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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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20. “Butterflies Starting a Tornado”: The Queer ‘Not Yet’ of New Zealand School-Based Queer Straight Alliance as a Utopic Site of Learning



Chapter 20

“Butterflies Starting a Tornado”

The Queer ‘Not Yet’ of New Zealand School-Based Queer Straight Alliance as a Utopic Site of Learning

Kathleen Quinlivan

I think that our world is a more loving world,…it’s a bit of a utopia really (laughs), it’s a bit idealistic,…people are often a little less judgemental,…they don’t want to be making those judgements…it’s like people who are trying to be better people…it’s a positive utopia! (Ruby, Interview 2, August 24th, 2012)

Some will say that all we have are the pleasures of this moment, but we must never settle for that minimal transport; we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds. (Muñoz, 2009, p. 1)

In this chapter, I draw on Muñoz’s (2009) notion of queer utopia to explore the ways in which a Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) in a provincial New Zealand high school works towards destabilising the hetero and gender normative here and now, and explores other ways of being in the world. As “butterflies starting a tornado” (Marie, face-to-face interview, October 21st, 2010), I suggest that the student-led QSA gestures towards the horizon of an as yet unrealised, beautiful, affective, and relational queer utopia, which can risk disappointment.

I begin by providing some background to the development of Queer Straight Alliances in New Zealand, and discuss the extent...

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