At the beginning of term every year, students and teachers at my school busied themselves with ‘class-beautification’ choosing a theme for the massive display boards that hung at the back of our classrooms. This was 2010 and I remember one of my classmates piping up with the suggestion “Let’s do gay pride!”
At the time, I was still feverishly searching Google for answers about my sexual orientation, and the thought of actually seeing a pride flag inside my school seemed like a distant dream. I leaned forward to the discussion, but the idea was trashed as quickly as it had been brought up. People were saying “we don’t want to support that”, “ma’am won’t allow” and “yuck, no”.
Flash forward six years, and I still wonder what a display board like that might have done for me and those like me searching for answers. Luckily, for students these days, things look encouraging with more and more campuses displaying their support for LGBTQ students. And for those who want to start, here’s what to keep in mind:
A lack of knowledge breeds misconceptions and negativity. So, an information kiosk like the one in Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar, is a great move. Dedicated to reading material on sexual identities and LGBTQ rights, the information kiosk is part of a series of sensitisation and awareness building initiatives by Breaking Barriers, a Gay-Straight Alliance set up in the school in 2014.
For a lot of young queer people, the presence of the rainbow flag can be extremely affirming. This flag at Tagore International School reassures queer students that their straight and cisgender peers are working towards an accepting environment.
Yet another positive symbol of LGBTQ+ acceptance from Tagore International School, and it’s definitely a step up from the display board my classroom almost had in 2010! Campuses can definitely go beyond rainbows, and get students to play a more active role in supporting gender and sexual minorities.
Everyone knows high school can be a pretty stressful environment, and for queer kids even more so. Which is why it can mean the world to know your peers see you as valid and important!
Speaking of display boards, here is one from Kamla Nehru College. From Vikram Seth in India, to Chuck Palahniuk in America, the Board displays queer people from across the world, who have made a name for themselves in the arts. And, everyone who passes by can be reminded of that, thanks to the students from the English department.
The rainbow is a symbol of love, diversity, and resistance, and our schools and colleges should really get behind all of those things! And spreading some rainbow love was exactly the idea behind the “Queering The Campus” activity, by students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, in 2015.Like the staircase, these trees are another outcome of “Queering the Campus” in JNU. Wound with coloured wool, and spread across key points of the university, the idea is to have the rainbow out where everyone can see it. Even though a few of these were found cut up in 2015, students came together to do up the trees all over again.
And finally, nothing says “we’re here, we’re queer” like a massive rainbow “Q” at the busiest intersection inside JNU’s sprawling campus. Like the other symbols, this too is a way of boosting queer visibility and starting conversations among students and staff.
Over at Ambedkar University Delhi, there’s a tradition of graffitiing the walls with political messages, and though it may be the smallest of mentions, queer politics and LGBTQ rights also clearly figure in the students’ mind, when they speak up against India’s archaic anti-sodomy law, Section 377. It’s important that campuses give students enough space to express themselves and their identities.
Recently, the TATA Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai saw a number of on-campus campaigns, getting folks to recognise the role they can play in ending negative attitudes towards queer people. The students of the queering feminism class put up these helpful posters, using recognisable pro-LGBTQ signs.
When symbols like these occupy physical spaces in our schools and colleges, we know we’re witnessing a significant shift. It is a shift towards a more equal and inclusive outlook, made possible because students, teachers and staff coming together, to shake up the status quo.
We can’t wait for more such signs in our campus spaces!
Do you have any LGBTQ symbols on your campus? Send us a photograph or share it on your Instagram and tag us (@instacake) there!