Gay, lesbian and bisexual students' experiences of homophobia at a selected University of KwaZulu-Natal residence.
Higher education residences are ‘homes away from home’, in which students from different social and cultural backgrounds live together, holding different norms, values and practices. Due to the various diversities often present in higher education institutions, and the distance away from their home communities, many ‘lesbian’, ‘gay’ and ‘bisexual’ (LGB) students find space and freedom to ‘claim’ and negotiate their same-sex identities when they reach these institutions. In this thesis, I sought to showcase the experiences of LGB students living in the University of KwaZulu Natal, Edgewood campus residences. Using Young’s (1990) framework of the Five Faces of Oppression, I sought to explore how LGB students experience homophobia and as well as how the institution responds when homophobic incidents occur. Using a case study methodology, interviews were conducted with ten LGB identifying participants studying to be teachers at the university. Findings reveal a persistent culture of sustained tolerance for homophobia among the general students in the residences, determined fundamentally by the systemic circumstances present in higher education residential spaces. These conditions normalise homophobia, thereby positioning same-sex attraction as abhorrent and unacceptable, especially for students aspiring to be teachers. The analysis also shows that the interviewed students internalise homophobia, evidenced by their strategies of defending homophobic practices, denial and avoidance. While the data demonstrates clear evidence of homophobia in higher education residential spaces, I also show that some students exhibit agentic actions of resistance, but these actions are often constrained by the deeply conservative space that they find themselves in. I conclude by calling for more proactive interventions from university administrators in order to address discrimination and prejudice on the basis of LGB sexual identities.
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