Since its initial discovery in the early 1980s, through the development of treatment and prophylaxis medications as well as continued attempts at vaccination development, HIV/AIDS has changed the narrative about infectious diseases around the world. It has led to recognition of the complexities of the intersections of sexuality, gender, race, age, culture, and socioeconomic status while simultaneously highlighting gender inequities in all aspects of the disease. These inequities present in clinical trials that include only subsets of the population, prevention strategies that are offered based on oversimplified assumptions about sexual behaviors, and limited education about risk for everyone from schoolchildren through medical professionals. Activists and public health advocates push for inclusion and transparency in research and treatment for HIV/AIDS, but education at all levels has lagged. The United Nations and the International Conference on Population Development have declared school-based sex education a goal for all countries in order to reduce the health burden of HIV/AIDS. Sex education in schools varies between and within countries, with no standardization of how to best educate youth about sex, reproductive health, or disease prevention. Despite continued challenges with curriculum incorporation and content, research suggests that key qualities of an effective educational program include the creation of a safe space for student questions, inclusion of diverse voices, and clear guidance for preventing sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS. In order to mitigate continued inequity over the next several decades and beyond, comprehensive HIV/AIDS education must emphasize the intersectionality of gender, sexuality, race, age, culture, and socioeconomic status at all levels from elementary introductions through training for medical and mental health researchers and providers.
Page Valentine Regan and Elizabeth J. Meyer
The concepts of queer theory and heteronormativity have been taken up in educational research due to the influence of disciplines including gender and sexuality studies, feminist theory, and critical race theory. Queer theory seeks to disrupt dominant and normalizing binaries that structure our understandings of gender and sexuality. Heteronormativity describes the belief that heterosexuality is and should be the preferred system of sexuality and informs the related male or female, binary understanding of gender identity and expression. Taken together, queer theory and heteronormativity offer frames to interrogate and challenge systems of sex and gender in educational institutions and research to better support and understand the experiences of LGBTQ youth. They also inform the development of queer pedagogy that includes classroom and instructional practices designed to expand and affirm gender and sexual diversity in schools.
Elizabeth J. Meyer
The field of bullying research initially paid minimal attention to the influences of gender role expectations (masculinity, femininity, and gender role conformity), as well as heteronormativity, cisnormativity, homophobia, and transphobia in understanding the phenomenon. This has shifted since the late 2000s, when more research emerged that analyzes gender as an influential factor for understanding bullying dynamics in schools. More recent studies have focused on LGBTQ youth, issues of disability, and racialized identities, as well as the impacts of online interactions. When examining gender and bullying, it is important to also examine related forms of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, dating violence, and other forms of sexual and violent assault such as transphobic violence and murder. In order to more effectively support schools and professionals working to reduce bullying, there must be a deeper understanding of what is currently known about gender and bullying, what works to reduce it in schools, and what still needs more attention in the research literature.
Alandis A. Johnson
Trans and gender/queer youth pose some interesting scenarios for education in both secondary and postsecondary realms. Increasing identifications outside of binaries among students, faculty, and staff members who identify as transgender, gender nonconforming, or nonbinary have pushed schools to alter the way these individuals are recognized within these systems. These changes involve deconstructing binaries and the related exclusionary processes and policies. Transgender and gender-expansive youth are challenging the ways in which gender is built into schools, highlighting underlying binaries and structural oppression in all levels of education. Key issues and debates regarding transgender inclusion in educational spheres, such as Title IX, visibility, and knowledge of transgender issues, routes to inclusion, and the fallacy of “best practice.” Generational and cultural differences related to gender recognition and identification will continue to shape educational environments and beyond for years to come.
Russell B. Toomey and Zhenqiang Zhao
The United States prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education via federal law. Case law in the United States also applies the prohibition of sex discrimination to incidents that were motivated by a person’s sex or gender, including gender identity and expression. Enumerated nondiscrimination, school-based policies that include gender identity and expression are among the foundational policies advocated for by researchers and practitioners that aim to make schools safer for transgender and gender nonconforming students. These policies serve as a foundation for all other interventions or policies that may be implemented in a school to increase safety for transgender and gender nonconforming students. Further, enumerated nondiscrimination policies provide students with a clear understanding of their rights at school, and they provide school personnel with grounding to prevent and intervene in gender-based discrimination. Research has found that transgender and gender nonconforming students experience high levels of stigma (e.g., manifested as discrimination, stigma-based bullying) in schools, and that these school-based experiences are associated with compromised educational outcomes in addition to disparities in behavioral, physical, and psychological health. Students in schools that have enumerated nondiscrimination policies report less bias stigma-based bullying attributed to gender identity and expression compared to students in schools with non-enumerated policies. Further, students are more likely to report that teachers intervene in stigma-based bullying attributed to gender identity and expression in schools that have enumerated nondiscrimination policies compared to those that do not. Finally, studies have found that nondiscrimination policies that include gender identity and expression attenuate the negative consequences of stigma for students.
Cassandra R. Homick and Lisa F. Platt
Gender and sexual identity play a significant role in the lives of developing youth. The developments of gender and sexual identities are shaped by a variety of factors including, but not limited to, biological, cognitive, and social elements. It is crucial to consider that gender and sexual minority individuals face additional complexities in the two processes of gender identity and sexual identity development. Cisgender identity development is most commonly understood with the help of early cognitive and social theories, although biological components play a part as well. Specifically, the theories of Lawrence Kohlberg, Sandra Bem, Alfred Bandura, and David Buss have made significant contributions to the understanding of cisgender identity development. Modern transgender identity development models are helpful in exploring transgender identity formation with the most popular being the Transgender Emergence Model founded by Arlene Lev. Similar to cisgender identity development, heterosexual identity development is typically understood with the help of early psychosocial theories, namely that of Erik Erikson. Sexual minority identity development is often comprehended using stage models and life-span models. Sexual minority stage models build off the work of Erik Erikson, with one of the most popular being the Cass Model of Gay and Lesbian Identity Development. Offering more flexibility than stage models and allowing for fluid sexual identity, life-span models, like the D’Augelli model, are often more popular choices for modern exploration of sexual minority identity development. As both sexual and gender identity spectrums are continuing to expand, there also comes a need for an exploration of the relationship between sexual and gender identity development, particularly among sexual minority populations.
Thomas A. Zook
All students deserve a safe and welcoming atmosphere in which to learn and to be valued and respected as their authentic selves. For educational leaders, gender- and sexuality-related equity involves the recognition that schools often represent hostile, discriminatory, and inequitable learning environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer plus (LGBTQ+) individuals; however, this is merely the first step. Establishing equitable learning environments for LGBTQ+ individuals requires action and, especially in this instance, the courage to take effective action toward purging the school culture of all institutionalized barriers and negative beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors regarding LGBTQ+ people. School leaders dedicated to ensuring that all students genuinely have an equal opportunity to succeed will extend that obligation to the many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and questioning individuals, plus those who do not otherwise identify as heterosexual and/or gender compliant (LGBTQ+) and those who are merely perceived to be, as well as their family, friends, and allies, who are also all a vital and deserving part of the school community. Achieving gender- and sexuality-related equity involves the creation of LGBTQ+-inclusive curricula, decentering hetero/cisnormativity, eliminating homophobic and transphobic harassment and bullying, identifying and eliminating policies and procedures that discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals, and ensuring that all school personnel have the necessary knowledge and understanding of LGBTQ+ realities to become caring and supportive allies.
Trans theory is a set of ideas, tools, contestations, divergences, and investments in gender(s) in and beyond the gender binary of male and female as it is understood in Western contexts. Gender identity is, in part, an individual’s gendered sense of self. Both transgender theory and gender identity are implicated by and concerned with education given the relative (in)visibility of transgressive or variant genders. Educational spaces are concerned with gender since they are one of many socializing and normalizing structures that seek to instill binary genders. Trans theory and gender identity are understood in educational spaces as additive to the social norm of binary gender, though both the theory and the concept ultimately elucidate the need for a reexamination of what gender is and what it does, as well as to and for whom.
Ellen Belchior Rodrigues
Brazil has done much to overcome gender inequalities rooted in settler colonialism. The implementation of social justice policies has tremendously promoted access to education, most recently to Black Brazilians, Indigenous peoples, and sexual minorities. The country offers free public education from kindergarten to college; college quotas for low-income transgender students; a monthly stipend for each underprivileged child a family maintains enrolled in school; and a national high school curriculum that includes sociology, philosophy, African history, history of Indigenous peoples, and human rights. These would not have been achieved without the efforts of the women’s rights movement and Black women’s rights movement. Brazilian women reversed the gender gap in education and paved the way for employment and political participation throughout the 20th century, attaining higher rates of retention, graduation, and schooling. Despite achievements for cisgender women, transgender students and other sexual minorities still don’t feel included in school environments. Schools can be one of the most difficult spaces for LGBTQIA+ youth in Brazil, who may be daily targets of verbal, psychological, and physical violence. These behaviors are rooted in an education system that, since its creation in the 1600s, predominantly focused on the education of Portuguese settlers’ children, namely, White boys. Two hundred years later, White girls were allowed in the classrooms, only to experience another layer of the patriarchy: Schools were scarce because the girls could only be taught by female teachers, a rarity during the colonial period, and the academic curriculum was limited and often focused on the skills of housewifery. Aimed at creating subservient wives and mothers, the Brazilian schooling system failed entire generations of women by denying them access to math, sciences, or most other subjects available to men. During the entire 1800s, White women lagged behind in access to higher education, employment, and political participation. In the meantime, Black, brown, and Indigenous people in Brazil suffered under slavery for nearly 400 years. Slavery legally ended in 1888, but cruelty and discrimination remained pervasive in society, further silencing claims for racial justice and widening the social and economic gaps in the country. Thus, the understanding of gender-equitable schooling in Brazil is only possible through the historical lenses of how its society perceives gender, race, and sexuality. This historical perspective explains how Brazil developed its teaching curriculum based on social justice principles. The history of Brazil’s educational system cannot be described without acknowledging the traumas inflicted by colonialism and slavery. However, history also explains how the country uniquely stands out as a model for thinking about the connections among education, racial and social justice, and gender inclusivity.