Heteronormativity and rituals of difference for gay and lesbian educators

Tarquam McKenna

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This research provides an ethnographic and phenomenological study of how lesbian and gay educators in Western Australia employed adaptive rituals of conformity and nonconformity within their educational culture. This thesis depended on these educators telling their own story and it became a more complex study of their perception of and adaptation to homophobic distancing and repression. Through private interviews and collaboration with the co-participants in the research the study makes sense of the roles lesbian and gay educators enact in the educational culture in Western Australia around the time of Law Reform in 2002. The study is not an historical account but presents data from a specific historical context as a contribution to knowledge of how lesbian and gay educators view themselves and construct themselves in educational settings. The stories of everyday experience of Western Australian lesbian and gay educators present layers of gestured meanings, symbolic processes, cultural codes and contested sexuality and gender ideologies thereby reconstructing the reality of lesbian and gay educators. The research provides a range of embodied narratives and distinctive counter-narratives experienced by this group of educators in Western Australia. The study demonstrates that there are social practices in schooling that assist in the recognition and construction of their own gender identity even though the law in Western Australia at the time of writing, precluded the public promotion of lesbian and gay activities, and by association, silenced what many take to be their preferred mode of public behaviours. More importantly the study maps the extremely subtle processes involved in generating and expressing homophobia resulting in a sense of double invisibility, a constitutive silencing of personhood, which makes even the identification of rituals problematic. The very different stories reveal various interpretive strategies of belonging to the dominant homophobic culture, furthering our understanding of the contemporary identity formation issues of a hitherto invisible and silenced group of educators.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2004

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