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In the Name of Safety: Discursive Positionings of Queer Youth


This paper explores the connections between two common circulating discourses about queer youth and the ways that these discourses are wielded in the name of creating safe spaces for queer youth. First, the discourse of innocence is still applied to queer youth, however, the application has shifted to focus largely on the ways that queer youth are innocent victims in a society structured around heteronormativity. Second, a common response to this innocent victim discourse has been to position queer youth within a discourse of activist educators. “Discourses not only represent the world as it is (or rather is seen to be), they are also projective, imaginaries, representing possible worlds which are different from the actual world, and tied into projects to change the world in particular directions” (Fairclough 2003, p. 24). Gay Straight Alliances are one example; GSAs have sprung up across the country because adults, queer adults and allies in particular, have employed both of these discourses in policy decisions and discussions regarding queer students. This paper will highlight some of the ways the discourses of innocent victims and activist educators have been used in the GSA movement. The paper will apply a queer theory lens to the relationship between these discourses and the GSAs to tease out the ways that they work to simultaneously support queer students and serve to limit how queer students and their schools are imagined. The paper will conclude with a discussion of some possibilities for reworking, rupturing, or transforming these discourses so that schools, as well as the queer students and teachers within them, might be better served.

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    At the time my family consisted of my partner and our young son—we were read and referred to as a “lesbian family” or “the two-mom family.”


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Correspondence to Kim Hackford-Peer.

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Hackford-Peer, K. In the Name of Safety: Discursive Positionings of Queer Youth. Stud Philos Educ 29, 541–556 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-010-9197-4

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  • Safe schools
  • Queer students
  • Discourse
  • Gay straight alliance