Posted by: Catherine Lugg | September 26, 2010

No, we won’t

I’m in the last day of a 3 day workshop sponsored by AERA looking at LGBTQ issues in education.

Yesterday, one of the sessions was beyond depressing. John Easton came in from the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences where he is the Director. A good chunk of the session was spent discussing data infrastructure needs (building large datasets). Most of this would be a snoozer for me since methodologically I’m a historian. But when Dr. Easton was pushed to include a mere few questions regarding a student’s sexual orientation and gender identity on the survey behind the database, he quickly slapped down that suggestion. Furthermore, the entire manner in which that idea was throttled was incredibly condescending. Various scholars brought up the issue of the high rate of suicide with queer youth and just getting a baseline number of “how many” would be helpful. Second, it would end arguments that, “we really don’t have any queer kids in our district or state.”

But nope. Nothing doing. You would have thought we were asking for 100,000 Joan Jett Blakk (as in drag star and political activist) public schools to be built and staffed across the US. I came away with the strong impression that Dr. Easton would prefer that the queers shut up and go away. It was a brutal, brutal session, which clearly indicated to me that queer kids have NO VOICE whatsoever in the Obama administration. I’m not sure what the hell Kevin Jennings (founder of GLSEN) is doing working for these homophobes, but he might very well be serving as the administration’s “token queer.”

Clearly, if queer kids continue to die because their public school environments are hateful, that’s just fine with the Obama administration.

On a larger level, this behavior is consistent with other queer matters. Whether it’s the Defense of Marriage Act (which the administration is defending in court), the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on queers in the military (which the administration is defending in court), or LGBT kids, the administration is fine with have having queers continue to suffer and die. I’m not over-stating things here. Billy Lucas, an Indiana public school student, hung himself a few weeks ago, after being continually bullied about his perceived orientation. On the day that he died, he was told by his schoolmates to commit suicide.

Yup, there’s your fierce urgency of now in action folks. Kids will continue to literally swing from the rafters with Obama as US President. Because in this administration’s world, it’s politically BETTER to be a dead queer kid (or one who is perceived to be queer) than to be a queer kid who is actually counted in a federal education data base.

After the session was over, the queer scholars who were participating demanded a debriefing. And the dancing continued…no, Dr. Easton couldn’t possibly be homophobic (this after I pointed out that we just witnessed a prime example of institutional homophobia in action). We were eventually chided by the non-queers running the show for supposedly mixing politics and research. *SIGH!*

Clearly, AERA has a long way to go vis-à-vis queer issues and US public education—and I’m not too hopeful (we’re meeting in Virginia, home of felony sodomy statutes). The Obama administration? It’s a totally lost cause, just like the Bush administration before them.


  1. AERA leadership can kiss my ass. Sorry, with all the years of education I have had, you’d think I could come up with a more eloquent response than that. Their abject surrender to this brutal heteronormativity under the guise of a narrow scientism is more disappointing to me than Presidential politics.

    How about instead of red shirts at AERA, we come with red baseball bats? We could write “GOT DATA?” on the side of them. Beat some folk. And then ask if it hurts. When they say yes, we can ask for scientific evidence that they are actually hurting.

    FYI, no I am not actually gonna hit anyone.


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  5. […] The fierce urgency of now has come and gone. Sorry about that queer kids. You’re going to have to endure (or not) until a later date. […]

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  7. […] many other queer scholars and activists, I have been yelling about queer youth suicide for a long time, reeling out the absolute dismal statistics on queer […]

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  10. […] suspect Mr. Jennings was growing weary of being a “token queer” in administration that is perfectly content to let queer kids die. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the feds have held a conference on bullying in schools. But the Obama […]

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