Stand Up, Keep Quiet, Talk Back: Agency, Resistance, and Possibility in the School Stories of Lesbian Youth
People just looked at you different in the hallways. It’s so hard to go in day-in and day-out and know people are looking at you based on something that you can’t help. And it’s like “dyke this, dyke that.” You’re just that-a stereotype-and not who you are. —Linda
The opening quotation provides a glimpse into the inhospitable environment many young lesbians experience school to be. Schools are typically heterosexist and homophobic institutions where all members of the school culture are presumed to be heterosexual, expected to conform to rigid gender role stereotypes, and punished for doing otherwise (Blackburn, 2004; Macgillivray, 2000; Payne, 2007). Heterosexism is “one of the most signifi cant realities of adolescents’ day-to-day experiences in schools” (van Wormer & McKinney, 2003, p. 409). Possibilities outside the “norm” of heterosexuality are not offi - cially acknowledged in school curricula (Macgillivray, 2000) and rarely acknowledged through school sanctioned programming (Payne, 2007). The existence of these “silences” also goes unacknowledged (Loutzenheiser & MacIntosh, 2004, p. 152). Such schooling practices reproduce heterosexuality and the gender performances associated with it as “normal,” “morally superior,” “dominant,” and “privileged” (Loutzenheiser & MacIntosh, 2004, p. 152) over other ways of experiencing sexuality and gender. The silences surrounding nonhetero sexualities often leave lesbian students feeling “invisible” (Quinlivan & Town, 1999) and alone (Payne, 2002a) while simultaneously marking lesbian identities and the young women who claim them as “Other” (Youdell, 2005).