By SOPHIE STONE.

 

The Auckland Museum foyer is rapidly filling with people radiating enthusiasm. The atmosphere in the lobby is friendly. Friends and strangers alike mingle, wine flows and the canapes have been served. Teachers and education workers mix with Rainbow Youth members and those who are simply interested.

They all share a common goal.

They want to see a difference being made.

They want to see further resources on gender, sex and sexuality for school children, to help foster positive relations to each other and minimise the amount of bullying in schools.

The crowd are here for the launch of Inside Out -  a collaboration between Rainbow Youth, Curative, Core Education and Auckland University - to create a set of educational resources targeted towards school students. They aim to challenge norm-based thinking and reduce the amount of homophobia and transphobia in schools.

The audience was shown the first of a series of videos which focused on gender, sex and sexuality, as seven interviewees disclosed their high school experiences relating to their own gender and sexual identities. The videos detail how many young people feel they are expected to act within gender roles, and the difference between gender and biological sex. They encourage viewers to question enforced beliefs and prejudice, and consider what they can do to help others feel accepted.

Though the atmosphere is supportive and friendly, the issues that demand these resources are obvious. After being welcomed into the auditorium with a powhiri, Dr. John Fenaughty, founder of Inside Out and project director, begins to discuss the need for education in schools.

He describes how children who experience same-sex attraction are three times more likely to be bullied at school than their heterosexual peers, and how transgender youth are four and a half times more likely to be bullied. Such statistics persist despite the fantastic work Rainbow Youth have been doing to increase awareness of LGBTI issues, including delivering educational workshops within schools.

The resources being released are the result of a survey which found 94% of students said they felt that the workshops reduced homophobia and transphobia in their schools, but felt that more resources were needed.

The resources meet key NZ curriculum and Health curriculum objectives, and take on a non-challenging approach, focusing on how norms reinforce homophobia and transphobia, and how they limit all kinds of identities. The resources contain five 10-13 minute videos about gender identity aimed at Year 7 and 8 students, with other videos aimed at students in Year 9 to 13 which include discussions about sexual identities.

More than 100 people and organisations were involved in creating the content, including the Ministry of Social Development, Albany Senior High students, the Mental Health Foundation, Rainbow Youth, and Curative. Thirteen people were interviewed and shared their knowledge in order to create the video resources.

Rainbow Youth will be working with teachers in eight educational centres around New Zealand to teach using the resources, which focus on critical thinking.

Eddy Royal, fellow project director, explained the reason for naming the program Inside Out.

“It can give an inside view on being out, and turn things inside out to see things from different perspectives,” she said.

The resources also cover some of the lesser known identities, such as Fa’afafine, Samoan biological males who behave in stereotypical female ways. This aims to show more students in a positive light. Rainbow Youth tries to engage takatapui taiohi (Maori queer youth), and these resources follow that tradition, ensuring no Kiwi is left out.

For Eddie, seeing the program coming into effect is a wonderful experience. 

“It’s been in production for two years, and the issue is long standing and far reaching so it means the world to see the program coming into action.”

Dr. Fenaughty hopes the program will help change views on sex and gender as well as bring comfort to those who feel out of place.

"It’s incredibly exciting to put something out there that will help queer and trans young people and say that they are amazing," he said.

Inside Out video resources are freely available on their website.

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