Learning to be invisible

A qualitative study of lesbian students in America's public high schools

I do not believe it is necessary to remind this audience of the need to address the homophobia and heterosexism which openly exist in our high schools. I do believe it is necessary to put an end to the conspiracy of silence which prevents our schools from acknowledging the existence of sexual minority youth and addressing the needs of this population.

The purpose of this study is to ascertain the problems, attitudes and experiences of lesbian youth as they relate to the public high school setting. The primary research goal is to assess the situation in America's public high schools as perceived by a diversified population of young lesbians.

This process will in turn involve three distinct objectives. The first is to define and discuss the various forms of homophobia and heterosexism in the high school environment as reported by the research participants. The second is to explore the ways in which heterosexism and homophobia have impacted the participants. And the third is to propose actions to help combat heterosexism and homophobia and reduce its impact in the schools.

Although I am completely aware that sexual minority youth of both sexes suffer from the homophobia and heterosexism expressed in our schools, I have deliberately chosen to limit my study to the perceptions of young lesbians. I have done this for the following reasons:

The bulk of research on sexual minority youth has either excluded or under represented females. The majority of researchers have looked at exclusively male subjects or primarily males thus ignoring female issues and suggesting that lesbians are unworthy of attention. Only two studies dealing exclusively with lesbian high school age students have been found to date and these were completed in England (Rodgers,1994) and Canada (Schneider, 1989).

As Marigold Rodgers, who conducted the study in England, said, "Young lesbians are subject to triple invisibility: as children, they are invisible in the adult world; as women , they are invisible in a male-dominated world; and as lesbians they are invisible in a gay world" (Rodgers, 1994, p. 35) Therefore, in recognition of the under representation of the lesbian experience in current research, this study is limited to the experiences of young lesbians.

The study will involve a series of in-depth open-ended interviews. The interview framework will be based on the issues derived from reports of sexual minority youth (Massachusetts Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth,1993; The Oregon Task Force on Sexual Minority Youth, 1991; Two Teenagers in Twenty, Ann Heron,1994). The issues to be addressed involve the participants school experiences as self-identified lesbians; with particular emphasis on discrimination, overall school performance, information provided about sexual diversity, the existence of positive role models, access to counseling, and opportunities for social interaction.

The interviews will be conducted in an informal style over a period of several months and permit the participants an opportunity to respond to a series of questions addressing the issues as well as voice any other concerns relevant to the topic of investigation.

If you are a lesbian, between the ages of 15- 22, who attended high school in the United States, you are invited to participate in this doctoral research study. Anonymity will be absolutely maintained. Your name will not be asked or revealed. Information which could identify any person will not be used in any manner. Please contact me if you wish to participate or if you would like further information. Thank you.

Kathleen Malinsky, M.Ed.

If you would like to participate in this research, click here.

Kathleen may be contacted via e-mail at Kat56@aol.com
[OASIS]General information: Jeff Walsh
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