Researchers have called for the national curriculum to include more books that feature LGBTI characters and same-sex relationships to better reflect a post-marriage equality Australia.
Queering Senior English, a paper by Queensland academics Dr Kelli McGraw and Dr Lisa van Leent’s, analysed 21 texts included in the national curriculum and found only two feature sexual or gender diversity, The Australian reported.
The two texts – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night – are fairly meagre examples, with McGraw and van Leent citing the “homosexual leanings” of Gatsby‘s Nick, and Twelfth Night‘s Viola disguising herself as a man under the name Cesario.
They say that those creating text lists should “address the persistence of heteronormativity in Australian schools by listing texts that represent diverse sexual identities and issues of sexual difference and diversity”.
“By queering the senior English sample text list in the Australian curriculum … LGBTIQ+ youth will see aspects of their lives reflected at school,” van Leent and McGraw argue.
Their paper, like much writing on LGBTI representation in media, contends that queer inclusion in the texts young people engage with can help combat the social exclusion and anxiety that often comes with being a closeted teenager.
An editorial accompanying the journal in which the paper appears, English in Australia, said that the legalisation of same-sex marriage was a “watershed moment” and that “English teachers surely need to respond to this endorsement of same-sex marriage on the part of an overwhelming majority of the population.”
The call comes after the NSW Teachers Federation last year released a list of LGBTI-themed films and teaching resources that could be incorporated into the classroom.
“This has positive implications for LGBTI students’ wellbeing and education,” the Federation said in a newsletter at the time.
“It also provides non-LGBTI students with a broader range of experiences and can assist with empathy and understanding.”