Chapter 4


Sexualities in Schools

by Nicolas Gregoriades, Meegan Hughes,
Vincenzo Piscioneri, Olivia Rajit and Ellen Rees

1.    Recognising and Including Diverse Sexualities in Education Policy

Some Important Terms Defined 

Diverse sexualitiesa plural term that includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered identities. Sexualities refers to the construction of identities rather than sexual practices.

Harassmentbehaviour based on prejudiced social beliefs about certain groups of people.

Homophobia is prejudice, discrimination and hostility directed at people of diverse sexualities, on the basis of their sexuality.

Heterocentricassumptions, assertions and privileging of heterosexuality.

Gender – “is the socially constructed sense of what it is to be a man or woman.” 1 

Sexuality Education is a lifelong process of gaining information and forming attitudes, beliefs and values, encompassing sexual development, relationships, health reproduction, body image and gender roles.2

There is no comprehensive policy that reflects the range of sexualities within Victorian schools. The absence of explicit policy on sexualities in schools, or references to diverse sexualities in policies from areas such as bullying, discrimination, sexual harassment and gender equity excludes people of diverse sexualities from school communities. Policies can be appropriated to deal with discrimination, bullying or harassment based on presumptions about a student or teacher’s sexuality. However, the development of meaningful policy that overtly refers to the equal rights of students and teachers of diverse sexualities is urgently required. The creation of such policy would inclusively represent this diversity within society.


There are anti-discrimination policies that exist within schools and society that require specific references to diverse sexualities. These include gender equity, discrimination bullying and sexual harassment.


Teachers as Agents of Change; Policy as the Means of Change

Policymaking is driven by change but also helps to create change.3  As student teachers and beginning teachers we are in a unique position. All teachers have opportunities to bring about change, at the school level and within society by addressing issues of inclusion and exclusion in education policy. Within education, policies are created to address issues that are seen to affect the learning abilities, safety and well being of students within their educational environment. The current policies that relate to sexualities in schools exclude the diverse range of sexualities: particularly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students and teachers. While there are policies that prevent discrimination, bullying or harassment of students or teachers on the basis of gender or ethnicity, there are seldom references within school policies to prevent exclusion or discrimination on the basis of presumed sexuality.

            Comprehensive policies are required to reflect the range of sexual-ities within schools. By advocating the creation of educat-ion policies that directly address issues of diverse sexualities it is important to understand the difficulties connected with the creation of such policies. We would argue that education policies are statements of value as much as they outline action in particular situations and reflect our society inside and outside the education system.


In the absence of policies which make direct reference to diverse sexualities teachers can appropriate aspects of existing anti-discriminatory policies to deal with the issues of the diverse sexualities of their students.


Why is Policy Made?

Policy is created to assist in the development and implementation of change within the education system. Policy is developed on both federal and state levels and varies in levels of accepting difference from state to state, depending on which political party is in power at the time of the policy development process. Policies are also developed for implement-ation in Government operated schools, with Private, Independent and Religious schools choosing which policies they decide to implement, according to each school’s ethos. There needs to be an acknowledgement of sexual diversity in all school policies and national documents such as the Adelaide Declaration.4   An acceptance of diverse sexualities by community organizations such as the Catholic Church as well as curriculum changes are needed to recognise support services on a school level. The creation of a policy that acknowledges the range of sexualities in schools would enable students of diverse sexualities equal access to the learning and teaching process. 


By not directly referring to the equal treatment of people of diverse sexualities, the eleven percent of students who identify as not exclusively heterosexual are excluded.


What Policies Exist?

Policies that have been created specifically to deal with issues that exist within the education system include policies that prevent bullying, sexual harassment and racial discrimination, as well as policies that promote gender equity, human rights and mental health. These include applications of the Victorian Equal Opportunities Act 1995, which provides protection against discrimination based on sex, race, religious belief, age or age group, or for students with disabilities. This act means that discrimination in education and employment is illegal.

            With regard to the protection of people of diverse sexualities (including Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered people within our society), and specifically within schools, no all-encompassing federal or state policy exists in Australia. In fact, teachers can legally be discriminated against due to a statute within the Equal Opportunities Act (in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Victoria). An employer can be excused from discrimination where the employment involves the care and instruction of people under the age of eighteen. While the wording of this statute does not directly name people of diverse sexualities as a threat to children, this is implied. This helps to reinforce the myths that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered teachers attempt to convert their students or make unwelcome sexual advances towards them.

            These issues need to be addressed and resolved so that rather than discriminating against people of diverse sexualities, there is a legal document that offers them protection in schools and society. As recently as July 2002, the Australian Federal government halted the introduction of a sexuality bill, which has been before parliament for seven years.5 


What prevents discrimination against beginning teachers of diverse sexualities?


Why is it Important to Address Diverse Sexualities in Education Policy?

There are several urgent reasons why we need to address issues of sexuality with students. Presenting information that includes diverse sexualities can address students’ own feelings of isolation and depression that can lead to suicide. Research undertaken at Latrobe University6  found that students who determine that they are not heterosexual are twenty-five percent more likely to attempt suicide. Every student has the right to be safe, healthy and happy.7 

            Schools are obligated to recognise and provide for the personal and social development of all students within the school community. Accepting student identities whether they are male or female, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans-gendered, sexually active, pregnant or parents, are responsibilities included in a teacher’s duty of care. This acceptance may be in conflict with a teacher’s own values or beliefs, however teachers are obligated to introduce and uphold the basic human rights of their charges and of their colleagues.

            Teachers bring their own values and beliefs into the educational environment. As educators we are required to examine our attitudes. The values and beliefs of powerful stakeholders in the development of education policy silences students and teachers who do not identify themselves as being heterosexual. These values and beliefs polarise and reinforce social concepts of what is right and wrong, what is good or bad, straight or gay, acceptable or unacceptable behaviour. The prevalence of homophobic attitudes means that expressing sexualities other than heterosexuality is to become a target for ridicule, gossip or abuse.

            Parents and teachers, two of the stakeholders in education policy, are often uncomfortable discussing sexualities with students. They often consider students as children and as a-sexual. Student sexualities are either ignored or considered as being deviant. They are not considered to be responsible or mature enough to benefit from sexuality education. It is believed that support for diverse sexualities is not relevant or appropriate. The reality is that children become aware of their sexual identity at a very early age. Arguing that students need not know about sexualities until they are adult enough to understand is to ignore the risks that students take, practising unsafe sex and the isolation that students feel if they cannot openly express their identity. Students and teachers of diverse sexualities fear seeking or giving support to students or colleagues, as they risk becoming excluded themselves.


By not recognising diverse sexualities in education policies, people of diverse sexualities are being excluded from the education process and the protection from discrimination, bullying and harassment.


Policy Appropriation

The appropriation of education policy means (ideally) to utilize existing policies to reinforce tolerance and remove confrontation in all its forms from the schoolyard. Policy exists to be utilized. For example, gender equity policies embody the belief that all students should be treated equally regard-less of their gender. In cases of homophobic discrimination or bullying, then a bullying policy can be appropriated and used. When students or teachers are discriminated against because of assumptions about their sexuality, then an anti-discrimination or sexual harassment policy can be applied. Just because a policy doesn’t exist to deal with specific problems, doesn’t mean that a mechanism to deal with the problem doesn’t exist. In such situations, knowing what policy and action is available to you as a teacher can greatly affect how you deal with issues that may arise. In all situations, but specifically with respect to those who identify as diverse sexualities, we as educators need to know how to deal effectively with given situations by enforcing existing policies to avoid potential emotional or physical damage to students. Policies define how teachers and students will solve problems that arise within schools and guide actions in certain situations.

            Including diverse sexualities in education policy first requires a repositioning of diverse sexualities from being excluded and ignored to being recognised and affirmed. This can be done by addressing diverse sexualities in sexuality education and health as well as generating discussion in other key learning areas that allow for the understanding of diverse sexualities, without isolating particular students or teachers and making them vulnerable. (Please refer to the section of this chapter that addresses the heterocentrist curriculum.) As members of society and policy makers, but most importantly as student teachers and teachers, we have an important role to play in the education and socialisation of our students. How we view and react to situations in which we find ourselves, affects what sort of opinions our students formulate for themselves. Our social responsibility and duty of care towards our students outweighs any personal opinions or beliefs that we may have re-garding people who identify with diverse sexualities. If a student comes to you and asks for your help, if you don’t feel that you are able to assist them in a positive way, you need to know who to contact to support them effectively and compassionately.

2.    Unkind Words: Some Remarks on Anti-bullying Policy, Duty of Care and When a Student Teacher Becomes the Victim of Student Homophobia


Omissions of any kind of reference to gay, lesbian or transgender people in education policy documents like anti-bullying policies, contribute to the cycle of homophobia in the school environment. When same sex attracted people who identify as being gay, lesbian or transgender are bullied or harassed in schools, the issue becomes as Mills points out, a question of social justice.8  The ability of students to learn and develop in a safe and caring environment is jeopardised. This is also the case for teachers, as their ability to perform their role as educator is diminished. For both groups in the school’s setting, their basic human rights are being denied. Anyone perceived as gay or lesbian for example, is seen as outside of society’s norms and therefore fair game for homophobic abuse.

            Bullying and harassment of same sex attracted students and teachers are occurring in both Australian schools9  and overseas10  and there are substantial reasons for concern. If students bully one another on the grounds of sexual or suspected sexual preference, then the gates are open for the abuse to be extended to teachers. In the case of a student or beginning teacher this may be extreme, as were my11  recent experiences.

            Student homophobia towards others, including teachers in schools, occurs because there are no mechanisms such as explicit statements in policy or educational forums that may prevent homophobic behaviour, or allow students to assess the consequences of homophobic behaviour in the school environment and the wider community. Unless explicit reference is made to sexual diversity in school policy and indeed the policy of institutions offering teacher training courses, then homophobia in these settings will continue unabated.

            Rigby defines bullying as “repeated oppression, psychological or physical, of a less powerful person by a more powerful person or group of persons.”12  Intrinsic to this definition is the notion that an individual is excluded from the participation or engagement of activities or events due to this power differential.13  The implications for students and teachers who are victims of bullying in schools are great and may lead to any number of adverse conditions related to learning and teaching, such as loss of interest and participation, absenteeism, drop out, fear and depression.


The sexuality of a student or a teacher should not exclude them from the learning/teaching cycle or make them a target for verbal or physical abuse.


            There is a significant body of research to show that bullying in schools is a real problem and that schools are now addressing this issue through anti-bullying policy.14  More specifically, if an anti-bullying policy is where possible references to discrimination on the basis of sexual difference are to be found, in actuality there is a lack of detail in these kinds of policies that would enable us to address these problems directly. It is the case that schools have adopted anti-bullying strategies in the form of policy as a means of combating this serious problem. Explicit policy statements would ensure that students know their obligations from within the policy framework put forward by their respective schools.

            In his study on school bullying, Rigby asserts that at the “root of harassment are prejudiced social beliefs about certain groups of people...” Under this definition, the author includes students who are believed by their peers to be gay.15  It is somewhat disturbing that homosexuals are pigeon holed as a “subculture”, thereby seemingly legitimising them as a target for school yard harassment.16  Though this is not the author’s intention, Rigby fails to mention this sort of harassment in any substantial detail. It is not surprising then that policy makers could also miss the importance of homophobia within schools. This may occur because of the heterocentrist nature of the school environment, where policy makers and other stakeholders in the education system simply do not see the exclusion, harassment or abuse metered out to gays, lesbians and transgender people in schools, as a problem.


Students and teachers experience discrimination because of their presumed sexualities. This discrimination can be verbal insults, rumours, and threats of violence as well as physical abuse.


            School anti-bullying policy seems content to ignore the plight of students who identify themselves as being gay, lesbian or transgender. This is evident in the way policy is written, which relies heavily on concealing such concerns with innocuous terms. School anti-bullying policies are framed in language that does not address homophobia directly. Examples of this include gossiping in a destructive way e.g. “spreading of rumours, untruths or making hurtful comments about a person”, “sexual bullying”, “teasing or spreading rumours”, “writing  offensive notes”, or more interesting, “making suggestive comments or other forms of sexual abuse”.17  One could construe from these statements that homophobic taunts directed toward both boys and girls would fall somewhere uncomfortably within these parameters. Yet language that spells out the destructive nature of homophobia within schools, should be clearly expressed in order to avoid the cryptic nature of terms like “sexual bullying”.

            Why is explicit language a no go area for schools? This may be as Misson suggests, because there is “uneasiness about the conjunction of homosexuals and children.”18  In addition “anxiety around sexual contamination underpins many homophobic acts, particularly in the school environment.”19  Furthermore, without the inclusion of explicit language that seeks to embrace same sex attracted young people within policy statements, heterosexism is reinforced. This leads to what may be seen as the “ignorance equals knowledge syndrome” (my inverted commas20 ) Misson refers to.21  Yet appropriately worded documents that at least acknowledge difference in all forms, could be a starting point for making inroads into this touchy area of policy formation. It may be that reference to the legal status of gay, lesbian and transgender people can be included to offer those who identify as such, legal coverage that may challenge the views of others before bullying and harassment begins to take place. This could be done by ensuring that the entire school community is aware of Equal Opportunity and Anti-Discrimination laws which offer, in theory at least, protection to people who identify as being gay, lesbian and transgender in all Australian states.

            There is evidence that homophobia in the education system is being discussed in wider educational circles. The Australian Education Union has published an extensive document specifically on gay, lesbian and transgender people that does not shy away from the problem of homophobia and harassment in the school system.22  This policy argues that in order for a school environment to be free of discrimination on the basis of sexual identity, government, and departments of education must address the problems of heterosexism and homophobia via the curriculum, training and other welfare initiatives.23  The document points to the urgency of the problem in schools and shows how ignoring issues of homophobia prevents students from, among other things, reaching their learning potential.24  It is interesting to note that any positive recommendations put forward by the Union in the combating of homophobia, such as “Homophobia and Heterosexism must be included in the content of pre-service training of all teachers”25  are questionably implemented in practice. It is difficult to know to what extent this kind of education is enforced at the tertiary level of training unless it is taken up by individual students as part of research projects.

            The recent Victorian government submission to the Federal Government Inquiry into the Education of Boys in Australian Schools is further evidence of this kind of neglect.26  For such a weighty submission, and for its recognition that sexuality is often “contradictory or fluid” and that students often see the school as a site that reinforces gender stereotypes,27  little attention is given to the nature of homophobia and how best to tackle this problem. This may explain why inclusion of terms such as homophobia in anti-bullying policy is never considered. Indeed a search on the Victorian government’s education website, Sofweb, reveals a lack of interest or attention to sexual difference, homophobia, gay or lesbian students or to those people charged with educating students.28  Why? It is not enough for such a document to identify a problem then ignore it.

            What has all this to do with students or beginning teachers who may identify as being gay or lesbian or transgender? From an anti-bullying policy perspective, it is clear that some sort of protection or preventative measures could be offered against harassment if direct inclusion of gay, lesbian and transgender concerns were addressed in school policy. Rigby is correct to point out that any effective anti-bullying policy should not only focus on the students, but “it is almost certain that it will be suggested that the bullying of teachers by students will be included...”29 . The message to students would then be: if it is inappropriate to bully students on the grounds of sexual preference or diversity, then surely the harassment of teachers on the same grounds would be equally inappropriate.

            What a student teacher says or does on teaching rounds is scrutinised by supervising teachers, other staff members and the student body. It makes sense to adopt a totally professional approach to the practice of teaching. Furthermore, training institutes such as The University of Melbourne, require student teachers while they are on teaching rounds, to be mindful of their duty of care toward students. It does not take long to work out that students are inquisitive and highly mobilised people, who often seek to undermine the authority of a teacher in training, as either a source of social derision or to test the resolve of that teacher who has temporarily entered their domain. A student teacher identifying as being gay, lesbian or transgender may feel especially threatened by this behavioural warfare. What happens then, if a student teacher is bullied and becomes the victim of homophobic abuse during teaching rounds? What can they do about it, and who can they talk to?

            School anti-bullying policies may be a good place to start looking for ways to rectify this problem. Students who perpetrate bullying in the form of verbal abuse, do so because there is no explicit provision in anti-bullying policy to prevent the homophobic taunts and abuse which may be experienced on rounds by student teachers who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender.

            Training institutes charged with the preparation of students for the teaching profession also have a responsibility to include gay, lesbian and transgender issues in their curriculum and policy documents. It is true from personal experience that concerns surrounding these issues are being taken up in seminars and tutorials given the serious nature of homophobia in schools. Yet student teacher manuals, for example, as issued by the professional practice unit of The University of Melbourne, do not include any reference to gay, lesbian and transgender people who may be training for a future in teaching.30  Under the sub heading Sexual Harassment Policy, the manual states; “A student teacher who believes that s/he may have been sexually harassed by a person in a school setting should contact the Sexual Harassment contact person...”31 . Where then, does this leave a student teacher that identifies as being gay, lesbian or transgender who is repeatedly abused or threatened by students in and outside of the school? Some form of statement that more explicitly addresses these issues in the manual would be consistent with the Australian Education Union’s guidelines for addressing the problem of heterosexism and homophobia outside of the curriculum.

            In concluding this discussion it may be worth offering advice to student teachers who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender who may be a little anxious about facing a class during their teaching rounds. If you experience any form of homophobia, act on it!

•    Report the incident to the School Experience and Professional Practice unit where you are training. I32 did not do this and acknowledge that I should have done so. You should notify them by phone and also put your complaint in writing. The result may be that you go to another school, which may be inconvenient, however, you will probably feel safer. (See Resources at the end of this chapter)

•    Report any form of harassment to the student teacher co-ordinator at the school where you are working. It may result in direct action taken to ensure that the harassment ceases and the parties involved are educated to modify their behaviour, reprimanded or punished. DO NOT approach the perpetrators yourself. This may compromise your position as a student teacher and pit your word against that of the student/s.

This paper has been written because as a student teacher on rounds for the first time, I was the victim of homophobic abuse from students more than twenty years my junior. Being called a “faggot” and a “poof” by students is a chilling reminder that the war against homophobia is far from over. At the time of the events, I felt as though I could not say or do anything about it, as it was my first round and there was pressure to perform as a teacher; to know the key learning areas and to deliver quality teaching within a classroom environment. My thoughts were and still are, what gives students the right to abuse an authoritative figure in and out of the school grounds? Where does such homophobia come from? It is significant that it was finally the advice of a first year teacher that prompted me to report the events to the student teacher co-ordinator. It is clear that more needs to be done in preventing the bullying and harassment of all involved in the education of young people and for same sex attracted young people in schools today.

Vincenzo Piscioneri

3.      A Look at Sexuality Education Programs in Victoria

Defining sexuality and sexuality education

It is very difficult to define sexuality because ideas and norms about sexuality come from a variety of sources – social custom, science, religious belief, and personal experience.33   Indeed, Irvine writes that:

“Our ideas about sexuality – what it is and where it comes from – are critically important to sexuality education. That is because how we think about sexuality shapes how we talk about it.”34 

            Davidson sees it as the enjoyment of our own bodies, the need for physical affection and closeness with others.35  Gourlay sees it as an integral part of self, and involves much more than “just being anatomically and genetically female and male”.36  The preferred definition of the authors on sexuality comes from SIECUS – the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States:

“ … sexuality is not only about having sex, or taking part in sexual behaviours. Sexuality is also about the person you feel you are, your body, how you feel as a boy or girl, man or woman, the way you dress, move and speak, the way you act and feel about other people. These are all parts of who you are as a person, from your birth until you die … Our sexuality is a natural and healthy part of who we are. It’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are and how you live.”37 

            Therefore, if sexuality is an expression of self – what makes us individuals in our own right – then, sexuality education is a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs and values about identity, relationships, and intimacy.38  It encompasses sexual development, reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, body image, and gender roles.39 

Current practices and approaches in Victoria

Traditionally, formal sexuality education or sex education largely comprised information about the male and female reproductive systems. Gourlay writes that students’ attention were drawn to questions of “plumbing and structure”, rather than issues of love, attraction and sensuality.40  We have since moved away from those didactic lessons about reproductive organs.41  However, sexuality education programs these days tend to focus on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmissible diseases, unplanned pregnancies and abuse, rather than as an expression of identity. It is an improvement from the days of “plumbing and structure”, however, it is still inadequate, as it has not included issues such as sexual diversity and gender.

            For sexuality education programs to be inclusive of current lifestyles and choices, they must go beyond the basic anatomical and mechanical facts that have been taught; the prevention strategies that are currently taught; and venture into areas that are socially important in the lives of young peoples. It should challenge lesbian, gay and bisexual “invisibility”42  and foster sexually responsible behaviour. It should bring an understanding of gender – how we learn to be men and women,43  and gender roles. It should facilitate teenagers in their exploration of all aspects of relationships, same-sex attraction, sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, assertiveness, sex, love and power.44 

            Some schools have developed comprehensive sexuality education programs45 . However, there are schools that barely touch the subject. Hence, there are vast discrepancies in the amount and quality of information presented to young people.46  A large part of this can be attributed to the highly sensitive nature of the topic. Many schools tread carefully, fearful of the reactions such programs might provoke as it crosses into areas of faith, and into the moral and ethical frameworks that parents shape for their children.47 

            Acknowledging the need for educating young people on sexuality, the Victorian Government has recently made available a resource kit entitled Catching On for use in Victorian government schools. The resource kit, developed under the STD/HIV Prevention Education Project, takes a look at choices about sexual safety, issues of risk behaviours, gender identity and orientation, and gender and power in sexual relations.48  The emphasis, however, is the prevention of AIDS/HIV and STD infections among young people. That emphasis has made the scope of the resource kit narrow, rather than broad. It does not look at topics such as gender roles, decision-making, or communication strategies and skills.

            It is especially challenging to teach sexuality in Catholic schools, as safe sex and contraception are unacceptable in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Education Office released a booklet entitled Directives for Christian Education in Sexuality earlier this year, outlining what can and cannot be taught in Catholic schools. The booklet indicates that the approach in Catholic schools will be to “teach about the whole person, rather than about sex”.49  This echoes the same sentiment that forms the basis of the Catholic Education Office’s policy on HIV/AIDS education, which is based on the Church’s concern for an “educational process which aims at the development of the whole person and which provides adequate information and formation for each student”.50  However, this does not mean there will be inclusive sexuality education programs in Catholic schools. Sexual diversity is not tolerated in the Catholic Church, and thus, logically, is not included in any Catholic sexuality education programs. Instead, heterosexual relationships are advocated. Therefore in religious schools, inclusive sexuality education programs (with topics such as contraception and sexual diversity) cannot be expected.

Current attitudes towards sexuality education

Goldman writes that sexuality education programs are gaining acceptance around the world.51  Indeed, in the United States of America, research shows that parents, teachers and students consistently support sexuality education, with 93% of all Americans supporting the teaching of sexuality education in high schools and 84% supporting sexuality education in middle/junior high schools.52  Also, in Ontario, Canada, 89% of young people surveyed felt that it was important for them to receive sexual health education. 53 

            There are no published statistics as yet on sexuality education in Australia. Although the Australian Education Union advocates that comprehensive “sex education” should be available on an on-going basis to all primary, secondary and tertiary students there is no official state government policy on sexuality education.54  Academics have provided most of the comments in the press, however, curiously there have been few parental or public opinions expressed on the subject. In an effort to gauge public opinion, the Education, Policy, Schools and Society Applied Seminar Group at The University of Melbourne recently conducted a survey of student teachers on sexuality education. The survey revealed the following:

•       Heterosexuality in schools is assumed;

•  Sexual diversity is very rarely discussed in schools, or if it is, is glossed over;

•  There is a lack of support for same-sex attracted youths;

•  Most teaching resources are heterocentric;

•  Very little discussion on the topic was seen in schools;

•  Schools deal with students’ sexuality by ignoring it, or by restricting affection between students.

The necessity for sexuality education

Professor Short believes that there is a strong relationship between sexuality education (or the lack of it) and the high termination and birth rates among teenagers in Australia.55  Indeed, statistically he is correct. Australian figures on termination rates (23.9 per 1000 teenagers) are higher than that of the Netherlands (4.2 per 1000 teenagers) and Belgium (6.2 per 1000 teenagers).56  Therefore, many are convinced of the necessity of sexuality education, if only to educate teenagers on contraceptive methods, in order to decrease the number of abortion and birth rates among teenagers in Australia. However, this desire to decrease the rate of births and terminations among young females must not be the primary reason for the existence of such programs. To do so would narrow the focus of such programs and hence, begin the process of exclusion.

            Adolescence is an exciting time for young people, but it can also be a painful time, especially for young lesbian, gay and bisexual youths. There is precious little information and support that these young people can access.57  When they do actively seek out information and support, however, they are met with ignorance and prejudice. Also in many cases, the information they access is inaccurate.58  These young people become disheartened, gradually become isolated and as a result, begin to think that their sexual orientation makes them different. It has been speculated that there could be anywhere between 28,073 to 38,600 same-sex attracted young people currently enrolled in a Victorian secondary school.59  These numbers are proof enough that there should be support and access to information for same-sex attracted youths. They should not be excluded in favour of the assumed heterosexual majority.

            Identity formation is vitally important for a young person. There is a constant need for them to belong. A major part of the search for identity and a place of belonging lies in exploration of their sexuality. Currently, in the Curriculum and Standards Framework (Board of Studies, 2000), sexuality in the strictest sense (puberty and anatomical aspects) is taught in the Health and Physical Education Key Learning Area (KLA). However self and identity is covered under various KLAs – English, Studies of Society and the Environment (SOSE) and Art. Sexuality is therefore touched upon in a variety of ways.

            The scope is however, restricted – there is very little opportunity for exploration and discussion of sexual diversity, of sexual identity. Decision-making skills are not explicitly taught, nor are emotional strategies. Gender roles are addressed, but perhaps not in great detail. There is also very little integration between the various topics. Young people would lose their way in attempting to understand how it all ties into their exploration of identity. An inclusive sexuality education program can bring all these topics – sexual diversity, sexual identity, gender roles, decision-making skills, sexual discrimination issues, female and male empowerment – under one umbrella. In this way, educators may concentrate on the important issues – tolerance towards others, the necessary skills to process information, articulating thoughts, dispelling misconceptions, fostering critical thinking skills and providing a safe environment for discussion – without having to worry about trying to teach the necessary syllabus within a limited time frame.

            For many students, the only form of formal sexuality education for them is through school. Informally, they may have learnt about sexuality through a number of avenues – the media, discussion with their peers or through the attitudes and behaviours of the adults around them. Therefore, some may have come to school already knowing a great deal about sex, sexual diversity and gender roles. However, whether or not they hold healthy and positive views on the topics is an issue that sexuality education programs should address. Other students may not have had access to any form of sexuality education (either via the media or their caregivers) and so, they come to school knowing little or nothing. It is then the responsibility and duty of teachers to educate these students on their sexuality and the issues surrounding it, in our effort to provide young people with all the knowledge and skills they need to survive “out there”. An inclusive sexuality education program will enable educators to do just that.


Sexuality education is not an isolated subject area. It is inherent in everyday life because it is an expression of self. Therefore, in addition to the presence of an official sexuality education program, educators must express positive sexuality views.

            Schools generally are responsible for developing their own sexuality education programs. As a result, programs vary widely from school to school. Nevertheless, there are a number of strategies that you – the beginning teacher – can employ to ensure that you are sexually inclusive in your teaching. Liggins suggests the following strategies60 :

•  Always assume that at least 10% of the people you are working with are gay or lesbian, and that others will have gay, lesbian, bisexual friends and family;

•  Establish tolerance and non-harassment as a group norm;

•  Include sexual orientation issues in discussion of human rights and discrimination;

•  When corresponding with caregivers of young people, don’t address mail to “Mr and Mrs X” unless you know this to be accurate;

•  Avoid religious debates61 ;

•  Be prepared to respond to anti-gay, anti-lesbian or anti-bisexual slurs just as you would to racist or sexist slurs;

•  Don’t expect to win or lose an argument. You are there to say things that need to be said. The main point is getting the information across;

•  Make sure that if you are teaching inclusively, that someone else in the school knows you are doing so and supports you.

•  Be as well-informed as possible. Respect the person challenging you. Focus on challenging the negative opinions rather than the person.

The treatment of teachers and students of diverse sexualities can be overtly exclusive and discriminatory. However, there are also curriculum and teaching practices which overlook or silence diverse sexualises. Teachers, through the way they speak, cite examples or approach subjects may support a heterocentrist curriculum.

4.          Heterocentrist Curriculum:
Schools as Sites of Silencing of Diverse Sexual Identities

Addressing Homophobic and Exclusionary Language

The two scenarios (below) are examples of homophobic and exclusionary language, privileging a heterocentrist position.

Scenario A:  A teacher walks into the English classroom and announces that the next class text to be studied will be Pride and Prejudice. The class collectively moans and from deep within the recesses of the cries, comes the distinctive phrase, “Miss, that’s so gay!”

Scenario B:  As the unit of work unfolds, the discussion centres around the ‘rules of romance’ and marriage. The teacher guides the class discussion, telling students that the reason that Pride and Prejudice has been selected for study is that it provides a guide for the important decisions they will have to make in their future, such as who will be the mother of their children. (Drawn from an actual class).

            Scenario A demonstrates the way in which students use the word ‘gay’ to devalue or insult something (in this case, a novel). Students use ‘gay’ as an insult because this use of homophobic language is often tolerated. It is difficult to imagine a similar scenario with a racist insult in the place of the homophobic one.

            As teachers it is important that we counter the use of homophobic language in our classrooms and schools. If we tolerate the use of ‘gay’ as an insult then we are condoning the exclusion and isolation of students of diverse sexualities.

            It is important to understand why ‘gay’ has been used in this way. In many insistences a student will use ‘gay’ without considering any offence that it may cause. The use of ‘gay’ as an insult demonstrates the binary relationship between heterosexual and homosexual, with heterosexual being good and homosexual being bad.

            One strategy for addressing such an example of homophobic language, as demonstrated in Scenario A, is to draw students’ attention to the fact that ‘gay’ means sexual preference and that this particular sexual preference is not an insult.

            Scenario B is an example of how a teacher’s personal beliefs and values can result in assumptions being made about students and their sexualities.

            Strategies for addressing situations such as this include teachers being aware of the ways in which their personal view can affect their teaching - that is how a teacher’s choice of language can isolate and exclude members of their class, on the basis of sexuality.

            Using critical literacy reading practices in key learning areas such as English privileges and includes the responses of the students rather than of the teacher.

            These practices require acceptance on the part of the students and the teacher.

            When teaching critical literacy issues of inclusion and exclusion within texts are considered.

            By questioning the values presented in a text, heterosexuality is no longer central. Diverse sexualities are included within discussions without singling out students.

Teaching using critical reading practices provides teachers with opportunities to challenge stereotypes, rather than reinforce them.

The master narrative of the heterocentrist curriculum

Though highly generalised, these two scenarios offer valid insights into the climate of Australian classrooms at the cusp of the twenty-first century. As society matures into a growing celebration of diverse sexualities62  there are ways in which schools remain cemented in an anachronistic, heterocentrist era. Within the curriculum, there is still a temptation to conform to what Ray Misson (1996) calls “the great master narrative of relationships in modern Western society”,63  that is the story of a heterosexual romance resulting in the establishment of a nuclear family. This “master narrative” is detrimental to students of all sexualities in that it exerts a subtle but insidious pressure to conform to a particular worldview. Our purpose as educators should be to guide our students to think critically about what is, subliminally and overtly, presented as normative in society and to choose whether to accept or reject certain ideologies. As the narrative of heterosexual romance is so often contradicted by a variety of modern lifestyles, it is time for classrooms to come out of their closets, stop privileging the heterocentrist curriculum and embrace youth, families and all people of diverse sexualities.

Defining terms

But first, some definitions. The term heterosexist has been used in the past to describe people, language or attitudes that privilege and promote the heterosexual worldview whilst eclipsing those of ‘other’ sexualities. We will use the term ‘heterocentrist’ instead of ‘heterosexist.’ The term ‘heterocentrist’ includes blatant discriminatory acts such as physical violence and verbal abuse which would fall under the term ‘heterosexist’ as well as more subtly discriminatory acts such as the privileging of heterosexual values and lifestyles and the labelling of non-heterosexual people as ‘foreign’ or ‘other.’

            ‘Other’ when used in this context is a label used to describe behaviour and identity that is non-normative and stands in opposition to the majority. This terminology will hopefully awaken some people to the realisation of their often unintentional yet deeply ingrained heterocentrist value system. Therefore, we see this term as being more conducive in bringing about the shift in attitude that can lead to the inclusion of people of diverse sexualities.

            Another term which is often used is ‘same-sex attracted youth,’ or SSAY. The problematic nature of this term lies in the fact that, as is often in the discourse of this topic, sexuality is set up as fixed and binary. Either a person is always heterosexual or is always homosexual. The term ‘same-sex attracted youth’ implies that the only valid alternative to heterosexuality is homosexuality and that these dichotomies are fixed and constant. We will use the term ‘youth of diverse sexualities,’ or YDS, to embrace a range of sexualities that are more fluid and malleable than the twin alternative of homo- and heterosexuality, and which includes homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality, intersexuality and heterosexuality.

            Throughout this section of the chapter YDS will be used to refer to both young people who do and who do not identify as exclusively heterosexual. If we are to really be inclusive of those who are homosexual, bisexual, transsexual and intersex in our education systems, we must start using terminology that does not set them apart from heterosexuals. However, we must recognise that, within the term YDS, certain young people who do not conform to a heterosexual orientation are particularly and specifically excluded from access and success within education.

Examples of heterocentrism in education

There are many ways in which heterocentrist curriculum, school content and structure are being fostered. These can be mapped into vacuums in current policy and in school practice, and manifest themselves both overtly and covertly:

•  the absence of mention of sexual diversity in documents such as the Adelaide Declaration of National Goals for Schooling64 ;

•  the banning of references to homosexuality in schools by the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne;

•  no organised framework for support for that recognises the wellbeing of all YDS school level;

•  little or no discussion or information about out-of-school support services for YDS;

•  little or no acknowledgement of sexual diversity in the classroom and in society;

•  school texts which focus on the heterocentrist worldview;

•  use of language which discriminates in favour of heterosexuality;

•       assumptions concerning sexuality and the fostering of stereotypes;

•  discussion of homosexuality only in terms of disease prevention;

•       assumptions of heterosexual family structures and little recognition of non-biological domestic partners as having parental status over a child65 ;

•  focus on heterosexual identity and behaviour in sex education programs.

The social and educational impact of gaps in policy and practice: Advocating a shift in policy and the importance of the individual teacher

As discussed previously in this chapter, the code of silence encompassing schools has resulted in the social alienation of non-heterosexual young people through exclusion, invisibility, physical violence, bullying and verbal harassment. 14% of the young people surveyed for Writing Themselves In: A National Report on the Sexuality, Health and Well Being of Same-Sex Attracted Young People (1998) reported that they felt unsafe at school. The report also found that:

“there was evidence that if assault or harassment occurred, procedures and practices would not be set in motion to ensure justice or prevent such behaviour recurring. A number of students commented on the inconsistencies between their schools’ dealings with racism and sexism as opposed to heterosexism.” 66 

            This document is part of a comprehensive amount of recent research that demonstrates that non-heterosexual YDS are prone to:

•  isolation and loneliness;

•  mental health issues such as depression, relationship break-down and contemplation of suicide;

•  assault and harassment;

•  lack of support from home environments;

•  rely on the media and Internet only as sources of information on diverse sexualities;

•  abuse drugs;

•  drop out of school;

•  become homeless;

•  contract STIs (sexually transmitted infections);

•  attempt suicide.67 

            Overt policy documentation would allow teachers and students to combat homophobia and heterocentrism in a more open and validated light and reduce these consequences of exclusion.

            These factors of exclusion create not only a social but also an educational impact. The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) has cited numerous forms of exclusionary activities within education in its June 2000 report, Enough is Enough, including the area of school policy and content:

“A number of participants also commented on heterosexist or explicitly homophobic course content… Participants often raised issues associated with the absence of homosexuality from their course curricula…… other participants were careful to make the distinction between material which is explicitly hate-mongering and that which is affirming the range of sexual and gender diversity common to much of humanity…” 68 

            As a result of these issues, non-heterosexual young people are often marginalised to the extent that they experience limited academic success rates as they feel they cannot participate in school for fear of being targeted and abused. The social and educational impact of the alienation of non-heterosexual young people demonstrates an urgent need for a response to the non-acceptance of diverse sexualities within schools in three areas: policy, attitude and practice.

            Only by promoting an acceptance of diverse sexualities from an early age can society become more accepting of sexual diversity and crack the master narrative that so many feel bound to abide by. The alienation and marginalisation of YDS is a problem that needs to be confronted by society at large to prevent the casualties of heterocentrism alluded to previously from growing.

            In the absence of overt policy documentation to combat this, it becomes even more vital that individual teachers in all Key Learning Areas enter every classroom with an awareness of the heterocentrist curriculum. As teachers, it is inevitable that we bring our own set of values and beliefs with us into our classrooms and our schools. Whilst acknowledging our own ideologies, we must strive to create an inclusive environment wherever we teach. As teachers we are in a position to provide YDS with a number of ways of dealing with the issues they may be grappling with. Our duty encompasses:

•  creating a classroom environment in which YDS can participate without fear of discrimination, assault or abuse;

•  providing students with a range of material that discusses issues surrounding diverse sexualities;

•  giving students the opportunity to discuss their sexuality in the classroom and in private with an adult figure who isn’t one of their parents;

•  providing students with information about support groups, services and resources that acknowledge the needs of YDS (for a suggested list, see below).

            The three platforms from which teachers are empowered to address the gaps in policy are classroom attitude or atmosphere, awareness of language (as detailed in the addressing of scenarios above) and critical textual analysis.

Advocating a shift in attitude

In classrooms of all key learning areas, there needs to be acknowledgement, discussion and activity that includes people of diverse sexualities. The silence that frequently surrounds this issue speaks volumes to non-heterosexual young people and tells them that they are not important. For each student’s own true voice to be heard, we as teachers must first build the podiums from which our students can speak. This means changing the atmosphere of our classrooms to be more inclusive. Most importantly, there needs to be a shift from viewing non-heterosexual people as ‘other.’

            In What is Sexuality? A Bent Answer to a Straight Question, Gary Dowsett discusses the notion of ‘proximal’69  to denote the closeness of other sexualities to those who consider themselves heterosexual. Diverse sexualities should not be spoken of as something distant, something foreign or ‘other’ but as a reality in your classroom, with students actively discussing their diverse sexualities or the potential for diverse sexual awakenings. Diverse sexualities do not solely exist outside of the classroom, to be talked of as an alien phenomenon. This proximity of diverse sexualities should resound through the classroom and voice its presence through open discussion and the acknowledgement of YDS.

School practice: text

“V (student):  What was it…. IVF programs, and I brought some articles in about same-sex couples wanting a child and the teacher said ‘I think that that is disgusting…. If they want a child why don’t they just go with a woman or with a man’ and I just got so infuriated at them….

M (interviewer):  So the teacher said that?

V:     Yes…. In front of the class

M:    And how did you respond seeing as you had brought in the article?

V:     I just started arguing for it… And then the teacher she still couldn’t understand it.” 70 

            While this documented scenario strikingly reveals the alienation of non-heterosexual young people in the classroom, it is also indicative of the way teachers allow their heterocentrist viewpoint to silence student diversity. The emotions of discomfort and disgust or clashing ideologies are not valid excuses for teachers to avoid the proximal presence of diverse sexualities. V is a student who highlights the proximity of sexual diversity in the classroom, but she has been excluded because of her teacher’s vehemently heterocentrist attitude.

            In the school curriculum, there is a huge emphasis on the reading, writing and analysis of text, regardless of the KLA or subject matter. For our purposes, ‘text’ will refer to any work that can be read or viewed. Teachers across all subject areas need to push for curriculum material that does not consistently privilege the heterosexual within the range of diverse sexualities.

            One big issue surrounding class texts is their selection. Teachers quite often have limited or no control over this, as various stakeholders from other staff members to parents and the government often prescribe what texts are allowed in the classroom. However, there needs to be a push from teachers to recommend to all the stakeholders inclusive text selection. In all KLAs, we need to acknowledge sexual diversity, avoid explicitly heterocentrist material and create meaningful discussion that doesn’t exclude, patronise or whitewash diverse sexuality.71 

            However, in the present climate, teachers may not have the option of choosing material that equally represents diverse sexualities. If that is the case, it is crucial that teachers scaffold and promote the critical reading of heterocentrist texts. All types of text need to be closely examined to reveal their underlying ideologies. In doing so, we must strive to go beyond what Misson calls “ ‘social issues’ work within a humanist framework..”72  This phrase alludes to the tendency for disadvantaged groups to be labelled as in need of pity and compassion. This reduces the issues surrounding diverse sexualities to a kind of misguided charity work and pigeon-holes YDS yet again as ‘other.’

            Yes, we need texts with characters or real people of diverse sexualities in the classroom. But we need to be able to view them as proximal and part of our society. This means looking beyond the stereotypical context in which non-heterosexual people have been represented in the past, including stereotypical gay and lesbian body images and the context of AIDS.  It is up to each individual teacher to strive for full inclusion and the representation of diverse sexualities is something we can influence in our classrooms.


We as teachers have a responsibility to create school environments where our students can be challenged to think critically, be inspired towards life-long development of skills and processes and nurture their own true voices. Currently, this is not being achieved for the 8 – 11% of our students who do not identify exclusively as heterosexual73  and for the totality of our students who live in a diversely sexual community. This chapter has outlined the need for overt policy documentation relating to diverse sexualities which is currently limited to appropriation from existing policy related to bullying, harassment and welfare. From such policy, school practice and content will able to flourish to become more inclusive of marginalized students. The urgency behind this matter stems from the current overt and covert discrimination against non-heterosexual students resulting in abuse, health and welfare issues and limited opportunities for academic and social success.

            The Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (2000) recommends:

“That the Department of Education, Employment and Training:

18.   Continues to support sexually diverse curricula reform, and commit resources to the professional development of those teachers who deliver sexuality education programs.

That all Schools:

19.   Reflect on the moral and social benefits of supporting sexuality education programs which include positive representations of gay and lesbian sexuality and transgender issues and implement such programs.

20.   Prioritise policy development and action in the area of homophobia, as a means of ensuring the unacceptably high levels of sexuality and gender identity-related abuse and harassment endemic in school environments are no longer tolerated. This is an issue of basic human rights for LGBT young people.” 74 

            Writing Themselves In suggests a “framework which takes a whole school approach to supporting sexual diversity in all aspects of school life.”75  This framework can only be achieved by overt school policy that is supported by each individual teacher.

            Let us take up these recommendations and continue to fight for the voices of each and every student in our classrooms. Let us challenge government policy and school structures so that they don’t exclude non-heterosexual young people. Let us analyse our teaching practice and the content we are working with. Let us equip our students with the resources to combat homophobia and heterosexism and to be vigilant and critical of heterocentrism. Each one of us has the power to shape and influence our students. Let us not abuse that power. Let us make our classrooms into inclusive spaces that celebrate diversity at every level.

We gratefully acknowledge the help of The ALSO Foundation’s resource, Alsorts, in gathering this list of teacher and student-related resources. Thank you also to Mr. Andrew Richardson for locating this resource. Please note that these resources are merely suggested tools. As teachers, we must be selective of what we use in classrooms because of factors ranging from class size and ability, to subject area. Please look at these resources carefully before deciding if and how you would use them in your classroom.

Further Reading and Resources for Teachers and Students

Books, booklets and reports

The ALSO Foundation, Alsorts: A Sexuality Awareness Resource edited by Dr. Daryl Higgins (2002)

ß information on resources relevant to the GLBRI community

ß available from The ALSO Foundation

ß telephone (03) 9827 4999

ß e-mail

ß website  [Accessed 3 November 2002]

Hillier et al., 1998

ß website  (research links about same-sex attracted youth, including Writing Themselves In)

Lasky, Louise and Beavis, Catherine, eds. (1996). Schooling and Sexualities: Teaching for a Positive Sexuality Deakin Centre for Education and Change, Melbourne

ß various papers on the topics of:

v schools and the social construction of sexuality

v teaching about sexuality

v teaching against homophobia

v violence, harassment and abuse

Ollis, D., Mitchell, A., Watson, J., Hillier, L., and Walsh, J.(2002). Safety in Schools: Strategies for Responding to Homophobia

ß a booklet to help teachers in dealing with homophobia in our schools

ß available from Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society

ß La Trobe University, Melbourne

ß telephone (03) 9285 5382

Sears, J.T. and Williams (1997). Overcoming Heterosexism and Homophobia: Strategies that Work. Columbia University Press, New York

ß scholars, practitioners and activists provide strategies which can be used by educators

ß website: 
[Accessed 3 November 2002]

Teacher resources for use in the classroom

Blockout: Fighting Homophobia (no date provided)

ß a training manual for people who work with young people

ß available from Second Story Youth Health Centre, Adelaide

ß telephone (08) 8223 3433

Jennings, K., ed. (1994). Becoming Visible: A Reader in Gay and Lesbian History for High School and College Students Alyson Publications Inc., Los Angeles

Witthaus, D. Pride and Prejudice: A Resource for Schools/Teachers

ß a six-week program for teachers to use in the classroom with lesson plans, handouts and a video

ß contact Youth Services – Moonee Valley City Council

ß telephone (03) 9243 8793

Internet resources

The Also Foundation.  [Accessed 3 November 2002]

ß the ALSO Foundation’s website (see above for details on this group)

The Campaign to End Homophobia.  [Accessed 3 November 2002]

ß educational materials working to end homophobia and heterosexism through education in a multicultural context

La Trobe University.  [Accessed 3 November 2002]

ß research links about same-sex attracted youth, including Writing Themselves In (see booklet info above)


Rantan Productions, Outing Gay Hate (2000)

ß a video and workshop kit about gay hate crime in Australia

ß available from Rantan Productions, Brunswick Heads, NSW

ß telephone (02) 6685 9865

South Sydney Youth Services and NSW Family Planning Association, Truth or Dare (1991).

ß a video-drama by young people for young people that challenges violence and homophobic attitudes

ß available from Healthrites Bookshop, NSW Family Planning Association, 328-336 Liverpool Rd, Ashfield, NSW 2131

ß telephone (02) 9716 6099


Bent TV

ß Channel 31

ß Mondays 9 pm

ß telephone (03) 9417 3318

ß e-mail

ß website  [Accessed 3 November 2002]


Lesbian and Gay Radio

ß 3CR 855 AM

ß telephone (03) 9419 8377

Joy Melbourne

ß 94.9 FM

ß telephone (03) 9699 2949

ß e-mail

ß website  [Accessed 3 November 2002]


Victorian Statewide Suicide Helpline: 1300 651 251

Gay and Lesbian Switchboard:

ß (03) 9827 8544

ß Freecall 1800 631 493 (6-10 pm daily, Except Wed: 2-10 pm)

Support groups and services

Action Centre

ß support, information and social groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

ß telephone (03) 9654 4766

ß 1800 013 952 (country callers)

Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

ß a support/information group for families and friends of gay and lesbian people

ß meetings at 7:30pm, 4th Tuesday of each month,

ß P-FLAG, PO Box 741, Glen Waverley, VIC 3150

ß telephone (03) 9827 8404; (03) 9511 4083

ß website  [Accessed 3 November 2002]

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Youth Resource Directory

ß website: 

      [Accessed 3 November 2002]

For more information on your local community support groups, contact the ALSO Foundation at (03) 9827 4999 or visit the website,


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 1 Misson, 1996.

 2 SIECUS, 1996.

 3Abu-Duhou, 2002.

 4 Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA), 1999.

 5Gay Law Net, 2002.

 6 Hillier et al., 1998.

 7 Department of Education Victoria, 1999.

 8 Mills, 1999.

 9 While researching this article, a discrimination case is set to go to court following the harassment of a gay student at a Christian college in Melbourne. See Milligan, 2002. See also Watson, 2002 and Hillier et al., 1999.

 10 See web resources such as GLSEN, 2002 which was set up in the U.S.A. as a watchdog for same sex attracted teachers and raises issues that may concern them in the workplace such as bullying and harassment. See also Robinson and Maines, 1994.

 11 Vincenzo Piscioneri.

 12 Rigby, 1996.

 13 ibid., p.15.

 14 See Sharp and Smith, 1994 as an example of the many texts to emerge in the 1990’s that deal with the issue of school bullying.

 15 Rigby, 1996, op. cit., p. 22.

 16 ibid., p.79.

 17 Many of these statement appear in the anti-bullying policies of schools in Victoria and can be accessed via websites or are available on request from any number of schools.

 18 Misson, 1999, p. 78.

 19 Hillier et al., 1999, op. cit., p. 69.

 20 Vincenzo Piscioneri.

 21 Misson, 1999, op. cit., p. 79-80.

 22 Australian Education Union, 2001.

 23 ibid., pp. 1–8. The document clearly defines the terms homophobia and heterosexism and discusses issues of discrimination with respect to the learning environment and the effects on educators.

 24 ibid., p. 3.

 25 ibid.

 26 Federal Government Inquiry into the Education of Boys in Australian Schools, 2002.

 27 ibid., p. 1. See also p. 25 “For many students schools serve to reinforce the binary construction of gender.”

 28 See DET, 2002.

 29 Rigby, 1996, op.cit., p. 132.

 30 University of Melbourne, 2002.

 31 ibid.

 32 Vincenzo Piscioneri.

 33 Health Canada, 1997.

 34 Irvine, 1995.

 35 Davidson, 1990.

 36 Gourlay, 1995, pp. 43-45.

 37 SIECUS, 1996.

 38 Goldman, 2000, pp. 11-18.

 39 SIECUS, 1996, op. cit.

 40 Gourlay, 1995, op. cit.

 41 ibid.

 42 Liggins et al., 1994.

 43 Davidson, 1990, op. cit.

 44 Dunn, 2002.

 45 Comprehensive sexuality education programs have the following goals (as prescribed by SIECUS, 2001):

ß To provide accurate information about human sexuality;

ß To provide an opportunity for young people to develop and understand their values, attitudes, beliefs about sexuality;

ß To help young people of develop relationships and interpersonal skills, and;

ß To help young people exercise responsibility regarding sexual relationships, including addressing abstinence, pressures to become prematurely involved in sexual intercourse, and the use of contraception and other sexual health measures. 

 46 Dunn, 2002, op. cit.

 47 ibid.

 48 ibid.

 49  ibid.

 50 ibid.

 51 Goldman, 2000, op. cit.

 52 Catholic Education Office, Melbourne, 1991.

 53 McKay, 2000.

 54 Australian Education Union, 2001, op. cit.

 55 Cervini, 2002.

 56 Dunn, 2002, op. cit.

 57 Liggins, et al., 1994, op. cit.

 58 ibid.

 59 Crowhurst, 2002.

 60 Liggins, et al., 1994, op. cit.

 61 If you are teaching in a religious school, make sure you know the religious stance on sexuality and maintain that stance – in action as well as statements - even if you have opposing or different views.

 62 The Equal Opportunity Act was amended by the Victorian Parliament in 2000 to make it unlawful to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2001 the Victorian Parliament passed the Statute Law Amendment (Relationships) Act and the Statute Law Further Amendment Act giving same-sex couples legal recognition in a number of areas. While these laws fall short of including rights for marriage and adoption, they do reduce the legal discrimination imposed on people of diverse sexualities previously. For a more detailed account of these laws and other information on the legal rights of people of diverse sexualities, see Over the Rainbow (Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and Law Institute of Victoria, 2002.

 63 Misson, 1996, op. cit.

 64 Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA), 1999, op.cit.

 65 “Recent changes to the Children and Young Persons Act 1989 (State Government of Victoria, 1989) give parental status to a domestic partner who is living with the father or mother of a child.” (Over the Rainbow) It is important that we, as teachers, remain open and willing to communicate with a range of diverse family backgrounds which will shape our students’ views and attitudes in the classroom.

 66 Hillier et al., 1998, op. cit.

 67 Further reports that support these finding include the following:

a)  Hillier et al. 1996;

b) Lindsay et al., 1997.

c)  Emslie, 1996;

d) Irvin et al., 1995.

 68 Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, 2000.

 69 Dowsett, 1996.

 70 Crowhurst, In Progress.

 71 Part three of Queering Elementary Education (Letts and Sears, 1999) has some strategies on combating the heterocentrist curriculum in the subject areas of science, music, literacy, english and social studies. The ideas presented are focused on the primary school classroom but can be equally applicable, if suitably adopted, in a secondary setting.

 72 Misson, 1996, op. cit.

 73 Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, 1998.

 74 Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, 2000, p. 6.

 75 Hillier et al., 1998, op. cit.

Surgeon-General’s Warning:

“Teaching is hazardous to the health of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and those perceived by others to be gay, lesbian or bisexual.  Teachers who fit into the above category may regularly experience anxiety, headaches, stomach problems, high blood-pressure, depression and, in some cases, deaths caused by career-related complications.”

Gay, Lesbian and Straight Eduation Network (GLSEN): Where are the Civil Rights for Gay and Lesbian Teachers?  at:

[Chapter 3] [Contents] [Chapter 5]


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