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Gender and Sexualities in Education

A Reader


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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19. Off the Script: A Study of Techniques for Uncovering Gender-Bending Truths in the Classroom

“Tomboys and Other Gender Heroes”


Chapter 19

Off the Script1

A Study of Techniques for Uncovering Gender-Bending Truths in the Classroom

Karleen Pendleton Jiménez

On an August evening, surrounded by fields of yellow and green, I watch a play performed in the courtyard of a century-old barn. St. Francis of Millbrook (Gilbert, 2012) is produced by 4th Line Theatre, an open-air playhouse that urges the playwrights to incorporate the culture, history, and sensibilities of the local region. The animals participate as well—impromptu calls from a barn swallow, a heroic white horse, and uninvited mosquitoes—as the sky darkens. A young man—a queer, blond Adonis, the teenage son of farmers during a year of drought—dances to Madonna as he plants the field. It becomes apparent to his family that something out of the ordinary is happening to the oldest son.

While other family members nervously skirt around the issue, his father poses what he imagines is a direct question about the state of his son’s sexuality. “Are you a boy or a girl?” His son lacks the words to answer, and in the silence, his father transforms into a monster that assaults his own child. The lack of a solid and/or rigid declaration of gender expression implies to his father that his son is gay. His son ultimately responds to a question of sexual orientation, understanding as well that his father is asking about his sexuality and not his gender. Ambiguous gender...

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