He’s vowed to combat homophobia “one cuppa at a time” and having returned from a 38-week road trip around Australia doing just that, educator Daniel Witthaus has launched the first in a series of written resources for regional and rural communities to challenge homophobia.
Witthaus said rather than write a single report about his experience, he will put together a series of easy-to-read resources to keep the conversation about homophobia in the bush on the boil. The first of these was released last month.
“What I’m trying to do is develop something people can read while having a cuppa, so they have a look at the information and say, ‘Gee, there’s more to this and I’d like to find out more’, as opposed to ‘This really is irrelevant for me and I’m not going to read a 120-page report’, ” Witthaus said.
“The idea of the tour was to get everyday teachers and health professionals who wouldn’t otherwise engage with the idea of affirming sexual diversity and challenging homophobia.
“So part one of the series is all about a modern-day snapshot to give people an overview of what the main issues are and what the state of play is at the moment for LGBT people in regional, rural and remote Australia.”
The fact sheets contain useful information for people working with young people, and also shares some of the stories Witthaus encountered on his long
journey around Australia.
One such tale is the harrowing account of Simon who was confronted with brutal homophobia at school, including from a teacher who kicked him out of class saying she would not have “a faggot like you in the classroom”.
Witthaus said the story touched his blog followers.
“I think what people would like to believe is we’ve left those days behind us and I think Simon’s story is important because it is a recent example,” Witthaus said.
“One of the hypotheses I wanted to test was, are things really better these days, because a lot of people do have this belief.
“What I found was that unless a young LGBT person was linked in with the supports that are around these days — and there’s never been greater support across the country for LGBT young people — then their experience was very similar to what other LGBT young people were experiencing 10 to 15 years ago.”
Witthaus said one of the things that surprised him was that not much has changed in the decade or so since he was involved in the 1999 national anti-homophobia Outlink tour conducted by gay rights advocate Rodney Croome.
“For me now the challenge is how do we get young people linked in to those supports a lot sooner, rather than just hoping and expecting they will.”
Witthaus’ anti-homophobia tour was largely self-funded. Series one of the resource is available at his website.
info: Visit www.thatssogay.com.au