Think fraternities and sororities are hotbeds of hate? This group is working to change that perception.
Get REAL’s mission as a non-profit is to empower university and college students across the country to speak to high school and middle school students about unlearning homophobia and embracing everyone, regardless of difference. We began as a campus organization at Western University (Canada) in 2011, and have since grown to teams at Guelph, Queens, Mount Allison, and Acadia, and we will be at 10 universities/colleges BC all the way out to Halifax in the fall. We have spoken to thousands of students across Ontario and the East Coast.
The videos we produce are a means to that end – we use them to reach new supporters, to garner new school invites, and – most importantly – we use them as learning tools when we run our presentations. Our videos have been used in teachers colleges as far away as Australia, and featured on CTV, Global and Much Music.
That is our primary focus because we believe that in casual, honest personal stories, told by a team of young students both LGBT and straight, is the most effective method when it comes to unlearning homophobia language and attitudes. Get REAL is students teaching students about homophobia and being themselves, and it means a lot to me. I attended an all-guys’ school in grades 7 and 8. I was insecure, ignorant to different types of people – I myself am straight – and had a good sense of humor. This was a bad
combination for the people around me, who I would tease to no end. As I grew, matured, and had friends and people I respected come out to me, I began to regret my language and my attitude towards others. But I there is no control z button on life.
Our favorite challenge for our video content is to pick people that the general public might dismiss as close-minded and empower then bringing them into the conversation in a positive way. And not with a scripted video, but with their own words, and their own stories (much like one of our high school presentations). We believe that is how a movement grows: breaking down stereotypes and dispelling prejudice bit by bit until a small group of activists translates into a mass movement of the norm. And this in turn requires brave individuals to take the first steps, which is exactly what these fraternity and sorority brothers and sisters did with our project.
For all of us, Get REAL is a means to share these kinds of positive insights with students who remind us of ourselves, helping them avoid mistakes and to provide hope. Whether it is telling a coming out story that provides the kind of hope the speaker couldn’t have foreseen at age 16, or a story of unlearning the kind of meanness and fear of the unknown that I had at 13, Get REAL is our way of helping the younger generation help themselves. And they’re usually miles ahead of where we were, we find. Get REAL would have meant a lot to me back then – it would have blown my small mind, actually. And that is why it means so much to me right now.
We hope that fraternities, sororities, high schools and middle schools across North America join the movement – as many have already – and help us show youth everywhere that the message ‘Love is Love’ can be lived and embodied by truly anybody.