Social institutions, such as schools,
are microcosms of society (Bickmore,
1999). They mirror the larger structure of society, which constantly
produces hierarchy ordered masculinities and femininities (Epstein & Johnson, 1997).
Schools act as a central socialisation site that shapes identity. They reinforce
the importance of gender conformity through a heteronormative peer social
hierarchy. A research study, conducted in a Local Education Authority in the North
of England, reported that, for teenage girls, popularity and heterosexual
desirability are intertwined. According to the study, being a ‘lesbian’ was
deemed as a characteristic that was least likely for popularity. Attracting the
attention of boys requires a lot of effort, which creates bonds between
heterosexual girls and allows them to form friendships which positions them in
the social hierarchy. The constant focus on heterosexual dating and a
hetero-feminine appearance, causes issues for lesbians and queer girls. Not
conforming to the heteronormative ideal leaves non-conforming girls with
little, or no social group. Consequently, this leads LGB students to retreat to
physical margins of school, and to less populated areas to avoid harassment (Duncan, 2004). Young women,
who do not conform to the gendered and sexual expectations of heterosexuality
in schools, are likely to face exclusion and the potential to become social

However, it can also be argued
that being excluded from the wider social group may encourage LGB pupils to
form their own community with people who have also experienced exclusion. They
are able to share their experiences and create stronger bonds with likeminded
people. Nevertheless, this will become an issue if other students do not feel
comfortable enough to come out and share their own stories, and thus LGB
students will continue to be excluded in most schooling settings. 

Moreover, current schools are
still encouraging rigid gender role stereotypes that hold men and women in
their respective places (Macgillivray,
2000). For example, marriages of heterosexual staff are publically celebrated
in schools, via assemblies and public displaces. LGB positive role models are
lacking, visibility is important to normalise diversity, but it is still absent
in schools. Similarly, the act of picking a king and queen during school prom
leads to LGB pupils to feel excluded.


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