Last year an ambitious and deeply motivated group of students at SHSB took on a challenge. They decided that for too long schools like SHSB, which hold tradition so close to their heart have ignored minority students, whom face passive oppression, day in and day out. Their idea to combat this involved the founding of our school’s very first LGBT & Equality Society, and after much deliberation and discussion with the school’s leadership bodies, it was made possible.
Of course founding any society is difficult. It appears to be that once we actually get what we want, it can be very difficult to decide how we are going to use it. What influence could such a society potentially have within the school?
Now, naturally when you have a blank canvas in front of you everybody has a different idea on how is best to decorate it. This may have led to one or two rifts here and there, but that has only contributed to the society’s development. After a large amount of discussion and planning throughout the summer, and with a fantastic new leadership duo; George Wright of Year 13, and myself (Owen Cartey of Year 12), we can finally say that our rebranded and re-launched LGBT Society, is having its most successful year yet!
On average the society has doubled its membership in the first few weeks, reaching 18 consistent members, and still has huge potential to expand within the school. Unlike last year, we have attempted to broaden the horizons of the society and attempt to fully integrate within the school, instead of hiding away in an isolated sub-group of the SHSB community. This integration was demonstrated on Wednesday 4th October, when our Equali-tea cake sale, completely sold out and raised £70 – which for a society with a somewhat controversial reputation is a fantastic success which we aim to build upon later on in the year.
As Co-Leader of LGBT society, one of the questions I get asked most frequently is “Why do you bother having a society in the first place?” The answer to that is of course different for everyone, but for me in particular it’s so that we can bring people together instead of tearing them apart. Honestly, I alongside many of our membership are not concerned with labels, pronouns or genders. We just want a society that is fun and open to anyone but also educates and helps those of us who are struggling with our identity when that is needed. Ultimately it’s so we have the opportunity to gossip every Wednesday lunchtime.
The activities and events we hold vary each week, and they are certainly not always fuelled by homosexual themes. For example we have played board games, gossiped, held bake sales; and we plan throughout the rest of the year to have monthly quizzes covering a range of different topics, educational talks, and organise other events within the school. Perhaps even pushing for our very own SHSB Pride in 2018 full of music, art and mass participation throughout the school. An event that demonstrates our unity behind a message of fairness and equality for all. Certainly, this would mark a phenomenal transition from the dark and oppressive corridors the school had beforehand.
At the end of the day, having an LGBT society in any school is by no means an opportunity to push some of the beliefs of an extremist faction of the community upon everybody else. The vast majority of LGBT people are not convinced by these louder, more ideologically flamboyant individuals themselves. We have these societies to ensure there is never misrepresentation in the future, and to create a comfortable and fun place for anyone to go on a Wednesday at lunch, when they don’t have anything else to do.
I personally like to think of myself as the Leader of the most vibrant and fun society at Southend High School for Boys!