04 SES 10 B, Gender and Education
This paper presents a research project that examines the experiences of queerly (LGBTQI) identifying teachers within Australia. This national study is the first of its kind to take place within Australia. As such, it draws upon and contributes to a growing body of research that recognises the costs to the health and wellbeing of LGBTQI teachers of heteronormative discursive practices as well as the resulting policies within our schools. Our focus upon the Australian context offers new insights into the state of play for LGBTQI teachers within a range of social, educational and geographical contexts. While much has been done in the last 10 years to better understand (and consequently to better fund) the devastating effects of homophobic bullying on individual students and school cultures, to date there is a gap in research concerning queer teachers internationally as well as locally within Australia. This research aims to redress this balance and to argue that the heteronormative discursive practices that dominate schools and act to minoritise non-heterosexual identities and render them ‘other’ impact upon adults working within schools as much as they do young people studying within them. This paper therefore brings to light the experiences of an often-invisible social group.
Additionally, much sexualities and gender research within Australia has been conducted within and limited to individual (usually state-based) local contexts. While this has built rich data sets for some states, others remain completely under-researched and consequently under-resourced. This research articulates a need for change at the national level, for better understandings of and protection for queer teachers working within our schools across sectors and localities.
Of particular concern to the authors of this paper are the legal distinctions between public, private and Catholic schools within Australia, therefore the differing experiences of queer teachers working within these contexts will be put under the lens. In addition, the paper will shed light upon the private and professional implications for queer teachers working within rural as well as urban locations and will examine the notion that rurality equates to social conservatism and a silencing of non-heterosexual identities within schools. In order to address this issue the paper will examine the possibilities for coming out as a queer teacher within varying contexts and will ask whether coming out is possible and/or desirable for our participants.
This research draws upon both quantitative survey data and qualitative interview data in order to present data that addresses location, context and the personal experiences of our participants. The research is underpinned by a poststructuralist feminist/queer framework that allows for a reading of how participants understand their identities within both the private and professional worlds that they inhabit. The paper also demonstrates the ways in which non-heterosexualities continue to be simultaneously spoken about and silenced within educational institutions. The implications this has for participants in terms of their emotional health and wellbeing is assessed as well as the ways in which participants perceive that the heteronormative discursive practices that dominate schools as educational spaces impact upon the young people they teach.
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