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Conflicting discourses of 'democracy' and 'equality': A discourse analysis of the language of pro- and anti-LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Relationships and Sex Education guidance for schools in England

Sauntson, Helen ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0373-1242 (2021) Conflicting discourses of 'democracy' and 'equality': A discourse analysis of the language of pro- and anti-LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Relationships and Sex Education guidance for schools in England. Trabalhos de Linguistica Aplicada (Papers in Applied Linguistics), 59 (3).

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Abstract

New statutory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) guidance for schools in England was published in 2019. The RSE guidance was revised following heavy criticism, as well as a need for RSE to incorporate relevant legal changes in the UK such as the Same-Sex Marriage Act (2013) and the Equality Act (2010). One of the major revisions since the preceding version has been the new inclusion of LGBTQ+ identities and relationships. Some groups in the UK have recently mobilised against this inclusion of positive teaching about LGBTQ+ identities and relationships. Groups have, for example, held public protests outside schools in Birmingham. The protests suggest that although there is overwhelming support for the new guidance, there are still groups in society who are opposed to democratic teaching about this dimension of equality.

This paper firstly analyses the key discursive strategies deployed by the anti-LGBTQ+ protest groups to distort progressive views of gender and sexuality within the UK school context. I conduct a discourse analysis of talk in some of the publicly-available video recordings of the protests, as well as associated press reporting of the protests. The discursive practices are analysed using Van Dijk’s (1992) and Marlow’s (2015) critical discourse analysis frameworks for analysing discriminatory discourse and denial strategies.

I then compare the language used by the protest groups against the language used by other UK groups who support and continue to campaign for LGBTQ+ inclusion in RSE. The groups focused on are Schools Out (an education charity focused on making schools safe for LGBT communities) and Imaan LGBTQ (the UK’s leading LGBTQ charity). Positive discourse analysis (Bartlett, 2012; Hughes, 2018; Martin, 2004), as a progressive dimension of critical discourse analysis, is used to examine how the language used by these groups functions to resist the discriminatory discourse used by the anti-LGBTQ+ groups analysed in the first part of the paper.

Analysis of the discourse used by the two sets of groups reveals conflicting discourses around what is perceived to constitute ‘democracy’ and ‘equality’ in the context of LGBTQ+ inclusion and schools, suggesting that these are fragile concepts in the current British political climate.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1590/010318138753811120201118
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics > P40 Sociolinguitics
School/Department: School of Education, Language and Psychology
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/5370

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