07 SES 07 A, Gender Awareness
International studies have consistently highlighted the difficulties experienced by Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) teachers from around the world as they attempt to negotiate their personal and professional identities within the context of an often-hostile work environment (Gust, 2010; Piper and Sikes, 2010; Rudoe, 2010; Endo, Reece-Miller and Santavicca, 2010). For Irish LGB teachers such tensions can prove particularly challenging (Neary, 2012). Mirroring the systems of education in Malta (COWI, 2009), for example, and owing to a variety of complex historical and socio-cultural factors, the Irish education system remains heavily influenced by denominational mores and values (Ferriter, 2012), particularly those of the Roman Catholic Church (Devine, 2012). Unsurprisingly, with the declaration by Roman Catholic Church that homosexuality was “intrinsically disordered” (Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, 2003), LGB teachers’ professional identity is often (in)formed by fear as well as perceived, or actual, harassment and discrimination (O’Fathaigh, 2003; Gowran, 2004 and Fahie, 2012). This study represents the first in-depth examination of the relationship between the denominational organisational systems of management/governance which operate in Irish schools and the development of negative workplace interaction for LGB employees. This research questions if, or how, the (hetero)normative culture operating in the vast majority of Irish primary schools impacts on the lives of LGB teachers. Critically, the study examines the apparent contradiction between EU equality legislation (Employment Equality Directive - 2000/78/EC) and the derogation afforded organisations with denominational ethos in national equality legislation which explicitly permits discrimination in order to protect that ethos from being “undermined” (Section 37.1, Employment Equality Act, 1998). The conceptual underpinning of the research draws upon Symbolic Interactionism (Mead, 1934) and Foucauldian conceptualisations of power (Foucault, 1998 and 2001). Symbolic Interactionism focuses our attention on how we position ourselves in, and through, our interactions with others. It is a perspective which stresses the behaviour of the individual as a self-conscious and reflective being (Blumer, 1969). This reflexivity and introspection leads us to negotiate our roles within interpersonal dynamics based on our understanding of our interaction with others. Foucault’s (1998) exploration of society’s evolving attitudes towards, and understanding of, sexuality informs this study. In addition, his conceptualisation of power highlights how other dynamics are also at play within all interpersonal relationships and that, if we are to understand human interaction completely, we must focus on how power is exercised rather than possessed (Foucault, 2002). For Foucault, power is constantly changing in response to challenges and resistances of those who are being controlled. Foucault (1991) suggests that, through the use of disciplinary technologies, the powerful seek to control, dominate, and regulate the behaviour of others. Foucault (1998) employed the concept of capillary forms of power which infers a network of power relations which permeates all aspects of human interaction, with individuals simultaneously being subjected to, and exercising, power. Since an imbalance of power is central to all forms of abuse, bullying and harassment (Einarsen et al., 2011; Capondecchia and Wyatt, 2011), Foucault’s work facilitates a more nuanced understanding of the interpersonal dynamics at play.
Capondecchia, C. and Wyatt, A. (2011) Preventing Workplace Bullying Hove: Routledge. Devine, D. (2011) Immigration and schooling in the Republic of Ireland Manchester: Manchester University Press. Endo, H., Reece-Miller, P. C., & Santavicca, N. (2010). Surviving in the trenches: A narrative inquiry into queer teachers’ experiences and identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26(4), 1023-1030. European Commission (2012) Special Eurobarometer 393-Discrimination in the EU in 2012 Brussels: European Commission. Fahie, D. (2010) A Study of Workplace Bullying in Irish Primary Schools Unpublished PhD thesis: School of Education, UCD. Fahie, D. (2012) Gay Teachers. Seriously? In InTouch December Edition (pp.54-55) Dublin: INTO. Ferriter, D. (2012) Occasions of Sin-Sex & Society in Modern Ireland London: Profile Books. Foucault, M. (1991) Discipline and Punish – The Birth of the Prison London: Penguin Books. Foucault, M. (1998) The Will to Knowledge – The History of Sexuality 1 London: Penguin Books. Government of Ireland (1998) Employment Equality Act Dublin: The Stationery Office. Gowran, S. (2004) The experiences of gay and lesbian teachers in Irish schools in Deegan, J., Devine, D and Lodge, A, (eds.) Primary Voices Dublin: IPA. Libreria Edittrice Vaticana. 2003. Roman Catholic Catechism retrieved from on 18.01.2013 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm Neary, A. (2012). Lesbian and gay teachers’ experiences of ‘coming out’ in Irish schools. British Journal of Sociology of Education, DOI:10.1080/01425692.2012.722281 O’Fathaigh, D. (2003) An Examination of the Experiences of Gay and Lesbian Teachers in Ireland Unpublished M.Ed. thesis: School of Education, UCD. Piper, H., & Sikes, P. (2010). All Teachers Are Vulnerable but Especially Gay Teachers: Using Composite Fictions to Protect Research Participants in Pupil—Teacher Sex-Related Research. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(7), 566-574. Rudoe, N. (2010). Lesbian teachers' identity, power and the public/private boundary. Sex Education, 10(1), 23-36.
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