A Look At Homophobia English Language Essay

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Within this essay I am going to discuss Homophobia, Gender and the social injustices of these themes, within an educational setting. These are the three themes identified within Scenario 1: The Incident and I'm going to look at them in a much more wider context to discover how social injustices of homophobia and gender are perceived and tackled within education.

Homophobia is the dislike, fear or hatred of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals. To conduct forms of homophobic bullying is against the law however;

"Homophobic bullying is almost epidemic in Britain's schools. Almost two thirds of you lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have experienced direct bullying". (Stonewall, 2006:2)

As scary as this may sound it needs to be remembered that homophobic bullying is not just the bullying of LGBT but it is the bullying of anybody who is LGBT or perceived to be LGBT. Simply using the word "Gay" to describe and object or action, e.g. "That's so gay" is classified as homophobic bullying. Stonewall also state within the teachers report that 44 per cent of teachers in secondary and primary education say children and young people regardless of their sexual orientation experience homophobic bullying. This strongly supports the theory that it is a major issue within education.

Within the original scenario there are a number of issues that can be raised. From the three teachers involved, the first teacher (English teacher) was concerned for Callum's welfare and education. The other two teachers (Guidance & P.E) didn't realise there was an issue of bullying, The first teacher (Guidance) was concerned with wanting to know Callum's sexuality and because he gets on well with girls perceives him to be "Normal". The second teacher (P.E.) gave the impression of boys will be boys and it is was only a bit of harmless fun. It is clear from the scenario that the teachers did not fully understand or know how to deal with the situation correctly.

This is somewhat true as teachers believe as stated in the Stonewall education guide, Challenging homophobic language;

"Homophobic language tends to be used without thinking and is often ignored by teachers and school staff because they either feel it is difficult to know how to respond or they believe the language is used without any homophobic intent" (Stonewall, no date:2)

Having began to discuss homophobia and homophobic bullying I would now like to discuss gender and gender identity in order to pull homophobia and gender together to explain the social injustices further down the line. Gender is a social construct. It is our social roles and identities that are prescribed to us by society. It is perceived at birth what your gender will be based upon your genitals, this however can be a mistake otherwise we would not have people who feel they need to change their gender as they are trapped in the wrong body. Your gender identity is drummed into you as a child. Boys are given cars, soldiers and guns to play with, where girls are given pink dresses, Barbie dolls and prams. These social norms are the cause for society to have the belief of what a man is and what a woman is.

In America it has been homophobia has been documented and used to describe masculinity amongst men. Michael Kimmel writes;

"Homophobia is the fear that other men will unmask us, emasculate us, reveal to us and to the world that we do not measure up, that we are not real men. We are afraid to let other men see that fear". (Kimmel, 1994)

This statement from Kimmel shows how the identity of a man and a man's gender role is created. Kimmel also goes on to show further how society creates gender roles by explaining a situation where a fight was created by asking some children in a playground who is the sissy and through one child being called the sissy they automatically defend themselves by retaliating. Both boys within the fight want to come out as victorious because Kimmel believes that if one boy was to go home to his father and brothers he would be ridiculed and emasculated for not winning. Thus this is creating a stereotype of homosexuals that they can't fight and win.

Gender relations Nancy Cook quote and expand on information

Now to consider homophobia and gender together in a social justice context and their injustices to the scenario we must first of all look at what social justice is. Social justice is the depends on recognition and redistribution, according to Griffiths (2003) the issues have localized and a much wider large scale theorizing. It is the attempt to make each group within society regardless of 'Race', Gender, Religion, Sexual Orientation etc.

Iris Young as citied by Gerwitz 2006 argues "social justice in education has to be understood to particular contexts of enactment". I believe what these two authors are trying to show us from this statement is that you can't make a general statement of what is socially just, within education. You have to look at the context in question, in detail before you take any action.. This is why Gerwitz 2006 asks;

"how can we tell whether one national or local education system or one educational institution or one educational policy or practice is more socially just than another" (Gerwitz, 2006:1)

In education sociologist feel it is important and have an are interested in how we question power within education and how equality is constructed within education.

Having discussed homophobia, gender and social justice I would like to discuss how the scenario continuations Appendix A& B. From previous knowledge, research and reading, into homophobic bullying, the negative outcome of the scenario continuations was taken to an an extreme outcome. I felt that this was necessary to do, due to the nature of homophobic bullying and to highlight the extremities of it because as previously stated by Stonewall;

"Homophobic bullying is almost epidemic in Britain's schools. Almost two thirds of you lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have experienced direct bullying". (Stonewall, 2006:2)

LGBT Youth says there is a cycle in which homophobic bullying is constructed into. O'Higgins-Norman in the paper "Still Catching up: Schools, Sexual Orientation and Homophobia in Ireland" (2008:2) cites;

"The young person who is repeatedly bullied at school can experience anxiety, loss of confidence, loneliness and depression. This can result in punctuality problems, deteriorating academic attainment, poor attendance, truancy, school dropout, mental health problems and even ideas of suicide"

This is the underlying statement to take Appendix A to the extreme scenario, because I feel as an educator we need to understand the true extent that can become developed through homophobic bullying. This is further backed by McNamee report in Ireland as citied by O'Higgins-Norman (2008:2),

"Homophobia in schools resulted in self-harm, suicide attempts, and internalised homophobia among young gay men".

Appendix B, takes the approach of an ideal situation, stance that a well educated rector in homophobia should take when homophobic bullying arises. It looks at how the school can further educates their pupils, teachers and parents how homophobic bullying begins, and to how using the term "That's so Gay", is classified as homophobic bullying. The term "That's so Gay", is the most commonly used term within secondary schools, with 98% of gay pupils saying they have heard it at school, as stated in the Stonewall education guides.

Within the original scenario and Appendix A there is a clear social injustice, of the school failing to act appropriately to the situation. This is dictated by the Deficit Model theory, which in this case sees the individual as the problem. This is evident for the guidance and physical education teacher. They as the professionals also look at trying to fix the problem by fixing the individual. For example the guidance teacher uses the term normal to try and reassure Callum. This is the teachers trying to use heteronormativity, the all being presumption of heterosexuality to decide what is normal and what is not normal. These are the values that are continuously reproduced and dominant within society. O'Higgins-Norman (2008:5) recognised this within his studies and states;

"This set of beliefs and attitudes was present in most interviews in all schools, and was especially to be seen in how individuals understood people who were perceived to be different from the norm".

Appendix B however takes to opposite view by using the Social Model theory where the, it has been identified that the social and institutional, structures within the school are the problem. The head teacher who in this scenario, is the professional, deems it necessary to work with the pupil to tackle the issue of homophobic bullying and also to work with the community to extend their education on homophobic bullying. The head teacher has taken the approach to adapt and include Callum, by not questioning his sexuality but to ensure that homophobic bullying is not taking place in the school. So other children, who may not be 'out'; or currently being bullied, feel as though they have a safe environment and their education is not affected. This is taking the opposite approach to what O'Higgins-Norman (2008:3) discovered that in schools in Ireland, due to the culture within schools and as teachers are part of that culture it was discovered they believed and 'read' (O'Higgins-Norman, 2008) sexuality as innate, fixed and predetermined biologically. On the contrary to this statement Kimmel 1987 believes;

"sociological perspective that sexual behaviour and ontology is substantially socially constructed, is not a view that has often been considered or discussed" (Citied by O'Higgins-Norman, 2008:3)

Both appendices I feel take an appropriate view to the initial scenario. They continue to the scenario to the social extremes of suicide which is a very real situation and should not be ignored, to the ideal school approach of zero tolerance. This is the ideal situation, as schools are supposed to be a place of safety for young people, where they should be able to create meaning about themselves, their identities and their sexualities, as the ideas of O'Higgins-Norman (2008:4) states.

Before going on to discuss Gender and Gender Identity I would just like to identify briefly how the continuation scenarios (Appendix A & B) came about. Appendix A the negative outcome is based upon the theory of the deficit model within social justice.