Responding to wide-spread abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning persons (LGBTQs) in education, Rethinking Sexual Identity in Education examines the heterosexism inherent in both educational theory and practice, conceptualizing as mis-educative compulsory heterosexuality's stigmatization of "out" LGBTQs as outsiders. Reflecting upon the Outsiders' Society Virginia Woolf envisioned in Three Guineas (1938) for daughters of educated men, this work re-names and re-conceives as Out-Siders those people who "side" with the "out" in order to mitigate compulsory heterosexuality's mis-educative effects. Examining how Out-Siders already bring theory and action to bear on sexual identity, Birden names and explicates six praxes used to educate about sexual identity. These Praxes in re Sexual Identity range from ignoring or denigrating non-heterosexuality to "queering discourse" by de-centering normative gender roles. The author utilizes autobiographical and qualitative-research narratives of LGBTQs' experiences in schooling, higher education, and community education to challenge the theoretical and practical weaknesses of these Praxes in re Sexual Identity. Finding each to be lacking to test the practicality of each praxis. Finding each to be lacking, Birden constructs an Out-Siders' Praxis. The significance of this proposed Out-Siders' Praxis lies in its educative resistance against cynicism and powerlessness that silence oppressed LGBTQ voices and in its theoretical soundness as a guide for developing curricula that Out-Siders can teach and learn in order to transform heterosexist practices and environments. Birden's Out-Siders' Praxis affirms ethical values of liberty, experimentation, and discourse across difference, while advocating that Out-Siders invent and intervene with the attitude of artists.
Rethinking Sexual Identity in Education offers food for thought for advocates of identity politics, social constructionists, activists, postmodernists and good old-fashioned liberals—for all of us who need to think both theoretically and practically.
Joan K. Smith
Dr. Birden's well-crafted work widens the conversation for curriculum specialists and postmodernists. It is a 'must-read' for both scholars and practitioners who hope to advance the fields of curriculum and diversity.
Susan Birden has written an important, courageous book. It is theoretically rich, engagingly written, and accessible for a range of readers in education, women's studies, cultural studies and youth work. Drawing effectively on educational, feminist, and queer theorists, Birden provides a compelling framework to inform and sustain the ethical and political responses necessary to interrupt the injustices of compulsory heterosexuality. We are all in her debt for this thoughtful, creative analysis of sexual identity.
Chapter 1 Compulsory Heterosexuality As Mis-Education Chapter 2 The Praxes in re Sexual Identity Chapter 3 Woolf, with Attitude Chapter 4 Problematizing the Praxes in re Sexual Identity Chapter 5 Envisioning an Out-Siders' Praxis