By Darren Lum
There is reason for optimism for the LGBTQIA2S+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit) community after the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School’s (HHSS) Pride Week said organizers.
One of three main organizers, Katy Booth, who is also a HHSS social justice and equity student in the class’s first year of existence, said she’s been happy with the reaction by her peers, and teachers at the school for the week.
From what she saw, it is more “normalized” to be part of the LGBTQIA2S+ community.
“There’s not so much reaction to it. Of course that’s not in all cases. There’s still homophobia in small pockets, as well as at home [in broad terms], but I’ve noticed at school very, very fortunately, very thankfully this is a safer space,” she said on the Wednesday during the bake sale of Pride Week.
Each day of the week for the school event included colour days when people were encouraged to wear that colour. There was a different activity for each day, which included making buttons with pronouns on them on Monday; spreading kindness with written messages to encourage love and acceptance on Post-it notes on Tuesday; an opportunity to purchase bake sale goods (made by students studying culinary arts), with sales contributing to Minden Pride; the purchase of white T-shirts (with proceeds to Minden Pride) for the Colour Run on Thursday, and then participation in the Colour Run, which included a lap around the school’s track and various stations such as one where students could get get ice cream and another to make buttons on Friday.
The week was organized by Katy, Rayven Rideout and Landon Chaulk, and the leadership class.
Katy said the involvement by the social justice and equity class is rooted in the same approach as the leadership class, who look to find social causes to not only fundraise for, but to also educate and raise awareness in the school.
Being part of the community made this past week’s Pride Week significant.
“The importance for me is recognizing how far we still have to go and seeing yourself represented and just moving from tolerance to acceptance,” said Katy. “Making that shift is very important, and just being surrounded by a community and allyship and seeing how we’re not that different.”
She came out as bisexual in Grade 6 and is open to discussing her sexual orientation, remarking how she continues to come out to others through organic interactions. For her it’s important to fundraise, but also it’s important to encourage “allyship.”
The week also included a series of announcements for the school she made after consultation with Minden Pride that included music by LGBTQIA2S+ artists, the progress made and the various barriers facing the community.
“Through this learning experience, I’ve actually been surprised with the participation. It’s been surprising,” she said.
She hopes this momentum carries to next year, so the school’s Gay Straight Alliance can start again and move from its dormant state to a more active one.
Co-organizer Rayven, who is open about being pansexual – she likes people for who they are and not necessarily their sexual orientation, said informing her peers is significant to breaking down barriers.
“Sometimes I see people walking around the school [and I see them] stopping and looking at the flyers that we put up and reading them and saying, ‘Oh, yeah, I didn’t know that.’ She added the awareness helps to dispel stereotypes about the community and the related Pride events.
When they held the button making workshop, she remembers expecting only 20 participants and the turnout exceeded her expectations.
“The amount of people that came out was just heartwarming. It’s such a nice feeling to be able see that so many people are supportive even though you didn’t expect them to be,” she said.
The Grade 11 student only moved here this year from the Barrie and Midland area where she attended a Catholic school. The acceptance she has witnessed here was a contrast to her past experience.
Rayven wants to see efforts held year-round instead of by week or month.
“I hope one day we can have the ally flag flying all the time, [rather] than just during the [month of Pride],” she said.