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Queerphobia and Didactic Hegemony


School can be an intimidating and anxiety-inducing environment for many students, but for LGBTQIA+ students it’s even more of a challenge. Lack of acceptance and the alienation that these students face really takes a toll on their mental health. Considering that in most cases there aren’t any rules or laws implemented to protect them from this, stepping into school knowing that fact can be pretty dreadful. Is it because teachers don’t know how to act when one of their students comes out? Or is it because sexuality is considered a taboo and inappropriate topic in educational environments? Here’s more on life as a queer student, by Perspectoverse’s Sanskriti Kundra.

 

Imagine walking through the halls of school after coming out, noticing that everyone who lays eyes on you thinks demeaningly of you, that your favorite teacher no longer greets you good morning with a smile, that every time you enter a room there are whispers about you, and that the people who called you a friend don’t even spare you a glance anymore, why is it that so many people chose to turn on you when you needed them the most? Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? Coming out in itself can be difficult, but especially difficult if you notice that it’s changing people’s perceptions of you.


Believe it or not, that’s not the only struggle these students face, other areas of concern include, bullying, harassment, not getting equal opportunities which strips the students of their right to education, and getting misgendered or wrongly labeled, a 17-year-old pansexual, non-binary transgender student in Utah, said it was “like a little mental pinch” when teachers used the wrong pronouns. “It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but eventually you bruise.”


Many students have also reported getting called slurs, getting physically abused, and worst of all getting ignored by the authorities when asking for help or being told that they are at fault for “being so open about it”. These experiences don’t only cause deep-rooted trauma but also make it extremely difficult for these students to come to terms with their identity but it all comes back to the question, “what’s stopping the teachers from taking a stand against it?”


A survey conducted with nearly 2500 students and teachers participating noted that teachers feel less comfortable taking action against bullying if it’s based on sexuality and identity, rather than when it’s based on disability, race, or religion. Although 85% of the teachers believe that action should be taken, only half of them are actually able to do it. Some teachers have reported feeling uncomfortable while talking to their students about sexuality due to their beliefs about what’s appropriate in a school setting, often correlating sexual orientation with sex—while others felt pressure from administrators or parents to keep quiet about it. “We’ve had no guidance from the administration on how to handle students transitioning,” said Loretta Farrell Khayam, a high school math teacher in Northern Virginia, who wants to help a transgender student at her school. “I’m not a young, hip teacher. I don’t know what to say or do. It would be nice to hear from our administration—both school and district level—what we as a school and a school system will do to support these students.” When teachers have asked for training, some report that they’ve faced reluctance from administrators who said they need to focus on other priorities.


Another issue, perhaps the most overlooked one, is school uniforms and how they fuel gender dysphoria. Uniforms in educational institutions were introduced so that every child attending the school feels equal to their peers, but uniforms are no friends of people who don’t want to dress as what society deems “male” and “female”. Gender Dysphoria means being unsure of one’s gender identity. If a born female wants to dress in the clothes picked out for male students they’re not allowed to do so. While the intent behind uniforms is good, there needs to be better implementation, it doesn’t matter if a male by birth wants to wear the skirt to school instead of the trousers, as long as they aren’t violating the dress code there should be no issues, but unfortunately for a lot of students many institutions don’t find it acceptable.


Stepping aside from that for a second, ever notice how there’s that one queer person who was absolutely miserable and bullied in school but went on to thrive in college, why is that? It’s because once you’re out of that bubble of toxicity, you are able to find a community that encourages you to bring out your true identity instead of hiding it and being what society wants. This is why cultivating a safe classroom environment for students is very necessary. Putting up “safe space” signs or pride flags may seem like minor things but they could really help someone who may be feeling out of place. LGBTQ+ student support groups should be highly encouraged, and most of all anti-bullying and or cyberbullying and harassment laws should include a clause for queer students in order to properly protect them.


While we have come a long way, there’s still a lot more to do, the fight for equality isn’t over yet. No teenager should have to go through the golden years of their life worried if they’ll ever make it past the bullying and harassment. Not being cisgender or heterosexual is okay, and it’s about time that we finally came out and celebrated ourselves. Being queer isn’t unnatural, queer is beautiful as it has always been.


Written by Sanskriti Kundra

Illustrated by Rishita Banerjee


References:

  1. https://citizenmatters.in/india-city-schools-homophobia-lgbt-discrimination-gender-research-6863

  2. https://www.edutopia.org/article/schools-struggle-support-lgbtq-students

  3. https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/12/08/walking-through-hailstorm/discrimination-against-lgbt-youth-us-schools

  4. https://www.higheredtoday.org/2017/04/10/lgbtq-students-higher-education/





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