BISEXUALITY, BAD GIRLS, AND BULLYING
Bisexual-identified students face ongoing challenges such as denial of their identity, negative stereotypes, biphobia, and sexual harassment at school. Stigma and denial of bisexuality contribute to the erasure and invisibility of bisexual people, resulting in limited role models and positive representation for bisexual youth. Based on three years of ethnographic research in a U.S. public high school, this article examines how social regulation of gender and sexuality work to reinforce notions of proper femininity and uphold cis-heteronormativity.
"WHEN YOU DON'T BELIEVE SOMETHING IS REAL, YOU CAN'T ACTUALLY ADVOCATE FOR OR SUPPORT IT": TRANS* INCLUSION IN K-12 SCHOOLS
Drawing on interviews, ethnographic observations, and survey data, I examine the ways teachers, administrators, and policy makers conceptualize and influence school environments for students of all genders. This article engages queer studies in education and disability theory to analyze the inclusion of trans* students in schools. Looking at the implementation of the New York City Department of Education’s Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Student Guidelines in K-12 schools, I question how we can understand and address the gap between educational practice and policy to create schools that are inclusive of trans* students. How does the denial that transgender and gender non-binary students exist act as a barrier to implementation of the New York City Department of Education’s policy? Administrators’ and teachers’ beliefs that trans* students did not exist in their schools structured ways in which such students were not seen, advocated for, or imagined.
CONTESTING SILENCE, CLAIMING SPACE:
GENDER AND SEXUALITY IN THE NEO-LIBERAL PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL
Drawing on ethnographic research in an urban high school in the USA, this article highlights how schooling structures and practices produce and reinforce an ideology of heteronormative binary gender. The construction of gender and sexuality occurs in systematic ways, shaped through structural forces and mapped onto social spaces and bodies. Yet, through the ways that neo-liberalism operates, the production of gender and sexuality is made to appear as individual choice and expression rather than imposed and shaped by structures of inequality. In this context of neo-liberal individualism, educators and students negotiate structures of difference that construct gendered and sexualised bodies and social spaces. By using social semiotics to examine the ways sex, gender, and sexuality are read and written onto bodies and individuals, this research challenges us to think through how ‘safe spaces’ to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning are marked and contested through semiotic means in the social landscape of the neo-liberal public high school.
"OUT GAY BOYS? THERE’S, LIKE, ONE POINT SEVEN FIVE":
NEGOTIATING SEXUALITY IN SUPER-DIVERSITY
Examining processes through which identity and semiotic markers of race, gender, and sexuality are constructed, this article looks at the ways categories like “gay”, “Asian”, and “Latino”, for example, are articulated, counted, and delineated as well as complicated by intersecting lines of difference that entangle subject positions. Drawing on findings from a three-year ethnographic study in a Northern California urban public high school, this research connects the micro-level processes of language and the macro-level processes through which difference is constructed. Arguing that notions of enoughness and authenticity are used to assess participants’ claims to identities, this article further pushes scholars of super-diversity to consider the role of power and privilege in shaping such forms of legitimacy. Focusing on power and privilege in the negotiation of identity is significant for scholars of super-diversity because it moves us toward an analysis of the ways unequal power relations are produced and articulated through people, their interactions and relations, and perceived differences. In an era of super-diversity, subjects live with multiple, overlapping, mutually inflecting identities, far from previous tick-box approaches which treat identity as a static set of categories one may check off as representing. Considering intersecting lines of difference, we see that identity is not just discrete categories, but a process of drawing boundaries, taking positions, playing with representations, and making meaning out of symbolic resources.
"BOYS OVER HERE, GIRLS OVER THERE":
A CRITICAL LITERACY OF BINARY GENDER IN SCHOOLS
In K–12 schools, practices of dividing students by biological sex or gender into binary categories limit possibilities for students' identification and representation. Dividing students according to their socially recognized sex or gender reinforces the perceived stability of binary male/female sex and binary masculine/feminine gender categories while also exceptionalizing transgender identities. Students and teachers who challenge such practices engage in critical literacy readings of school spaces and of the mundane ways binary gender and sex are read onto bodies. Critical literacy provides a method through which students and teachers may engage in reflection and critical practice to raise awareness and challenge everyday practices in schools that construct boys and girls as stable, discrete categories. Drawing on three years of ethnographic research in an urban public high school, this article examines the ways teachers and students enact, respond to, and subvert practices that articulate and distinguish categories of boys and girls.
SPEECH THAT SILENCES, SILENCES THAT SPEAK:
"THAT’S SO GAY,” “THAT’S SO GHETTO,” AND “SAFE SPACE” IN HIGH SCHOOL
This article questions what happens to “safe space” in classrooms when students are marginalized by their social locations and identities. Based on three years of ethnographic research in a Northern California urban public high school, the author examines how language like “that’s so gay” and “that’s so ghetto” leaves distinct traces of gender, sexuality, race, and class meanings and relations. Drawing on students’ deployment of “that’s so gay” and “that’s so ghetto” in school contexts, this research demonstrates how these expressions marginalize the students that they target. Such speech acts interpellate students’ bodies and identities in an educational environment that strives toward constructing “safe” and “politically correct” space. Complicating the very possibility of such educational goals, this article highlights the violence of performative speech acts while closely examining the thin line between politically correct speech and hate speech, which may look different yet lead to similar results — the violence of silencing.
"THE SILENCE ITSELF IS ENOUGH OF A STATEMENT":
THE DAY OF SILENCE AND LGBTQ AWARENESS RAISING
This ethnographic study of a high school gay–straight alliance club examines unintended consequences of silence during the Day of Silence, a day of action aimed at addressing anti-LGBTQ bias in schools. While this strategy calls for students to engage in intentional silences to raise awareness of anti-LGBTQ bias, it does not necessarily lead others to address harassment or silences around gender and sexuality. Rather, silence makes students more defenseless in the face of verbal harassment.