Teachers should be sensitive to the fact that some young people in their care might identify as gay, or be questioning their sexuality. It might be helpful to refer to information about handling sensitive issues on the DfES's Teachernet website, or to look at Channel 4's INSET programme 'Teaching Controversial Issues' (see Links).
The activities support a mix of individual, paired and group work, depending on the context, and the composition of the students involved.
It is important to consider the right context within which to address gay issues. It can be difficult to address these in isolation, and so links should be made to the broader curriculum and wider social issues. Appropriate contexts might include human rights, equality, relationships or anti-bullying. A safe environment within which to discuss these issues is also important. Agreeing 'ground rules' with students is a good way to help maintain respectful behaviour within the group. These can be referred back to whenever necessary, and should include ideas around appropriate language, the right to be heard, and the responsibility to listen and treat others with respect. Emphasise that participation need not involve disclosing anything students are not comfortable with. Issues around confidentiality might also be included.
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The video clips may contain a few seconds of extra material at the beginning and end. We have therefore included opening and closing descriptions to help identify the intended scene.
Clip 1: 08:00 – 09:20
- Opens with Stephen Amos saying, 'The whole place was just engulfed with the sound of silence.'
- Closes with Stephen Amos saying, 'Thanks a lot – good night!'
Members of Amos' audience feed back their views around the reasons for black homophobia. Remind students that homosexuality in the UK has been legal for 40 years. Were they surprised at the audience's reactions? Ask them to discuss, in groups, the comments made about lack of family support, and the idea that anyone coming out as gay may risk being disowned by those closest to them, or even being stabbed in the street. How do they think it would feel to be gay in that sort of environment?
Clip two: 12:50 – 13:42
- Opens with Stephen Amos saying, 'Before hitting the shops, I'd done my research and had printed out a list of homophobic lyrics…'
- Closes with Stephen Amos saying, 'They're regurgitating what they've been told – by their idols.'
Amos compares the hatred of gays evident in the lyrics with the extreme racism of white supremacists. To begin thinking about the effects of extreme intolerance, students could list some of the rights we take for granted in the UK. How would they react if they were taken away? How might they defend themselves?
Ask students, in groups, to think of instances from the past that exemplify denial of human rights, and to feed back. Have lessons been learned from history? Students could investigate those who risked their lives to stand up for human rights. Are there any modern parallels of intolerance and the fight against it?
Later, Elephant Man talks about freedom of speech. Students could discuss what this means – in music, the press, for the individual. Is freedom of speech an inalienable right?
Meeting Ian McKnight
Clip three: 19:47 – 20:49
- Opens with Stephen Amos saying, 'One of the reasons I was very passionate about making this programme…'
- Closes with Ian McKnight saying, 'And, to be assured that you will get off.'
McKnight talks about the lack of disquiet from those at the 'top' of Jamaican politics about the harassment and murder of gay people. Students could use the internet to investigate how different states around the world legislate when it comes to homosexuality – where it is legal, where it isn't, what the law says, and what the punishments are. They could use a world map and key to document their findings, or work in groups to each investigate a continent.
Additionally, students could investigate the work of human rights groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, with regard to gay rights.
Seventh Day Adventists
Clip 4: 29:52 – 30:54
- Opens with Pastor Ryan Simpson saying, 'Can I say, certainly I believe, and I can say this clearly, that my church teach there are certain conditions…'
- Closes with Stephen Amos saying, 'The idea that my sexuality, and that of other gays, could be changed or reprogrammed, really annoyed me.'
Simpson and his colleagues believe that being gay is a condition that can be 'cured'. Their church teaches an 'ideal lifestyle' – marriage between a man and a woman. Later, Archbishop Lawrence Burke says that to use Christianity to deny gay people rights is a lie, and that the Bible has been wrongly used to justify other human rights abuses such as apartheid. Discuss ways in which religion can be a force for both good and bad. This could be done in two groups in the form of a debate. Perhaps students could ask the school chaplain, or another religious leader from your community, to participate.
Clip five: 44:35 – 45:52
- Opens with Stephen Amos saying, 'But what if that leads to your murder?'
- Closes with Stephen Amos saying, 'We owe our kids better than this, I think.'
Stefan feels that families who disown their children can force them into the very type of life they don't want for them – homelessness, drugs, even prostitution. Earlier, Olisa came out to his mum and was surprised to find her supportive. She only wants for him to be happy, healthy and safe.
What might be done to support young black gay people whose families cannot accept their sexuality? And what can be done to bring about change? Should help and support target the parents or the young person, or does a move towards a more tolerant black community start with educating the much younger? If gay intolerance is not a problem for your particular community, does that mean students needn't be concerned? If it is, who is already out there trying to make a difference?
Students could work on producing a plan of action to tackle the problem in the UK. It might involve raising awareness of the problem, lobbying politicians to legislate against homophobic lyrics, engaging with religious leaders and parents, developing school programmes or supporting community projects.
On a smaller scale, students could investigate the prevalence of homophobic attitudes in school, or whichever setting you are in, and develop ways to address the problem – by developing or changing school policy, implementing a 'zero tolerance' approach, developing a 'charter', or recognising and celebrating diversity some other way.