Self-Expression of Identity Literature Review Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

Each outside label has an affect on that individuals own conception of them, effectively rising or lowering self-image. These categories allow individuals of the same label to sometimes band together in order to further develop their own unique identities away from the labeling and discrimination from the larger group who may view them as abnormal, (Oxoby & McLeish, 2007: 13). Once inside a more specific group, these individuals have the capacity to flourish, and gain more and more self-esteem, (Handler, 1991: 223). However, when placed outside of these smaller groups into the larger population, this identity is once again viewed in a discriminatory manner, (Taylor & Moghaddam, 1994: 134). This occurs mainly due to the xenophobia each group portrays towards other groups, which then creates a hostile environment for the establishment of strong individual identities.

One way to examine the formations of deaf and queer identities using the Social Identity theory is to look at the entire classroom as one group with several subgroups within the larger unit. The classroom becomes a microcosm of the larger group, and so each student deals with the particular requirements of that group, "For one thing, students are acutely aware of the increasingly commodified nature of cultural identifications, marking one's commitment to or appreciation of a particular social group through buying certain kinds of clothes, listening or not listening to rap or salsa," (Powers, 2005: 54), or in this case in terms of hearing ability and sexual orientation. If the entire class is heterosexual, that one gay or lesbian student will have difficulty pulling his or her identity out of the larger group with little or no support. However, if there are more than one homosexual individual, regardless of gender, it makes the process of establishing a solid identity a little easier through a smaller sub-group which represents the same functions as the larger.

Therefore, research has been committed to the study of successful integration of Identity Theory's findings into classroom curriculum. According to Finkel and Bollin, teachers are the ones who need the biggest change in curriculum. Therefore, new curriculum changes in the classrooms of future teachers successfully prove the importance of recognizing identity and social groups within the classrooms of children, (Finkel & Bollin, 1996: 2). This study incorporated much more class discussion rather than lecture, in order to pull the different sub-groups out of their hiding spots within the larger class group. Through exposure of these various different sub-groups and discrimination against those sub-groups, the future teachers were also exposed to different methods of handling such situations and individual identities. Also coinciding with this idea, several studies have shown the effectiveness of dealing with more abnormal subgroups in relation to their more accepted forms of identity. For example, Special education students should also be treated as their other identities such as race, and gender, (Grossman, 1995: 233). This is the same concept for students with different sexual orientations; they should first be acknowledged for all of their various identities, and then treated and taught accordingly based on the collaboration of those identities. This type of teaching environment must begin in grade school and continue on into higher education in order to present a solid foundation for these student's identities to grow and flourish all throughout their educational career.

Children who are forced with a disability have an especially hard time in formulating their own unique identity when compared to physically normal children. Deaf children of all ages suffer a lag in their language and communication skills, which in turn delays their own formation of a conception of a self, "When children are delayed in developing language, this may lead to a delay in their understanding that everyone has an interior mental state and that these mental states differ," (Lundy, 1999: 1). As a result of listening to adult's various speech concerning internal states, hearing children start to grasp the idea that not everyone feels and thinks in the exact same manner, that people have various states of consciousness and thinking that may or may not coincide with their own, (Peterson & Siegal, 1995: 464). This begins as early as pre-school in normal hearing children, with the beginning stages of understanding objects can exist outside of their direct peripheral vision, (Flavell, Green, & Flavell, 1995: 35). This continues on to develop a keener understanding of the human mind, and that each individual mind differs from another -- each human mind has its own identity. However, this concept becomes increasingly difficult when dealing with deaf children. If a deaf child has a normally hearing parent, the issue gets even more complex, (Schick & Gale, 1997: 4). Research shows that the concept of identity and the mind is not delayed that much compare to normally hearing children, if the parent of the child is also deaf, (Lundy, 1999: 1). This represents the idea seen in previous theories that identity can flourish within a fostering atmosphere. When a parent can experience the same things as their deaf child, it helps foster growth of a stronger identity with that parental re-assurance. This is also the case of a deaf child in an all-deaf school. However, there is a much bigger delay in internal individual development for deaf children who are not surrounded by those who must go through the same types of experiences and thoughts as they do, (Steeds, Towe, & Dowker, 1997: 188). Deaf children with normally hearing parents, as well as deaf children in a classroom full of normally hearing classmates, are forced to deal with their own experiences alone with the knowledge that they are the only ones feeling that way, (Lundy, 1999: 1). Many young deaf children in both situations have trouble even understanding the concept that others have different feelings and identities. What could result are complex issues understanding other people's motives and objectives, only further distancing them from their family members or classmates. Therefore, they are forced to deal with understanding the collective human identity as well as their own individual identity on their own with a much distorted sense of the human mind, (Peterson & Seigal, 1995: 463). As the deaf child grows, these issues turn into insecurities and improper formation of later individual identity.

As complicated as having a disability makes the formation of identity, so does the issues and mindset of being homosexual within the context of an all heterosexual classroom environment. Within the construction of identity, Queer theory focuses on the role of gender and sexuality as important roles of such construction. Queer referring to those who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender. According to the ideals of queer theory, the categorization seen in other theories does not apply to the roles of gender and sexuality, (Barry, 2002: 140). Rather, Queer theory posits the idea of a changeable identity, not set in stone by solid categories, and that one person may be able to carry on a variety of different identities. For example a gay man can be viewed as a man, a gay man, or also in a feminine perspective, therefore no one label works in determining the label of his identity, (Adam, 2000: 327). This theory relies on the idea that there is only individuals, and that the identity of those individuals is different from everyone else, (Gamon, 2000: 349). Therefore, Queer theory represents a very unique role in the formation of the self and identity. Rather than assigning oneself to a preset category, Queer Theory allows the fluidity of being nothing but yourself, (Green, 2007: 32).

However, this then complicates the formation of an identity in the setting of a classroom. Very little research has been conducted in terms of finding acceptable classroom procedures and curriculum which would help foster a gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender identity, (Nelson, 1999: 371). Most heterosexual children still label themselves and others as part of assigned categories, yet "The aim of queer theory and other poststructural theories of the self is to deconstruct the binary oppositions that govern identity formation, that is, to reveal the power relations that lie behind them and the "truth games" they organize and are organized by," (Carlson, 1998: 113). Therefore Queer Theory in the classroom closely associated itself with Critical Pedagogy in the concept of making students aware of the falseness of labels and categories in order to provide gay and lesbian students the positive atmosphere which would foster further development of individual identity. This includes such strategies only explored recently which include providing a Gay and Lesbian Club on high school and college campuses to give such students support from other individuals in the same situation, (Tierney, 1998: 49). In order to foster such development, students need support, from both their peers as well as heterosexual classmates.

Constructing an identity within the context of a classroom is difficult enough, but adding into that a…

Sources Used in Document:


Adam, B. 2000. "Love and Sex in Constructing Identity Among Men Who Have Sex

With Men." International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies 5(4).

Barry, P. (2002). Lesbian and gay criticism. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Bourdieu, P. & Passeron, J.-C. (1977) Reproduction in Education, Culture and Society,

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