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LGBT History Month at City of London School

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

To mark LGBT History Month, City of London School will be hosting a number of activities including a special Upper School Assembly, a library display and various lunchtime talks as well as our very first LGBTQ Alumni Meet Up! Please enjoy this article written by Ian Emerson, Head of Sixth Form.

"February is LGBT History Month and City of London School will be marking the occasion with a special Upper School Assembly, focussing on the struggle for LGBT rights in the UK. The School Library will also host an LGBT History Month display of books and DVDs and the school’s LGBT+ Society will host several events. We will finish the month with the inaugural LGBTQ Alumni Group meet up on 28 February.  

CLS has been a Stonewall Schools’ Champion since 2018 and the organisation’s crest is proudly displayed on our school website and reception. The award arrived 15 years to the day following the abolition of Section 28. What a long way we have come!

The LGBT+ Society at City of London School was founded in 2016. Coco Stevenson (Deputy Head Pastoral) and Ian Emerson (Head of Sixth Form) had been talking with and supporting boys who had recently come out or who were wanting to discuss issues concerning sexuality. They talked about the possibility of founding an LGBT+ Society at the School and sounded out the boys; one boy said, “I have been waiting seven years for this!”. The time was right. From the start the Society has been embraced by the boys, staff and parents; it continues to meet weekly at CLS and goes from strength to strength. With around a dozen to fifteen boys meeting each week, the society seeks to support boys, staff and their friends and family who identify with the LGBT community. The society is very proud that many straight allies also attend meetings and talks. LGBT+ Soc meets under the mantra, “You don’t have to come out to come in”. No one is expected to make any kind of statement about themselves. The weekly meetings range from discussion on topics to presentations and support sessions.

We are proud to have hosted a number of inspiring speakers since the founding of the society.  Ben Cohen, Chief Executive of Pink News, visited the school last year to talk about his life and work promoting LGBT rights in the UK and around the world.  Author Simon Green came in to speak about his novel “Noah Can’t Even”, and Gerald Dowler, one of our MFL teachers and a sitting magistrate, gave a talk to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wolfenden Report and shared a brilliantly informative account of how LGBT rights have advanced over the last 50 years.  We have also hosted John Amaechi OBE, retired NBA basketball player and psychologist, who talked about his life in sport and his coming out during his years playing in the NBA league.

To celebrate S6 boys leaving CLS and at the end of every term to celebrate their contributions to the life of the society, we hold a party for the boys and enjoy the now infamous CLS LGBT+ Soc rainbow cake!  Many staff attend and the gesture of support is appreciated by the boys.  We have also awarded our first ever Full Colours to two S6 boys for their sterling support for the Society over the last two years.  They have both now moved on to university and are playing a full part in their universities’ LGBT associations.  

CLS hosts its very own Pride Festival to coincide with London Pride and City Pride.  In 2018, speakers included Stonewall Champion Pierre-Antoine Godefroy and Peter Laverack and Jason Jones who won a recent landmark case for LGBT rights in Trinidad and Tobago.  The rainbow flag is raised over the school and we are going to keep the flag flying each year for Pride; an important symbol in the city and a hugely visible gesture about what we stand for. The Head, Coco Stevenson and Ian Emerson marched with the City of London in the 2018 London Pride Parade in solidarity with all young people in all schools in the UK.

The school is very proud of all the boys who attend the LGBT+ Society and all that is going on to celebrate the diversity of the school; we feel deeply enriched as a school community as a result.  Attitudes and views have changed, boys are better informed and the LGBT+ community is a visible and vibrant, proud and outward-looking part of the School."

We are thrilled that we now have an Old Citizens’ LGBT network and will be looking at ways for the LGBT+ Society and the LGBTQ Alumni Group to work together.

Attitudes and views have changed, boys are better informed and the LGBT+ community is visible and vibrant.
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