Chapter 2: “An Epidemic of Love”: Drawing on Students’ Lived Experiences of Challenging Hetero and Gender Normalcy to Engage with Sexual and Gender Diversity in the Classroom

  • Kathleen Quinlivan
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Gender and Education book series (GED)


This chapter explores how hetero and gender normativity can be challenged by students in schools in schools, and the contributions their activism could make to engaging with contemporary sexuality and gender politics in the sexuality education classroom more fully. I document students’ lived experiences of shifting sexuality and gender politics as members of a Rainbow Diversity group (RDG) group in a co-educational New Zealand high school. Utilising queer theory’s intentions to problematise normalcy I draw on Jose Munoz’s (2009) notion of ‘queer utopia’, which rejects the normative ‘here and now’ (p. 1) to insist on the potentiality for another world. Framing the RDG as a student led ‘classroom’ within their school, I show how the students utilise aesthetics and arts based activism to challenge hetero and homonormativity. Understanding a ‘queer utopia’ (Munoz, 2009) as a critical form of hope that risks disappointment, I discuss the ways in which the group critically grappled with issues of homonormativity and acknowledging difference amongst themselves. This chapter emphasises the important role that student- led initiatives can play as sites of teaching and learning to queerly destabilise hetero and gender normativity within schools. I suggest that engaging with the issues that emerged between the RDG students would make a valuable contribution to sexuality education programmes in classrooms in terms of exploring the complexities of engaging with sexual and gender diversity, and supporting the capacity of students to create everyday social change.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen Quinlivan
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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