The spate of homophobia at Sydney universities last year and the controversy over lesbians on Play School were the inspiration for the student float in next week’s Mardi Gras parade.

Titled Gay Skool, the entry will feature school uniform-clad marchers alongside a truck carrying representations of popular Play School toys Humpty Dumpty, Bananas In Pyjamas, Jemima and a giant rocket clock.

We wanted to represent what has been happening in the university system, said Ghassan Kassisieh, 20, a student from the University of Sydney.

He singled out the issue with Wollongong University’s queer space, where three queer collective members were arrested in August after a 47-hour sit-in protest demanding an on-campus meeting room.

Macquarie University looked like it was going to lose its queer space as well, he said. And there was homophobia experienced by students at the University of Western Sydney during their sexuality week.

The Play School fiasco, where Prime Minister John Howard blasted the ABC in June for featuring a child with two mums, represents the homophobia in the education system as a whole, both for students and staff, Kassisieh said.

Gay Skool is a cross-campus float featuring participants from the University of Western Sydney, University of NSW, University of Technology Sydney, University of Sydney and Southern Cross University.

The same students last year entered the float There Were Queers In The 50s Too, John, which satirised Howard’s 1950s-like policies.

The experience of creating the float and going in the parade in 2004 was so great they decided to do it again. It was really supportive and inclusive of everybody, said Kassisieh.

It was really democratically driven, where the students from varied ethnicities and sexualities all had an input that supported affirmative action principles.

Organisers are still looking for students and staff from high school, TAFE or university to join their float. Anyone interested should contact gayskool_mardigras@hotmail.com.

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