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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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24. (Im)perceptible Silences: Hearing LGBTQ Silences and Voices in School

Theoretical Constructions of Silence


Chapter 24

(Im)perceptible Silences

Hearing LGBTQ Silences and Voices in School

Susan W. Woolley

It is a quite different process to be silent than it is to be unheard. One may speak and simply not be listened to, understood, or taken seriously. Thus, even speech is structured by always already existent relations of power.

—Patti Duncan, Tell This Silence, 2004

Every year, in schools across the United States, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) students and their allies participate in the National Day of Silence in an effort to raise awareness of anti-LGBTQ bullying, harassment, and bias in their schools, yet the potential impact and the unintended consequences of their use of silence as a method for raising consciousness remain uncertain.1 The Day of Silence, sponsored and promoted by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network), is intended to empower students to change anti-LGBTQ bias and harassment in their school communities. GLSEN asserts, “by taking a vow of silence, you are making a powerful statement about the important issue of anti-LGBT bullying. When you organize others to join you that message becomes louder and louder” ( The strategy of silence used in the context of schools might highlight, but cannot address, the institutional silences LGBTQ students face when they find their lives and experiences not included in class materials and critical discussion of heterosexism and hegemonic masculinity and femininity absent from school discourse.

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