Queer Issues and the Study of Education and Culture - CSSE pre-conference 2009
I just got back from CSSE (Canadian Society for the Study of Education) at Congress 2009 in Ottawa at Carleton University and the pre-conference on Queer Issues was the highlight for me. The folks at the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (ISMSS) at the University of Alberta organized this event and intend to continue it in 2010. The day began with opening remarks by Dr. Andre Grace from the University of Alberta and then sessions began. There were some very interesting papers and discussions throughout the day.
The first session I attended included my presentation based on my book: Gender, Bullying, and Harassment: Strategies to End Sexism and Homophobia in Schools along with two other papers: Fiona Benson's (McGill University) work on "queer care" and the tensions of queer educators working with and supporting queer students -- specifically in the field of teacher education. She builds on the work of Nel Noddings but brings up some important tensions and unique issues related to negotiating degrees of outness and disclosure. I appreciated her insight on the struggles of trying to best support queer students who may or may not be out and the emotional energy and time that is often required to work with this population. This is usually due to the dearth of "out" GLBT faculty in Universities and particularly in Faculties of Education. Therefore, those profs who are out bear a significant burden and feel a responsibility to listen and be accessible to the queer students who are struggling with negotiating their identities with their future profession and all the land mines that entails. Thank you, Fiona, for this important work.
Kris Wells' (University of Alberta) presented on working with trans youth and read to us from the new children's book 10,000 Dresses. I was thrilled to learn about this new resource for younger children since, as Kris pointed out, gender issues are more prominent in many elementary schools than issues related to sexual orientation. He also talked about a new publication that he co-authored on working with Trans youth in schools. I look forward to getting a copy of it when it comes out!
After the morning break I attended a presentation by Line Chamberland (Universite de Quebec a Montreal) that presented findings from a survey on school climate and GLBT issues in CEGEPs in Quebec. They conducted interviews and distributed surveys in CEGEPs around Quebec to learn about homophobia and student experiences at these institutions. For those outside of Quebec, CEGEPS are 2-3 year schools that bridge high school and university, or lead to a terminal professional degree - sort of a combo grade 12/13 and community college-type school. After her presentation, I heard a great paper from James McNinch (University of Regina) who was investigating the experience of two-spirit youth in Saskatchewan. Following this, I listened to Catherine Taylor (University of Winnipeg) present the data from the first EGALE school-climate survey. It is exciting to have the first phase of the results available for scholars and community advocates to use to support grassroots and other efforts to improve the safety of Canadian schools for GLBT youth and their families.
I also went to hear Erica Meiners' (Northeastern Illinois University) paper about Department of Defense schools being piloted in Chicago and offered a social justice critique of this program. It was great having the perspectives of a Canadian who has been in the U.S. working and researching for the past 10 years. I was also pleased to hear Karleen Pendleton-Jimenez (Trent University) and Isabel Killoran (York University) share stories from their anthology Unleashing the Unpopular: Talking about Gender and Sexual Diversity in Schools. This book is a great resource for anyone trying to talk about gender and sexual diversity issues with pre-service teachers as it includes the voices of children of GLBT parents, personal narratives from pre-service teachers and a case study of how a trans student was supported by the Toronto District School Board to transition in school. The chapters are short and accessible and can act as great conversation-starters to start students thinking about these issues.
As you can tell from this brief overview of just a few of the papers, the day was filled with really interesting presentations and great discussions and responses. it was invigorating to be in a room of other Canadian researchers who are engaging meaningfully with issues related to gender and sexual diversity. We had great discussions over lunch and learned more about the growing success of Camp Fyrefly The turnout this year was quite strong, and this conference is sure to continue growing and evolving. I am looking forward to next year!! Another big thanks to Andre, Kris, and Sarah for making this happen.