Every secondary school in Scotland will soon receive a powerful anti-homophobia DVD. The film is divided into seven 15-minute chapters and explores issues about homophobic bullying and gender stereotyping.
It’s called FIT and will be distributed by Stonewall Scotland throughout the rest of March. It’s billed as the first feature film of its kind, and has been described by one critic as “a gritty take on E4’s Glee”.
FIT was originally produced as a play by London’s Drill Hall, in association with Team Angelica, and experienced a successful run during 2007 and 2008. Now it is a DVD.
“The intelligent, powerful and entertaining film uses hip-hop, humour, and lively writing similar to [UK] Channel 4’s Skins to communicate with pupils in a way that makes it easy for them to engage with the issues raised,” says Stonewall Scotland.
The film is divided into seven 15-minute chapters and explores issues about homophobic bullying and gender stereotyping and the impacts this can have on health, well-being and learning for those involved and those who have to witness homophobia on a daily basis.
It is being launched in Scotland at an Edinburgh premiere for pupils, teachers and others involved in education today. And the DVDs will start arriving at schools tomorrow.
The film has been partly funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland and the Scottish Government, and Learning Teaching Scotland are assisting with distribution.
“The interactive DVD has been created to tackle homophobic bullying and encourage pupils to challenge their widespread use of the word ‘gay’ to mean anything rubbish or inadequate,” says the group. “The DVD will offer the support teachers need to tackle homophobic bullying in the classroom.”
In Stonewall’s 2009 research document “The Teacher’s Report”, nine out of 10 secondary-school teachers said children and young people currently experience homophobic bullying, name-calling or harassment in their schools. Yet the same proportion had never received any specific training on how to prevent and respond to homophobic bullying.
FIT is an adaptation of Stonewall’s “highly successful play for schools”, which was seen on tour at eight schools in Scotland in 2007–2008.
“The response to the play showed us that young people welcomed the opportunity to discuss discrimination, relationships and sexual orientation and to challenge each other’s views – and that attending teachers wanted to talk about these issues in the classroom, but a lack of resources and materials made this impossible,” the group says.
Stonewall Scotland says that using the DVD could help Scottish schools meet “a wide range of experiences and outcomes in the third, fourth and senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence and sits well with the Health and Wellbeing curriculum area”.
After seeing the play FIT one student said: “It was amazing how people’s attitudes changed just like that after the show – they were criticising other people who’d had homophobic attitudes.”
An Edinburgh deputy head said: “FIT was an outstanding presentation which judged its audience extremely well. It raised the profile of homophobic behaviour in both a sensitive but challenging way. It was very well received by our target group of pupils and certainly appeared to succeed in getting its message across.”
Carl Watt, director of Stonewall Scotland, said: “Too many young people have told us they experience homophobic bullying in the classroom and too many teachers have told us they haven’t had the training they need to tackle it.
“Two-thirds of Scottish lesbian, gay and bisexual young people are bullied in school, and 98 percent of all children hear the phrases ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ at school.
“This film is here to support teachers in bringing about much-needed change in our schools and helping them create the safe learning environment that is every child’s right.”
Of homophobia in school, Stephen Blake, writing aboutFIT in the latest issue of Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine, says: “When I was very young, I knew that I was different from other boys, but I didn’t know why. However, by the time I was ten, I knew that I was attracted to other boys, and throughout the majority of my years at school, I knew I was gay. Any young person in this situation knows how lonely, debilitating a desperate life can become. It can affect how well a person succeeds at school, and in later life, their self-esteem and how well they get on with their family or friends.”
Morag Alexander, the Scotland commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Ten years ago the infamous Section 28 [of the Local Government Act of 1988] meant many of our teachers felt unable to address homophobic bulling and harassment in Scottish schools. It was the elephant in the classroom. Ten days ago a lack of confidence, training and classroom materials meant exactly the same thing. Today that changes. Now there is no excuse for the bullying and harassment that we know shames our school playgrounds to go on unaddressed.”
The writer/director of FIT, Rikki Beadle-Blair, said: “When on tour I would ask the kids how many people thought homosexuality was wrong. In every single school the vast majority, about 80 percent, would put their hands up. But kids would come up after the performance and say quite openly, ‘I walked into this room homophobic and will leave it a changed person.’ ”
Stephen Blake adds, writing of the play that became the film: “FIT is about attempting to fit in and to stand out in today’s culture where everything from not liking sport to wearing the wrong trainers is ‘gay’. Snappy dialogue and pacey writing, combined with energetic hip-hop dance, original music and sparky comedy ensured that the play was an unforgettable piece of theatre.”