ISJ November 2018: Gender and sexual diversity in international schools
Gender and sexual diversity and school culture Youth suicides have drawn attention to the severity of gender and sexuality based bullying. One extreme example of cultural disciplining of gender and sexuality is revealed through Rolling Stone magazine’s article “One Town’s War on Gay Teens” (Erdely, 2012, February 2). Erdely looked at students such as 13-year-old Brittany Geldert, who was afraid of going to school and being called a ‘dyke’. Brittany was not a typical girl, as she did not fit stereotypes associated with femininity. Erdely described Brittany as “a low-voiced, stocky girl who dressed in baggy jeans and her dad’s Marine Corps sweatshirts” (Erdely, 2012, p1). Because she did not fit norms of femininity, Brittany was called names and bullied. Brittany was not alone in this experience. She had a best friend, Sam, who also encountered bullying because of her gender expression and sexuality. Sam’s bullying at school was so terrible that she committed suicide. Brittany not only lost her best friend but was caught in the cultural war of her school. The Anoka-Hennepin School board had a policy where staff were not to teach or address homosexuality as a normal and valid lifestyle and remain neutral. This policy lead to the school’s homophobic culture (Erdely, 2012, February 2, p3). Many teachers were confused by this policy and did not understand how to remain “neutral”.