Issues In LGBT Research In Education: Part Three: Shock Tactics

I remember being on the Paris Metro in the 1980’s.

At the time it was quite usual for buskers to come on to the carriages and busk. They were often very good.

That evening, as me and a friend headed into Paris to go to club I think was called Boy, a girl got on. She clipped a large silk scarf across the opposing seat rods at the end of the carriage, put some music on a ghetto blaster (it was the 1980’s) and started to do a hand puppet show from behind the scarf.  I remember it was really beautiful. People started smiling and taking money out to give to her when she finished.

However a woman and a young girl got on (the young girl was wearing a long coat). They didn’t speak. They walked down the carriage – the woman with her palm outstretched, the girl opening her coat to show that she was naked from the waist up. She was also covered in what looked like acid burns from the waist to her jaw. It was so ‘in your face’ that most people just handed the money that they had meant for the busker to the woman.

And that was the really surreal part. The busker couldn’t see what was going on behind the silk scarf. While all this was happening she was continuing on with her puppetry.  It was only at the end, when she requested a contribution and the people in the carriage looked away,  that she realised something had gone wrong.

Shock tactics work. Worst case scenarios are presented in reports as if they’re typical. Those examples will often be selected to highlight the most emotional language. That they’re successful in LGBT research in education is reflected in the dogma that sexual minority youth are continuously  bullied, brutalised and even threatened regularly with rape in schools (if you read the Stonewall School Report 2012 P5, P12 I think you’ll find it’s implied).  Like the woman and the girl it’s actually very difficult to argue with this kind of emotive barrage. Like the busker, it undermines more positive research that celebrates resilence and joy. That great difficulty is that, like the scarred girl, it’s not false. The expressions of pain and of oppression may be very real. The great tension in LGBT research in education is how not to let them become overwhelming. Otherwise, many LGBT reports on young people have more in common with tabloid talk shows such as Jeremy Kyle’s than peer-reviewed research.

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