Something to shout about: challenging homophobia in schools
A pilot workshop to tackle homophobic bullying in Dublin schools is being expanded. Participants in the scheme share their experiences
Declan Meehan, cofounder of the project, says he and his friends were inspired by their own experiences as LGBT people in the Irish education system.
“We never felt included. They made reference to the broad spectrum of sexuality or gender identity, and when we got to college it was so much better. We realised we wanted to fill in the missing gap for young students,” he says.
The project is aimed at educating young people in transition year about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues. “We’re always aware we’re talking to two groups of students, LGBT students and straight students,” says Meehan. “We make it safe and casual and stay away from negative labels. We allow opinions to be voiced and we do some workshopping around terms and what people associate with bisexual, gay or transgender etc.”
Dara Keenan, a 17-year-old fifth-year student, took the workshop in March and has been rethinking the word “gay”. “I have used it a lot. It’s part of culture. I never thought of it as a derogatory term until the workshop, I just wouldn’t think about it,” he says.
“I think listening to personal experiences of how it affects people changed the entire year’s perception. I may have used it a couple of times after the talk but less now. I try to catch myself before I do,” he says.
While lesbian, gender and bisexual are more normalised terms, transgender deals with gender identity, which Dara says was more tricky for his age group to tackle.
“It’s certainly harder to grasp for our age group. I understand it, but, for example, I know a family who are extremely religious and the daughter can understand gays and bisexuals but she cannot get her head around transgender, so talking about it is important. There is a different perception in our age group between gays and bisexuals and transgender. I don’t think it’s a good thing. Talking about it really helps.”
Harry Lee also did the workshop. “The thing they were saying is if you’re friends with someone who is gay, you’re friends and it doesn’t matter about your sexuality at all,” he says. “You make your friends based on their personality and not their sexual preference.”
The 16-year-old attended the Pride parade in Dublin this summer and says he could feel the difference that day. “It’s very much a celebration to them instead of a statement, like the older I get it gets better and hopefully it will continue to go that way.”