Author working to combat homophobia

Dr Margaret Hughes, social worker and  Marriage Equality Council representative Mara Schneiders, and author Daniel Witthaus. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON

Dr Margaret Hughes, social worker and Marriage Equality Council representative Mara Schneiders, and author Daniel Witthaus. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON

DEATH by a thousand cuts, is how one young person explained continually being taunted for his sexuality.

This is according to Daniel Witthaus, author and anti-homophobia trainer who is meeting with educators, social workers and chaplains on how to address prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the state this week.

Here as part of his work with the National Institute for Challenging Homophobia Education, Mr Witthaus said prejudice comments against LGBTI that left people feeling like it was a ‘‘death by a thousand cuts’’ was what he wanted to stop.

His workshops will focus on educating those at the front line, whether it be in education, health or local government settings, how to address the issue of prejudice, off-the-cuff comments or ‘‘jokes’’ directed at LGBTI people.

‘‘If they’ve got supportive people who are ready to go, there are certain strategies that will work for them, if there’s some resistance or a lack of knowledge around certain ways for example, how to challenge classroom homophobia, there are certain resources that will help them there,’’ he said.

Mr Witthaus said teachers often say they’re unsure how to stop such remarks as, ‘‘that’s so gay’’, and recommends pointing out to students that in the classroom they don’t accept racism, sexism and homophobia.

‘‘If we don’t allow racism and sexism, why are we allowing you to say ‘that’s so gay’ and letting these words slip by, and they find that to be successful,’’ he said.

‘‘We know that the best way to combat everyday homophobia is to tackle it straight away – to do it immediately and to do it consistently.’’

Ideally he said there were many ways such education could be embedded in the school curriculum.

Mr Witthaus’ latest book, Beyond Priscilla, will be launched on Thursday night in Hobart and is a collection of stories after a 266-consecutive day tour around regional and rural Australia challenging ‘‘homophobia one cup of tea at a time’’.

He started his Tasmanian tour in Launceston yesterday, with a marriage equality workshop.

Today he will run a professional development workshop with Education Department staff, service providers and chaplains at Launceston College, before heading to the West and North-West.

He will finish his tour in Hobart with the launch at Fuller’s Bookshop and then meetings with  Scripture Union Tasmania and the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.

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