13yo ‘Rainbow Shoelace’ founder targeted by homophobic abuse

Abbie Kelly and Sophie Angell of Rainbow Shoelace Project
Image: Instagram @rainbowshoelaceproject

When Abbie Kelly started The Rainbow Shoelace Project to support other young LGBTQIA+ people, she had no idea how much the movement would resonate all around the world. But now, after more than a year since starting the project, Abbie is now facing more homophobic bullying than ever. 

Despite her passion for combatting LGBTQIA+ bullying, Abbie’s efforts have only attracted more homophobic bullying, according to recent comments from her mother.

Speaking with ABC Broken Hill, Abbie’s mother, Sophie Angell says that since raising the pride flag for IDAHOBIT at her school, Abbie has been copping abuse on a “daily basis”:

“20 to 30 kids came by and started yelling profanities at her, telling her it was illegal to put the flag up and to take that flag down,” Sophie says.

“They were using lots of slurs and swear words while yelling at her and were making plans on how to take the flag down.”

“People were just having a go at her while she was walking down the hallway,” she says.

“She had put her rainbow beads up and they had been ripped down and chucked all over the floor.”

“It’s really sad that that’s actually happening at her school,” says Sophie. “She’s copping this stuff on a daily basis”.

‘She’s never hesitated’

But this isn’t the first time Abbie has faced adversity to the project.

Ahead of attending WorldPride earlier this year, Abbie and her mother also spoke with ABC Broken Hill about the opportunity, which Abbie considered a ‘dream come true’.

“It’s been a dream of mine to go ever since I found out it was coming to Sydney,” she told ABC Broken Hill.

“Pride means so much to me. As a young queer person, seeing all the representation that queer people get from WorldPride, it just makes me feel like there are others like me.”

However, as Sophie points out, the journey so far hasn’t been entirely smooth:

“Some of the bullying has been made worse by this project,” she said.

“I check in regularly with her about if she wants to continue, but she’s never hesitated, no matter how hard it’s gotten, I’m so proud of her.

Abbie Kelly’s rainbow shoelaces are paving the way

Reflecting on the recent homophobia at Abbie’s school, Sophie reflects how important the purpose of this project is, now more than ever.

“The responses are: ‘She shouldn’t be so loud about it’ and ‘don’t put up the flag if that’s what’s going to happen’,” she says.

“But that’s exactly why she wants to put up the flag.

“She’s paving the way. By the time she’s finished high school, the kids are hopefully going to be so used to seeing the flag, it won’t be an issue for the next kids.”

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Nate Woodall

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia


  1. 31 May 2023

    Full support from Pride Foundation Australia for Abbie and her bravery to keep going in the face of hate. She is a great example of young people stepping up. They need support from the leaders around them including schools, local communities and all levels of government. Homophobia, biphobia, transphobia is wrong and harmful to society as a whole.

  2. Chris Blyde
    23 April 2024

    Hi My name is Chris,
    I own a buisness in Adelaide and saw Abby on the ABC. I would love to give her a donation to help her with her efforts and support a courageous young entrepreneur.
    I would be pleased if she were to make contact so we can be of assistance!

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