[tsl/leadership] Fireside Workshop: Confronting Homophobia

I've always been incredibly impressed at how progressive the teens in the teen grid are in regards to their views on sexuality and identity, and have wanted to do some kind of program or project about sexual rights for a while now. In one of our first projects, Camp Global Kids, the issue for the final action project was very close to being Homophobia, but Child Exploitation beat it out by a hair.

So, I was excited to try my hand at developing and facilitating a Fireside on the topic that leveraged the kind of engagement that you can have in Second Life. One of the first places we started in the workshop was a brainstorm about discrimination, and specifically whether people thought that Homophobia was a form of discrimination. The view was pretty unanimous that it was, except for one dissenting voice, a teen that held the view that to be afraid something does not necessarily mean that you're treating it differently or worse, though it might lead to you doing so. I was floored. They'd brought up the rather nuanced point of the difference between prejudice and discrimination, about how one is a noun and one is a verb, something that many people fail to realize. This set the tone for looking at the whole issue in a more critical way.

Confronting Homophobia Fireside Workshop
Discussing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

After introducing the topic and framing the issue from a human rights perspective, rather than a religious one, by looking at articles 1, 12, & 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we moved on to the main activity, which was a role play of instances of Homophobia from both a global and local perspective. The group was divided into teams, some that had to go out onto news sites on the web to find real instances of Homophobia from across the globe to base their role play off of, and others that were asked to look into their own communities and experiences to come up with a skit.

Confronting Homophobia Fireside Workshop
A teen during the Homophobia role play

The role plays were fantastic! We had three, one that focused on a case of police brutality against a gay couple in a park in the Ukraine, one focusing in on teen insults and taunting towards a lesbian couple in an American school, and the last being a one person performance of the experience of a lesbian that wanted to march in a pride parade in Argentina describing the enormous amount of homophobia she came across in her country. People did a variety of unique to bring their skits to life, some using voice, many changing their appearance and adding props, and using timing and effective delivery of interesting dialogue to keep the audience engaged.

To close off, we handed out a notecard that described ways that teens can confront homophobia in their own lives in a practical sense. It included simple things like having open discussions about the issue, educating yourself about it, being supportive of others, and even some larger steps teens can take like forming a gay-straight alliance in their high school. As we went through the various things it mentioned, I was so impressed to hear that everyone present had done many of these things in their own lives, a number of them even co-founding gay-straight alliances in their schools. Can't wait to do more stuff on this issue in the teen grid!