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Using post-structural linguistic frameworks to explore the school experiences of LGBT+ youth
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The relationship between sexuality and schooling is one which is currently the subject of much debate. The British government continues to state that it wants to find ways of tackling homophobic bullying schools. However, the increased emphasis on tackling homophobia in schools has been met with mixed reactions from politicians, students, educators, activists and the general public. Research indicates that heteronormativity and homophobia continue to pervade schools and that the effects of this are damaging for young people identifying or perceived to be LGBT+.

It has been suggested that one of the reasons that the aim of tackling homophobia in schools has not been achieved is that we still lack understanding of how heteronormativity and homophobia are enacted in school contexts. A key way in which homophobia is enacted is through language. Nelson (2012) is critical that, in language-focused education research, there has been little dialogue between applied linguistics and queer linguistics and calls for more attention to be paid to how linguistic analysis can offer important insights into gender, sexualities and education. In light of this call, this paper exemplifies how applied linguistics is currently being used to further understandings of how discriminatory practices around gender and sexuality are enacted in school contexts with a view to challenging them. The paper draws on data from school curriculum documents and interviews with young LGBT+ people and educators (analysed using combinations of corpus-based, appraisal and critical discourse analysis) to explore these questions:

  • What can poststructuralist linguistic analysis reveal about how young LGBT+ people experience gender and sexuality in schools?
  • How are different attitudes towards gender and sexual diversity enacted in the texts and language practices circulating in schools?
  • What can poststructuralist linguistic analysis reveal about these experiences and attitudes that other kinds of analysis may not be able to reveal?
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