Education as an institution typically endorses heterosexuality as normative, expected and preferred (Røthing 2008: 254). The EFL setting however, may have a special potential to offer a safe discursive space where students could “explore alternative discourses, identities and futures” (Pavlenko 2004: 63), one of them being non-heterosexualities. This paper - based on a research project entitled: “Investigating Gender and Sexuality in the ESL Classroom: Raising Publishers', Teachers' and Students' Awareness” (Pakuła et al. 2015) - explores how the social category of sexuality features and is dealt with in the context of EFL education in Poland by considering three data sets: textbooks, situated classroom interactions and focus group interviews with teachers. To this end a range of qualitative methodologies and insights of queer theory (see Nelson 1999, 2012) are used.
More specifically, the paper focuses on how heteronormativity, i.e., the assumption that everybody is heterosexual and the attitude that heterosexuality is “normative, normalised and desirable” (Rothing 2008: 255; see also Motschebacher 2010: 11), is (re)produced but also challenged and resisted in these three EFL contexts. The analysis looks into possible readings of non-heteronormativity as well as degrees of heteronormativity (Sunderland 2015) in multimodal textbook representations. Of particular interest is how students orient to teachers’ heteronormative and heterosexist (Queen 2006) comments and talk. This strongly suggests that heteronormativity is problematic to many students and diversity matters to them. Students in this sense might appear to be the main force behind promoting a more diverse and inclusive teaching environment in Poland. Finally teachers’ perspectives will be qualitatively scrutinized to exemplify, among others, the interrelation between politics and schooling.
Several practical recommendations will be offered in the spirit of “thinking practically and looking locally” (Eckert and McConnel-Ginet 1992) to help teachers create a diversity-inclusive environment in their classrooms (see also Kramsch 1993).