Students at Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Whitehorse, Yukon have finally established a Gay-Straight Alliance, and more than half of the graduating class showed their support for the group by wearing rainbow socks to graduation.
Unsurprisingly Vanier had an anti-gay description written into the school policies, calling it a "grave disorder." However, in Yukon, Catholic schools are publicly funded (as they are in Australia, I believe, where I lived for a summer and got heavily interested in the debate over the Gonski review, is this common for commonwealth schools?), and the Yukon Territorial Government essentially told the school (and presiding Bishop Gary Gordon) to knock that shit off as long as tax dollars were involved. Once the policy was formally removed, the students agitated for a Gay-Straight Alliance, showing up to protest at the Yukon Legislature.
The students received their Gay-Straight Alliance, and the Grade 12s who chose to wear the rainbow socks say it was all about a celebration of the group and the win by students. The students who fought the policy and supported the establishment of the group included Liam Finnegan, an openly gay student at Vanier, who says his friend Kate Power was the organiser of the socks statement of support.
She wanted to make a statement saying 'We're not a homophobic school' because a lot of people have that perception, so it was a really cool experience to see that. I remember my dad telling me afterwards how it was an emotional experience, because it showed my class really supporting me, my cause and just being a really open group of people."
Of the change to the policy and the establishment of the Gay-Straight Alliance, Finnegan remarked:
It's a big difference and it's noticeable. Even though it might have just been a few words that changed in the policy, it's given us the chance to start a wonderful group that's trying to make a huge difference in our school and in our community.
I went to high school in the late 90s. At a public school in Texas, not a parochial or private school of any type. When I suggested a Gay-Straight Alliance, I was shot down by my principal immediately. Only one lesbian couple was out, and they were terribly harassed. I was pretty badly bullied just for the perception I was a gay boy (rather than a gay trans girl, as I actually was). I cannot say with certainty that my GSA would have been supported by my student body. Probably not. It might have actually been used as an excuse to increase harassment. I consider that situation likely in retrospect.
Good on the students of Vanier Catholic Secondary School for taking this terribly discriminatory, hate filled policy to task. Catholic or not, this is not a private school. It is a publicly funded school, and that crap shouldn't fly (not that as an attendee of Catholic schools in New Mexico and Texas during my pre-high school days, I would be personally be okay with the policy at any school, but I recognise the legal distinction). And further accolades for taking the establishment of a GSA to the legislature, getting it set up, and supporting it so visibly during graduation. Visibility matters.
Image via Shutterstock.