Why I believe Pride celebrations should be compulsory at high schools

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

My child's all girls public high school asked the students to wear something rainbow in celebration of Pride and it made me so happy. 

Dropping her off at the school gate, with her rainbow hair ties and rainbow socks, I couldn't have been prouder of her school community. There were girls with rainbow flags and tights, rainbow makeup and rainbow jewellery. 

The choir sang This is Me from The Greatest Showman. And there was a clear message that love is love. 

This simple gesture of recognising Pride may seem small, but it could mean the world to any girls at the school struggling with their sexual identity. It will help them know they're in a safe space.

It also helps the girls understand that everyone is equal, regardless of who they chose to love. And I applaud the school for encouraging this type of dialogue.

Being a teen girl is hard enough. There's so much to learn about life, love and relationships – whether it's with friends, fellow students, your family, strangers, teachers and people who you want to kiss. Trying to navigate all of that and questioning your sexuality would be even trickier.

Knowing that you're in a school community that accepts your life choices, is there to support you when perhaps others are not willing, could be a life changer. It could even help save your life. 

These types of inclusive celebrations at high schools may seem small, but they're really powerful and I wish more schools made it compulsory. 

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For my friend Jo-Anna, things were different at her Catholic all girls high school.

"My school had many programs about kindness and acceptance, but sadly being Catholic meant that anything other than a heterosexual lifestyle was taboo," she said.

"It meant that any thought I had that I might be gay had to be squashed and ignored - because it just wasn't ok. I also didn't have any gay role models around me in life – or on television for that matter. Only the ever-present punch line or fall-back insult.

"It took me until I was 28 to accept that this might be my reality."

Jo-Anna, who has a supportive family and is now married to the love of her life, Kate, said initiatives like the one at my daughter's school will save lives.

"I love the idea of any school embracing Pride. In my youth, being gay was just a punch line for a joke, or an insult thrown when you couldn't think of anything else," she said.

"Teaching children that it is ok to be yourself - and equally importantly, raising awareness and therefore acceptance in other kids, will quite literally save lives. 

"I feel like there are so many kids out there that just need to hear that they are ok just the way that they are."

It might have been a long road for her to fully understand and accept being gay, but now she feels immense pride.

"It is important for all children and people for that matter, to feel valued and accepted regardless of sexual orientation or identification and it is up to the broader community to help create that," she said.

"We are taught to be ashamed of our sexuality if we are anything other than cis gendered heterosexuals – and that is exactly why we need Pride. 

"It is an opportunity to come together and celebrate who we are and who we love - and show how proud we are to be our authentic selves."