Issues in LGBT Research In Education : Part One

There’s a certain kind of career-minded gay and lesbian teacher I’ve known.

There’s also a certain kind of trajectory to their careers and compromises (which I mostly blame on teaching).

They’re ‘out in the staffroom not in the classroom’. A friend of mine describes one colleague as “stomping down corridors in butch boots and dark business suits trying to look as masculine as possible.” Then “he would hide in his office and play Kylie on headphones so no one would hear.” The tragic part is everyone knew, including the students. The signals he modelled about his sexuality to LGBT students were dreadful as he acquired an office, progressed to Vice Principal, etc..

At this point (and this is often the trajectory), feeling secure, he decided to begin a PhD looking at homophobia and education.  However, and this is when I met him, there was no sense of him reflecting on his own complicity in the institutional heteronormativity of education.  Everything was projected unto the homophobia of straight students and selected prejudiced straight teachers. He found homophobia, but what he didn’t find was his own internalised homophobia. It was also as if all these feelings that he had internalised on the way up the career ladder were now being transferred to sexual minority students without considering that their life experiences might be significantly different. After all, having the same or similar sexual or gender orientations doesn’t make us the same?

This is not to discount the accounts of victimisation, of homophobia in English secondary schools. Many such accounts are clearly accurate and appalling, but it’s important to recognise that LGBT researchers in education often come from precisely this group of teachers. It’s vital we recognise that they bring with them issues (however unconsciously) that impact upon the research they intend to conduct.  It’s also vital because these teachers have usually been successful in their careers so that the research that they conduct is usually awarded a certain weight. However, I would argue that the trajectory of those careers have involved compromises that will impact upon research in significant way unless we learn to reflect meaningfully upon them

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