The ideology of "fag": The school experience of gay students

  • Smith G
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Abstract

This article reports on research into the experience of gay teenagers in school. Interviews with gay students examined the heterosexism/homophobia of the current educational regime in schools. As an institutional ethnography, the article explores that regime from the standpoint of the formants. It does not study the informants themselves. The ideology of "fag" is key to the organization of the heterosexist/homophobic dimensions of the school regime. It is practice in language. Mikhail Bakhtin's work is used to devise ways of "seeing" social organization in the speech and graffiti in which the ideology of "fag" is realized in schools. His conception of the dialogic explicates the relationship narratives. Excepts from their stories create windows into the local practices of the ideology of "fag" as they experienced it and made available the social organization of their everyday school lives. Analysis focuses on how speech, whether as verbal abuse or homophobic graffiti, concerts antigay activities, articulating to the wider organization of gender and the school as a regime. Informants' stories describe how "fag" as a stigmatized object is constituted in "gossip". Aspects of youths' appearance are interpreted with reference to "fag" as an underlying pattern. Everyday practices of "fag-baiting", such as poling fun, teasing, name calling, scrawling graffiti on lockers, insulting and harassing someone, produced the "fag" as a social object. The language intends a course of action isolating the gay student and inciting to physical violence. Verbal abuse both is and initiates attack. As a form of public speech, graffiti constitute a depersonalized form of threat and harassment. Whether a gay student is identified as "fag" or not, he acquires a gay identity/consciousness through the practices of the ideology of "fag". What the article describes is a normal part of school organization. The social relations of heterosexuality and patriarchy dominate its public space. Being gay is never spoken of positively (in these informants' experience.). teachers are reported as being generally complicit by their silence if not actively participating in the ideology. Attacks on and ostracism of gay students are taken for granted. The heterosexism of the regime makes "fag the stigmatized other and, reflexively, "fag" as stigmatized other feeds into the regime's heterosexism. Thus the gay students' stories show the school's complicity in the everyday cruelties of the enforcement of hetersexist/homophobic hegemony. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

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Authors

  • George W. Smith

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