Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Getting Queer: Teacher Education, Gender Studies, and the Cross-Disciplinary Quest for Queer Pedagogies

Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Getting Queer: Teacher Education, Gender Studies, and the Cross-Disciplinary Quest for Queer Pedagogies

Article excerpt

Queer politics, if it is to remain queer, needs to be able to perform the function of emptying queerness of its referentiality or positivity, guarding against its tendency to concrete embodiment, and thereby preserving queerness as a resistant relation rather than as an oppositional substance. Otherwise, queer culture is likely to suffer, on a larger political scene, the normalizing vicissitudes already undergone by so-called queer theory...."queer theory" has been...transformed into an unproblematic, substantive designation for a determinate subfield of academic practice, respectable enough to appear in advertisements for academic jobs and in labels on the shelves of bookstores. Signifying little more than what used to be signified by "lesbian and gay studies," "queer theory" seems to have forfeited, in this process, much of its political utility. In any case, the more it verges on becoming a normative academic discipline, the less queer "queer theory" can plausibly claim to be. (David Halperin, 1995, p. 113)

Am I Queer Enough?1

I have to work hard to be queer. And even then, I do not think I make it. I am pretty comfortable being a lesbian. I mean, I think I get lesbian- ism, lesbian identity; I do not think queer is as easy to get. "Queer," I tell my students, has a deliberately disruptive, political component that is inextricable from yet not reducible to sexuality. Queer is about identifications rather than identity; in fact, it is about destabilizing social, cultural, political-all kinds-of structures-normatizing structures-that work to solidify identities and, in so doing, skew "power" toward the "norm." I picture a kind of "queer triangle," if you will, of biological sex, desire/pleasure/ sexuality, and gender-with "power" in the center. I know, "queer" resists and eludes such a concrete, linear conceptualization of itself. Still, my queer triangle allows me to speak of queer theory in ways that make sense to me, and, I hope, to my students.

"Lesbian," more identity than identification, seems a lot less complicated and requires a lot less work than "queer," due mostly to the grueling feminist work of the last century. While "lesbian" is a contested term susceptible to the usual pitfalls of identity politics: "boundaries and hierarchies" (Wilchins, 2004, p. 29), it does offer a place not where marginalized folks become static and anesthetized with/in the identity, but rather where we might have a way-station for taking identity inventory. Yes, I have just offended queers and lesbian feminists by simplistically "pegging" each term as separate boxed sets to be taken out and looked at and then put away. But as I began researching for this piece, I decided to not be so hard on myself. For I came across more than a few articles, books, and chapters that have queer in the title but mostly LGBTQ discussions in the text, or at best discuss "queer" populations of teachers and students, for example, while calling for queering educational research or describing queer research in the state of the field. Not all queer work normalizes queer, certainly; Deborah Britzman (1998b) and Suzanne Luhmann (1998) both explicate queerness in terms of a workable pedagogy. Janet Miller (1998) proposes it as a curriculum practice; these three I will discuss later. Several essays in Rodriguez and Pinar's Queering Straight Teachers: Discourse and Identity and Education (2007) move discussions out of the realm of theory and directly into classrooms, an example of the "pedagogical search for theory," as Rodriguez (2007, p. 293) terms it. I found, though, that when you go searching for queer, you have to sift through an awful lot of "gay."

Locating the elusive phantom of queerness-my own and in my classrooms-became increasingly important as I embarked upon a joint university appointment between the College of Education and the Gender & Women's Studies Program within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Maybe, I thought, if it were difficult to locate queer(ness) in Teacher Education classes, as a teacher educator, it would be easier in gender studies classrooms. …

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