Gay Subjects and Young Learners: Public Service Possibilities and Early Coming Out in Documentary Form

Authors: Pullen, C.

Conference: Popular Culture Association & American Culture Association Conference

Dates: 19-22 March 2008


This paper focuses on the issue of gay identity within school, examining documentaries addressed at educating audiences. Using the work of Debra Chasnoff and the Respect for All Project as a foundation, a central concern is exploring strategies developed by gay men and lesbians reflecting on their own identities. Here within texts such as It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School (1996) and That’s a Family! (2000) a politicised public service is presented, offering democratic voices not only to gay and lesbian educators but also to enlightened supporters. The education of impressive young learners is contextualised alongside concerns for the well being of potentially gay identified students. Consequently the debate extends from the foundation of Debra Chasnoff’s work in education and student teacher relationships, to an examination of young learners caught up in sometimes homophobic school environments. Evidence of this is presented within a recent gay youth focused documentary series on Channel Four in the United Kingdom, which foregrounded a documentary titled Coming out to Class (2007). Within this openly gay youth rapper Q Boy (Marcos Britto) explores the trails and tribulations of young gay and lesbian teens at school, relating his own experiences whilst in education. Through examining issues concerning personal performance, identity and intimacy, this paper explores not only the public service ethos of these texts, but also the personal investments of openly gay educators and young learners attempting to change their world. In this way though exploring the issue of personal self reflexivity in relation to institutional educational constraints and demands, it reveals transgressive activity. This I would argue connects with Anthony Giddens’s ideas concerning a ‘transformation of intimacy’ in contemporary society, at the same time it is indicative of Marvin Carlson’s ideas on the potential of subversion ‘from within’.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Christopher Pullen