EDPS 360 (A2) Fall 2013

Queering the Classroom

In Cooperative Blog Posts on November 19, 2013 at 9:04 am

The topic we are exploring is about gender, sexuality, identity, and difference and the controversial nature of this subject. The two articles are “Generation Queer” by Kristopher Wells and “The Marc Hall Predicament” by Andre Grace and Kristopher Wells. These articles discuss the history surrounding sexuality, specifically LGBTQ individuals and the current issues that are being faced today. A further analysis of these articles will be discussed as well as questions will be presented after reading these two articles.

The authors propose that the “status” of LGBT citizens goesoutside the realm of just social acceptance, and is deeply ingrained in the foundation of the public school system, the Canadian Constitution, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While Catholic schools are the foundation of the public education system in Canada, they should also be held to the same public scrutiny as social boundaries change in the 21st century. The authors assert that since schools are publicly funded, their actions should be subject to Charter scrutiny” (p.25). Judicial culture has since slowly been changing since the Marc Hall case away from traditional conservative religious interests to those of equality and sexual freedom. As Trudeau brought about law reform in 1969 to legalize that “the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation” (p.28) this democratic principle should pass on to our schools as well, expanding the saying to “Institutional churches have no business in the classrooms of the nation” (p.29).

The article “Generation Queer”, available from the ATA website explores both the struggle of LGBTQ students for recognition and equality, as well as many options teacher have for promoting a climate of acceptance of all of their students regardless of sexual or gender identity in their classrooms. Generation Queer presents the case of Marc Hall, a homosexual student who led a crusade against human rights violations by school boards against students of minority gender and sexual identities. His campaign also led to the filing of many other human rights claims by other LGBTQ students in Canada, marking the beginning of an era of a confidently outspoken LGBTQ community, no longer willing to sit idly by while their rights were infringed upon by the school system.

The article breaks up the history of the research into LGBTQ youth into four eras dating from the 1970’s, from the initial response of trying to “fix” homosexual students who were perceived as having a mental illness and as degenerates, through the 80’s and 90’s era of acknowledgment plagued by serious risks for these populations as they were still seen in the public lens as ‘other’ and had significant aggression directed towards them. Following this they look at the 90’s and 2000’s, characterized by more progressive movements towards tolerance, advocacy, and a LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum.

Looking towards the future, the article had several reflective questions for teachers which I think we should try to answer in the comments below, including:

Are the images on the walls of my classroom and in the books in my school library inclusive and affirming of LGBTQ individuals?

Is my school a welcoming, inclusive, and supportive place for same-gender parented families? Are the realities of these families included in our school communications and welcoming messages?

Does my school have a GSA or similar support groups for LGBTQ and allied students? If not, will you be the teacher ally who helps to create one?

Do I know where to refer LGBTQ youth for support in my community? Consider becoming that “trusted adult” who can make the difference between a youth who slides towards risk or is supported to grow into resilience.

Are the units taught on sexual health and healthy relationships in my school inclusive of the mental and sexual health needs of LGBTQ and questioning youth? Does our school understand how sexual rights are also fundamental human rights?

1.       Grace and Wells (2005) mention in their article that the catholic school’s decision to not allow Marc  to take his boyfriend to the prom as an “institutional  effort  to  privatize queer — to keep it hidden, invisible, silent, unannounced — in religion, education,  and  culture” (p. 239). Do you think the privatization of queer or homosexuality is primarily a result of the church? Or can you think of other institutions that may be responsible for this?

2.       What do we, as upcoming teachers, need to change in our own beliefs, actions, and values that can help accommodate individuals of the LGBTQ community? Do you think you may display subconscious behaviours that may make this group feel alienated or not welcome/accepted in the classroom?

3.       In his letter to his principal, Marc states that he is “fighting for what so many people don’t understand” (Grace, 2005, p. 246). What can we do in the classroom to help our students, fellow teachers and parents of these students understand what it means to be queer? Should this be included in the sexual education portion of the curriculum?

4.     How can we break the overwhelming power that heterosexuals hold in our society? Do you think that heterosexuality or homosexuality will ever be viewed as equal?

  1. In order to break the power of heteronormativity in our society, the only real currency we have is raising awareness. The reason why any culture becomes normalized in a society is a lack of any counter perspective. If people are not made aware of an opposing view, or fact-based reality, then they will not see a reason to change perspectives. The education system is the most appropriate place to start a change in any cultural perspective. However, the education of students in schools of the existence of the LGBTQ community is a just a beginning. This alone will not be enough to change the attitudes toward sexual minorities in schools. Along with raising awareness, it is also important to teach facts about sexual identities. For example, in 1973 the American Psychological Association declassified homosexuality as a pathology and that it is actually genetically based. By adding empirical facts, we can add weight to the idea of respecting and protecting the LGBTQ community. Tolerance must also be taught explicitly to students and rules and guidelines in schools regarding the equal treatment of LGBTQ students must also be developed. Students must be made aware of, not only the existence of sexual minority groups, but also the damage done to these minorities through bullying and exclusion.

    As for the question of whether or not heterosexuality and homosexuality will ever be viewed as equal, I don’t know if I can answer that. I would like to think that one day we can move beyond such forms of discrimination, but I’m not sure if that will ever happen, at least not in our lifetime. The truth is that homosexuality is represented by the minority in society and, therefore, is always going to be fighting for recognition. Unfortunately, I think it is just human nature to normalize what is more highly represented among a population of people. I’m not saying that it’s ok to just sweep marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ community under the rug and forget about them. I’m saying that the raising of awareness for sexual minority groups is likely going to be a permanent need within our society in order to ensure their recognition.

  2. 1. I think society as a whole needs to change. Even in our public school system we aren’t including much information of minorities (of any kind) in our curriculum. We rarely see examples of “successful” members of minority groups. We are taught a very heteronormative, and eurocentric curriculum. I think society in general likes to say that equality is great but it takes more effort than simply saying you supper equality.

    I think, as teachers, we need to realize that we are going to encounter so many different types of students. We need to be accepting of all of them. I had a girl in one of my classes last year that said she’d have a hard time teaching a LGBTQ student. We are supposed to promote equality and tolerance. How can we do that if we, ourselves, are not tolerant and accepting individuals? We need to be creating safe spaces for all our students no matter what their sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, etc. is. I think everybody may display subconscious behaviours but there isn’t much we can do about that other than create safe spaces.

    I think education is key when making people understand. We can’t trust parents, internet articles, or media to educate the world. Teachers have so much influence on students, and by educating them about the queer population that knowledge can then permeate throughout society. It should most definitely be included in sexual education, and in other subjects as well. Why can’t we examine strong queer figures in social studies as well?

    Finally, I don’t think homosexuality will be viewed as equal to heterosexuality for a long time. Ethnic minorities are still fighting against racism despite major victories that took place years ago. However, that does not mean that things will not get better. I think what needs to happen is we need to educate society on LGBTQ issues, and publicize LGBTQ issues.

  3. As we talked about in class today, I think that it is imperative for sexuality and gender of ALL types to be taught in the sexual health or “sex-ed” classes of today’s schools. I also firmly believe that parents should not have the ability to pull their children out of a class that teaches around the specifics of sexual and gender minorities. Yes, someone made an excellent point that some parents may be very in-tune with their children and thus recognize that they need to be taught this information in a different way. These parents of course would be taking their child out for a reason other than intolerance, however, this would not then prevent other parents from excusing their students for the wrong reasons. These same children, who’s parents may be completely restricting what they learn about LGBTQ populations, will be completely sheltered from the true facts and this will hurt them in the long run. If the only source of information given to youth about sexual and gender minorities is the media, peers, and possibly parents, possibly harmful and inaccurate views on LGBTQ individuals will be perpetuated among these students. The only way to create positive change, in my opinion, is to educate students from a young age that there are many different ways for people to live and find happiness, and that all of these ways are ok, whether it is two women together, a man and a woman, or two men. We have a long road ahead of us as a society on the way to changing views on LGBTQ individuals, and an even longer road until these people are seen as equal to heterosexual individuals, but educating our younger generations would be an excellent place to start.

  4. I think language is so important. Not only does it help students gain a better understanding of why some words are harmful and pejorative but it also gives students the tools to more accurately express what they are feeling. While the language students use is not the root of the problem, I think changing the way they use language will help cause change in the way they interact with the world around them. I’m don’t think we will see homosexuality treated the same as heterosexuality in our lifetime. I also think we need to stop treating sexuality as a dichotomy. I do not think sexuality is a dichotomy. I think that is a fallacy set up by heteronormativity: that if you are not straight than you are Other. If one adheres to a strict dichotomy then they fail to see the other forms of sexuality that exists (bisexuality, pansexuals, transexuals, etc). As teachers, to help prevent bullying, I think we need to create as inclusive a classroom as possible.
    P.S. I found a really interesting video about what if heterophobia were real:

  5. Although I whole heartedly believe that exclusion of any minority group is wrong I think we have to keep in mind that religious education institutions (no matter how backwards their views) also have a right to their opinions. We can’t argue the freedom of one groups views by taking away the freedom of another. Inclusion should be implemented where appropriate. Forcing a group to adopt a mentality that is the complete opposite of their own would only lead to resentment and a further divide between the opposing view points.

  6. Heterosexual power is an inherently powerful force in society. To answer your last question, I doubt that there’ll ever be complete equality when considering heterosexuals and homosexuals. Or at least not in our lifetime as other posters have stated. As Truman364 has stated, homosexuals make up a very small minority, and unfortunately this leads to a degree of inequality. Although I’m confident in their being vast improvements in a cultural shift to equality, I am hesitant in their ever being total sexual equality. Unfortunately, todays media/cultural vernacular reflects poorly on homosexuality, as being called “gay” or “fag” is often used in a derogative manner.

  7. I think as an upcoming teacher the best thing that I can be is a role model in raising awareness and support for LGBTQ individuals both within the school and the community. I personally am supportive of LGBTQ individuals. It is their individual choice and just because someone identifies as LGBTQ it does not make them a lesser human being. In fact I know individuals that self-identify as LGBTQ and they are some of the most loving, warm, caring, compassionate individuals that I know. As someone that does not identify as LGBTQ I feel that I have no right to judge someone based on their sexual identification. As long as their decisions are not harming me by unwillingly forcing me to take actions I do not choose to take then I have no right judging their individual choices and actions.

    I have the responsibility and power to stand up for individuals that are being discriminated against and educate those that believe they are superior. It is important to educate students and members of society that the world is not black and white. LGBTQ is a more then a lifestyle choice for some it is their life and they have the right to be treated with respect and feel safe. Thus as a future teacher I need to do what I can to make these students feel safe in the classroom, the school and with their peers.

    All we can do to break the overwhelming power of heterosexuals is by supporting LGBTQ individuals and their rights and provide education and join in the fight for equality. I hope one day that homosexuality and heterosexuality can be viewed as equal but unless there are drastic societal and religious changes this will never happen.

  8. Speaking as someone who is close friends with multiple homosexual individuals, this is an issue that really hits home for me. The fact that our society can be advanced in so many ways and yet non-heterosexual individuals can still face such strong discrimination and prejudice is something that truly baffles me. Not only should it be completely accepted for people to be however they want to be, and along with that have the freedom to express themselves in any way they choose, but the irony here is that heterosexuality is a complete societal construction. It is simply the dominant culture exerting its power over those in minority groups and I’m not exactly sure where along the line someone took it upon them self to decide what was ‘right’ and what was ‘wrong.’

    Thank you to whoever posted that video on what life would be like if the situation was reversed and heterophobia as opposed to homophobia existed. It is interesting because even as I type these words, my computer program recognizes ‘homophobia’ as a word but not ‘heterophobia’… how messed up is that. Anyways, the video is extremely eye opening in regards to the fact that people don’t choose who they love, it is simply who they are and how they are made. Therefore, discrimination is completely unfair- homosexual individuals have no more choice in who they love than heterosexuals; love happens naturally.

    In regards to what can we do to combat this issue as teachers, I think we have a great opportunity to really raise awareness for these issues and to teach our students that acceptance is the only option. We need to empower our students to be who they want to be and let them know that no matter what path they are on, we will be there to support them. This means that YES definitely, multiple types of sexuality should be introduced and discussed in our health curriculum. Part of the whole problem here stems from the fact that we are so heterosexual in our thinking and education system. Even though it is true we have come a long way in past years, schools are still highly hetero-normalized institutions and this is something that needs to be addressed if we ever want to even come close to eliminating problems of discrimination. I think a good place to start would simply be choosing to bring homosexuality (as well as other forms of sexuality) into the public eye, be it with awareness posters, stories, or even getting speakers to come to schools and share their stories with the students. The whole reason why people choose to discriminate against non-heterosexuals is because it is not seen as ‘normal,’ but really… what is normal? Normal is what we make it- this is the whole irony of the situation.

    Unfortunately, I still think we have a LONG way to go before homosexuality/etc. will be on par with heterosexuality in terms of societal acceptance. However, that being said every step forward is a step in the right direction and I truly believe (as do many others in their posts that I read) that awareness is key. The better educated students are, the less intolerance there will be.

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