Childhood, Schools and the Ideal Citizen: Efforts to Support LGBTQ Children in Australian Schools in the 1980s and 2000s

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Mapping LGBTQ Spaces and Places: A Changing World


This chapter examines two significant controversies in Australian schools, one in the 1980s and the other in the 2000s, each of which centred on efforts to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) school students with educational materials. In each case, the planned programs were condemned by conservative politicians, media commentators and religious leaders. Conservative critiques made clear the limits of sexual citizenship in Australia. Schools continued to be imagined as spaces to produce the ideal citizen, understood as white, heterosexual and cisgender. Information which supported LGBTQ students was seen as a threat and part of a radical agenda by queer activists to convert, groom or recruit young people. The chapter also examines shifting understandings of sexuality and gender between the 1980s controversy and that of the 2000s. Although transgender identities were largely absent from the 1980s debates, by the 2010s they had become central to the imagined threat faced by students in schools. This indicated both an increasing social acceptance of sexual difference and a continued desire to defend gender binaries as natural and inviolable.

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