On Tuesday morning earlier this week, I volunteered for the first time for Diversity Role Models, a charity which I wrote about in an earlier blog post which aims to combat homophobic bullying in schools. I practised my little talk on the doddery Metropolitan line up to the school in Harrow that morning, and had made an effort to look quite feminine - both because I feel a bit more confident in schools sometimes with a bit of make-up on, and also because (with my particularly short hair at the moment) I wanted to try and counter any obvious (butch) stereotypes that the young people might have regarding what a 'lesbian' (or bisexual, or a woman who is in a relationship with another woman) looks like. I had decided to talk a bit about having a 'straight' identical twin, as in the training we had discussed how that might be a good discussion point and something that the young people found interesting. Generally, it seems that our over-riding message was, 'Hey, we're just people, and being L, G, B, or T isn't the most interesting thing about us'. We might feel it is a huge part of our identity, we might not; we might think a label defines us, we might not. Most of all, it's just about who we love - and does that really need to provoke hate, abuse or fear?
It was an amazing morning and I was really impressed by the honest and self-awareness of the students (aged 12-13). Many students wrote on their feedback forms that the thing they had enjoyed the most was the refreshing honesty from adults, who were prepared to talk openly and confidently about their sexuality and answer their questions, and some wrote that their favourite thing was meeting a real life gay person for the first time. One student even wrote on his feedback sheet that the thing s/he enjoyed least was 'realising how much I use the word gay and feeling embarrassed and ashamed about it, as know it is offensive' - how honest and self-aware! And others wrote that the thing they enjoyed least was 'hearing about the boy Dominic who killed himself as it made me sad and angry'. It was interesting and moving reading them back, and confirmed to me how frighteningly important DRM's mission is.
I left feeling inspired. Buzzing. Full of thoughts and questions, ideas and emotions. I can't wait to go in again.
Couple of other DRM things:
Check out this video on youtube by the L Project: It Gets Better, aiming to help raise awareness and monies for charities (including DRM) which work to prevent LGBT bullying among young people
Also go visit the Diversity Role Models' blog (I would particularly recommend the entry 'To Gay or Not to Gay?') and also the article on the Observer the other week about homophobic bullying and Dominic Crouch.