MANCHESTER, NH – Loud festive music, rainbow colors and drag queens were part of West High School’s Pride Day celebration Friday afternoon in the schoolyard.
More than 100 people turned out for the event honoring the school’s LGBTQ community, the first PRIDE celebration in more than two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event was highlighted by performances by drag queens.
Chi Chi Marvel, a 2012 graduate of Manchester West High School, explained that men dressing as women began in Shakespearean times – dating back to the 1500s and 1600s.
Women were not allowed to appear on stage, which led to men playing female roles and thus, drag queens were born.
Performers danced and synced to upbeat tunes, then collected fake dollar bills from grateful onlookers. They then quickly threw the bills in the air.
Grayson Iannuzo, 17, and Aurora Tassi, 18, both elderly, helped art teacher Richelle Simard organize the event.
Iannuzo said she was shocked by the turnout which included members of the LGBTQ community and its “direct allies”.
“The school has been really great when it comes to equality,” she said.
Both students have dated West since they were freshmen. They said in first grade they found it less inclusive, but Iannuzo said that’s probably because people weren’t “out” as much.
Over the years, however, they said more and more students were coming out.
The administration and teachers, they said, are doing everything possible to make everything inclusive. What was particularly helpful, Tassi said, was that two of their teachers were “lesbians, which was great.”
“Many of the teachers we dealt with genuinely bonded with the students and went out of their way to make sure everyone was safe,” Iannuzo said. They said they were not aware of any incidents at the school in which an LBGTQ student was victimized.