Young People ‘Proud’ to combat Homophobic Bullying

Publish Date: 18/05/2012

"I can honestly say it was the happiest moment of my life".

These are the empowering  words of one  fifteen-year-old's first visit to Manchester Pride as told through Manchester’s unique project to end homophobia through education in local schools.

The award winning Exceeding Expectations initiative has been attending schools across the city this month to coincide with International Day against Homophobia & Transphobia (May 17th)

For over 5 years the project has been  offering staff training, teacher’s resources, lesson plans, anti-bullying policy development support, information resources, young people’s peer support groups, school evaluation reports and much as part of a unique city-wide partnership which involves Manchester City Council, Manchester Healthy Schools, Hope Theatre Company, Manchester Community Health, the Lesbian & Gay Foundation and for the first time this year Salford thanks to funding from Salford City Council.

As part of the Exceeding Expectations programme, the play ‘OUTLOUD’, a specially commissioned piece of verbatim theatre produced by Hope Theatre Company voices the words of local young people on homophobia and sexuality. The play's finale includes a film of the Manchester Pride Big Parade and The workshop features fellow Patron Kieron Richardson's coming out story and discussions on Hate Crime and homophobia.

Previous findings have shown that the Exceeding Expectations initiative has an immediate impact upon the young people engaged with it.

Before the play ‘OUTLOUD’ surveys completed by the young people taking part showed that only 21% of those surveyed would do something if they witnessed homophobia or homophobic bullying in school. Following the play and accompanying workshop, 93% of pupils would do something if they experienced or witnessed homophobic bullying. (Based on 2,356 responses).

Manchester Pride Patron Adam Zane and his theatre company, Hope present the play OUTLOUD.

Adam says: "The response has been fantastic. We have had gay, lesbian and bisexual students helping us in the workshops, talking about their experiences of coming out. It can be incredibly empowering for them - to be able to talk honestly about homophobia and their experiences in school. The project is unique in the fact that the whole school is involved - from school nurses to the head teachers and the students - a student said to me "I think it's so good that the school is tackling this head on - I think the play will definitely make a difference."

One teaching assistant added:  “It's amazing how much (Exceeding Expectations) may have helped change perceptions, tackle bullying and even helped some of the kids personally. I happen to be gay myself. One of my reasons for entering into teaching is to stop kids from ever having to go through what I did. I first realised I was gay when I was about 12 and didn't come out to anybody until I was 18. For me to find out that there is work like Exceeding Expectations means a lot.”

The final word however goes to one of the many young people that have been taking action against homophobia this month:

'My friend saw the show this morning and she said, you go in one person, and you come out somebody different'.

To find out more please go to: www.exceedingexpectations.org.uk