The Sexual Minority Curriculum

Saylor, Tara Lee, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Hoffman, Diane, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Deutsch, Nancy, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Moon, Tonya, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Heinecke, Walter, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This dissertation explores the themes of structure, agency, victimization, and resistance through the narrative constructions of 12 sexual minority young adult participants. The purpose of the study was to understand how the participants made sense of their high school experiences, the ways in which they resisted, reconstructed, or reinforced the sexuality curricula of their high schools, and the extent to which their agency and resistance was related to school homophobia and victimization. Participants spent four hours telling their stories in different formats. A narrative-based interview was followed first by an online survey and later with a research workshop where analysis was co-constructed. The Listening Guide, a feminist, voice-centered tool, was used to analyze the narratives through multiple reviews of the evidence. The data unearthed an unwritten sexual minority curriculum which established a regulatory educational environment. Sexual minority adolescents learned the rules and codes governing behavior and the limitations of sexual embodiment. This curriculum constrained student choices, but it also made possible a transgressive education. Students learned to locate fissures in school structure-spaces and moments where homophobia and heteronormativity could be circumvented, refashioned, resisted, or negotiated. School policy rooted in the assumption that LGBT youth are at-risk can take a paternalistic form grounded in pity. Conversely, policy rooted in the view that LGBT youth are empowered can miss the structural locations which thin young people's agency. Rather than broad, large scale school changes, the findings of this study call for collaborative, interpersonal partnerships between students and school personnel. Intimate conversations based in care and trust can position educators as partners in the resistant efforts already employed by sexual minority students.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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