Auckland School’s Rainbow Festival: The Lil’ Gay Out!

Anita Wigl'it shot at @happyplacenz by Peter Jennings.
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RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under alumni Anita Wigl’it joined in the celebrations for the first-ever Lil Gay Out at Hobsonville Point Secondary School.

What do you get when you combine over 170 students from 14 schools around Auckland, 25 external staff members/visiting adults, 12 HPSS helping staff, 14 facilitators from Rainbow organisations and 1 drag queen?

The very first Lil Gay Out: Auckland School’s Rainbow Festival!

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The Lil Gay Out grew out of a conversation between staff at Hobsonville Point Secondary School about what stands in the way of Rainbow rangitahi feeling safe at school. Following a whole lot of planning, Wednesday 19th May Hobsonville Point Secondary School exploded in rainbows as students from a wide range of genders and sexualities took part in a day of connecting, learning and celebration.

The excitement from the students was palpable as they walked into the school and saw the rainbow registration desk and the decorated auditorium, picked up their goodie bags and met students from other schools. 

The day opened with a mihi from HPSS Principal Maurie Abraham and personal video messages of support from singer Benee and Prime Minister Jacinda Adern and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson. To hear the intake of breath that the leader of their country sees and supports these students was very moving. Students then moved into a ‘Movement for Joy’ workshop led by world recognised Māori contemporary dancer, choreographer, teacher, facilitator and writer Jack Gray. As the artistic director of Atamira Dance Company Jack took the students through dance, movement and a lot of fun!

They then moved onto a Student Coming Out Panel facilitated by InsideOUT. Five students from three different schools shared their experiences of coming out and answered questions from the floor. It was humbling to see the bravery of these rangitahi as they shared what were sometimes difficult stories and were open to offering advice to their peers about coming out and keeping safe.

The middle section of the day comprised of five workshops – of which students could select two. These workshops were planned in response to voice from HPSS students about what they wanted to learn about. These workshops were delivered by experts in the Rainbow Community: Rainbow Sexual Health – delivered by Body Positive, Dr Torrance Merkle & Dr Eva Gregory, Rainbow Support – delivered by OUTLine,  Transgender Health – delivered by Rainbow Youth, Queer NZ History and Zine Making – Auckland Libraries, and Gender Identities – delivered by InsideOUT.

While the workshops were being held, staff and visitors met to discuss how we are supporting Rainbow rangitahi in our schools. This included discussion about some of the challenges staff can face when supporting rainbow young people and the HPSS team shared some of the ways that they do this with policies and procedures. 

Following a lunchtime performance by Coven-Carangi and a visit from the Diversity Liaison Officers from the NZ Police in the Rainbow Police car, students enjoyed a session of Drag Bingo hosted by the fabulous Anita Wigl’it. 

Some of the hopes that organisers held for the event were that these Rainbow rangitahi experienced a sense of belonging, acknowledgement, validation and community whilst learning, connecting and having some fun.

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