More than pink shirts and posters: beyond the limits of anti-homophobia education
Doctor of Philosophy
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Most schools in Canada are unsafe spaces for queer youth or those perceived by their peers as queer. Gay/Straight Alliances (GSAs) and other LGBTQ+ inclusive groups exist in schools with the goal of mitigating and working against homophobia and transphobia. Homophobia, heterosexism, heteronormativity, and transphobia are consistent forms of oppression in K-12 schooling in Ontario. Typically, it is straight teachers who lead GSA-type groups and are committed to LGBTQ+ equity work in their schools despite often being under-supported by their colleagues, supervisors, and school board policy. In addition to the other demands of their profession, teachers who take on allyship in their already busy professional lives should be recognized for their efforts and hard work. However, most allies fall short of acknowledging or mitigating against their own straight privilege. Given the role straight teachers play in GSAs, this research analyzes the role and experiences of straight teacher ally activists working with LGBTQ+ students. Guided by the research question: How can straight teacher ally activists move beyond the limits of anti-homophobia education by challenging heteronormativity and heterosexism in schools?, I suggest that the overall effectiveness resisting normalized heterosexuality through anti-homophobia efforts is limited. Teacher allies should work toward queering school spaces by examining their own straight privilege as a starting point. This research stands as a call to action for policy makers, school board administrators, and leadership to provide mandatory training for all staff that zeros-in on straight privilege and heteronormativity as a way to resist its dominance. Following a manuscript-style, the research findings are reported in three manuscripts written and formatted for submission to scholarly journals.