Across South Muskoka, schools are now flying the pride flag
June is Pride Month, which commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, New York, and local schools have raised the progress pride flag until the end of the month.
All of the schools in South Muskoka from both the Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board are now flying the pride flag or recognizing Pride month on their outdoor signage.
“The month-long celebration is a way to recognize the impact that 2SLGTBQIA+ [two-spirit, lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual] individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally,” said TLDSB on its website.
The progress pride flag, which was created in 2018, has a five-coloured chevron that represents “racialized people and transgender identity, placing greater emphasis on intersectionality and progression. Raising the flag will visibly highlight our continued commitment to ensuring equity, dignity, well-being, diversity, and inclusion of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in TLDSB,” the board added.
Shawn Forth, an elementary school teacher and member of the TLDSB Positive Space Committee as well as a representative for Muskoka Pride, said that it’s been an evolutionary process to get to this point.
The school board began placing Positive Space plaques in schools about eight years ago to affirm its commitment to everyone being welcome in the building, noted Forth. “Having myself grown up as an LGTBQ+ youth in Muskoka and not seeing myself represented, I know that it can be very isolating and can make you feel that you’re the only one if it’s not talked about. The fact that the school board is being very visible in supporting them and creating those opportunities for conversations and to see themselves reflected in the curriculum and in the school” can help 2SLGTBQIA+ youth realize they’re not alone.
Although some schools have individually chosen to raise a rainbow pride flag in the past, this is the first year that all of the board’s schools have flown a pride flag, and in particular the progress pride flag.
The progress pride flag “incorporates aspects of the rainbow community that are marginalized, that maybe weren’t represented as much,” said Forth. “So putting at the forefront people of colour, people in the trans and gender-diverse communities.”
It also acknowledges intersectionality — the ways in which an individual’s different identities, like gender identity, race, and cultural background, can overlap, contributing to different lived experiences and different forms of discrimination.
The new chevron shape on the flag is like an arrow “pushing forward but it’s on the left-hand side so there’s still a lot of work to go. The rainbow flag is still there, but we’re trying to lift up those voices that are often not heard,” said Forth. “It tells a really nice story and that’s why Muskoka Pride decided last fall that we would be using this for our flag-raising. I’m glad the school board chose the progress pride flag instead of just the rainbow flag — I think it makes a much more important statement.”
TLDSB said it “is committed to creating an inclusive environment, understanding the culture, beliefs, and identity of our staff and students. As an organization, we continue to learn and grow each day. As we educate our staff and students, and welcome positive spaces for our 2SLGTBQIA+ community, TLDSB will be flying the progress pride flag at all education centres from June 1 to 30 and all schools from June 14 to 30.”
For more information about positive spaces in TLDSB, visit the Positive Space page on the Board’s website.
Although June is Pride Month, Muskoka Pride Week is held in July, this year from July 17-25. Events are still being finalized. For more information about Muskoka Pride, visit muskokapride.com.
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