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    Information and resources for Tasmanian parents and families of young people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Sexuality Diverse and Gender Diverse.

     Linking Tasmanians with local LGBTI-inclusive services, support and information.

     

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    At School

    Some Facts and Figures

    • 8-11% of Tasmanian high school students are same sex attracted.
    • 16% of students at one Tasmanian secondary college admitted to physically abusing someone because the victim was thought to be gay
    • A recent study conducted in the UK found that 80% of school communities were aware of homophobic bullying, but only 6% had a policy to deal with it. (6% had a policy to deal with it. But does that mean acting upon it? Would it be much different in Tasmania? 


    How homophobia hurts school communities

    • Young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are three to five times more likely to seriously consider suicide because of homophobia.
    • They are also more likely to be homeless, experience conflict with family and peers, abuse drugs and alcohol and leave school early
    • GLBT people are not the only victims of homophobia. People who are wrongly suspected of being GLBT are also attacked as are the friends and associates of GLBT people
    • Studies show that boys avoid certain subject choices and deliberately limit their academic achievement in others so as not to appear "gay"
    • Studies show that school communities which tolerate bullying on any grounds including sexuality, have lower average academic outcomes and lower morale

     

    As a member of the school community, what can I do?

    • Ensure your school is informed about its obligations under the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act and the Tasmanian Education Department's Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy
    • Make sure your school has its own anti-discrimination policy
    • Start a school anti-homophobia group
    • Publish information about homophobia in your school newsletter
    • Run an anti-homophobia essay or poster competition
    • Make sure your school library has resources about GLBT legal, family and social issues
    • Be a supportive friend to someone who has come out
    • Challenge homophobic language whenever it is used
    • Ask guest speakers to address staff and student meetings
    • Encourage staff to undertake relevant professional development courses

    For more ideas check out the Tasmanian Education Department's Anti-homophobia support materials (contact Robyn Bentley-Williams in the Department of Education for more information on robyn.bentley-williams@education.tas.gov.au)



    As a student what can I do to support a friend? 

    Before you can support your friend, before you can help your friend, you will first need to figure out a few things for yourself and the person you're helping. 

    About you

    • What do you know about same-sex attracted people, and where did your knowledge come from?
    • How would you feel if you thought everyone else in the world was different from you?
    • What if you felt you couldn't talk to anyone else about who you are?

    About your friend

    • What kind of support do they already have?
    • How do they feel about the discovery of their sexual identity?
    • Are they likely to be bullied at school?
    • Are they likely to be safe and happy in their home?
    • What other issues does your friend need to deal with?

    Supporting your friend

    • It is important to be a comforting and supportive person when your friend feels lost, confused, hurt and alone. But it can also be difficult.
    • There are no special rules or guidelines when being a friend. But remember, your friend thinks highly enough of you to come out to you, so maybe a good start would be telling them "thank you" for the trust. If a friend does need a supportive person around, sometimes just listening is all that you may need to do.
    • Also, not all same-sex attracted people feel they need support. They may feel confident and secure about who they are. Your friend may have just wanted to stop hiding their true self from you.


    Some tips

    • Show your friend some appreciation for being honest with you; they may have had to muster up a lot of courage before telling you.
    • Respect your friend's confidentiality. They may not be ready to tell others right away and may want to tell people in their own way.
    • Show your friend that you still care about them. Be the same friend you have always been. Often, the biggest fear for people coming out is that their friends and family will reject them. If you are uneasy, tell your friend; but don't let it destroy your friendship.
    • You don't have to be too serious. Some humour may ease the tension you may both be feeling.
    • Ask any questions you may have, but be prepared that your friend may not have all the answers. You can save some questions for later or you can find some of the answers yourself.
    • Your friend may have a partner. Include your friend's partner in plans as much as you would with any other friend.
    • Be prepared to assist your friend if needed. They may have lost the support of other friends and family, and your time and friendship will be even more precious to them. This may include traditional "family" times like Christmas and Australia Day.
    • Offer and be available to support your friend in telling others.
    • Don't allow your friend to become isolated. Let them know about organisations and places where they can safely meet other same-sex attracted young people.


    As a teacher, what can I do?

    The key to addressing homophobia effectively is education. There is absolutely no point reprimanding students without actually explaining why you are doing so. Consistency and immediacy is vital. Be consistent across the whole school and always deal with the issue as it happens. 

    Simple steps

    • Become informed: (read, research, ask, discuss the issue: access Departmental resources)
    • Don't be satisfied with tolerance.
    • Language: Don't assume everyone is heterosexual. (Replace him/her with partner & Mum/ Dad with Parents)
    • Don't be afraid to question/ correct inappropriate statements:
    • We do it everyday about race, gender etc. People will soon get the message. Silence can be deadly.
    • Keep in the back of your mind that you may have students in your class who do not identify as heterosexual.
    • People around you might have two mums or dads. You may have work colleagues and students who grew up with two mums, whose father, best mate, or sister is gay.


    The disciplinary approach 
    If someone is calling someone else gay or lesbian in a derogatory way, send the student to senior staff or the sexual harassment officer to talk about the school's and society's rules and laws on sexual harassment.

    The personal approach 
    Talk to the students about people you know who are gay or lesbian and tell them that you don't appreciate them attributing negative connotations to your family and friends. Eg: "A close friend of mine is a lesbian and by using the word gay to describe [ ] you are saying that she is second rate. I would be offended if you called her that" 

    Using humour 
    If the student is calling a chair or ruler 'gay', pick the ruler up and talk about "how lonely the ruler must be feeling about the student saying they are less worthy than straight rulers. Perhaps there are other gay rulers in the room it could hang out with for support? But then, what about all the straight rulers- will they get lonely?" Or ask "did that chair tell you that it is having a same-sex relationship with another chair? You must feel very privileged that the chair felt comfortable enough around you to talk open about its sexuality" 

    Follow this with a conversation about using appropriate language to describe objects without attacking groups of people. 

    The correct language stance 
    Pull the student up immediately and have them look up the definition of "gay' and explain how it is impossible for the object to in fact be same-sex attracted and ask them to find several other words that fit the definition of what they wanted to say. 

    Minority approach 
    Talk to the student about how we don't yell out things like "this chair is such a 'wog' or 'spastic' or a 'woman" so why do they think they can get away with saying it is gay? 

    Students as experts 
    Ask the student to explain why he/she is calling the object gay. Would they say it was straight? Ask others in the room what they student might be trying to say and then have them explain to the student why it isn't appropriate. 

    NRC approach 

    This approach is useful if you are particularly worried about talking about the issue:

    1. Name the behaviour: It's not appropriate to call things gay because
    2. Refer to the agreement: Our school policy states that we don't discriminate or put down
    3. Consequence: If the behaviour happens again, your consequence will be

    A stronger stance: "upping the anti"

    1. Start to address issues of diversity in the classroom.
    2. Look at your class room materials eg literature;
    3. Look at the way you deliver messages about relationships.
    4. Remember, discrimination is a learned behaviour. Discuss issues brought
    5. up in the media and get students to discuss human rights.

    Out and proud stage: educate

    1. Bring the issue up in different forums like staff meetings and specific issue forums
    2. Get in guest speakers with their real life stories.
    3. Address the issue at Parents and Friends.
    4. Attend professional development sessions
    5. Create awards at assemblies that acknowledge and celebrate diversity.
    6. Talk to organisations such as us here at Working It Out, or Family Planning for information and help.
    7. Establish links with and create support groups.


    This list is not exhaustive! A word, a thought, a deed, can make all the difference to changing the world for someone 

    Extract from the Pink Desk (Tasmanian AEU Branch) found at: www.aeutas.org.au