Article Title:Part two: GrammarPride and the importance of storytelling
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Published on:22nd January 2016 - 10:43 am
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Story ID:17810
Text:In part two of our look into the GrammarPride blog, we chat to co-creator Henry Yuen about his motivations and speaking out against homophobia.   Graduating from Auckland Grammar School as Dux and Senior Prefect in 2012, Henry is now a student at Duke University, studying engineering and revealed on the GrammarPride blog that “I did not come out as gay until eight months after I graduated because I could not uphold both my sexual orientation and my Grammar identity simultaneously. “People may be surprised to hear that I was bullied since middle school and for a few years at Grammar for often ‘acting gay’”, he wrote. Why did you decide to start the GrammarPride blog? The power of inspiration is simply immense. My experience at Grammar was heavily shaped by older students who had set forth a path for us to follow, demonstrating the Grammar Way of carrying ourselves everyday. Hence, it puts us as Old Boys at an incredible advantage to influence the lives of current Grammar boys in every positive way possible. Alumni of any educational institution have a personal responsibility to give back, and my vision of giving back is through supporting the Grammar LGBTQIA community. No student should have to live through homophobia, LGBTQIA or otherwise. It is 2016, and excuses such as “boys will be boys” or maintaining an overly masculine environment that sacrifices empathy is unacceptable. Hence, Joel and I sought out ways to leverage our identity as gay Grammar Old Boys to shed light on this issue, not only in Auckland Grammar School but in all high schools around New Zealand. Storytelling has always been an interesting medium for me. Presenting students’ stories on a blog site allows them to draw comparisons and validate their own experiences. Closeted and struggling students need to know that they are not alone, and this site helps to do precisely that. What do you believe is the importance of storytelling and providing a space for people to share their experiences? People are biologically geared to both create stories and listen to them. Stories are the medium through which we share our triumph and hardships. Grammar Pride gives students that exact medium to share their raw, honest experiences, focusing on how we as a community can best support struggling students. Every student, whether they are straight or not, has a voice that needs to be heard, and hearing that voice builds empathy in all of us. Do you feel that many LGBTI youth feel isolated and does the Grammar School environment lend itself well to this - being a large, all boys school? Homophobia among teenagers is not a Grammar issue, but a systemic one. While New Zealand is a relatively progressive society, we need to ensure that our LGBTQIA youth do not feel alone and do have access to the necessary safety nets and resources that enable them to succeed. We are looking forward to Grammar taking a leading role in reforms across New Zealand high schools. What has the school pledged to do to address these concerns raised and what initiatives are in the works? The Headmaster has been very proactive in supporting initiatives that we raised to his attention. Several initiatives that we proposed include professional development for staff and prefects, supplementing the current curriculum with units on gender diversity and sexuality and forming a Gay-Straight Alliance with a teacher as a point-person in charge. What feedback have you received since launching the site? The support we have received has been absolutely phenomenal. To this date, we've had over 35,000 views from almost 7000 visitors across 71 countries. People have written in from all over the country, affirming their support for their movement, from doctors passionate about tackling high suicide rates to families excited to see how Grammar will progress as a community for their sons. Head boys and duxes from other schools shared their experiences as LGBTQIA students, and LGBTQIA organisations around the country have been quick to offer support and resources for the site. At the end of day, there is a common theme to all the feedback that we have received: "New Zealand high schools need to better accept and support its LGBTQIA students, whose voices need to be heard." I am optimistic that the GrammarPride movement will empower Auckland Grammar School to be a leader in establishing LGBTQIA support for students across New Zealand. Have you heard of any issues for gender-queer, trans or intersex students at Grammar (if there is anyone who is out)? These issues are important to talk about, and the Grammar Pride movement is not just supporting gay students but all students on the LGBTQIA spectrum. People may not be as aware of gender-queer, trans and intersex issues as gay and bisexual issues, and the goal of Grammar Pride is to equally support all of these students by documenting their experiences. What does Pride mean to you? Pride is being confident of what you can offer and what you need. Pride is not only accepting your identity, but celebrating it. Pride is embracing difference and diversity with love and empathy.     - 22nd January 2016
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