Secondary schools unite in pride for The Lil’ Gay Out

Issue: Volume 102, Number 13

Posted: 5 October 2023
Reference #: 1HAce2

More than 300 Rainbow ākonga from 15 secondary schools across Auckland came together in June for a day of celebration, learning and connection.

Hobsonville Point Secondary School (HPSS) held the The Lil’ Gay Out for the third consecutive year. 

Hobsonville Point Secondary School (HPSS) held the The Lil’ Gay Out for the third consecutive year. 

The Lil’ Gay Out is an annual event organised by Hobsonville Point Secondary School (HPSS) during Schools’ Pride Week Aotearoa (12 to 16 June).

Schools’ Pride Week is a way to encourage school leaders, teachers and educators to support and celebrate our Rainbow ākonga, by highlighting values such as inclusion, diversity and acceptance in schools.

Rainbow ākonga are estimated to make up to 20 percent of the total student population and are present in all schools. Every school should provide safe and inclusive spaces that are free from discrimination for all students, including Rainbow ākonga.

Hobsonville Point Secondary School HOD Student Services and event organiser Victoria Marsden says 2023 was the third annual Lil’ Gay Out hosted by their school, and had the largest number of attendees to date.

“It provides students with a fabulous way to celebrate who they are,” she says.

Community organisations come together

This year, students were able to choose to attend two of the nine workshops hosted by community facilitators and organisations.

“The majority of those who committed to delivering the workshops did so even before funding had been secured,” says Victoria.

 A variety of workshops were on offer for students to attend.

A variety of workshops were on offer for students to attend.

Workshops on offer included How to Make Your School Diversity Group a Success with InsideOUT Kōaro, Rainbow Māori and Pasifika Mental Health with NevertheLess, Queer Representation in Film and Literature with Auckland Libraries, Rainbow Safe Sex with BodyPositive and Dr Torrance Merkle, Gender Affirming 101 with Auckland Sexual Health Services, Being OUT in Sport with SchoolSports in NZ and special guest Kate Weatherly, Make Your Own Pride Flag with Queer Yarns, Navigating the Online World as a Queer Person with NetSafe, and Sexualities/Gender/Identity with Rainbow Youth.

“To have such a wide range of workshop options for students to choose from speaks to the support of Lil’ Gay Out from Rainbow organisations in Auckland and also the growing popularity of the event,” says Victoria.

She says student feedback from previous years set the format for the 2023 event.

“We started the day with a whanaungatanga session split into two groups: Spoken Word Poetry – the Pride Edition with Action Ed, and Rainbow Zumba with Fleur from Zumba Hobsonville.”

She says students attended the session that aligned with their interests and many shared that these initial workshops made them feel safe, and provided the opportunity to connect with many people who accepted them.

Members of the New Zealand Police Diversity Liaison Team spoke to attendees.

Members of the New Zealand Police Diversity Liaison Team spoke to attendees.

The Diversity Liaison Team from the New Zealand Police then spoke to the attendees with Senior Sergeant Rhona Stace sharing her moving story of coming out as transgender in the police.

Students learned what is happening both within the NZ Police, and between the police and the community, to create safer spaces and relationships for Rainbow officers and those in the Rainbow community.

The last session of the day was with Chlöe Swarbrick, Member of Parliament, speaking about some of her experiences as a member of the Rainbow community.

Following this, Chlöe hosted a Q&A session with students who asked her about topics such as voting, the next election, MMP and the New Zealand mental health system.

The day ended with a performance from international drag superstar, the amazing Anita Wigl’it.

Inclusive learning and connection

Victoria says it was moving to see the participants connecting with others who identify similarly to them and experience being truly accepted in a school setting.

Students shared that Rhona’s story, and that of others on the day, allowed them to be in “a community and surrounded by people that have had the same struggles as me”.

The event has grown in popularity each year.

The event has grown in popularity each year.

One student said, “It made me feel really grateful to have so much support and gave me an opportunity to meet a bunch of cool new people. I feel I learned a lot, and also feel like I strengthened my connection to myself and my identity by participating.”

The workshops were a highlight for many students who enjoyed “learning and engaging in meaningful discussions” and “gaining a sense of community… having a lovely day in a safe environment, and having an educational day to learn about topics I most likely wouldn’t have known outside of this event”.

Community facilitators and organisations hosted the nine workshops.

Community facilitators and organisations hosted the nine workshops.

Victoria says it is an honour that HPSS is leading the way in supporting Rainbow young people.

She says a staff member from a visiting school shared that they “cried at the end of the day having seen my students feel how I wish they could always feel. It’s something I hope for everyone to see, then maybe there would be the understanding we need to move forward in the ways that are necessary. Thank you so much for providing this opportunity to my students, it’s given them so much joy and hope.”

The event was made possible thanks to generous sponsorship from Foundation North, the Peter Rule Foundation, Rainbow New Zealand Charitable Trust and FCB Aotearoa.

“These relationships have opened up some exciting opportunities for future Lil’ Gay Out events, including a possible larger venue and securing funding for an event organiser,” says Victoria.

Ways to make your school or kura more inclusive

Download the Ending rainbow-focused bullying and discrimination workbook. The Ministry of Education funded InsideOUT Kōaro to develop this as a resource to assist schools in creating inclusive and caring learning environments for all students. Visit link).

Prepare with your community now for Schools’ Pride Week next year. More information and ideas to celebrate are available at link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:52 am, 5 October 2023

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