New book on gaps between policy and practice with respect to LGBTQ rights

By on 19.04.2017 in Publications

In his new book, JustEd member Jón Ingvar Kjaran, University of Iceland, has contributed to the understanding of sexuality and gender in schools, beyond the borders of Iceland and the Nordic countries. In the book he sheds light on how sexuality and gender intersect in producing heteronormativity within the school system in Iceland. The book is partly based on his PhD thesis.

Jón Ingvar Kjaran

Jón Ingvar Kjaran

“My aim with the book is to highlight the construction of sexuality and gender in Nordic schools. I wanted to use Iceland as an example of how issues around sexuality and gender are somehow integrated into the educational system, the schools,” says Jón, who saw a lack of research in the field.


One aspect Jón highlights with his research is that in spite of recent progressive policies regarding sexual and gender equality in the Nordic countries, a discrepancy remains between policy and practice within the school system. “These policies have not been translated into the school system,” Jón pinpoints.

Based on surveys in e.g. Finland and Sweden, and on interviews with young LGBTQ persons, there is a gap between the progressive policies and how LGBTQ persons are treated in Nordic schools. Many young LGBTQ persons are bullied and harassed in their schools.

“We are so proud here in the Nordics over how equal we are, and I criticize this thought – we shouldn’t be,” says Jón.

Jon's bookIn the book Jón tries to not merely look at the negative sides. “I try to present examples of students who create their own spaces, students who try to create something positive around them, to queer the schools, and to change the schools,” he says.

“One of the benefits I’ve had as a member of JustEd is the interaction with other Nordic scholars who work with other issues, such as race and disability studies, on themes such as exclusion and how we can make schools better–for everybody,” Jón says. He also wanted to put issues of gender and sexuality within the frame of JustEd, justice in education.

“Furthermore, when I was writing the book I got the opportunity to stay at the University of Helsinki thanks to JustEd Mobility Fellowship. The visit was very helpful, hence I could use the library and meet other scholars”,

This book draws on ethnographic data and interviews with LGBTQ students in high schools across the country and reveals that, although Nordic countries are sometimes portrayed as queer utopias, the school system in Iceland has a long road ahead in making schools more inclusive for all students.

JustEd member Jukka Lehtonen, University of Helsinki, writes in his review about the book:

“Through ground-breaking analysis, this brilliant ethnographic study shines a light on the experience of trans, queer, lesbian, gay, and bisexual students and their teachers in schools. This book should not only be read by teachers and school administrators in all levels but also by everyone else concerned with sexuality, gender equality, and education.”

Get the book here:


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