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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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21. A GSA’s Impact on Students’ Beliefs and Attitudes Toward Civic and Political Participation, Civic Engagement, and Social Justice



Chapter 21

A GSA’s Impact on Students’ Beliefs and Attitudes Toward Civic and Political Participation, Civic Engagement, and Social Justice

Ramón Robles-Fernández

This chapter presents some of the findings from a study of LGBTQ students and a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in one suburban high school in the Northeast USA, and the impact of participating in the GSA on students’ sense of civic engagement—both in the school and in wider communities of action. I employ a number of critical theoretical constructs as well as empowerment, oppression, domination, alienation, marginalization, and social justice—to interpret the data and speculate about the role of student organizations such as GSAs in helping LGBTQ youth construct a community of civic engagement that involves them in multiple sites of civic action. The study employed a mixed-methods approach (quantitative and qualitative) to examine the impact of student participation in a GSA. Data sources included participant interviews, surveys, field notes, observations of training and/or meetings, and GSA documents. Data were first analyzed separately and then triangulated to investigate consistency in the findings.

The findings from this study suggest that student groups and clubs such as this GSA have the potential to help LGBTQ youth develop self-affirming and empowering forms of civic engagement. However, they face challenges that have risked lessening their potential impact. At the same time, this study also suggests that LGBTQ youth continue to feel marginalized as the “other,” and thus often alienated from the...

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