Birmingham Pride took place on 24 – 25 September, with thousands joining the celebrations of LGBTQ+ people and culture in the city.
LGBTQ+ young people’s charity Just Like Us teamed up with the Pride organisers to run a school event which has been praised by students as helping them “to not feel so alone”.
More than 50 pupils and teachers from across the West Midlands attended the event, which school administrators have hailed as “life-changing” for young people.
Just Like Us ambassadors talked to students and teachers about their experiences growing up LGBTQ+ and why allyship matters.
Students also had the chance to write postcards with affirming messages to themselves.
The Birmingham Pride team organised a brunch where they spoke about the city’s diverse history, before schools made signs and then headed to join the march.
For many of the students, this was their first experience of Pride.
Rebecca, a Year 11 student said: “This is my first time at Pride and I just thought it was really cool seeing everyone here being themselves – it’s really inspiring and makes me want to be comfortable in my own skin. I think it’s really important because everyone deserves to not feel so alone and feel loved in every environment they’re in.”
“It’s been amazing – all of it. It’s my first time at Birmingham Pride, it’s been so fun to have such a community spirit,” said Aaliyah, another year 11 student.
“The diversity is amazing and it’s important to show students what life is about.”
Year 9 pupil, Matty, added: “I was so excited, very, very excited about this. It’s been really fun and I’m really surprised at how many people there are. I’ve learnt how we can celebrate differences between us and that we are loved too.”
Sue Laffey from Stourport High School in Stourport-on-Severn said: “I’ve been teaching for 34 years and it’s changed beyond recognition because when I started in 1988 that was when Section 28 came in. So to even mention the word homosexual or gay, I just couldn’t do it – you weren’t allowed to mention it whatsoever.”
“So to be able to move from that to this, where I can openly talk about LGBT+ rights and identities and issues with a bunch of young people – openly and legally – is like chalk and cheese. It’s like a different world.”
Laffey added: “I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a joyful environment of celebration, support and friendship, it’s just amazing.”
The teacher recognised the importance of students getting involved with Pride.
“If you’re LGBT+ and you want to be able to identify as that – perhaps you’re not able to do that at home because your family isn’t so supportive – schools have to provide that supportive place for students to be able to be themselves and grow into themselves as adults.
“We will definitely be developing on this and I hope that Just Like Us will run this event again and that we carry on allowing LGBT+ students to grow. Go Birmingham Pride!”
Dominic Arnall, Chief Executive of Just Like Us said: “We are incredibly proud to have created an event where young people can learn about diversity and say they have felt less alone.”
“The event has been a fantastic success and a chance for school pupils to learn about the diverse history of the city they live in. We’re delighted to have teamed up with Birmingham Pride to show young people that being LGBT+ is something to be celebrated.”
If you’d like to help Just Like Us to support more school pupils, make a donation now.