This year’s Mardi Gras was one of many firsts with the inclusion of Defence Force personnel and the 100 Revs, and a sold-out party.

But what most touched me was the parade entry by the staff and students of Macquarie Grammar School.

Not just a group of gay school kids and their supporters as we’ve seen in years past – but an actual school (and a private school no less), marching under their own school badge.

With the rights of GLBT students and teachers at private schools still all too controversial for our state governments and only the Greens pushing the issue, it’s refreshing to see a private school doing the right thing so publicly.

Schools like these are what will win this issue by putting paid to the lie from religious conservatives that parents send their kids to private schools to quarantine them from tolerance and secular values.

Although I attended a selective public school, many of my friends growing up were private school boys and their parents’ reasons for sending them there had nothing to do with the above.

They sent them to private schools in the belief it would help their children network with people who might help them in their adult lives, or because the class sizes were smaller, or because they themselves had been to a particular school and wanted their kids to be a part of the sort of Old Boys community they themselves enjoyed.

The extra emphasis on religion factored very low for all of them, and the sort of Christianity they wanted their children taught had very little to do with sectarianism or gay bashing.

Attending a state school in the early 90s didn’t save me from falling victim to homophobic bullying – there was still no anti-homophobia instruction and as the age of consent was still unequal, technically gay teens didn’t exist anyway.

What I went through is something I still live with daily. That there are probably thousands of gay pupils going through the same at private and religious schools across this nation without any protection burns me up.

Expelling gay students and forcing them to start their school lives all over again just because their sexuality becomes public knowledge harms them both socially in having to make a new set of friends and academically as they struggle to fit into a new class and curriculum.

We wouldn’t allow it on racial grounds – surely its time to put a stop to it on grounds of sexuality.

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