Moments of Light: LGBTQ youth in schools

Year: 2016

Author: McGlashan, Hayley

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Previous research examining the experiences of LGBTQ youth in schools suggests that schools structure sexual and gender identities in particular ways. Heteronormative discourses position cisgender and heterosexual students as privileged and ‘normal’.Despite such contexts, Mayo (2014) and Lucassen et al (2014) advise against problematizing ‘marginalised’ sexual and gender identities and rather, advocate for a focus on their strengths and resilience. This paper reports on a critical ethnographic study of LGBTQ youth in a co-educational secondary school in Auckland, New Zealand. The focus of this research was to explore how students experienced ‘moments of light’ within the school environment. A moment of light is when LGBTQ youth are empowered to resist heteronormative discourses and their identities are recognised, legitimised and validated (Banks, 2014). In this paper, I draw on the theoretical tools of Foucault to understand the experiences of five transgender women at the school, each of whom grappled with relations of power that positioned them as deviant. I explore how the school supports these young people and how they actively negotiate their trans identities within the performative space of school environments.