Linda Eyre: Re-Forming (Hetero) Sexuality Education
The 1995/96 Canadian AIDS Awareness Campaign, sponsored by the Canadian Public Health Association, has apparently raised the ire of AIDS activists across the country.' In recognition of National AIDS Awareness Week, the Association distributed a series of posters promoting the message that homophobia is a barrier in the fight against AIDS. A poster that fell across my desk certainly raised my eyebrows. The image: A young White man, alone, ear-ring in left ear, collarless shirt, short hair, sideways glance, sitting on a bus. Heading out of town, perhaps? The text: "People say it takes courage to live with AIDS. Well it takes courage to deal with people who reject me because I'm gay"; and "It takes more than condoms to fight AIDS. It takes your acceptance and understanding." While attempting to work towards equality by challenging homophobia, the Canadian Public Health Association has fallen into a heterosexist trap by using gay stereotypes, in troping gay stereotypes with AIDS, and by calling for "acceptance" and "understanding" from the viewer, who is presumed to be heterosexual. The poster exemplifies the paradox I address in this essay; that is, the way in which pedagogical practices supposedly intended to work towards social change risk reproducing the very aspects of injustice that they seek to rectify. 2
I focus on the underlying liberal ideology of supposedly anti-heterosexist pedagogical approaches to sexuality education in Canada. Drawing on critiques from gay and lesbian theory, I examine three pedagogical practices typically used by sexual health educators in secondary schools to challenge traditional (hetero)sexuality education. I have used all three approaches myself, they are often used by other sexual health educators, and they are
often mentioned in curriculum resources and in health education literature. My point is not to suggest a one-correct-way of doing things, but to question the pedagogical assumptions, the inherent contradictions, and the limits and possibilities for social change suggested by each approach. I argue that, as social change activists, I/we must pay closer attention to how opposition to anti-heterosexist pedagogy in sexuality education works-how discourses that appear to work towards social justice can subtly discriminate and exclude.