Queer students and educational disadvantage

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Yesterday I submitted a short piece of assessment for my course, a 1500 word research essay.  The subject was social inclusion and inequity in school and we were required to focus on one particular aspect to write on – one disadvantaged group, you might say.  Indeed, the suggestions were along the lines of gender and schooling, ethnicity and schooling and social class and schooling etc.

My first thought, naturally, was what about sexuality and schooling damn it?  So I was pretty much resolved to tackle something like homophobia.  Being the champion procrastinator that I am the essay was left to the last minute.  I raced to the library, picked some books that looked like they might help, tracked down a few PDF journal articles, built my reference list – still with no clear idea what I was precisely writing about.  And then when I started to skim the references looking for quotes…

Incensed.  Absolutely incensed.  All of these peer reviewed articles and academic texts on equity and disadvantage, not to mention a government report, and none of them so much as mentioned sexual diversity as an indicator of disadvantage.  So I found some more articles and another book, and what I wrote turned out to be an essay about why queer and same-sex attracted students should be recognised as a disadvantaged group and priority given to them to redress the inequity that currently exists in the education system.

But I wonder what the wider queer community would say about that?  Would there be an outcry at being categorised as disadvantaged?  It’s such a touchy subject.  No one within a minority likes to think about themselves or anyone within their community as marginalised, and yet that’s exactly what’s happening to many same-sex attracted students, and they are suffering for it.  There are studies that have shown that the hidden curriculum of heteronormativity and heterosexism is alienating queer identifying students.  They are experiencing a sense of isolation from and mistrust of the school, and this is impacting on their academic performance.  It is also compromising their opportunities in terms of transitioning to higher education, and in turn limiting their career opportunities.  This is a very serious problem.

I wonder if I’ve actually seen this in action too.  Many years back I worked in a couple of call centres, and I noticed a disproportionate number of queer identifying people there.  At this time I thought it was awesome, but looking back I wonder if that was due to similar circumstances, whether those people were in jobs requiring low qualifications because they did not go on to post-secondary education.  Something to ponder.