Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Citizenship: A Case Study as Represented in a Sample of South African Life Orientation Textbooks

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Citizenship: A Case Study as Represented in a Sample of South African Life Orientation Textbooks

Article excerpt

Introduction

The South African Constitution has been lauded for recognising the rights of persons to full citizenship irrespective of sexual orientation. In addition, given the fact that civil unions of same-sex persons are recognised in South African law, it could be argued that this is recognition of full citizenship irrespective of sexual orientation. However, given the number of violent crimes against gay and lesbian persons, it is clear that they are not recognised by fellow citizens as having the right to full citizenship. In this instance, we digress and explain briefly how we understand, define and engage with the notion of citizenship. We recognise, as many others do, that notions of citizenship are contested, but recognise that citizenship may "refer to membership of communities, relationships between members of those communities but also to relationships between individuals, communities and nations" (Keet & Carolissen, 2012: 147). In keeping with Lister (1997: 41), we conceptualise citizenship as a status that conveys rights and a practice that encompasses the dual mandate of responsibilities and political involvement. We recognise that "tensions have served to perpetuate women's exile as a group from full citizenship" (Lister, 1997:90) and make the point that sexual minorities - lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex persons, continue to be exiled as a group, even though legal instruments are in place to provide them with full citizenship rights. Our research focuses on issues related to full citizenship for sexual minorities within the high school South African education system. We use the terms 'sexual minorities' and understand minority not in terms of numbers, but in terms of access to rights or full citizenship. This term is commonly used in the literature. We mostly refer to lesbian, gay and bisexual identities, but note that sexual minorities include transgender and intersex identities. We work from the premise that citizenship has to be inclusive (Lister, 2006) and that excluding or rendering invisible sexual minorities within the educational system or any other societal space amounts to social injustice. Soudien (2012:1) reminds us that the fundamental purpose of education "is to prepare people for full citizenship". He also points out that a primary goal of education is the ability of people to get to know each other and to become cognisant of both differences and similarities (Soudien 2012). Our conception for this article was thus an outflow of us wondering how and if high school scholars were being educated to 'know' persons who define themselves as gay or lesbian and possibly bisexual, transgender and intersex. We were interested to determine whether high school education is preparing all within the system to recognise sexual minorities as having full citizenship.

We were aware that the subject LO was most likely the subject area where learners would engage with the issue. Francis (2012) points out that, in South Africa, issues related to homosexuality and bisexuality fit into the wider outcomes of the LO curriculum and are in keeping with the post-1994 shift to Outcomes- Based Education (OBE). Francis (2012) correctly points out that, in the Revised National Curriculum Statements LO (Department of Education, 2002) and Departmental LO Teacher Guidelines (Department of Education, 2006), there is a silence on issues which could be labelled 'sexual diversity'. According to official documents of the South African education department, LO is:

... aimed at developing and engaging learners in personal, psychological, neuro-cognitive, motor, physical, moral, spiritual, cultural and socio-economic areas, so that they can achieve their full potential in the new democracy of South Africa (Department of Education, 2002; 2003:9).

The learning area of life skills orientation is intended to promote social justice, human rights and inclusiveness as well as a healthy environment (Department of Education, 2003:5). …

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