TRURO – It was a time for celebration for the student body at the Cobequid Educational Centre as a rainbow flag was hoisted up a pole in front of the school.
The school hosted its first Pride Week, an idea the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), formerly the Gay Straight Alliance, had been working on for a few months with the collaboration of student council to help get all students involved.
“By hosting our first Pride Week, our school is taking an important step in recognizing and championing our LGBTQ+ people, friends, and classmates, and those who will come after us,” said Jason Riemersma, a student leader of GSA, during the flag raising ceremony. “Our uniqueness, our difference – they are important and immutable facts that we celebrate.”
Just before two students raised the flag, Riemersma addressed those gathered – students, faculty, and others from the community, including the Truro Police Service – and said the flag raising demonstrates support of the community and recognizes progress that’s been made, as well as the progress still to come.
The flag raising, he said, helps remember those in the LGBTQ+ community and what they’ve endured, so others can be here today. They were also celebrating the police service, who actively shows their support in events throughout the community.
“However we have not yet reached the utopia of acceptance in this short time,” he said. “We have made significant progress but there is still plenty of progress to be made. Far too often, LGBTQ+ people feel they must hide or suppress who they are just to feel safe. Every moment and every movement they make comes to the level of calculation to see if they feel safe in that moment.”
Many in the LGBTQ+ community, he said, endure internalized phobias as a result of the society they were brought up in, one Riemersma said taught people it was wrong, immoral, and disgusting to be who they truly are.
“It’s a week for the LGBTQ+ community and allies to come together to support each other, and more specifically, to openly support LGBTQ+ people. In raising this flag, CEC is showing that it’s not wrong, it’s not immoral, and it’s not disgusting to be true to your gender, to be true to your sexuality, to be true to who you are.”
Following the flag raising ceremony and ribbon cutting to officially open the rainbow crosswalk from the Colchester Legion Stadium to the school, Riemersma said he wanted to see a Pride Week held to show how supportive the school is.
“Even just walking into school, you can see this is a welcoming, happy place to be,” he said.
Bryant Vance, a teacher advisor with the GSA, said the rainbow is a beacon for people, and to include the flag and crosswalk were main inclusions to their Pride Week.
“It shows diversity, but it also is a way to break down barriers,” Vance said. “We see the pride flag flapping in the wind, or a crosswalk with multiple colours – we see that this place has allies, this place is safe, and this place celebrates diversity.”
Other events in the school’s Pride Week included a dance and healthy relationship seminar.
“It’s something I felt was really necessary because in the public health system, LGBTQ+ relationships are very rarely, if ever, talked about. Having events like that and having a dance, it’s a great way to give support to the community, but also reach out to allies.”
The final event to the celebration was a barbecue with members of the local police service, where they’d have a chance to show students what it’s like to be an ally and role model.