The Lived Experiences of Queer* Teachers in İstanbul Within the Scope of Institutionalized Heteronormativity and Neoliberal School Policies

İlkan Can İpekçi

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Sabancı University




Even though the challenges that Queer* employees face in the workplace because of their intersecting identities of gender, sexuality, race, and class continue to be one of the rarely studied topics in social sciences, there has been a resurgence of interest in recent years, concerning how Queer* teachers experience the conflation of their sexual and professional identities. Informed by the recognition that schools are one of the most representative prototypes of gendered organizations with their ever-adapting regimes of inequality, this study is motivated by the question of how Queer* teachers in İstanbul deal with the enduring institutionalized homophobia, which has only got worse in terms of its silencing and pathologizing mechanisms. Claiming one of the fundamental functions of schools to establish strictly heteronormative spaces of learning, where any form of gender nonconformity or sexual dissidence stands before disciplinary punishment or reprimand from other students and teachers, I have examined the current working conditions of Queer* teachers in İstanbul within the contexts of schools, which compel Queer* teachers to abide by their institutionalized rules and norms of compulsory heterosexuality. This study attempts to learn what kind of experiences Queer* teachers in İstanbul articulate regarding the conundrum of being forced into presenting themselves as non-sexualized and non-gendered professional figures, as neoliberal policies and capitalist expectations of a rigid separation between professional identities and personal lives of workers continue to negatively affect the occupational well-being of Queer* teachers. A careful analysis of the interviews has revealed that the Queer* teachers in İstanbul are burdened with the aesthetic labor they are constantly expected to perform due to the emergent neoliberal schemes of professionalism and that they suffer under closely monitoring mechanisms of heteronormative school policies and work climates.


Keywords: queer studies, neoliberalism, institutionalized heteronormativity, education, LGBTQ+ teachers