Toronto
2 min

Running the rainbow flag

Kingston high school student flies the colours

TWO-SPIRITED. Tomson Highway addresses kids and grown-ups at education how-to, Equity For All. Credit: Xtra files

In his last year of high school, Steve Durant helped hang a giant rainbow flag over a two-storey balcony in the building’s lobby.



During lunch that same week, he set up camp with an information table. Now Durant is coming to Toronto next week to teach others how students can organize around gay and lesbian issues.



At 16, his own sexual identity is not something he thinks is important and he doesn’t want to talk about it.



“I don’t see it as a huge part of my life but I realize it is for some people. I’m not sure.”



Regardless, he is making Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute a good place for gay and lesbian young people.



Steve is involved with The Respect Group, an extracurricular social justice committee dedicated to talking about racism, homophobia and poverty with other students.



The group helped put on the first ever Rainbow Week, a high school-style Pride event. “We had an information table in the main lobby, with pamphlets from OPIRG explaining what homophobia is, links to support services, etc. But it was also about Pride, like we read out gay and lesbian authors over the loud speaker in the morning after the morning announcements.”



The gay stuff met with mixed reactions. “Some kids see it as a joke, others are welcoming. Our school has a reputation as being open; lots of alternative groups tend to go. We have it good as far as low incidences of blatant homophobia.”



The staff at KCVI was also a little hesitant, but generally open, Durant says.



“They did object to us putting the rainbow flag on the flag pole, but I think it was more of an issue around having to take off the Canadian flag in order to raise the rainbow one.”



And though Durant wrote a press release that ended up being heavily edited by the administration, he speaks of Rainbow Week being a success. “The staff didn’t want it to seem like we were promoting the lifestyle. But most of us don’t believe it’s a choice. The Respect Group just wants all gay and lesbian students to feel comfortable and safe at school.”



The second Rainbow Week comes up at the end of March and is going to be more of a celebration.



In the larger Kingston community, Durant says there are many resources for the under-25 queer about town. “There’s OPIRG at Queen’s that’s really supportive.”



Durant is one of the student facilitators involved in the professional development conference, Equity For All, to be held at Jarvis Collegiate (at the corner of Wellesley) on Fri, Feb 18 and 19. He will travel with one of the two staff advisors from the Respect Group, who is out at his job.



“He’s really well liked. I’m not sure how well known it is in the general school population, but he’s out to us in the Respect Group.”



Durant, meanwhile, is off to McGill next year to study political science. He wants to become a social worker.



The conference starts off Friday evening at xpm with keynote speaker Tomson Highway, and costs about $100 for adults, $25 for youth.



For info contact Watson@pathcom.com or check out the website of the Ontario Rainbow Classroom Network at www.dezines.com/rainbow.