Queer chickens and queer eggs: Reflection on a class discussion on primary and secondary discourses

I wanted to reflect on some of my thoughts in response to a class discussion of Gee’s Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics.

In one of my graduate classes, we discussed literacy as empowering and transformative. Much of this conversation circulated around the idea of a “home”/”primary” literacy or discourse that was built upon, left behind, or was impacted in the acquisition of a secondary discourse.

This discussion brought up Gee’s articulation of literacy having more to it than the verbal: there is an identity kit to literacy. That literacy is bound up in identity and ideology. The class discussion circled around this idea that the overlap between your primary and secondary [read “school” or “academic”] discourse facilitates your acquisition of the secondary discourse. Through acquiring a secondary discourse, you can look back on your primary and think metacognitively.

That model of thinking may be represented as:


I couldn’t help but think about some things that might complicate this model. For one, what does queerness offer this discussion?

I was thinking of my own situation as a gay man and asking what was my primary discourse? I did not acquire access to a queer community in which I could be apprenticed into norms or contribute to queer discourses until much later in my life, and yet my queerness required no acquisition processes: that is, I was acutely aware of my difference from early on which shaped my interactions with heteronormative discourses. I had to participate and perform in these spaces far earlier; before I was necessarily even conscious of what I was “passing” as. Even if I was not so consciously aware, I was aware enough of my performance—my passing into spaces—and the consequences of performance: which I suppose is to ask where the work of metacognition begins in discursive practice.

So what is primary discourse? Is it the discourse that I acquired “first”—and, if so, is it the discourse that I had access to participate in first despite cognizance of difference? Is it the discourse that most impactfully shapes my identity—and, if that is the case, what does that suggest about the nature of acquisition and apprenticeship, if one can acquire first and be apprenticed second? And what is necessary for metacognition—is it a looking across borders with explicit reasoning, or something that can be intuited through an awareness of consequences and lived experiences?

Which came first, and does that matter?

I think queerness resists this kind of model I’ve depicted above. Most immediately as queer often implies a resistance to binary thinking, such as primary and secondary. I think it raises the question too of orientation (to draw from Sara Ahmed—as one does), to ask what these objects or ideas of literacy orient us toward: some of which I have attempted to make explicit in that model through a visual/spatial representation and the use of arrows. There is a pulling to this model that pulls toward the secondary, the apprenticed, the acquire, the institutional. It seems to value the primary only as it informs and provides explicit vocabulary for reflection on the secondary: it only values the primary as other.

This discussion was interested in primary as facilitating the acquisition of the secondary. There’s space, then, to acknowledge the privileging of those whose primary discourses overlap more, that touch more, that are oriented toward, that allow one to reach more easily the secondary. However, that potential to acknowledge seemed lost in the language of efficiency: how can we facilitate this acquisition?

Many thought the Gee text left students and instructors in a helpless position.

The text seemed to be asking for immersion into a discourse in a way that they felt uncertain of schools being able to facilitate. But I can’t help but wonder about the moments of border crossing, moments that contact, touch, overlap helps facilitate: perhaps even the moment that an oriented trajectory begins its movement. Moments of crossing are invitational and/or transgressive, they are thresholds of being.

Jacqueline Rhodes writes in Techne:

What is a threshold, the site of such unraveling? A point between, belonging to neither. A doorway facing both sides; and when one threshold opens to the next, we find an endless chain of facing/approaching/leaving. Like the rhizome, like rootstock, thresholds assume—no, demand—a dynamic, bobbing-and-weaving approach that, as I wrote in Radical Feminism, Writing, and Critical Agency, is a hallmark of feminist textuality. Our own radical alterity, and our own tangled response to it, can work as resistance, as critical energy.

I’m curious about a queer inhabiting of that threshold, or is it situating queerness in that threshold, or is it making that threshold a site of queering? The potentiality of the endless facing/approaching/leaving, of the orienting and reorienting that happens in situ.

Is a queer literacy a literacy of the threshold? One that was always already primary and yet also secondary and always orienting and reorienting within the “fractured valences” of multiple discourses and identities (Bessette, 2016).

Which is to say that perhaps we should attend to the orientations, trajectories, and movements within us, our pedagogies, our understandings of literacy and how they contribute to the value and valuation of identities.

To take seriously a queering of this model, too, means to also attend to the ordinal, the situated ordination in structural hierarchies, the directive and coordinating force of number and taxonomy, or immediacy and latent, of proximity and distance, of elevation and baseness.

The idea of apprenticeship seems to want deep, contextually rich moments of immersion in a way that this discussion had difficulty situating within classroom contexts: but what if we were to consider literacy as culturally located and mediated through interactions with technologies, such as language or writing tools.

By ordinating literacy (x, y axes brought-to-bear here) we locate literacy within a locative model, but one that loses its abscissa. It’s a one dimensional model of literacy, one that insists that locating yourself in particular regions of a line means success. But what does an abscissa offer us? What do we get if we look at literacy as 2D, 3D, 4D?

I think at the very least we trouble the idea that literacy is singular, linear, and apolitical and we trouble systems and institutions that privilege the singular literacy. We would instead offer more complex ways in which people locate themselves within the big ball of wibbly-wobbly, unstableness that literacy is.

I do not in any way feel as though I am ready to answer these questions and these initial graspings leave so much to consider that I am yet unready to wrestle with.

A Smattering of Citations:

Ahmed, Sara. (2006). Queer phenomenology: Objects, orientations, others. Durham: Duke University Press.

Bessette, Jean. (2016). Queer rhetoric in situ. Rhetoric Review, 35(2), 148-164.

Gee, James P. (1989). Literacy, discourse, and linguistics: Introduction. Journal of Education, 171(1), 5-17.

Rhodes, Jacqueline and Jonathan Alexander. (2015). Techne: Queer meditations on writing the self. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press.

What and Who We Sponsor

In EMU’s two week graduate assistant training workshop, we were asked to write our literacy narratives. Below is my draft for that assignment:

Literacy seems to always be a deceptively easy word to define. It may be easy enough to use it as the ways in which one comes to communicate with others—often discussed as being through reading and writing alphabetic texts. However, if literacy is only talked about as reading and writing alphabetic texts, there is something that seems flat and emptied about it. Literacy has the capacity to understand communicative acts and practices as culturally located and imbricated with the technologies used to create or surround such acts (See Haas, 2008; Cushman, 2011; Shipka, 2011).

When I was in preschool, my teacher asked my class what we each wanted to be. Many of my male peers responded with “lawyer,” “doctor,” “astronaut,” or “president.” Many of my female peers replied with similarly interspersed with answers such as “mother,” “wife,” or “princess.” I answered that I wanted to be a mermaid and was immediately informed that this was not an appropriate answer—it is hard to be a successful mermaid in this economic climate—and so I answered with father and was again shot down. Defeated, I answered writer. Whether out of spite, stubbornness, genuine interest, or some premonition of a four-year-old’s intuition, it is an answer that I’ve stuck by ever since.

I include this as an opening anecdote as it at once sets up my journey toward understanding writing and literacy, if simplistically, but also seems to meaningfully come into contact with the boundaries of acceptable literacies that permeate the educational contexts I’ve inhabited since disciplinarily or institutionally. In many ways, my teacher and my answer pushed me in a direction that made visible these demarcations of valued and acceptable literacies within education—I could be a writer because that was something that was understood by my teacher to be something appropriate for a male student proceeding into grade school to pursue.

My family moved from Delaware to Virginia when I was eight, midway through the school year. That year would be the first that I encountered standardized testing. The SOL’s. I failed the test in Virginia history—a subject widely taught in early education in Delaware. By whatever assessment apparatus was used, I landed in a series of “slow track,” remedial classes going forward. This lasted until my family moved to North Carolina when I was twelve, where I would be tested again and placed into all advanced classes. How does this connect to literacy—and why is this writing so episodic? My momentary occupation of this system was yet another encounter of boundaries, of ways of being and knowing that would be valued in an institutional context. This is not to say that this essay should be concerned with the woes of standardized testing—in fact, it was in some of these remedial classes that I was able to play—really play—with writing. I was able to tell stories and communicate through more experimental language, but technologies: I composed through Legos and toys, I wrote an essay through still shots of myself using sign language that I edited post-print, I learned code from a friend and turned in a hacked version of the school’s website as a final.

The writing strategies I’d been able to explore in that setting allowed me to subversively compose in future settings—though often unsuccessfully until later into my undergraduate experience at East Carolina. After hearing many of the questions I had about writing and my interests within English Studies, my mentor, Will Banks, encouraged me to change my area of focus from Literature to Rhetoric and Composition and to apply for a job as a peer tutor in the University Writing Center. The writing center and my classes that focused in rhetoric and composition gave me a vocabulary to talk about writing and to explore the possibility of writing much more formally with instructors and mentors who encouraged playfulness as a form of invention.

But what I’m struck with, even now, is how these literacies I’ve discussed all take place within classrooms for instructors, or are in service of such enterprises. Why haven’t I described the cruising practices I learned in gay clubs and bathhouses? Or the ways in which queer neighborhoods and spaces can be “read” as much as they are navigable or traversable? Or the ways that I learned to code my performance of self with levels of masculinity so that I would appear nonthreatening to the cis/hetero men that I interact with in professional settings? Or the countless other literacies or literacy moments that my cultural positioning as a queer person informs my sense of self and citizenship, my research, and my pedagogy? I feel this is largely because of those interactions with boundaries of acceptability I interacted with earlier on that have been continually reaffirmed. Literacy, with all of its bagginess as a term, within institutional contexts seems to make so much distant, inaccessible, and invisible. Instead, conventional uses of the term literacy seem to only promote a certain list of activities, technologies, and products, promoted by sanctioned professionals, within certain contexts. Subversion of such should only be done cleverly and not too radically in order to avoid discomfort (What would a student think if they knew their instructor had history in the baths?).

However, as a potential literacy sponsor, am I to also affirm these boundaries that surround and contain acceptable literacy? Would that be “professional”—another word that seems coded with implications to appear, perform, and act in ways that support a white, cis/heteropatriarchy (See Cox, 2012)? Are there ways to explore the subversive and potentially disquieting capacity of literacy productively and still set up students for success, in so far as success is measured?

I don’t mean to suggest that my classroom explores the cruising practices of gay men. Though, I do intend to raise the questions surround why it does or does not explore those practices and forms of communication, to raise the questions of what and who we sponsor. I was fortunate to have mentors that sponsored disruptive and subversive literacy practices and I intend to do the same in my own work.

Brief List of Citations

Brandt, Deborah. (1998). “Sponsors of Literacy.” College Composition and Communication, 49(2), 165-185.

Cox, Matthew B. (2012). Through Working Closets: Examining Rhetorical and Narrative Approaches to Building LGBTQ & Professional Identity Inside a Corporate Workplace.

Cushman, Ellen (2011). The Cherokee Syllabary: Writing the People’s Perseverance. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Haas, Angela M. (2008). “Wampum as Hypertext: An American Indian Intellectual Tradition of Multimedia Theory and Practice. Studies in American Indian Literatures, 19(4), 77-100.

Shipka, Jody (2011). Toward a composition made whole. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Notes: Todd DeStigter, “On the Ascendance of Argument: A Critique of the Assumptions of Academe’s Dominant Form”

DeStigter, Todd. (2015). On the ascendance of argument: A critique of the assumptions of academe’s dominant form. Research in the Teaching of English, 50(3), 11-50.



DeStigter critiques the fundamental assumptions behind the overemphasis of argumentation as an ideal in the teaching of writing, drawing on three semesters of ethnographic research in Tejada High in Southwestern Chicago.

Keywords: critical pedagogy, literacy, literacy changes, literacy studies, pedagogy, teaching of writing


Walkerdine, Valerie. (1990). The mastery of reason: Cognitive development and the production of rationality. New York: Routledge.


“Again, if this paradigm sounds familiar, it’s because the privileging of argumentation indicates widespread acceptance of the assumption that truths established by reasoned argumentation correspond to ‘real’ truths, thereby positing argumentation as a cognitive ideal” (p. 17).

“I worry that in our professional conversations a new divide theory has emerged–one that posits an intellectual dichotomy not between the literate and preliterate, but between people who can write what is sanctioned as a rational argument and those who can’t” (p. 19).

“However, merely shifting the rationale for privileging argumentation from noumenal to the phenomenal realm does not eliminate the problem that whatever is designated as “good thought” is revealed through rational arguments is determined by people who are in a position to make and enforce such designations” (p. 19).

“However, as my responses to these theorists suggest, in order to believe that argumentation has inherent cognitive and social value, one must reassert the autonomous model and strip language uses from their ideological bases and consequences. One must bracket the notion that such value is not predestined in human nature or the organizing principles of the universe, but is discursively produced. One must, in other words, create a world of intellectual and communicative hierarchies and then forget that we are its creators. Unfortunately, in such a world it is also possible to forget that, in most arguments, the person with the most power just has to say, ‘Your argument is unreasonable,’ and he wins” (p. 20).

“First, in order to assert a reciprocal relationship between argumentation and democracy, one must ignore the fact that people have unequal access to power that would enable them to participate meaningfully” (p. 22).

“Second, history and current U.S. politics are replete with examples of how rational arguments supported by overwhelming evidence get trumped by ideology. Because there is no neutral ground where individuals can converse unencumbered by their values and prejudices” (p. 22).

“Third, it seems only reasonable to insist that even though argumentative skills don’t guarantee access to political deliberation, lacking such skills virtually ensures that a person will be excluded…. However, this insistence that argumentation is a necessary (albeit insufficient) requirement of political agency dismisses substantial evidence that the most effective forms of democratic participation emerge not from rational argumentation but from identity and class-based solidarity” (p. 23).

“Fourth, tying democracy to rational argument greatly restricts the kinds of thought and action considered permissible in the public sphere” (p. 23).

“To be sure, Bourdieu makes clear that cultural capital plays a role in reproducing social and economic privilege. But this is not the same as saying that cultural capital produces social and economic capital for those who don’t already have it” (p. 27).

Questions, Reflections, and Response:

I found myself saying “Werk!” quite a bit reading this piece. This is one of the first pieces I’ve read in secondary ed scholarship. I believe these assumptions that DeStigter sheds light on in secondary ed have a lot of resonance in the ways that many of us teach first year writing in the college level as well–which I suppose relates to looking at the teaching of writing as a k-16 enterprise instead of a separation between secondary and post-secondary ed.

Notes: Jonathan Alexander, “Transgender Rhetorics: Sex and Gender” in Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy

Alexander, Jonathan. (2008). Transgender rhetorics: Sex and gender. Literacy, sexuality, pedagogy: Theory and practice for composition studies. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 127-150.


Alexander advocates for a transpedagogy for students to not only encounter transgender voices, but also to attempt to grapple with the embodied reality of gender. Alexander includes a paired-fiction writing activity in which he asked his students to attempt a narrative gender transition with their writing partners, sharing out with the group to discuss the gender-narrative tropes and constructs that go into the composition of gendered realities.

Keywords: composition, literacy, literacy studies, LGBTQ, pedagogy, queer, queer rhetorics, sexuality, transgender


Houle, Brian R., Alex P. Kimball, & Heidi A. McKee. (2004). ‘Boy? You decide; girl? You decide’: Multimodal web composition and a mythography of identity.” Computers and Composition Online.

Prosser, Jay. (1998). Second skins: Body narratives of transsexuality. New York: Columbia University Press.

Rubin, Henry. (2003). Self-made men: Identity and embodiment among transsexual men. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.


“Without a doubt, gender is a compelling, even controlling construct in our narration of identity to ourselves and others. An attempt to understand how our narrations of gender are formed, how they circulate socially and politically, and how they can be productively challenged when found to be too constricting should be an important component in becoming literate about the discourses of gender in which we are immersed and enmeshed” (p. 128).

“It strikes me that the exploration of  ‘harmful myths’ is a key part of a sexual literacy project, one that undertakes a close analysis of (with the ultimate aim of provoking productive resistance to) controlling and normalizing narratives and tropes of gender” (p. 130).

“[H]aving students write about gender, particularly to excavate the narrative tropes in which conceptions of gender and identity are embedded, fosters a sense of how discourse and normative rhetorics of gender are conduits of power, shaping our sense of what kinds of identities are “normal,” appropriate, and allowed” (p. 148).

“But moreover, such work is about writing, about looking at gender through the critical work of writing about gender, and about understanding writing, particularly narrations of self, as not just the “recovery” of a self but the construction of self” (p. 148).

“But we must also remember that gender is never purely discursive. It is experienced as a material reality, even as such realities may be discursively enabled, and I maintain that working with students on the narration and construction of gender is perhaps better served by metaphors and tropes that capture some of that lived and embodied complexity of gender” (p. 149).

Questions and Reflections:

I wonder what sorts of reflections and hacks can be made on harmful myth explorations particularly about gender and sexuality issues which so often play on our bodies, if an activity centered on hacking these harmful myths might be a productive way in to discussing a sexual literacy. If, through composing narratives, we can identify the tropes and gendered constructs, I wonder what would come of asking writers to attempt a history of those tropes, to identify the signifiers and how they are reproduced.

Notes: Jonathan Alexander “Queer Theory for Straight Students: Sex and Identity” in Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy

Alexander, Jonathan. (2008). Queer theory for straight students: Sex and identity. Literacy, sexuality, pedagogy: Theory and practice for composition studies. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 102-126.


In this chapter, Alexander asks how straight students can engage in a critical literacy of straightness to confront the discourses that shape identity. To do this, he provides an example of his website in which he performed as a straight man with a secret and asked his students to analyze and respond to the website.

Keywords: composition, literacy, literacy studies, LGBTQ, pedagogy, queer, queer rhetorics, queer theory, sexuality


Monson, Connie & Jacqueline Rhodes. (2004). Risking queer: Pedagogy, performativity, and desire in the writing classroom. JAC, 24(1), 79-92.

Smith, Lauren. (2000). Staging the self: Queer theory in the composition classroom. In Calvin Thomas (ed.) Straight with a twist: Queer theory and the subject of heterosexuality. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 68-85.


“Beyond simply including queer voices into the mix, I think that queer theories and scholarship offer us a chance to critically examine the ways in which gender and sexuality are constructed, narrated, and deployed in the creation of identities, modes of being, and community…. As such, queer theoretical critique can help to underscore the intertwining of literacy and sexuality throughout our culture” (p. 102).

“Butler’s critique, combined with Plummer’s assertion of the centrality of the narrative of sexuality as central to many people’s identity, prompts me to ask, what is the story of “straightness”? With such a question, we can see how the critical examination of identities is also inevitably a rhetorical examination. More specifically, we might ask, how does one compose oneself or become composed as a “straight” person? And how does the repitition of a certain story or performance of “straightness” naturalize it…” (p. 106).

“[P]erforming a narration of straightness, inhabiting its story, might work its weakness from the inside out” (p. 107).

“I think it was revelatory for all of us to consider that straightness may be dependent on not calling it into question. As such, straightness–and its privileges–remain unexamined, normative: it just feels so normal because we don’t have to think about it” (p. 119).

“Indeed, students began to develop a sense of how narrations of identity depend as much on certain silences as they do on certain annunciations. In this sense, I think students developed a crucial understanding of an important dimension of being literate; that is, what is not articulated shapes our perception of the meaningful as much as what is articulated” (p. 121).

Questions and Reflections:

To what extent can the performing of the hoax be asked to be done by students as a reflective practice to engage with the limitations of their narratives? Is there a way to get students involved in the hacking of normative narratives and their production or curate artifacts to help with this?

Notes: Jonathan Alexander, “Beyond Texbook Sexuality: Students Reading, Students Writing” in Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy

Alexander, Jonathan. (2008). Beyond textbook sexuality: Students reading, students writing. Literacy, sexuality, pedagogy: Theory and practice for composition studies. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 75-98.


Alexander analyzes the ways in which student writers engage in the development of their own sexual literacies outside of the classroom, pointing out that the means by which they construct their literacies informs them in turn, by examining student newspapers, social media, blogs, etc. Alexander holds this saturated extracurricular circulation of discussion of sex and sexuality in contrast to the overwhelming lack of sex and sexuality within the composition classroom.

Keywords: composition, cultural rhetorics, literacy, literacy studies, LGBTQ, pedagogy, queer, queer rhetorics, sexuality, writing studies


Jordan, Jay. (2005). Rereading the multicultural reader: Cross-cultural composition readers and the reconstruction of cultural identities.” College English, 68.2.


“[W]e also need to keep in mind that the ‘ecologies’ in which those discourses [of sex/uality] take place are significant in constructing their ideological contents and shaping their reception” (p. 75).

“Certainly, the very act of talking in public forums about sex in direct, explicit, and even engaging ways seems boundary-pushing for many in our culture. These students are ‘outing’ sex as a not-so-strictly private issue, and their open discussion suggests their investment in providing information about sexual health and safety and sexual pleasure” (p. 85).

“In writing in these ways about sex, these students are participating in the construction and dissemination of discourses about sexuality that advocate for open exchange of information about sexual health as well as the right to enjoy actively sexual experiences, desires, and encounters. Participating in the shaping of such discourses constitutes these young writers’ sexual literacy” (p. 84-85).

“Moreover, queer authors are rarely identified as such—an omission we find disturbing since it contributes to the ongoing erasure of LGBT identities in our culture; while race and ethnicity are deserving of marking, queerness often isn’t considered relevant—or as worthy” (p. 91).

“[T]heir willingness to discuss sex in its social contexts… reveals an awareness of what I have been calling sexual literacy, a sense of sex not just as a private act but as connected to fundamental dimensions of identity, issues of social ideology, and aspects of political reality. Further, the sheer diversity of topics covered suggests a rich engagement with sex, sexuality, and sexual literacy. In many ways, then, the treatment of sex and sexuality in composition textbooks seems impoverished by comparison” (p. 92).

“When we think about, feel, and experience our gendered bodies, we have the opportunity to become aware of how we are called into specific gendered and sexual roles. When we think about marriage and our intimate relations with one another, we inevitably evoke difficult debates about the connection between personal happiness and public citizenship, and whose lives and relationships are honored—and whose are not. In each case—how we articulate our identities, how we annunciate and inhabit gender roles, how we describe the personal and political nature of our relationships—we are engaging in complex literacies that are inevitable wrapped up in sex and sexuality” (p. 98).


In what ways does encouraging the construction of sexual literacy discourse within the composition classroom shape their content? To what level does assessment influence the ways in which sexual discourse is discussed? Are there means by which assessment and the what we might call interior of the composition classroom be shaped in such a way to engage its exterior?

How might developing a critical sexual literacy allow help combat LGBT identity erasure? Would the spread of a greater language to discuss issues of sex and sexuality create a space in literacy to create markings and ways of talking about sex and sexuality that would be less uncomfortable? Would that contribute to a different kind of erasure? Or would a sexual literacy help create a means of discussing and articulating queer issues in compelling and critical ways that would allow queer issues to be met and discussed on their own terms?

Notes: Jonathan Alexander, “Discursive Sexualities: Bridging Sexuality and Literacy Studies” in Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy

Alexander, Jonathan. (2008). Discursive sexualities: Bridging sexuality and literacy studies. Literacy, sexuality, pedagogy: Theory and practice for composition studies. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 33-74.


Alexander develops his critical sexual literacy by exploring literature of sex studies, queer theory, and composition studies. Alexander puts these in conversation with each other to develop a pedagogy of sexual literacy, which he then demonstrates through a case study.

Keywords: composition, literacy, literacy studies, LGBTQ, pedagogy, queer rhetorics, queer theory, sexuality, sex studies, writing studies


Bell, David & Jon Binnie. (2000). The sexual citizen: Queer politics and beyond. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Cameron, Deborah & Don Kulick. (2003). Language and sexuality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Plummer, Ken. (2003). Intimate citizenship: Private decisions for public dialogues. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Turner, William B. (2000). A genealogy of queer theory. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.


“In this way, then, the movement of queering is more than just resistance, more than just negation; it’s recognizing possibilities that the forces of ‘authorization’ do not expect–it’s potentially taking advantage of the excess signification of language to envision and articulate modes of being, ways of being in the world, that exceed the expectations (and limitations) of authorizing discourse” (p. 47).

“… the cultural divisions through which we know ourselves and communicate intimately about our lives and identities–man/woman, hetero/homo–tell the story of our lives. Learning that story, learning how to communicate those stories and roles and thus articulate alternative life (and possibly collective) narratives of identity, community and agency–these are all part of what queer theory seeks to examine and critique. Queer theory understands that these stories are intimately taken up with issues of gender and sexuality, with the binarisms we construct around gender and sexuality, and it attempts to reveal those binaries for what they are: attempts to foreclose upon alternative narrations of identity and community. In this way, then, our literacies, our ability to imagine and articulate ourselves, is wrapped up in our sense of sexuality and the stories that we individually and collectively tell about it” (p. 48).

“… it [sexual literacy] means coming into an awareness of the norms that figure sex and sexuality in certain prescribed and culturally normative ways” (p. 63).


In what ways might a pedagogy of sexual literacy help create a space that Ahmed (2014) refers to as a “relief space”? By being able to articulate one’s sexual self and their narrative and being aware of culturally prescribed, normative narratives, can we create spaces in which people, particularly gender and sexual minorities, do not have to insist to be?

Are there ways in which the critical sexual literacy that Alexander is developing can provide a pedagogical frame for issues of sexual violence, rape culture, and provide spaces for survivors?