The formal educational system in which children and adolescents spend a significant part of their lives is, in turn, an agent of socialization and a space for relationships.
The school as gender technology
On the one hand , the school is a technology of gender . That is, through the explicit curriculum, and especially the hidden curriculum, it contributes to the transmission of differential gender roles for girls and boys, legitimizing the normalization of binary, opposite, hierarchical and complementary heterosexual gender identities (cis-heteronormative). ).
The school exclusively recognizes the existence of two genders, naturalizing that the assigned sex is congruent with gender identity (referred to by the prefix “cis”, which means “on the side of”) and that the only legitimate sexual orientation is the heterosexual. And it does so by implicitly assuming the inferiority of women and of all the people who subvert the rigidity of gender stereotypes and the obligatory nature of heterosexuality.
In this way, sexist attitudes are fostered – with women, as Simone de Beauvoir already pointed out, “ the second sex ” – and homophobic attitudes. These do not only imply rejection, fear and aversion towards homosexual people. Also, more broadly, they encompass negative attitudes towards sexual diversity, including LGBTI groups and those people who are perceived as such.
Like the school, other agents of socialization such as the family or the media, including the Internet and ICTs, contribute to this cis-heteronormative socialization.
The school as an interrelational space
On the other hand, the school is also a space for relationships where the student body launches a whole series of discriminatory discourses and practices, fueled by learned stereotypes and prejudices. These violent discourses and behaviors between equals take place in schools, as well as in other socio-educational and leisure spaces. Sometimes they are identified as situations of bullying or cyberbullying or simply normalized as games or jokes that are part of the day-to-day dynamics in the classroom.
In this sense, there is much evidence that highlights the widespread and not exceptional nature of discrimination and violence against LGBTI students or what is perceived as such. Thus, studies carried out in Spain and Portugal indicate that LGBTI students or those perceived as such suffer more significantly from situations of bullying and cyberbullying . Some studies have identified that around 50% of these students suffer from it systematically.
These data are generalizable at an international level, as has been verified in numerous empirical investigations at a European , Latin American or North American level ; as well as in systematic literature review research .
Likewise, the works underline that the group of trans or gender-diverse people, that is, whose gender identity or expression is not congruent with the assigned sex, is the one that suffers significantly more discrimination . Trans women and men of diverse gender are in this case the most vulnerable people . Among the most common bullying practices, verbal violence stands out through insults, jokes, teasing or speaking ill of these people behind their backs.
Despite these generalized situations of abuse, the traditional analysis of the phenomenon of bullying has been carried out mainly from a psychological and individualized perspective. The influence of social variables related to prejudice and, specifically, to socially shared beliefs about sexual identities and orientations that are considered normal and legitimate as opposed to those that are considered abnormal or illegitimate, has been ignored.
These variables highlight that bullying , as well as other abusive behaviors that are not considered as such despite their abusive nature, function as collective mechanisms of identity regulation. In this way, bullying behaviors could be considered as cis-heteronormative control practices consisting of marking the difference between the normative I/us and the non-normative others, who are punished.
Thus, it transcends the conscious, individual and deliberate nature of harm with which violence is traditionally defined, as evidenced in numerous works, including some carried out by our research group .
Learned biases and their influence
Along these lines, according to a 2019 COGAM report , the presence of homophobic jokes or questions about sexual diversity in the media places the LGBTI community in a symbolically inferior position. This is perceived by the students and triggers situations of discrimination and violence towards their sexually diverse peers. The prejudices intersect with others related to non-normative identities such as ethnocentrism, classism or ableism.
In the same sense, the investigations of our research group have verified that the most sexist students, with more negative attitudes towards non-normative sexual orientations and towards trans and gender-diverse people, are the ones who practice bullying the most , as well as the Secondary victimization of victims of bullying .
These experiences of discrimination and violence have devastating consequences for the LGBTI community and people of diverse genders. They provoke situations of internalized homophobia and transphobia , as well as suicidal ideas and suicide attempts . For this reason, a transformative educational practice is necessary and urgent in which bullying is understood and prevented by attending to its underlying causes, among which the prejudices learned in the socialization process stand out.
To do this, we propose a queer pedagogy that questions what has traditionally been considered normal. This pedagogy would deconstruct the natural character of identity and sexual orientation and would break the normal-abnormal binomial. Likewise, it would analyze violence in an intersectional way, taking into account the social conditioning factors that underlie it.
Author Bios: Maria Victoria Carrera Fernandez is Full Professor at the University of Vigo (Faculty of Education and Social Work) and Nazareth White Brown is a Contracted Predoctoral Professor FPU. Doctoral program “Science of Education and Behavior” both at the University of Vigo