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Suran Dickson

What is Diversity Role Models?

Tuesday May 3, 2011

Number 252 on a To Do list of over 1000 (well it feels like it anyway…) completed. Establish blog.

Thank you for all your emails and messages of support. I have been endeavouring to reply individually to people's questions but hopefully the blog will provide some answers until the website is up (Number 253 on the list!).

So what are we doing, why and how?

Diversity Role Models is a charity (application in process now) set up for two purposes: firstly, to help LGBT young people realise that being gay, or changing gender identity, is not synonymous with unhappiness, depression, lack of success, broken relationships and lack of family - some of the things that the media and statistics tend to focus on. Secondly, to help non-LGBT young people to see us as 'real people', with jobs, families, morals, humour, talent and drive.*  This enables them to develop empathy and understanding, and therefore reduce the amount of bullying around this topic.

* Quick disclaimer: our role models do/will not have to have ALL these qualities! They are simply an example of the positive attributes we may display to young people when we visit.

The 'why' is easy. The founder of the charity has been a teacher for 11 years and is sick of seeing the amount of abuse that is still levelled at either LGBT kids, 'different' kids or those who are simply suspected of being LGBT. Additionally, although we live in enlightened times in terms of legislation, there are still many sad stories of families not accepting partners, people's work output suffering due to insidious homophobia, adults who deny their sexuality in order to live a 'normal' life and end up destroying their families by coming out after marrying and having kids. The list goes on. It doesn't need to be this way. By developing understanding and acceptance of difference in young people, the next generation will be less likely to kick their own gay children out of home or to raise their fists/knives to somebody who doesn't fit their gender stereotype or isn't heterosexual. Being LGBT is simply a characteristic, as is being left-handed. And they are equally as boring!

And the 'how': by taking positive role models into schools to talk about their lives. These role models may be gay, straight, unsure, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Japanese, African, English, Mums, Dads, or children of LGBT people - anyone and everyone who can pass on the message: being gay is not a big deal, it's just another facet of being human. We are taking very successful business/sports people to show that being gay is not a barrier to excellence. We will also be working with the Albert Kennedy Trust to take some of their homeless LGBT young people, into schools to tell their stories. I've had wonderful Mums get in touch who want to talk to young people about their own gay children, other teachers who don't yet feel comfortable coming out at their own school but would love to take the first step by coming out in a different school, young people who suffered at school and want to tell their stories. Empowering stuff!

The details of how each school will work with us will be established as we go. Some schools will have homophobic classes they want us to target, some will want assemblies, some may have parents groups they wish us to speak to. We will be starting in London but taking this nationwide; it is particularly important to visit small towns where LGBT people often feel very isolated. It is also essential to help schools become gay-friendly for the influx of gay families that are coming their way - I don't know about you but I hardly have any friends who aren't either having children or trying - these children are going to be attending local schools and these schools need to be ready to accept and help their student body to accept. They have a public duty to make sure that ALL students have equal access to learning and we all know that bullying prevents effective learning.

So from here, we carry on with the boring red tape stuff that is necessary to set up a charity, we are working with some potential corporate sponsors and will be doing the usual money-chasing events that charities do, and will be looking for role models from across the country….soooo….

If you have any interest in being a role model, we have a database set up to which we can add you. We've had choirs, bands, athletic groups get in touch too - we can accommodate anybody! And if you express an interest and change your mind in future, no problem! We are looking to start going into schools in September so we'd love to have a long and varied list of people who are happy to come and talk to young people about acceptance. Give it some thought!

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