Celebrating diversity through PRIDE
Research shows that LGBTI students with supportive educators and friends who understand their sexuality or gender identity feel safer at school, skip fewer classes, and earn higher grades than students without such support and acknowledgment. At Carey we embrace difference and celebrate our diversity, helping our community to become stronger and, ultimately, more resilient.
In line with this commitment to celebrating diversity, the Carey PRIDE Group was formed earlier this year and has already become a welcoming, supportive and safe environment for any lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) students.
The group has also welcomed the involvement of student allies who have identified the many benefits of having a formalised group within our school. Being proud and expanding the pride message can make a big difference. For many students, simply knowing that the PRIDE Group exists, and has the support of allies, is a huge source of hope and affirmation – providing compassion and empathy through an active student voice.
Head of Senior School, Nat Charles saw great value in encouraging Senior School students to form the Carey PRIDE Group, but she also acknowledges that being a pathfinder is never easy. ‘By definition, pathfinders do not give up easily. After all, it’s in their nature to try and try again until others can walk beside or behind them, but the experience can be exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. And so it was for Jeremy Cowen who came to me as a Year 11 student last year to share his story and let me know that his internal reserves had been stretched to breaking point,’ she said.
Jeremy told Nat, ‘I have tried to change perceptions within our community, I have tried to educate, and I have tried to stay strong. However, I have come to the point where I have found myself tired and running out of steam.’ Nat said that such an honest disclosure pointed to an acute need for Carey to better support
LGBTI students, ultimately leading to the establishment of a charter designed to encourage greater understanding, learning and empathy.
Challenging the old adage that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’, Nat believes that some people forget the devastating
power of words and their capacity to inflict damage that can last a lifetime.
‘Engaging the often complex forces that lie behind such debased expressions of ignorance has to be our priority as educators and inevitably takes time, but for the young men and women for whom the words are intended, this is time that they simply don’t have because the stakes are so high. The Carey PRIDE Group reminds our students that they are never alone. And more than that, they have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of!’
Middle School staff allies Penny Westmore and Josette Tyler have been active participants in the PRIDE Group, which they believe ‘says NO to prejudice and acknowledges that difference gives richness to our school community’. As professional educators, they both understand that providing a safe environment where all students feel supported and able to express themselves is incredibly important for their wellbeing.
They said, ‘From our perspective, we have seen a positive outcome for these students through conversations and actions that are initiated at the meetings. The group is a very creative one, where everyone’s ideas are valued and acknowledged. Staff come from varied experiences and backgrounds, and we feel enriched by the group’s vision. The Marriage Equality Yes vote empowered the students to be more courageous, and we applaud them for this.
Student member Chris Yeo has thoroughly enjoyed his involvement with the PRIDE Group, especially during Pride Week. He felt it gave the PRIDE Group members the ability to see for themselves the benefits the group has created in such a short space of time. He said, ‘It’s all about a celebration of who we are, and is open to quite literally anybody within the School who wishes to attend – allies are included and encouraged.’
It is an honour to help lead and coordinate the Carey PRIDE Group. The enthusiasm shown by our members and allies, who attend lunchtime meetings and casually chat with me around the school, demonstrates the power of inclusion and self-determination in establishing respect and understanding of our LGBTI students, friends and family. Community starts with action, and those actions lead to results. The PRIDE Group will continue to flourish because our students understand the importance of everyone’s human right to be their authentic individual self.
Carey’s PRIDE teacher advocate and Leader of Learning – Art & Design