Article Title:Part One: Change-making at Grammar
Category:People
Author or Credit:By
Published on:20th January 2016 - 08:46 am
Published by:GayNZ.com
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Story ID:17801
Text:Joel Bateman is one of the passionate young men behind the GrammarPride blog, which offers a platform for past and present pupils of Auckland Grammar School to share their experiences of coming to terms with their sexuality and dealing with homophobia at the school. The blog has not only gained the attention of national media, but allowed a wide variety of New Zealanders a better understanding of the challenges faced by many youth in this country. Joel, who was the Head Boy at Grammar in 2012, came out after his time at the school saying the latent homophobia that existed while he was attending caused him to fear speaking up. It was recognising that this was mostly a lack of awareness of the impact of off-hand comments rather than targeted animosity or hate, that inspired the creation of the GrammarPride blog. Currently a student at Harvard University, Joel says, “We think that it's extremely powerful for young LGBTQIA people to be able to look up to older role models and be encouraged by them. “We felt like an effective way to help enable this form of support would be through a blog because the internet is such a useful tool for young people who perhaps are unsure of their sexuality, but aren't comfortable personally approaching anyone about it yet. “Just being able to read and relate to stories of other LGBTQIA youth is useful.” Together with Henry Yuen, Joel put together stories from past and present pupils of the school and stresses the importance of storytelling, “It’s incredibly powerful to know that someone else has been through a struggle that you may be going through, to know that things got better for this person, and to hear any advice that this person may have to offer.” Joel says the blog was also set up to promote the importance of allies and awareness among the rest of the Grammar community. “By allowing students who aren't LGBTQIA to read personal stories and understand what some of the struggles can be like, and by having stories from straight students who are supportive of the initiative, we hope to make students who aren't LGBTQIA think about what they can do to help improve the current climate.” He says Pride is a word is strongly tied to Auckland Grammar School so GrammarPride was a fitting name for the blog. “Pride was always emphasised as a value while I was at school and it's something I'll carry through with me for life. “Grammar boys are fiercely loyal, and fiercely proud of their school, and I myself am an extremely proud Grammar Old Boy. I think the word is all about taking confidence in who you are and where you're from. It's about self-empowerment. And of course, in the context of the movement for LGBTQIA equality, Pride means the exact same thing.” The feedback Joel and Henry have received has been “tremendously positive and honestly a little overwhelming” and Joel says hoping to reach a few hundred people at most, they were taken by surprise when the national media picked up on the story. As a result, the pair have been contacted by a number of people from other high schools across New Zealand voicing similar concerns. “As such, the feedback we've received has informed us that this is an issue that most likely exists across many NZ high schools,” says Joel “and we hope that the changes which take place at Grammar will be an example for many secondary schools to follow.” Joel says the school had already begun work to address these issues in the past, and the GrammarPride blog was just one inventive way in which they hoped to help out. “The Social Awareness Committee made tremendous ground on this issue last year and the leadership team at Grammar has already begun looking at ways to bring about a cultural shift. “We suspect to see this issue addressed in this coming year across multiple aspects of school life - such as the formation of a student group, staff professional development, and additional guidance counselors (to name a few actions that are being considered), not to mention direct discussion on this topic in assembly by Headmaster Tim O'Connor who has been demonstrating tremendous leadership in this initiative over the past year.” Joel and Henry recognise that gender-queer, trans and intersex students at Grammar are also misrepresented and often face problems, “which is why this isn't just an initiative for gay or bisexual students,” says Joel, “but for the entire LGBTQIA community at Grammar. “There is a wide range of different experiences and we hope to document just some of these experiences on our website. It's worth noting that some LGBTQIA students have said that they've had an extremely positive experience being open about their sexuality and/or gender-identity and that provides a lot of hope.” Check out the blog to read the stories of past and present Auckland Grammar School students and send us an email at news@gaynz.com if you would like to share with us your own experiences at the school.     - 20th January 2016
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