It’s an identity category that’s often left out, unspoken, and un-named in education circles. Here’s why naming matters in terms of our students’ well-being.
It was an ultimatum that was utterly shameful in its callous disregard for the well-being of one group of students.
It basically boiled down to this –
Take out this one word – a particular identity category – from your Inclusive Teaching & Learning materials or they’ll never be released.
Notice I haven’t mentioned that word upfront because I’m wondering if you’ll close this page if I do.
It seems many teachers prefer not to mention this identity category. It’s almost as they don’t want to be associated with it. Silence is the norm.
- Even when aspects of difference are named (and that seems to be a challenge in itself), this identity category is often left off the list.
- Even when teachers talk of the ‘intersections’ of identity, this is one intersection that most teachers seem to want to steer clear of.
That identity category? Sexuality.
And if we dig a little deeper, it’s a specific subset within this category that the education officials here, or teachers in general don’t want to name – same-sex attracted young people.
Each time when I see or hear someone talking of diversity or difference, I quickly scan or tune in to see if ‘sexuality’ is mentioned.
Growing up in an era where homosexuality was illegal, I know the terrible costs of silence.
My worlds and my desires not being named – not dared to be spoken by my teachers – those crucial people who could have made a difference.
So not surprisingly, the reiteration of that absence today hurts. It stings knowing the impact it can have for GLBTI young people today.
Now I’m not naive enough to suggest that naming leads to concrete action.
However, if sexuality is named in blog-posts, documents, policies, and other curriculum materials it at least opens the door to possibilities for action. It gives legitimacy to this identity category.
And we have to go much further than just naming ‘sexuality’.
We have to specifically name – same-sex attracted young people – or Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual young people in our education materials, policies, and blog-posts.
Similarly we need to remember that there are more than two genders.
Here we need to get more inclusive through the category ‘gender identity’, specifically referencing students who are gender diverse and/or transgender.
- Well, for nearly twenty years now, large scale Australian research has shown that school is the most unsafe place for same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people.
- How damning is this research! It hasn’t changed in nearly twenty years.
- How do we challenge the heterosexism, homophobia and transphobia in education if we’re not prepared to mention and talk about sexual and gender diversity, as well as GLBTI young people?
- When you specifically mention ‘sexuality’ and GLBTI young people, it says that our health and well-being, our safety, our happiness actually matters to you. And that’s bloody important to us.
It’s On All of Us
None of us is perfect. As I endeavour to learn more about worlds outside my experience, I’m becoming more aware of the extent of my privilege, as well as my involvement in silencing or invisibility practices.
I don’t pretend to be there or to have got it. I think it’s an ongoing journey.
My Pushing The Edge podcast for example was initially skewed towards the experiences of white educators with silence about the worlds of people of color.
Through engaging with the online community, Educolor and critically reflecting on my practice, I’ve been seeking to change the scope of my podcast – to challenge my White Silence.
That’s an ongoing process too. There’s still more shifts and changes to come as I further develop my awareness.
What about you?
- Do you name ‘sexuality’ when you talk or write about diversity or difference?
- Do you name same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people?
- Do you amplify (or share) the work of those writers that name, talk and write about sexuality and GLBTI young people?
- Are you willing to publicly stand alongside GLBTI students and educators?
Inspiration and Resources
Educator Jessica Lifshitz constantly seeks to improve her teaching around the intersections of identity. She’s honest and upfront and takes you step by step through her teaching practices.
Educator Rafranz Davis continually draws our attention to the lack of visibility afforded to people of colour in the education tech-sphere.
- I’m sure you’ve seen those Education Tech Conference promotions where all (or nearly all) of the educators are white. We’ve gotta keep calling these absences out and changing our practices in our spheres of influence.
- Rafranz also has loads of tips and insights around gaming and coding in education – especially for young girls and women. Plus Rafranz does name and talk to ‘sexuality’.
Writer Melinda D Anderson also writes about the intersections of identity, in a way that necessarily challenges and confronts us. Melinda gives voice to the experiences of people whom mainstream education and society in general tend to ignore.
- Click on the images below to access particular posts or episodes.
Listen to Code Switch Podcast: An always challenging and proactive chat about social justice, community and the intersections of identity.
Break The Silence
It’s my most raw and personal post. A post that has garnered more feedback than anything else I’ve written. Have a read.