Breaking the silence: learning from the experiences of gay and lesbian educators in the predominately heteronormative space of K-12 schools

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University of Alabama Libraries

Gay and lesbian teachers must constantly weigh the consequences regarding the disclosure of their sexuality (i.e. “coming out”) at school with their desire to fully integrate with colleagues and students, while trying to remain regarded as an effective educator that is not a threat to the children they teach. The primary purpose of this study was to describe and increase the understanding of the experiences that gay and lesbian educators have while working in predominantly heteronormative institutions. The study itself was qualitative in nature and relied on a phenomenological method using a series of three semi-structured interviews (Seidman, 2006) to gain knowledge of participants’ life history, their experiences working as gay or lesbian teachers, and the meaning they made of those experiences as they relate to heteronormative social structures that drive views and attitudes toward sexuality in schools. By analyzing participant stories through a lens of queer phenomenology (Ahmed, 2006), I hoped to understand how these teachers were orienting themselves toward the heteronormative spaces in which they worked, and oftentimes in the process, consequently dis-orienting themselves away from the gay or lesbian component of their identities. The three overall themes that emerged were (1) Orienting One’s Way Inside and Outside of the Educational Closet; (2) Re-Orientation - Being the Good (Gay or Lesbian) Teacher; (3) and Teaching While Gay or Lesbian – Fear and (Dis)Orientation. Although numerous similar studies have been performed, many of those studies have been exclusive of more socio-politically conservative areas such as that of the current study.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
LGBTQ studies, Social sciences education