In mid-April, GDS celebrated Pride Week to affirm our LGBTQ+ community in the spirit of joy, courageous authenticity, and learning, according to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director Marlo Thomas.
Marlo explained that Pride Week is about affirming identity and being proud that “there is a school out there in the world that provides an educational environment where everyone can be unapologetically comfortable in who they are…An identity-safe school fosters greater learning, interpersonal connection, and sense of belonging.”
Planning for Pride
“Everything I wanted for Pride Week came true,” said Joshua Reynolds ’24, student lead for Gradient, an affinity group for students of color who identify as queer.
Weeks before, Joshua and other members of the student affinity leadership council met at DEI Program Associate Guyton Mathews’s invitation to develop a wishlist for Pride Week at GDS. They wanted the School to celebrate queerness and offer an assembly about drag culture that would counter the barrage of news about anti-drag legislation being enacted across the country. Joshua also mentioned Beyoncé’s album Renaissance, which has been heralded for its celebration of Black queer culture. Equipped with students’ hopes and dreams, the DEI team set about developing the programming for Pride Week by partnering with expert guest speakers that could connect with the student body and bring greater education and awareness.
Hey, it’s Pride Week!
- On Monday morning, the High School kicked off the week with an assembly featuring Dr. Lady J, a non-binary transgender woman who holds a doctorate in Musicology and is the world’s first drag queen with a PhD dissertation on drag history. Right from the start of the week, she centered education and trans visibility as she illuminated the history of drag culture.
- Standing under an arc of rainbow balloons beside the LMS library, 5th graders Siri and Zora described Tuesday’s Middle School button-making activity and explained why Pride Week is important in their division.
“Pride Week (and the button-making) is so people understand and remember that everyone is represented in our community,” Siri said. “I know in some schools, books with LGBTQIA+ characters get banned, for example. And that means that kids don’t get the chance to learn about those stories and maybe not figure out who they are as well. It’s important that they learn about themselves. When you see yourself in a book or in other people, you can say, ‘Oh, that’s me!’ Then, you grow up already understanding a lot about yourself.”
“Some people may not feel that they can express themselves everywhere,” Zora said, “but at GDS you can express yourself because you have people who are supportive at the School.”
“Pride Week is so everyone knows that the School cares,” Siri said. “You see rainbows when you walk in and immediately you know, “Hey, it’s Pride Week!”
- On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at the High School, students had opportunities to connect with peers in affinity groups and make Pride Week buttons during community time and lunch. The Middle School student Gender and Sexuality Alliance group celebrated with a pizza party the following week, in order to dine together after Ramadan ended.
- On Friday, the Middle School welcomed spoken word poet Charity Blackwell, who performed poems about her personal journey to coming out, her Black female identity, and soccer as an important outlet, where she could be her full, authentic self. At the High School closing assembly, students were treated to a performance and conversation with a transgender woman who is a Beyoncé impersonator. Joshua, who originally mentioned Beyoncé during planning discussions, said, “The assembly was really fun, and I was interested in hearing all the things she had to overcome in order to be at the place she is now with a fulfilling career.”
The closing assembly illustrated the blending of joyful artistry and thoughtful learning that has defined GDS Pride Week for so many years. Speaking proudly of the School’s long-standing diversity, equity, and inclusion work at touchpoints like Pride Week and Social Justice Teach-In Days—and everywhere in between—Marlo said, “We will continue to have the courage to stand firm,” especially, she noted, as educational environments, similar to GDS, weather disparagement for the kinds of inclusive practices that make everyone feel affirmed and loved for who they are.
At the end of May, 4th graders will present the Free to Be Me Assembly at the Lower School, where they’ll celebrate themes of equality, love, and family diversity.”