Sounds of Silence: Patterns of Censorship and Resources for Change With LGBTQ+ Texts

Sounds of Silence: Patterns of Censorship and Resources for Change With LGBTQ+ Texts

Carol Revelle (Texas A&M University, Commerce, USA) and Anna Waugh (Texas Woman's University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1404-7.ch008
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This chapter juxtaposes the efforts of the authors to bring an LGBTQ+ text, Love is Love (2017), into their curriculum through a literature circle versus the hostile response of a district's administrators censoring its use in the classroom. The first section of this chapter provides a review of literature to encourage the use of diverse texts in the curriculum in support of this vulnerable population and is followed by a theoretical framework for analyzing and including LGBTQ+ texts in curriculum. The next section describes the events that occurred that led to the censorship of the literature circle and the eventual banning of the LGBTQ+ text. This section ends with a resource list to support teachers who advocate for diverse texts. The final section connects the events at the school with an analysis that demonstrates the efforts to silence the voices of LGBTQ+ students and their advocates. This case provides patterns of oppression in the hopes of naming and ending these practices and offering solidarity to others who may have these experiences.
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Rationale For Lgbtq+ Representation In The Classroom

In today’s increasingly diverse classrooms, literary representation in the coursework can build connections and give voices to students who feel isolated. Across the country, educators recognize the importance of including texts that represent their classroom demographics. In recent years, an explosion of diverse texts by diverse authors have flooded book stores and school libraries. Simultaneously, many teachers are exchanging traditional texts in favor of student choice for in-class reading materials. These changes provide students the opportunity to seek texts that speak to their identity and their interests.

However, few LGBTQ+ students find themselves in the texts they read, the discussions they share, or the history they learn, leaving many to feel “endangered or invisible” (Bigelow, Bloomekatz, & Gonzales, 2018, p. 6). The 2017 National School Climate Survey conducted by Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) paints a grim picture for this vulnerable population. They reported 87.3% students had experienced harassment or assault based on their expressions of self. For these students, participating in a hostile school environment resulted in missed school, lowered GPAs, increased levels of depression, poor self-esteem, avoidance of bathrooms and locker rooms, and less interest in attending college. However, schools where LGBTQ+ students were valued and included recorded increased attendance, higher academic performance, and less harassment (GLSEN, 2017).

Community values are reflected in the school’s curriculum, and teachers could bridge the divide between privileged and marginalized students by honoring their identities (Bigelow, Bloomekatz, & Gonzales, 2018). But neither schools nor teachers are stepping up to the task. When surveyed, 64.8% of LGBTQ+ students had not witnessed any efforts to bring LGBTQ+ topics in their classes, and when it was included, 19.9% that reported a positive representation was negated, while 18.6% reported negative coverage (GLSEN, 2017). Traditional curricula that rely on whole-class texts that privilege heteronormative expectations do a great disservice to diverse learners. These texts isolate students. However, texts with LGBTQ+ representation normalize LGBTQ+ students, creating a safe space for academic and emotional growth.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Privilege: Benefits enjoyed by a member of the majority; benefit enjoyed in the position of power.

LGBT: Specifically, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, questioning, and queer sexual orientations, but for efficiency in writing, it is inclusive of LGBTQ+.

Gatekeeping: Purposeful censorship made by an individual made in the judgement of one or few parties often for fear of controversy.

Diversity: Inclusion of varied populations can be meant to include participants from different academic levels, racial groups, sexual orientation, and gender identities.

Gay: In this text, a derogatory term used with a sarcastic tone to talk about Love is Love.

Challenge: A complaint made against a text or material to prohibit its use.

BAN: A decision from a challenge that prevents the use of a text in a classroom, curriculum, library, or school district.

Inclusive: An effort made to not leave out anyone; to bring everyone together in a shared experience.

Heteronormative: The belief that the heterosexual orientation is the expected sexual orientation and other orientations are abnormal.

Censorship: Prohibiting access to materials because of bias against content or fear of controversy.

Conservative: In this text, a euphemism for bigoted and anti-gay (as used by the principal to talk about the “conservative district” that censored LGBT texts).

Normalize: To make excluded norms accepted as regular; the expected outcome

Queer: More than sexual orientation, beyond binary gender identification.

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