Monday November 16, 2015
Like most sensible people I woke up on Saturday morning with a heavy heart following the appalling events on Friday in Paris.
I believe that human beings are inherently good but I can find myself questioning this faith when human beings do dreadful things.
But I remind myself that earlier on Friday almost exactly 12 hours before the gruesome events in Paris began I was in a secondary school in Tower Hamlets, East London, observing Diversity Role Models workshops with groups of year 8 students from an overwhelmingly Bengali and Somali background and most with a Muslim faith.
They listened intently to the stories of our three role models: a transgender lesbian woman, a bisexual man and a Bengali Muslim gay man. They engaged vigorously in discussions that drew parallels between Islamophobia and homophobia, equating belief that all Muslims are terrorists with believing all lesbians have short hair. They asked thoughtful questions and listened respectfully to the answers. At the end of the workshop the vast majority said that they would treat LGBT people better and support a friend if they came out.
We were possibly the first out LGBT people these 14-year-olds had met. That morning I spent at Swanlea school reminded me that if people from different communities can find a way to come together, share experiences and identify common ground, they can't hate each other.
You can't hate someone whose story you know.