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Gender and Sexualities in Education

A Reader

Series:

Edited By Elizabeth J. Meyer and Dennis Carlson

This volume is about the education of gender and sexualities, which is to say it explores how gender and sexuality identities and differences get constructed through the process of education and «schooling». Wittingly or not, educational institutions and educators play an important role in «normalizing» gender and sexuality differences by disciplining, regulating, and producing differences in ways that are «intelligible» within the dominant or hegemonic culture. To make gender and sexuality identities and differences intelligible through education is to understand them through the logic of separable binary oppositions (man-woman, straight-gay), and to valorize and privilege one normalized identity within each binary (man, straight) and simultaneously stigmatize and marginalize the «other» identity (woman, gay). Educational institutions have been set up to normalize the construction of gender and sexual identities in these ways, and this is both the overt and the «hidden» curriculum of schooling. At the same time, the «postmodern» times in which we live are characterized by a proliferating of differences so that the binary oppositional borders that have been maintained and policed through schooling, and that are central to maintaining highly inequitable power relations and rigid gender roles, are being challenged, resisted, and in other ways profoundly destabilized by young people today.
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4. Taking Homophobia’s Measure

Scaling Homophobia

Extract

Chapter 4

Taking Homophobia’s Measure

Mary Lou Rasmussen

To make the claim that there is not a universalized form of homophobia might strike some as strange. In fact, it might strike others as even stranger that what constitutes homophobia in one geopolitical space does not translate seamlessly to another geopolitical space. And if homophobia is in question, the what and the how of the idea of homosexuality are also in question. (Walcott, 2010, p. 315)

My focus in this chapter is on the topic of homophobia and its place in the sexuality education classroom in Australia and the US. In sexuality education, homophobia is construed as problematic because of the negative consequences it can have for all members of the school community, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As a consequence, strategies have been devised and implemented to help students and teachers become less homophobic. Teachers and students who refuse this help may be seen as ineffective or a ‘problem’ in the battle against homophobia. Those who stand up and confront homophobia are routinely lauded. However, if what we understand to be homophobia is in question, as Walcott (2010) suggested, what does this mean for some of the tools used in anti-homophobia education? In this chapter, I aim to consider how scales that measure homophobia (a common tool deployed in anti-homophobia education in Australia and the US) might be read against the proposition that what we understand homophobia to be...

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