07 SES 14 B, Schools As Queer Spaces: European Perspectives
Many countries in Europe are currently experiencing socio-political transitions in the legal status of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) identities and relationships as well as attitudes towards them. Whilst some transitions are viewed as positive (e.g. the legalisation of same-sex marriage), it is recognised that many inequalities remain. ILGA Europe recognises education as a setting in which LGB people encounter more structural levels of discrimination and a lack of representation in school curricula. As a result, they identify young LGB people as being particularly as risk of social exclusion in education. A survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) (2013) found hate crime and discrimination against LGB people to be prevalent in many EU member states andCroatia. In relation to schooling, the survey found that 2 out of 3 LGB respondents claimed to be disguising being LGB at school and that over 80% recalled negative comments or bullying of LGB youth.
Much research to date has focused on homophobic bullying and the negative consequences of expressing non-heterosexual and non-gender-conforming identities in school environments. Less attention has been paid to what may help LGB students to experience school more positively. Less attention has also paid to issues around gender and relatively little has been done to compare research across different European countries. This symposium aims to go some way towards redressing these research gaps by bringing together ongoing research in 4 European countries – Croatia, Iceland, Spain and UK.
Each paper reports on results of empirical research into school experiences of LGB students. Different data-sets are presented with each paper focusing on a different aspect of LGB school experience as well as providing a national overview of the situation in their respective country. Jugović and Benizović present quantitative data gained from survey research which shows that same-sex attracted students in Croatian schools are more likely to experience relational violence than those who do not experience same-sex attraction. They argue that teacher support can function as a positive intervention in such cases. Kjaran’s ethnographic study of secondary school classrooms in Iceland uses interview and observation data to explore how queer ‘counter-spaces’ can be created in school in ways which benefit all students. Calvelhe draws on interviews with young gay men inSpainand critically analyses how their interactions with media and internet representations of gay men influence their school experience. Whilst Calvelhe focuses on the experiences of young gay men, this is balanced by Sauntson’s contributions which focuses on school experiences of lesbian and bisexual young women in theUK, also using qualitative interviews. Sauntson’s additional role as discussant is to highlight the key similarities and differences in school experiences of LGB students across the European countries which are represented and to provide a summary of recommendations which ultimately function to make education as a form of transition contribute to a fairer society.
All The papers are theoretically informed by aspects of queer theory (Butler, 1990; 2004; Foucault, 1976; Sedgwick, 1990; Warner, 1993) and one explores LGBT issues from an additional psychological perspective. Queer theory recognises that cultural ideologies of gender normativity are bound up with assumptions of heterosexuality. In deploying this theoretical principle, all papers consider how educationalists may question socially sanctioned concepts of normality in relation to gender and sexuality in ways that benefit all students. A number of practical recommendations emerge from this approach which may be used to inform ongoing European policy and practice development. For example, we plan to disseminate the symposium research to ILGA Europe, the FRA and the Council of Europe as they develop their work on inclusive schools.
Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge. Butler, J. (2004) Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge. European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) (2013) European Union Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Survey. Vienna: FRA. Foucault, M. (1976) The History of Sexuality (translated by R. Hurley, 1990). London: Vintage. Sedgwick, E. (1990) The Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley: University of California Press. Warner, M. (ed) (1993) Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
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