CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 1 . . . . September 3, 2004
The right of gays to become legally married was front and center in the federal election in Canada in 2004, with some electors deciding their vote on the basis of the different parties' positions on the subject. In schools, children routinely bandy about the words "gay," "homo" and "lesbo" as insults to embarrass fellow students. It's clear that the subject of gays and lesbians in society needs to be addressed by all its institutions. Schools are perfectly suited to promote the notions of tolerance and inclusion. The NFB video, Apples and Oranges, is an excellent tool to begin that dialogue.
Homophobia is just another form of bullying, a way to exclude, intimidate and threaten. Apples and Oranges doesn't shirk in its approach to the issue. Weaving between animation and a real classroom situation, the video discusses who homosexuals are, why there is homophobia and how it should be dealt with.
An equity educator gets students to record all the different words they have heard or used themselves to insult or intimidate other children. He singles out the words that are homophobic and begins a frank discussion. The students represent possible situations through art, which is transformed into an animation about students struggling against homophobic bullies at school. An anti-bullying song by Lorraine Segato, formerly of The Parachute Club, is the tool the girls in the animation use to isolate the bully who humiliates them. Another openly gay student rescues a boy who had avoided him, demonstrating his qualities as a friend.
Back in the classroom, the students talk about whether or not homosexuality makes a difference to their friendships with other children. Their conclusion is that it should not. The final act is to tear up the hurtful words they have written down.
How well we accept our differences is a measure of society's progress. Even though many adults are opposed to addressing the topic of homosexuality because of their religious views, hang-ups, or lack of understanding, Canadian society has evolved to acknowledge that homosexuality is not aberrant behaviour. Homophobia is a topic that needs to be included when teaching children to be tolerant of differences. It should be singled out because of its profile at this time in the news.
The NFB includes suggested questions and activities on the video label and has also created a website (www.nfb.ca/creatingdiversity) to assist educators who want to guide the discussion on homophobia. There are other videos for different age groups that may also be used for anti-bullying education.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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