Friday November 18, 2016
‘Hello Arif! How’s your dog?’
I was slightly taken aback, how did this Year 7 student know I had a dog?!
‘Erm, she’s fine!’
Another student in the class shouts out, ‘How are your nieces and nephews?’
Ok, this is getting weird, how do they know I have nieces and nephews? I was slightly disconcerted.
‘They’re fine too!’ I answered. ‘Sorry, how do you know all this stuff about me?’
‘You came to our Primary school last year and did a workshop with us!,’ came a chorus of young voices.
I looked around and didn’t really recognize the young students, but I do deliver a lot of sessions, so I can be forgiven! They, however, were able to remember a lot of information about me, what I did for a living, the name of my dog, what food my nieces and nephews liked. I was so surprised that they had retained all that information about me from an hour-long workshop over a year ago.
At the beginning of our workshops, we ask young people 3 questions to gauge their thoughts and feelings on the subject of LGBT people. The young people answer using little voting pads, which ensure anonymity and give them a chance to answer truthfully.
The first question I asked this group of young people was, ‘Would you support a friend if they told you they were LGBT?’ They all answered yes. 100% of the young people said yes! This is quite unusual for a class of Year 7 students; normally it’s between 60-70%.
Ok, lets go onto the second question, ‘Do you use language such as “That’s so Gay” etc.?’ 90% of the class said No. 90%! This was very unusual, a Year 7 class normally give a response of about 30% no.
The 3rd question we ask, before we start the session proper, is ‘Do you think someone who is LGBT would feel comfortable coming out at this school?’ A young girl puts her hand up, ‘the whole school or this class? We’ve only been here for a few weeks so I don’t know as a school but I can say as a class’ she says.
This led us into a discussion, where the students say that in their class, they definitely think somebody would. ‘Why are you so sure?’ I ask them. ‘Well, we remember when you came to our Primary school and talked about when you were at school, and the bullying and people using ‘gay’ in a bad way and a lot of us stopped talking like that,’ replied one young boy.
It took all I had to stop myself bursting into tears! It reinforced to me just why it’s so important to speak to young people at Primary age about diversity and appreciation of difference. Because when do, they listen and learn and grow into thoughtful, intelligent and inclusive teenagers, just by hearing a story of one person’s life.