Heteronormativity and teacher education


Towards an inclusive culture: 2012

Queers in Tertiary Education Hui

Debora Lee

Vicki M. Carpenter

University of Auckland

13 Feb 2012

“ If you’re gay, you might not mention it…”

Our stories, and yours

Some background

Compulsory heterosexuality, “the deadly elasticity of heterosexual presumption” (Rich, 1980).

Heteronormativity (Warner, 1993).

Gender queer: Gender queer is a term some people use to describe themselves who do not conform to or agree with traditional gender norms and who express a gender identity that is neither completely male nor female. Some may identify as gender neutral or androgynous, (Human Rights

Commission, 2011).

Takatāpui used to describe ‘non-heterosexual forms of sexual expression’ allowing for fluidity and both cultural and sexual expressions of identity (Aspin & Hutchings, 2007, p. 422).

Cissexism: The belief and treatment of trans/transgender people as inferior to cissexual (non-trans) people (Human Rights Commission, 2011).

Visibility and silence (Roof, 1996; Bernstein & Reimann, 2001; Britzman & Gilbert, 2004;

Loutzeheiser & Macintosh, 2004)

Teacher education and LGBTT (Ferfolja & Robinson, 2004; Stielger, 2008)

ECE and heteronormativity (Gunn & Surtees, 2004)

NZ based research in schools (eg. see Allen & Elliot 2008)

Rankin et al, 2010

Colleges and universities, USA

50 states

5149 survey responses

LGBTQQ students, faculty, staff, administrators

“Previous research suggests that LGBT individuals often face a chilly campus climate

(Dolan, 1998, Noack, 2004, Rankin, 2001,

2003, 2009). Most of these studies underscore

LGBT individuals as the least accepted group when compared to other under-served populations and, consequently, more likely to indicate deleterious experiences and less than welcoming campus climates based on sexual identity” (Rankin, Weber, Blumenjeld & Frazer,

2010, p. 9).

We haven’t had similar research done in NZ.

What might we find if we conducted similar research here?

Visibility & Inclusion study (2009)

Previous study in 2002, few changes evident to us.

Ethics approval from University of Auckland

Supported by the Rainbow staff group, and Dr

Constanza Tolosa (research assistant).

Advertised by faculty email, notices on web site and around campus

Online anonymous survey, Survey Monkey (159 student,

35 staff responses)

Focus group interviews (5 students, 2 staff, 3 Rainbow staff)

One-to-one interviews (5 students)

Funded by the Faculty of Education Equity Committee,


Overview of our findings

Heterosexuality is the ‘norm’ but faculty generally seen as neutral/asexual

Discrimination is evident

LGB staff wary of coming out to colleagues, and especially wary with students

Diversity in courses doesn’t include sexual diversity

Sexuality seen as superfluous, “none of my business”

Most staff see themselves as inclusive

Campus lacks sense of community generally


Faculty staff can be open regarding their sexual orientation

LGBTT staff: Straight staff:

33.3% disagree

50% neutral

16.7% agree

7.7% strongly disagree

23.1% disagree

15.4% neutral

53.8% agree

I left secondary teaching 25 years ago because I was not able to be open about my sexuality and survive in the staffroom. It is easier at this level

[tertiary] …I’m not sure that being out about my lesbianism would help me. We’ve come a long way but there’s still a need for this questionnaire and that speaks volumes ( lesbian staff member, 2002 questionnaire response).

I was at a lecture last night, secondary graduate programme, and the topic was diversity but not once did sexual diversity get a mention (Bisexual woman, Rainbow staff focus group).

Homophobia is around but my colleagues, on a one to one basis, are usually very supportive of my lifestyle .

I don’t know about homophobia as such… it felt like an uneasy tolerance and I know that’s a form of homophobia… but it was nothing vindictive or anything .

There’s been very strong Christian groups that have been very difficult, therefore…you would just be a bit cautious I suppose.

I’m coming out to students very deliberately and I don’t care much what they think of me, but I care very much that there might be gay/lesbian students in the class, bisexual students in the class.


Student survey participants

156 responses (2020 requests emailed)

25 (16%) identified as LGB

131 (84%) identified as heterosexual

Age range from under 20yrs – 60yrs (51.3% between 20ys

– 30yrs)

131 (84.5%) females - 24 (15.5%)males

18 (11.8%) ECE

98 (64.5%) primary

36 (23.7%) secondary

It would be nice if heterosexual teachers actually found these things important as well. It would be nice to open up with conversations, when you’re the only person, or you feel like you’re the only person.

What is the role of heterosexual allies? How are they/can they be supportive in your institution?

The lecturers set the tone and by not mentioning it - the message is that it’s unmentionable… I have a feeling of isolation here (Lesbian student, Dip Tchg Primary, individual interview).

Only a few people on my course know and have agreed to keep it quiet. I don't want it to influence my chance of getting a job (Gay student, survey response)

She [head teacher] came back to me … and said: ‘We actually talked a bit in the staff meeting [about having a gay student] and actually asked the centre manager and she said: ‘No, everybody is welcome and supported and the world is diverse, and we’re obviously going to teach that’

(Lesbian student, individual interview)

It felt very isolating actually, because there was an awful lot of talk about it [diversity] in teaching, I was reading [about] different cultures and different people and migrants and young people. But there was a whole group of society that was ignored, which is the part of society that I belong to.

(Lesbian student, individual interview)

She [associate teacher] heard me talking about something very similar [having a girlfriend] with a child and said to me: ‘Be careful about that, that’s really dangerous talking like that because it might upset the parents’.

(Lesbian student, individual interview)

What is our role in establishing/promoting inclusive cultures in our tertiary institutions?

How can we best use research findings to promote more equitable tertiary environments?


Funding and support for this hui

Representation on Faculty Equity Committee

Library displays

Express magazine

Posters staying up

Attitudes of straight students in focus group

Books in library

Journals available

Postgraduate course available - sexualities

Funding support for the Visibility and Inclusion project

(CRSTIE, STEP, Faculty Equity Committee)

Visibility in weekly newsletter for students and on LCD screen in NBlock foyer


Allen, L., & Elliot, K. (2008). Learning and teaching sexualities in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In V. M. Carpenter, J. Jesson, P.

Roberts & M. Stephenson (Eds.), Nga kaupapa here: connections and contradictions in education (pp. 168-178). South

Melbourne: Cengage Learning.

Bernstein, M., & Reimann, R. (2001). Queer families and the politics of visibility. In M. Bernstein & R. Reimann (Eds.),

Queer families and queer politics: Challenging culture and the state (pp. 1-17). New York: Columbia University Press.

Britzman, D. P., & Gilbert, J. (2004). What will have been said about gayness in teacher education. Teaching Education, ,

Vol 15(No 1), 81-96.

Carpenter, V. M., & Lee, D. (2010). Teacher education and the hidden curriculum of heteronormativity. Curriculum Matters,

6, 99-119.

Ferfolja, T., & Robinson, K. H. (2004). Why anti-homophobia in teacher education? Perspectives from Australian teacher educators. Teaching Education, 15(1), 9-25.

Foucault, M. (1972). The archaeology of knowledge. London, UK: Tavistock Publications.

Gunn, A., & Surtees, N. (2004). Engaging with dominance and knowing our desires: New possibilities for addressing sexualities matters in early childhood education. New Zealand Journal of Educational Leadership, 19, 79–91.

Lee, D. (2010). Gay mothers and early childhood education: Standing tall.. Australasian journal of early childhood., 35(1),


Loutzeheiser, L. & Macintosh, L. (2004). Citizenships, sexualities, and education. Theory into practice, (43),2, 151-158.

Rankin, S., Weber, G., Blumenfeld, W., & Frazer, S. (2010). 2010 state of higher education for lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender people (report). Charlotte, North Carolina: Campus Pride.

Roof, J. (1996). Come as you are: Sexuality and narrative. New York: Columbia University.

Rich, A. (1980). Compulsory heterosexuality and the lesbian existance. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 5,


Stielger, S. (2008). Queer Youth as Teachers: Dismantling Silence of Queer Issues in a Teacher Preparation Pogram

Committed to Social Justice. Journal of LGBT Youth, 5(4), 116-123.

Warner, M. (1993). “Introduction.” In M. Warner (Ed.), Fear of a queer planet: Queer politics and social theory, (pp. viixxxi). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.