Queer Youth and Education
Queer Youth and Education
- Hannah DyerHannah DyerBrock University
Discussions surrounding the rights, desires, and subjectivities of queer youth in education have a history marked by both controversy and optimism. Many researchers, practitioners, and teachers who critically examine the role of education in the lives of queer youth insist that the youth themselves should be involved in setting the terms of debate surrounding if and how they should be included in sites of education. This is important because the ways in which their needs and subjectivities are conceptualized have a direct impact on the futures that queer youth imagine for themselves and for others. For example, the furious and impassioned debates about sex education in schooling are also to do with the amount of empathy we have for queer youth. Thus, sex education is a frequent point of analysis in literature on queer youth in education. Literature on queer youth and education also helpfully demonstrates how racialization, gender, neoliberalism, and settler-colonialism permeate discourses of queer inclusion and constitute the conditions of both acceptance and oppression for queer youth. While queer studies has at times sharpened perceptions of queer youth’s subjective and systemic experiences in education, it cannot be collapsed into a unified theory of sexuality because it too is ripe with debate, variation, and contradiction. As many scholars and intellectual traditions make clear, the global and transnational dimensions of gender and sexuality cannot be subsumed into a unified taxonomy of desire or subject formation.
More ethical interactions between teachers, peers, and queer youth are needed because our theories of queer desire and the discourses we attach to them evince material realities for queer youth. Despite the often prevailing insistence that queer youth belong in educational institutions, homophobia and heteronormativity continue to make inclusion a complicated landscape. In recognition of these dynamics, literature in the field of educational studies also insists that some queer youth find hope in education. Withdrawing advocacy and representation for queer, trans, and nonbinary youth in educational settings becomes dangerous when it creates a terrain for isolation and shame. Importantly, queer theory and LGBTQ studies have conceptualized the needs of queer youth in ways that emphasize education as a space wrought with emotion, power, and desire. Early theorizing of non-normative sexual desire continues to set the stage for contemporary discussions of schools as spaces of power and repression. That is, histories of activism, knowledge, and policy construction have made the present conditions of both inclusion and exclusion for queer youth. Contemporary debates about belonging and marginalization in schools are made from the residues and endurance of earlier formations of gender and race.
- Education, Gender, and Sexualities