It will be used in a program to provide sexual diversity training to schools and across various multicultural networks.
Peggy Giakoumelos reports.
“Do you like this top?” “It’s so gay.” “Really?” “Yeah, it’s totally gay.” “You know you really shouldn’t say that…” “Say what?” “Say that something’s gay when you really mean it’s bad. It’s insulting. When you say that’s so gay do you realise what you’re saying?”
That’s from a public service announcement launched in the United States a few years ago to challenge people’s use of the word gay.
When exactly the word gay crossed over to express dislike or hatred for something, isn’t really known.
Some people could dismiss the evolving meaning of the word, as just a bit of a joke.
For others it’s deeply offensive, with some education experts saying its casual derogatory use has the effect of marginalising same-sex attracted people.
Josh Radcliffe is a Project Officer with the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria – an organisation encouraging a deeper understanding of sexual diversity in schools.
“We work more with teachers, but I suppose most of the feedback we get from teachers is often the language young people use. I think there’s often a misconception about the harm that some of the common phrases are used in school, especially stuff around the language which is very common like that’s so gay, or referring to things as gay in a negative kind of sense. A lot of young people and also teachers don’t realise that that’s a big problem. We know that from the research that we do that young same sex attracted people are often very offended and insulted by that term. So we really get people, especially teachers to think about how they can challenge that language and also informing people as to why it’s a problem in the first place.”
The Coalition is funded by the Departments of Education and Health in Victoria.
Government and private schools voluntarily sign up to the program.
It’s the only program of its kind in Australia, with no other state having an ongoing program specifically designed to tackle homophobia and related issues.
The program primarily works in educating teachers, using a range of resources.
Josh Radcliffe from the Coalition says the program also visits schools which have a large number of students from non-English speaking backgrounds.
“Often it’s about broadening their awareness of diversity. One of the great things about working with linguistically and culturally diverse schools is they already have an understanding of what diversity means. Often it’s about getting them to broaden that understanding and raising that awareness that sexual and gender diversity is something that sits across all different cultures. I suppose once you start having these conversations, they can see how this is really important stuff as well.”
One resource that will be used by the Coalition is a film about a young man, originally a refugee from central Africa, who is rejected by his father when he tells him about his boyfriend.
The film was put together by a group of young people from different cultural backgrounds and looks at their experience of being same-sex attracted.
Leadership adviser with the Centre for Multicultural Youth in Melbourne, Alice Gomez, coordinated the project.
She hopes the film will start a conversation in different ethnic communities.
“That can be a really difficult thing to do because through our discussions with young people we’ve learnt that multicultural communities even the idea of homosexuality is not acknowledged or accepted. Sometimes it’s viewed as perhaps a phase that a young person might be going through, even sometimes a disease. We’ve heard some people believe that so starting these conversations can be really difficult and what we’ve tried to do in this Animate Change program is develop a short video which actually uses animation and illustration to tell the story of a father and a conflict he’s having with his gay son. And we’re hoping that this tool will actually be used to help start some of those conversations in multicultural communities, acknowledging that it can be a point of conflict and it can be a difficult time for families and communities. But there does need to be an open discussion an open dialogue about how to address those issues.”
Cici Zhang was involved in the workshops and helped make the film.
She got involved in the program after hearing about it through Yellow Kitty, an organisation which supports same-sex attracted women from various Asian backgrounds.
Born in China, she lived in America before migrating to Australia about a year ago.
Cici Zhang says cultural traditions which go back thousands of years make it very difficult for same-sex attracted people to lead free lives in China.
“Acceptance level is different in each country. In China you basically have underground gay and lesbian relationship, and there’s a lot of fake marriage going on. A lot of pressure from the family because of the filial piety thing that’s been going on for thousands of years. When I went back to visit my friends I found out that it was a bit hard for them. One friend almost got married to a guy she barely knows at all because of the family pressure. To have a fake marriage, that way she could continue her relationship even though afterwards you’re really financially tied up and stuff. Always it’s very interesting back in China.”
Cici Zhang says people like herself may come from family backgrounds where same-sex relationships aren’t acknowledged.
She says the film gives them a voice, and a sense of hope knowing that there are others who share their experience.
“Asian community in general is just not exactly coming out. I’m like the only one in the village kind of girl. That’s another reason why I wanted to do the change project. Because giving my kind a voice, that way they know that there are people like them that they can reach out to, and just opening that conversation at the dinner table or amongst their community, their friends or themselves.”
The resource is expected to be distributed to the Safe School Coalition which provides sexual diversity training to schools, and across various multicultural networks.