YOUTH DEALING WITH HOMOPHOBIA:
STORIES FROM REAL LIFE
What Can We Do?
In this activity, students listen to the concerns of real teenagers
dealing with homophobia or read testimonials from gay and straight
students and teachers about dealing with homophobia. All of the stories
illustrate how homophobia contributes to a climate of hostility, making
adolescence especially hard to navigate. The activity concludes with
a discussion of what can be done to make schools less hostile to gay
and lesbian youth.
- To put a human face on the issue of homophobia
and its effects on gay and straight students
- To consider how to create an environment that
respects all persons regardless of sexual orientation
Age Level: High school to adult
Time: About 45 minutes
Materials: Handout 1: Testimonials
Subject Areas: Social studies, English, health
Testimonials are a way to put a human face on the issue of homophobia
and the resultant isolation, fear, depression, and anger that its
victims report. By hearing the voices and stories of real people,
homophobia is moved from the intellectual to the personal domain,
and it becomes increasingly difficult for compassionate human beings
to ignore or discount the need for anti-homophobia education in their
schools. Ideally, you should gather a panel of people from your local
school or community who can speak directly about their experiences
with homophobia. Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
is an organization with groups in many communities in the United States
that may be able to assist in putting together such a panel. Allow
panel members to speak about their own experiences and follow up with
questions and answers from students. You may want to discuss possible
questions with the students ahead of time.
If you are unable to bring together a panel, students should read
Handout 1: Testimonials for homework or in class. Ask them
to highlight a word, phrase, or passage that particularly moves or
strikes them as they read each story.
Begin class by asking students to write for five or ten minutes
about the meaning of their highlighted text. Ask students to share
Use the following questions to continue discussion:
- In what ways do these young people experience
isolation and loneliness?
- In what ways are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender teenagers "invisible?" To each other? To their
friends? To their parents? To the community?
- What role do parents play in their children's
acceptance of self?
- What role do other lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender people play in the acceptance of self?
- What role do friends play in the acceptance
- Who else plays an important role?
To move the discussion toward responsibility for creating a positive
school environment for students--both gay and straight--facing homophobia,
ask the following questions:
- In what ways do these stories describe what
could happen to a student at your school?
- What could be done to make school a more positive
place for the students telling these stories?
- What could you do to make school a more positive
Encourage students to follow through on suggestions for promoting
tolerance at school. Possibilities might include:
Not laughing at homophobic jokes
In this case, students could role play how they might respond the
next time they hear an offensive joke. What would they say to the
person telling the joke?
Supporting a LGBT friend
Again, students could act out skits of how they might respond to
someone coming out, or they could write an entry in their journal
about what they would do.
Providing information for LGBT students
Books about homosexuality are hard to keep on school library shelves.
Many students, too embarrassed to check them out, take them instead.
A group of students could talk to the school librarian about good
books for gay and lesbian teens. As a class project, students could
raise the money necessary to buy these books for the library.
Promoting dialog between LGBT and straight students
Some schools have gay-straight alliances that work to promote tolerance.
Organizations such as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
(GLSEN) and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) can provide
more information about forming such a group.