Raising the Pride Flag
Last week, the final meeting of the academic year for our LGBT+ Society took place. Members joined Coco Stevenson, Deputy Head Pastoral and founder of the society, in a virtual 'cutting of the rainbow cake', a tradition that will hopefully carry on for many years to come.
Today, our annual Pride Flag raising took place, albeit with society members watching virtually. The annual event is one we look forward to each year and where we usually welcome LGBT+ members of the CLS community and alumni to a reception.
Since we cannot join together this year, we asked Ms Stevenson to share her reflections on what Pride means to her and the school.
“Three and a half years ago I received an anonymous question – did we have a group for pupils who were gay? We didn’t, but it was something that we had been thinking about, and so we set one up. Within a couple of weeks, a small group of boys were meeting on a Friday lunchtime and posters were all round school with the tag line ‘you don’t have to be out to come in’.
In the sessions, we shared coming out stories, we discussed different parental attitudes, the casual and corrosive use of the word ‘gay’, LGBT issues around the world, newspaper articles, gender, masculinity, religion, sport and stereotyping in film and television. We have been on outings to the cinema and we celebrate the end of the long winter term with the now famous LGBT+ rainbow cake!
The society made LGBT+ issues and LGBT+ pupils visible. It gave them a safe space to be themselves and to discuss matters of significance. One boy in Senior Sixth Form proclaimed ‘I have waited seven years for this’. Others popped in and out of meetings, some scrupulously attended even during study leave. Pupils came back to give talks and I am so pleased we now also have an LGBT+ Alumni group.
The Society worked with the Head of PSHE and with the pupils’ input we rewrote the PSHE programmes. We did assemblies, we got in speakers - some very high profile, all extremely interesting. Every single speaker who has come into talk has expressed their jubilation that we were doing what we were doing, and bemoaned the absence of similar set-up or outlook their own schools when they were growing up.
We encourage staff to attend, we promote the concept of ally-ship, members’ friends come to support their friends, the pupil leadership team and leaders of different faith groups within the school attended to show solidarity alongside our promotion of diversity and inclusion. Even in the virtual world, the Society remains an active and engaged group. We are continuing to meet ‘virtually’ even while the School is closed to the majority of pupils.
Occasionally people ask why it is necessary to have an LGBT+ Society and why it is necessary to talk about LGBT+ issues in school more widely. They say, surely in this day and age no one cares, surely nowadays all young people are sexually fluid, gender fluid and open-minded. Surely, we don’t need Pride anymore.
But I do think it is necessary, perhaps more than ever. We live in an increasingly polarised society and hate crime is on the rise. I have lost count of the number of pupils (and adults) who are ashamed and embarrassed of who they are, who fear their parents will reject them, who have heard the word ‘gay’ as an insult in the playground (or the workplace), who are shouted at in the street for holding hands with their partner, who suffer poor self-esteem or poor mental health. If during an assembly, or a PSHE talk, or during a society meeting, one young person in the room feels accepted, feels heard, feels represented, sees someone they can relate to or makes them feel it’s ok to be who they are, then it is absolutely worth it."
So today we raise the Pride flag, whilst School remains closed to the majority of our community, to show our support and solidarity to members of the LGBT+ community.
The annual event is one we look forward to each year and where we usually welcome LGBT+ members of the CLS community and alumni to a reception.