Edited By Elizabeth J. Meyer and Dennis Carlson
15. Conceptualizing Safety From the Inside Out: Heteronormative Spaces and Their Effects on Students’ Sense of Self
Conceptualizing Safety From the Inside Out
Heteronormative Spaces and Their Effects on Students’ Sense of Self
Bethy Leonardi & Lauren P. Saenz
In late 2010, battles raged as the Anoka-Hennepin school district, the largest in Minnesota, came under fire for its “neutrality”1 policy related to the topic of homosexuality in schools. The safety of their students was called into question, as between the years of 2009 and 2011, nine committed suicide; four of these students self-identified as gay or were perceived to be gay by their classmates. The public outcry that followed prompted a review of the district’s policy, which, as many discovered for the first time, was rooted in a 1994 school-board policy, unofficially known as the “No Promo Homo” policy, that mandated that “homosexuality not be taught/addressed as a normal, valid lifestyle” in the health curriculum (Birkey, 2012).
At a school district meeting, Mackie Barnett, a student who recently endured the loss of friends to suicide, took a stand—one that aimed to move the safety conversation toward one of inclusivity: “[Students] need to be taught the true facts that being gay and lesbian is not a lifestyle choice. You are born that way. There’s no gay agenda. What do gay people want that is so different from straight people?” Further, she questioned: “How can we not acknowledge that something in this system is wrong?” (Birkey, 2012). The “system” about which Barnett spoke is one...
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