wilson is focusing more on the protest policy. The SPA pronoun policy in the school handbook lists the rules regarding rallies, protests, and walkouts. This policy is in need of reconsideration because there are many restrictions that make it difficult for students to organize their own protests.
“There [has] been a rise in youth protests,” they said. “Very recently with the overturning of Roe v Wade and just with students led social justice becoming a more normalized part of our political sphere.”
“Giving back and engaging with our community outside of SPA is important,” Bagnoli of HerSpace said. “After four years we leave SPA and we want the world to be a better place once we start living in it.”
HerSpace meets bi-weekly on Thursdays in room 5210. GSA meets in 6220 and AGE meets in 6140 during clubs time.