A high school student on Vancouver Island is making a statement for the LGBTQ community – Vancouver Island Free Daily reports.
Oskar Wood wants to leave a legacy of “acceptance, welcoming, [and] just a safe environment for everyone to grow and blossom into these beautiful people,” he told the Vancouver Island Free Daily in an interview.
As Woods approaches graduation this year, he wanted to approach his faculty about supporting LGBTQ and BIPOC people. The school agreed to paint the pride flag on one of their Ryder Hesjedal Way crosswalks.
Woods is a member of the LGBTQ community and said he has never personally experienced hate as a student. Still, microaggressions and assumptive comments about his sexual orientation built up, causing him to feel unsafe.
Four years later, Woods and his friends spoke to Royal Bay Secondary School teacher and the Gender and Sexuality Association (GSA) sponsor, Danielle Huculak, about painting the crosswalk.
“Just to have that sense of welcoming as soon as you walk in the school, and [show] that queer youth, and all youth, are welcomed within the walls of our school,” he said. They went with a classic LGBTQ rainbow flag design but added white, pink, blue, and black to represent the trans community and Black Indigenous People of Colour.
The GSA has seen the LGBTQ community and gender-diverse students more visible in the past two decades. In 2017, the Foundation Jasmin Roy Survey called LGBT Realities found that 13 percent of Canada is LGBT. 45 percent of respondents said they have not come out due to a fear of stigma.
As a result, Royal Bay’s GSA has become less needed for LGBTQ students to feel safe. Instead, it has become more of a celebratory club that advocates for diversity among all students.
“[The GSA is] not becoming obsolete, because we’re certainly not there yet with [equal] acceptance,” Huculak said. “But the need is different. There’s a lot more general acceptance in the student body. [Queer students] are just interwoven into the school, and it’s been nice to see that.”
The school is considering the project part of Wood’s legacy. “He’s a student that’s so community-minded with everything he does,” Huculak added. “He has this capacity to think outside of himself and see the bigger picture … he’s just a really amazing kid.”