New research will seek to understand how LGBTI teenagers in Sydney’s Western Suburbs perceive gender stereotypes.

The University of Western Sydney (UWS) study will examine how the participants have experienced the ‘rules’ of masculinity and femininity while at high school and how it impacted on their school experience, school behaviours, sense of connection and anxieties about expressing their own gender identity.

UWS School of Education’s Dr Jacqueline Ullman said students who exhibit behaviours, appearances or publicly express feelings that do not conform to heterosexual norms are often the target of harassment and this can lead to adverse school outcomes.

“In order to understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ of these behaviours, it is useful to take a step back and consider how schools participate as active agents in the marginalisation of [LGBTI] young people,” Ullman said.

“Schools enforce a clear gender regime, in part through formal and informal dress codes, language codes, the defining of certain curriculum areas of masculine and feminine and the ‘policing’ of acceptable masculinities and compulsory heterosexuality.”

To participate in the study, young people between the ages of 16-19 must either be living or attending school in western Sydney and may be either a current or former secondary school student.

Ullman will promote the project to young people in western Sydney through face-to-face information sessions and flyers posted at local community centres which offer support to LGBTI youth or young people questioning their sexuality.

One-on-one and focus group sessions will follow once the participant has agreed to take part in the study.

This study has received ethical approval from the University of Western Sydney Human Ethics Research Committee.

INFO: j.ullman@uws.edu.au (02) 4376 0270 or facebook.com/genderedschool

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