Radical heterosexuality: Straight teacher activism in schools

Does ally-led activism work?


  • Leigh Potvin Faculty of Education, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada




The vast majority of schools in Canada are dominated by unsafe spaces and experiences for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth 1 who continue to experience higher rates of suicide, depression, isolation, harassment/bullying, and self-harm compared to their straight peers2. Gay/Straight Alliances (GSAs) and other LGBTQ-inclusive groups exist in schools with the goal of mitigating and working against homophobia. Most often in Ontario (Canada), straight teachers lead these groups3. Because of the pervasive role straight teachers play in GSAs and other anti-homophobia initiatives in schools, there is a practical need to analyze the role and experiences of straight teacher ally activists working with LGBTQ students and the overall effectiveness of anti-homophobia efforts under their purview.

Here, I explore the efficacy of straight teacher allies, the importance of understanding straight privilege, and the significance of radical heterosexuality for straight people doing LGBTQ activism. Relying on queer theory and decolonizing/Indigenous queer theory, I argue that it is necessary for straight teachers to acknowledge their straight privilege in order to challenge homophobia’s companions: heterosexism and heteronormativity. In addressing the latter two covert forms of oppression in schools, teachers and students could shift into deeper, more effective resistance measures.


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