Local high school marks Pride Month with flag raising and celebrations

June 9, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Isabel Buckmaster

Over 150 students and staff were at the “extremely well-attended” 2SLGBTQIA+ flag raising ceremony at Orangeville District Secondary School last week, celebrating the start of Pride Month.

A first for the high school, it began with an acknowledgement of landownership and two-spirit or Indigenous queer folk in the ODSS community. Held during lunch and completely voluntary, it ended with rainbow cookies and pride. Lots of it.

“When we raised the flag, there was so much cheering and joy. It was just such a lovely event,” said Anne Thomson, English teacher and head of ODSS’s Gender and Sexuality club. “We also had a student speak at the ceremony very eloquently about the history of the 2SLGBTQIA+ rights movement and how, today with this raising of the flag, we’re part of that history.”

Thomson’s student, Xavier John, a 2SLGBTQIA+ 17-year-old at ODSS, spoke at the ceremony after she approached him after class. While John had expected maybe 20 people at the ceremony, he was shocked when that number was almost double on their arrival. And the students kept coming, dressed in the colours of their sexualities or simply sporting rainbows.

“I just think it was really cool just to be a part of 2SLGBTQIA+ history, even if it was just a ceremonial flag raising,” said John, who identifies as he/they. “Just knowing that I was the first one, that I have made my mark and my legacy on the movement as a whole no matter how small it is, it’s just really cool to think about.”

June is an international celebration of pride and learning about 2SLGBTQIA+ people, and history in the Upper Grand District School Board, which includes Orangeville and Dufferin County. While most schools hosted their own events, they were each provided with resources discussing identities, histories, pronouns etc.

“I still think there are many students who, whether it’s for school-based reasons or family reasons, don’t feel safe expressing their gender identity or sexual orientation. So I think that’s the main area to work on,” said Thomson. “And so that means creating a culture within school and our larger society where everybody, all youth, feel safe and comfortable to express who they are.”

John had a similar sentiment. While he and Thomson believe that the attitude has “shifted quite a bit” to where “people are more commonly accepting,” there’s still a way to go.

“There’s still homophobia and transphobia that is perpetuated typically by the more straight cisgender community that aren’t really friends with people in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community,” said John. “But I think as a whole, people are more accepting [then they were five years ago].”

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