Ten lesbian students reflect on their secondary school experiences.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
This thesis comprises part of a parallel study currently being undertaken with a gay male researcher. It investigates the secondary school experiences of lesbian and gay youth and the ways in which these experiences affected young lesbians coming to terms with their emerging lesbian identities. Using qualitative research methodology, two semi-structured interviews were conducted across two urban sites with ten young lesbian women between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five. Various feminist theories and contemporary adolescent developmental theories were drawn on to provide a context within which the participants' experiences could be situated. The research revealed that with one notable exception. Secondary schools do little to support young women who do not conform to the heterosexual norm. As a result the participants felt marginalised and excluded both within the school curriculum and from their peers and teachers. Many felt compelled to suppress their sexual identity. The strategies that they used to do this and their negative effects are then described. Finally I draw upon previous studies and the participants' suggestions to suggest ways in which schools could change to meet the needs of lesbian students more fully.