Gender and Sexual Diversity in Schooling and Curriculum

For the readings this week we focused on gender and sexual diversity in the educational context of schools and curriculum. In her first article Loutzenheiser discusses the concept of “smear the queer”. This term is coined from a phrase used to describe a game played at Loutzenheiser’s school. This game consisted of the piling on of many students on top of another student. This bottom of the pile student was often “perceived as weaker or less popular than others” (p.59). By coopting the language used for the game Loutzenheiser creates an analogy for the way schools address LGBTQ+ students. This analogy reflects that in many cases the LGBTQ+ students are the ones who are “piled on” by the school system including those biases that are indoctrinated into our creation of curriculum and our fundamental understanding of schooling. As she points out, “there is little or no recognition by tile school or teachers that the (gay. lesbian. or bisexual) child at the bottom of the pile is in need and deserving their protection. There is no understanding that heterosexual child in the middle of the pile is often part of the harassment but is also damaged. The school looks the other way. assuming that this childish game has few ramifications for any of the participants; in this game all children are the same heterosexual and can stand up to its rigours” (p.59). This brings up the important concept of heterosexism. Heterosexism is the idea that the qualities assumed with heterosexual identities are privileged or  held up as the norm. By creating this idea of norm you also create an othering effect on any identity that doesn’t fall within  this norm. Heterosexism is therefore separate from the ideas of homophobia. This othering of any gender or sexual diversity that differs from traditional views of heterosexuality then creates areas of discrimination with in school and curriculum.

In her follow up article “Can we Learn Queerly” we start to address issues that arise from this discrimination as we discuss issues surrounding normativity and social justice pedagogies. This involves unpacking concepts such as tolerance. In the article Loutzenheiser discusses the importance of understanding whose tolerance and whose social justice are we including. Again tolerance implies a deviation from the norm. The idea that we are accepting something or allowing it even though it is not correct. This requires that teachers start to analyze the lens through which they view inclusion. Many teachers who believe in the concept of inclusion, I would anecdotally argue, often think primarily of race and religion but not as often gender and sexual diversity. From these concepts we begin to address how we can thereby address these issues and start to incorporate diversity.

This week my connections were to the concepts surrounding inclusion. I think that often educators especially those who teach with social justice in mind are very aware of creating a safe space and empowering the minority students in their class by thinking in terms of race or ability but I think that the same attention is not given to gender and sexual diversity. For me empowering students in your classroom means ensuring that they feel safe and that they see themselves represented positively in the texts and lessons that are taught in the classroom. It is important to remember that we need to view critically the lens through which curriculum is produced and think about who it privileges. When we think about who is given power we also have to think about who stands to loose power. This is a struggle as we address the implicit biases not only in the curriculum but also within ourselves.

My question for this week is as we work towards an inclusive classroom how do we continue to find ways that empower all students in a safe and inclusive way when you may not realize that your attempt to include may at some point risk discriminating others. Creating lessons that are centred in Universal design for learning means that we need to think not only about ability and socio-economic context but also gender and sexual diversity as part of the idea of inclusion.

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