There are many reasons for the resistance to teaching LGBT literature in the classroom. Most of them are not on the basis of homophobia.
They do however range from the outright homophobic to the ignorant, and to legitimate concern for their career safety. NSCS reported only 22% of students exposed to queer-inclusive curriculum. A 2013 study published by the NCTE claimed that most teachers are actually supportive and hold positive LGBT views, but many of these same teachers are unwilling to take action by incorporating LGBT literature or advocate for policy and curriculum change. The following points are taken from Amanda Haertling Thein’s 2011 study, and was conducted by asking a variety of teachers and teacher candidates, of different ages and geographical locations, but of homogenous class, sexual orientation, and race, from different grade levels why they would or would not introduce LGBT literature into the classroom.
The following arguments are those made by the persons unwilling to integrate LGBT literature:
1. “It’s not my job.”
These teachers put the onus on somebody else, claiming that this responsibility is up to politicians whose duty it is to further civil rights and promote social change.
Other reasons under this umbrella argument was that school and sex should not mix. Here, the teachers equate LGBT issues with the act of sexual intercourse. This is an argument mainly out of ignorance, rather than valid rationalization.
2. “I would, but others will protest.”
Founded on a variety of reasons from the political, the religious and the outright homophobic, (most of) these concerns have a stronger argumentative foundation. The United States is a long divided, heavily populated and multicultural country, with religious, political, and moral views all over their respective spectrum’s. Canada as well is a very multi-cultural, religious country with a relatively large population. Thus, friction will inevitably rise when people take controversial action. Some teachers stated that, regarding parents’ political views, some view that teaching “morality” should not be the concern of public schools, but rather the parents’ duty. Another, more relevant and specific example is the Ontario PC government rescinding the updated sex-ed curriculum, which heavily inadvertently discourages certain LGBT literature from being discussed in the classroom. Another study concluded that 31% of unwilling teachers were worried about parent backlash, and 4% stated integrating it conflicted with their values. Religious orthodoxy is prevalent in the United States, and to a lesser extent in Canada as well. Backlash from these groups can be strong and frightening, especially when governments are committed to upholding religious freedom and are at the mercy of the public. A study in Minnesota concluded that those who reported being very religious were strongly or very strongly opposed to LGBT literature integration.
Homophobia, although severely decreased in the general public’s view in the last fifteen years, is still subtly perpetuated with the use of certain derogatory slurs, albeit without a homophobic intention. Due to young students’ immaturity and lack of social & world perspective, would react inappropriately or homophobically to LGBT texts. Although many people hold positive LGBT views, the voices that are the loudest are often the most passionate, such as the religiously orthodox and the political. Therefore, although teachers do have the general public on their side, depending on geographical area, LGBT support fluctuates, and opposition can be very intimidating and frustrating.
3. “It is threatening to my career.”
Prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, this argument was much more valid, as public schools had legislation on their side (or, depending how liberal they were, against them). However, one grade five teacher justified her inability to teach the literature because her school prohibited any talk of sex, homosexual or heterosexual.
4. “I would, but it would cause more harm than good.”
Teachers felt that the discussing of LGBT issues could evoke bullying by either drawing attention to LGBT students, or cause bullying to straight students who use derogatory slurs without homophobic motivation or have nuanced opinions. In other words, a social justice vigilantism arises, or resentment towards LGBT students from homophobic students who feel the other’s sexuality is being forced upon them. Another concern is that students may not be able to see past the sexual references if taught too explicitly, making students uncomfortable and unable to grasp a deeper and fuller understanding of the text.
5. “I would, but I don’t know how.”
Some stated they do not feel they are suited to teach such issues due to their heterosexuality, ignorance of LGBT literature and issues. Approximately 54% of teachers would feel more comfortable teaching the literature if they were given guidance. Furthermore, being unaware of how to incorporate it into the curriculum without offending somebody or facing repercussions, from the public, parents, staff or employer. One teacher worried especially of this concern, due to teachers now being so easily reprimanded.