The eleven-minute film “Ruben” is not very cheerful. The gentle fifteen-year-old Ruben (played by Erick Brons) is attracted to boys, but nobody knows that. Not even his parents. Meanwhile at school, they are calling Ruben a faggot. Of course at PE, he is never chosen. Through a chat, Ruben has a date with one of his peers, Mike.
But their secret kiss in the park is photographed by one of his classmates. They put a print of this on his bench, and when Ruben wants to run, some guys knock him down in front of the school. When Mike tells Ruben in a text that he doesn’t want to see him anymore, Ruben loses all hope. Through the rain, he walks to the nearest railway crossing.
According to the accompanying teacher’s manual, “Ruben” is meant as a starting point for an educational class, and is based on a true story. It isn’t very likely that Kim, the “real” Ruben’s little sister, rescued him from the railroad, but it is not that relevant anyway. The important thing is how this film can be used in the classroom. The very compact story will certainly make an impression, especially because of the beautiful song that ends the film (written and sung by one of the boys in the group of bullies).
But if a teacher would only use this film to make homosexuality a subject of discussion, it does set a very gloomy tone. Fortunately, the manual does place the film in a larger framework than just “gay bullying.” One of the suggestions made is to combine the material with the so-called School Thermometer survey, a methodology to measure the school climate with a short survey. And there is a large poster on which the class can write their own anti- bulling lines after discussing the film.
“Ruben” is released by EduDivers, the Dutch Expertise Center on Education and Sexual Diversity. Teachers who want to place the film in a broader scope, within their lesson or as a means to shape the school’s policy on diversity, will find many suggestions on the organization’s website.
The campaign MijnID is interesting, in which the school declares that everyone can be who they want to be, also when it comes to sexual identity. Teachers who register as a MijnID ambassador, will get support in starting school campaigns and teaching a “Ruben class.”
For those who remain dispirited after seeing the film, it might be a good idea to get more information on one of MijnID’s suggestions: the originally American Gay&Straight Alliances (GSAs).
GSAs are groups of straight and gay students (or students who aren’t sure yet) who want to make their school a pleasant environment for students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, as mentioned on the GSA website. It also includes an impressive map of the dozens of GSAs that are already set up in The Netherlands. And especially have a look at the video under the tab “GSA.” It is a reminder of what the word “gay” also stands for.