Hidden Perspectives

Bringing the Bible Out of the Closet

Side by Side by Maddy Oakes

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DSCF0377Side by Side is comes under the umbrella of the Sheena Amos Youth Trust. Could you explain what the SA Youth Trust does? And also what Side by Side does?
The Sheena Amos Youth Trust (SAYiT) is a registered charity (no. 1076951) established by Deed of Trust in May 1999. SAYiT promotes the sexual health and emotional wellbeing of young people in Sheffield up to the age of 25, in particular those whose needs are neglected by other provision.

We run a number of groups, currently providing for LGBT and HIV affected young people. These include Fruitbowl (under 18 LGBT group), Off the Scene, an over 18 LGBT youth group, Side by Side, a peer education project that works to tackle homophobic bullying and Yambo, a youth group for HIV affected young people– we provide the only support for these groups in Sheffield. We are governed by ten trustees, the majority of whom have a background in sexual health and/or youth work.

Side by Side is an Umbrella group at SAYiT. They comprise of a 12 Young People aged 16-21 who use Drama as a vehicle to challenge Homophobia and Transphobia within secondary schools across Sheffield. The members are a mix of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Straight young people who work together harmoniously to produce innovative and thought-provoking Theatre pieces aimed at educating their peers on a subject they feel very passionately about. All our Side by Side peer educators are volunteers and have contributed over 2,000 hours of their time to the project in 2012/13, this in turn has noticeably aided the young people’s sense of belonging and association which develops their resilience and contributes social capital to Sheffield through their benevolent actions.

Side by Side is an LGBT peer education project, delivered by volunteers aged 16-19. Why do you think peer education is a valuable tool?

I feel Peer Education is a fantastic tool and really enhances the work we do. Peer education is so positive because it provides the opportunity for people to talk about difficult topics in a way that everyone feels comfortable with and can understand. It also stimulates open and honest discussion around a focus topic.

The key benefit of young people’s Peer Education is that it isn’t patronising and young people can address relevant issues rather than issues that adults assume to be important. Fundamentally the key feature of Peer mentorship is that the young people leading the work have a powerful influence on other young people, and this is because of relatability. Advice, guidance and information are proven to be well received when people feel like those guiding them can personally relate to them and their experiences.

The young people involved in leading our Peer Education programme feel that been part of this project has helped to increase their confidence, self esteem and the skills that they have learnt have helped them in other areas such as maintaining safe and positive relationships, accessing higher education and gaining employment.

Side by Side uses drama, groupwork and discussion to raise awareness of issues faced by LGBT young people; why do you find these types of activity effective?

At SAYiT, we believe the primary benefit of Drama, group work and discussion are that they are three methods which are an alternative to talking at young people. We feel Drama is a powerful tool for facilitating and showcasing young people’s voice and influence. If used correctly, Drama can be an effective vehicle for self expression and conveying messages particularly those highlighting the need for positive change. Drama can empower young people to produce excellent and innovative pieces of work. Group work allows and encourages debate amongst young people regardless of their backgrounds and beliefs and develops team work skills. We consider any format that promotes young people to express themselves without the fear of judgement is worth employing in our work and the use of Group work and discussion certainly achieves these aims.

How did you get involved with Hidden Perspectives?

We are thrilled that the Hidden Perspectives project is raising money for our charity and we were extra excited when we were asked to not only have a presence at the event but also to participate in the theatrical side! As Drama and script-writing is a huge part of the work we do at Side by Side, the opportunity to devise a performance based around such an interesting theme really fired up the imagination of our young people.

Do you believe LGBTQ and the Bible should be discussed together (under the same platform)?

As a team we feel extremely passionate about LGBTQ issues being discussed in every aspect of life that involves humanity! It would be difficult to deny that the Bible isn’t a sturdy example of a Heteronormative piece of literature. This means that in many cases the LGBT community struggle to identify with Christianity as they feel isolated and often fail to identify with the characters and situations presented.

If society wishes to further dismantle ignorance against the LGBT community then LGBT voices need to be heard and LGBT role models need to be present across a range of mediums. The relation between homosexuality and atheism is incontestable and I feel this is primarily because the LGBT community cannot support and identify with a piece of writing that is so often used as a weapon to justify them being stripped of the same freedoms as other people.

People just seem so frightened to talk openly about LGBT people and the way the Bible has been interpreted is partially responsible for it.

The key to change is open discussion and I feel that only by bringing knowledge and awareness of LGBT people into discussions around Christianity and other religions these important changes can begin to be made. If the LGBT community continues be invisible within aspects of history then LGBT people will continue to be demonised and rejected by some of the Christian community.

How will you be contributing to the festival on the 1st of June?

Our performance entitled ‘Christianity Today’ is a dystopian piece of drama that directly looks at what happens when the Bible ‘comes out of the closet’

Set in 2072 in a television studio, the piece creates a chat show style show that looks at the hidden LGBT voices with the Bible and how actually viewing these can change the way that LGBT people are viewed in society.

We are incredibly excited to present this piece of work and see it as an important performance that will aid us in our continuous fight against hatred and intolerance.

Check out Side by Side’s participant page here!

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Author: Hidden Perspectives

A research project within the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) at The University of Sheffield.

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