04 May 2014 11:20

 People from across the entire spectrum of human sexuality are being invited to share brief stories about their love life as part of a new project to address homophobia in schools.
The booth project: hear me OUT is inviting members of the straight and LBTQI (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, and Intersexed) community to submit individual personal narratives in the language they feel most comfortable in.
Collectively these will provide a sense of the infinite ways one can love and be loved and articulate the complex nature of gender and sexuality through a narrative account of lived experiences.
Entries can be submitted audio-recorded, video-recorded or in writing, through email or on Facebook. Excerpts will then be selected to create one or more podcasts that can be used to combat bullying in schools.
Funded by the Cyprus Centre for Intercultural Studies at the University of Nicosia, the project comes as Nicosia prepares to host the island’s first Gay Pride parade. It is part of the network ‘Someone Has to Do This’, inviting members of the art community to offer their support to the LGBT+ community and encourage others to do the same
Organised by Accept Cyprus, the local LGBT organisation under the auspices of Nicosia Municipality, the Gay Pride on May 31 is the culmination of a series of events – including debates and film screenings.
Though the holding of the Gay Pride reflects growing social tolerance on gay issues lo-cally, surveys shows that homophobia is still rampant in schools.
Researcher Georgia Charalambous, a Phd candidate at the University of Nicosia said the project comes as a continuation of her Masters thesis which explored the problem of ho-mophobia in school settings.
“In that study I conducted long interviews with various individuals of various sexual orientations with different personal characteristics and experiences. The outcome of that work illustrated the great degree of homophobia that exists in school settings, the difficulties the participants had throughout their lives, as well as the inability of teachers to address such issues in their practices,” she said.
Dr Lucy Avraamidou, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Nicosia who is overseeing the research said individuals’ stories illuminate beliefs, values, sexuali-ties, experiences, personal troubles, views on public issues, concerns, successes, failures – the pasts, presents and futures that make up each individual’s history.
“An exploration of the role of these histories on identity development, of which sexuality is part of, is at the core of this project. Essentially, we aim at exploring how life histories and sexualities connect or intertwine and how those impact the construction of the Self,” she said.
For the Cyprus Centre for Intercultural Studies, which is backing the project, the initiative fulfils the key objective of attending to human rights issues with a commitment to social change.
“We value and promote such efforts and hence our support for this amazing project,” said CCIS director Dr Marilena Zackheos.
After completion of the project, researchers will go through the stories, and select specific excerpts in order to create one or more podcasts, that could be used for educational purposes.
The podcasts can serve as an input for the design of inclusive curriculum materials that explore GLBTQI issues, and essentially serve as potent bullying prevention tools.
The podcasts can be shared alongside suggested instructional activities with any interested individuals, parties or organisations, organisers added.

How can you share your story?
You can share your story in any language, either audio-recorded, video-recorded, or in writing, through e-mail in the period of four weeks (April 28- May 31) at the following email: boothprojectcy@gmail.com and on the Facebook group page (The booth project: hear me OUT).
Throughout this period short excerpts of the stories collected will be published on the group’s Facebook page to illuminate the diverse and most colourful details of individuals’ lived stories: pleasant, fun, emotional, inspiring, painful, heart-breaking. Actual booths will be located at the University of Nicosia and other places in different cities on specific dates/times that will be soon be announced on the project’s Facebook page. These are customisable and mobile audio booths designed to collect and share real time voices. The booths are mobile, handicap accessible and can accommodate one person at a time.
You can choose to share your name or use a pseudonym, you can identify as a man, a woman, or defy a gender label. It will be useful to identify as straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersexed, in order to help researchers examine common (or not) characteristics and themes among the shared stories. This is significant given efforts to better understand the extent and nature of homophobia, both in school but also in out-of-school settings.

Involving the art community
The project is part of the network: Someone Has To Do This: “an LGBT+ Visibility project” (www.someonehastodothis.net).
This is an open call for members of the art community to publicly intervene, to visibly offer their support to the LGBT+ community and to encourage others to do the same.
The interventions can take place in an organised or disorganised fashion, with no spatial, format-related, of thematic limitations. By participating in one way or another, artists take a stance in a campaign for equal rights for the LGBT+ community. While the works (installations, images, text, performances, and so on, and/or their documentation) go on to live unpredictable lives in the public sphere, this project also calls for a connection be-tween artists who feel the need to intervene, to suggest means of coordination and mobi-lisation, to raise questions, and to reinforce demands for equal Human Rights as these are framed by vulnerable groups (in this case the LGBT+ community, or, in other cases, mi-grant communities, women’s groups, economically vulnerable groups etc).
Members of this network are various artists located in Cyprus, such as Christalleni Loizidou and Alkis Hadjiandreou, University Professors, such as Evi Tselika from the University of Nicosia, as well as organisations that are based abroad, such as Cuntemporary (www.cuntemporary.org).


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