“I saw myself as neutral in some ways, and then them as other things”: Narrative and positioning in a teacher education course focused on gender and sexuality
McEntarfer, Heather Killelea
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Schools are often hostile and unwelcoming spaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer/questioning (LGBTQ), and gender-nonconforming students, teachers, and parents. This qualitative study sought to address that problem by examining the role that teacher education can play in preparing teacher candidates to transform those spaces. The study examined the use of narrative writing in helping students develop personal, cultural, and pedagogical insight in a teacher education course focused on sexuality and education. Drawing from positioning theory (Harré and van Langenhove, 1999), I analyzed positionality across students' written narratives.I found that the positioning in the focal students' narratives became more complex and, often, less oppositional as the semester progressed and as students worked to understand the positions of others. These shifts in positioning reflected key elements of queer theory. They also mediated the development of insight regarding a range of topics, including heteronormativity, internalized homophobia, the dynamics of oppression, and conflicts/connections between religious perspectives and the diversity of sexualities and gender identities. This study also sought to contribute on a broader level to the growing body of literature addressing work around gender and sexuality in teacher education—little of which examines a semester-long course. Thus, in addition to the focal students' narrative writing, I also analyzed all of the students' written and oral discourse across the course. I describe the questions explored and positions taken by students around several key topics, including heteronormativity, language, transgender issues, religion and sexuality, and strategies for carrying out anti-oppressive work focused on sexuality/gender identity in schools.