Heteronormativity and teacher education

Towards an inclusive culture: 2012
Queers in Tertiary Education Hui
Debora Lee
Vicki M. Carpenter
University of Auckland
13 Feb 2012
“If you’re gay, you might
not mention it…”
Our stories, and yours
Some background
Compulsory heterosexuality, “the deadly elasticity of heterosexual presumption” (Rich, 1980).
Heteronormativity (Warner, 1993).
Gender queer: Gender queer is a term some people use to describe themselves who do not conform
to or agree with traditional gender norms and who express a gender identity that is neither
completely male nor female. Some may identify as gender neutral or androgynous, (Human Rights
Commission, 2011).
Takatāpui used to describe ‘non-heterosexual forms of sexual expression’ allowing for fluidity and
both cultural and sexual expressions of identity (Aspin & Hutchings, 2007, p. 422).
Cissexism: The belief and treatment of trans/transgender people as inferior to cissexual (non-trans)
people (Human Rights Commission, 2011).
Visibility and silence (Roof, 1996; Bernstein & Reimann, 2001; Britzman & Gilbert, 2004;
Loutzeheiser & Macintosh, 2004)
Rankin et al – 2010 USA report on State of higher education for Lesbian, Gay , Bisexual and
Transgender people
Teacher education and LGBTT (Ferfolja & Robinson, 2004; Stielger, 2008)
ECE and heteronormativity (Gunn & Surtees, 2004)
NZ based research in schools (eg. see Allen & Elliot 2008)
Rankin et al, 2010
► Colleges
universities, USA
► 50 states
► 5149 survey responses
► LGBTQQ students,
faculty, staff,
“Previous research suggests that LGBT
individuals often face a chilly campus climate
(Dolan, 1998, Noack, 2004, Rankin, 2001,
2003, 2009). Most of these studies underscore
LGBT individuals as the least accepted group
when compared to other under-served
populations and, consequently, more likely to
indicate deleterious experiences and less than
welcoming campus climates based on sexual
identity” (Rankin, Weber, Blumenjeld & Frazer,
2010, p. 9).
We haven’t had similar research done in NZ.
What might we find if we conducted similar
research here?
Visibility & Inclusion study (2009)
Previous study in 2002, few changes evident to us.
Ethics approval from University of Auckland
Supported by the Rainbow staff group, and Dr
Constanza Tolosa (research assistant).
► Advertised by faculty email, notices on web site and
around campus
► Online anonymous survey, Survey Monkey (159 student,
35 staff responses)
► Focus group interviews (5 students, 2 staff, 3 Rainbow
► One-to-one interviews (5 students)
► Funded by the Faculty of Education Equity Committee,
Overview of our findings
► Heterosexuality
is the ‘norm’ but faculty
generally seen as neutral/asexual
► Discrimination is evident
► LGB staff wary of coming out to colleagues,
and especially wary with students
► Diversity in courses doesn’t include sexual
► Sexuality seen as superfluous, “none of my
► Most staff see themselves as inclusive
► Campus lacks sense of community generally
Faculty staff can be open regarding
their sexual orientation
LGBTT staff:
Straight staff:
► 7.7%
► 33.3%
► 50% neutral
► 16.7% agree
strongly disagree
► 23.1% disagree
► 15.4% neutral
► 53.8% agree
I left secondary teaching 25 years ago because I
was not able to be open about my sexuality and
survive in the staffroom. It is easier at this level
[tertiary] …I’m not sure that being out about my
lesbianism would help me. We’ve come a long way
but there’s still a need for this questionnaire and
that speaks volumes (lesbian staff member, 2002
questionnaire response).
I was at a lecture last night, secondary
graduate programme, and the topic was
diversity but not once did sexual diversity
get a mention (Bisexual woman, Rainbow
staff focus group).
Homophobia is around but my colleagues,
on a one to one basis, are usually very
supportive of my lifestyle.
I don’t know about homophobia as such…
it felt like an uneasy tolerance and I know
that’s a form of homophobia… but it was
nothing vindictive or anything.
There’s been very strong Christian groups that
have been very difficult, therefore…you
would just be a bit cautious I suppose.
I’m coming out to students very deliberately
and I don’t care much what they think of
me, but I care very much that there might
be gay/lesbian students in the class,
bisexual students in the class.
Student survey participants
156 responses (2020 requests emailed)
25 (16%) identified as LGB
131 (84%) identified as heterosexual
Age range from under 20yrs – 60yrs (51.3% between 20ys
– 30yrs)
131 (84.5%) females - 24 (15.5%)males
18 (11.8%) ECE
98 (64.5%) primary
36 (23.7%) secondary
It would be nice if heterosexual
teachers actually found these things
important as well. It would be nice to
open up with conversations, when
you’re the only person, or you feel
like you’re the only person.
What is the role of heterosexual allies? How
are they/can they be supportive in your
The lecturers set the tone and by
not mentioning it - the message is
that it’s unmentionable… I have a
feeling of isolation here (Lesbian
student, Dip Tchg Primary,
individual interview).
Only a few people on my course know
and have agreed to keep it quiet. I
don't want it to influence my chance of
getting a job (Gay student, survey
She [head teacher] came back to me … and
said: ‘We actually talked a bit in the staff
meeting [about having a gay student] and
actually asked the centre manager and she
said: ‘No, everybody is welcome and
supported and the world is diverse, and
we’re obviously going to teach that’
(Lesbian student, individual interview)
It felt very isolating actually, because there
was an awful lot of talk about it [diversity]
in teaching, I was reading [about] different
cultures and different people and migrants
and young people. But there was a whole
group of society that was ignored, which is
the part of society that I belong to. (Lesbian
student, individual interview)
She [associate teacher] heard me talking
about something very similar [having a
girlfriend] with a child and said to me: ‘Be
careful about that, that’s really dangerous
talking like that because it might upset the
parents’. (Lesbian student, individual
What is our role in establishing/promoting
inclusive cultures in our tertiary institutions?
How can we best use research findings to
promote more equitable tertiary
Funding and support for this hui
Representation on Faculty Equity Committee
Library displays
Express magazine
Posters staying up
Attitudes of straight students in focus group
Books in library
Journals available
Postgraduate course available - sexualities
Funding support for the Visibility and Inclusion project
(CRSTIE, STEP, Faculty Equity Committee)
► Visibility in weekly newsletter for students and on LCD
screen in NBlock foyer
Allen, L., & Elliot, K. (2008). Learning and teaching sexualities in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In V. M. Carpenter, J. Jesson, P.
Roberts & M. Stephenson (Eds.), Nga kaupapa here: connections and contradictions in education (pp. 168-178). South
Melbourne: Cengage Learning.
Bernstein, M., & Reimann, R. (2001). Queer families and the politics of visibility. In M. Bernstein & R. Reimann (Eds.),
Queer families and queer politics: Challenging culture and the state (pp. 1-17). New York: Columbia University Press.
Britzman, D. P., & Gilbert, J. (2004). What will have been said about gayness in teacher education. Teaching Education, ,
Vol 15(No 1), 81-96.
Carpenter, V. M., & Lee, D. (2010). Teacher education and the hidden curriculum of heteronormativity. Curriculum Matters,
6, 99-119.
Ferfolja, T., & Robinson, K. H. (2004). Why anti-homophobia in teacher education? Perspectives from Australian teacher
educators. Teaching Education, 15(1), 9-25.
Foucault, M. (1972). The archaeology of knowledge. London, UK: Tavistock Publications.
Gunn, A., & Surtees, N. (2004). Engaging with dominance and knowing our desires: New possibilities for addressing
sexualities matters in early childhood education. New Zealand Journal of Educational Leadership, 19, 79–91.
Lee, D. (2010). Gay mothers and early childhood education: Standing tall.. Australasian journal of early childhood., 35(1),
Loutzeheiser, L. & Macintosh, L. (2004). Citizenships, sexualities, and education. Theory into practice, (43),2, 151-158.
Rankin, S., Weber, G., Blumenfeld, W., & Frazer, S. (2010). 2010 state of higher education for lesbian, gay, bisexual &
transgender people (report). Charlotte, North Carolina: Campus Pride.
Roof, J. (1996). Come as you are: Sexuality and narrative. New York: Columbia University.
Rich, A. (1980). Compulsory heterosexuality and the lesbian existance. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 5,
Stielger, S. (2008). Queer Youth as Teachers: Dismantling Silence of Queer Issues in a Teacher Preparation Pogram
Committed to Social Justice. Journal of LGBT Youth, 5(4), 116-123.
Warner, M. (1993). “Introduction.” In M. Warner (Ed.), Fear of a queer planet: Queer politics and social theory, (pp. viixxxi). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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