February is LGBT+ History Month. In honour of this year’s theme — ‘Poetry, Prose and Plays’ — we’ve released a dedicated training resource for First Story Writers-in-Residence. We’re delighted to be able to share one of the included exercises here.
First Story Writer-in-Residence Caleb Parkin, who describes himself as a ‘day-glo queero techno eco poet & facilitator’ authored the guide, based on his experiences in schools. Our new resource is intended to help LGBT+ practitioners working in schools feel safe, creative and confident, and to give all practitioners the tools and inspiration to deliver creative writing workshops that are celebratory and inclusive.
Inclusion is at the heart of First Story’s mission to change lives through writing. We work with many schools that are positive and progressive in representing LGBT+ histories, cultures and identities. However, there is much more that can be done. Stonewall’s 2017 School Report revealed that more than half of LGBT+ pupils hear homophobic language ‘frequently’ or ‘often’ at school.
Challenging lazy, othering language and stereotypes can very much be within the realm of writers and creative writing. Our new guide shares a selection of texts which engage with and celebrate a rich diversity of writers and writing. It focuses on ways to build a culture of respect within a creative writing group, so that young people feel safe to explore their full selves through their writing.
Here’s an exercise from the resource that you could try in your own classroom.
Tags and Labels
Write on the board the following sentence starters and ask each group member to write their responses by repeating that stem:
I am a… <What ‘hats’ do you wear? The different facets of your identity: as many as you can.>
Today, I am… <What are you today? Feelings, thoughts, passing states. As many as you can.>
I love… <What/who/where do you love? As many as you can.>
I feel proud… <What are you proud of? As many as you can.>
Whether there are or aren’t openly LGBT+ students in a group, hopefully this activity opens up space for connection, even in difference. It may help point out the ways we use labels, as well as the ways in which we’re labelled by others. It may also offer a way to talk about LGBT+ matters through a softer, less direct approach — potentially more inclusive for young people who are particularly shy or unconfident.
Keeping ‘love’ open to all kinds of love – familial, romantic, passion for a hobby – makes this a spacious approach. Whether participants identify as LGBT+ or not, one hopes that everyone will have relationships in their lives that can be written about lovingly, and thereby find connections with different people in the group.