Tinnawat Suebkinnon, Apisak Sukying


This study examined the identity construction of queer learners in English language learning and its influences on English language learning. The four participants were male, queer and studied in English majors and English language teaching in a Thai university. Two of the participants were known to the researcher. Semi-structured interviews, field notes, and a digital sound recorder were used for data collection and qualitative content analysis was used to analyze the data. The findings revealed that queer characteristics and marginalized and unequal positions based on gender identity and sexual orientation were two main factors constituting queer learner identity in English language learning. The majority of the participants shared that their queer characteristics were conducive to their speaking skills. Additionally, it was shown that the heteronormative Thai context motivated the participants to pursue English language proficiency. The participants reported that English language proficiency was advantageous for their future success and helped them gain parental and societal acceptance. Moreover, the participants stated that learning the English language would allow them to migrate to English-speaking countries that are welcoming to queer people. The results also indicated that some participants who desire a Western partner viewed English as beneficial to finding a Western man, whom they thought would be more open to gender diversity than Thai men. These findings provide a better understanding of the identity construction of queer learners and its influences on English language learning.

Article visualizations:

Hit counter


queer learner identity, positioning, English language learning, Thai EFL context

Full Text:



Abe, H. (2006). “Lesbian Bar Talk in Shinjuku, Tokyo.” In the Language and Sexuality Reader, edited by D. Cameron and D. Kulick, 132–140. New York, NY: Routledge.

Anderson, A., Arnold, A., Bramlett, F., Bode, S., Bond, C. M., Carney, T., et al. (1997). Letter to the editor. TESOL Matters, 7(4), 22.

Barrett, R. (1997). “The ‘Homo-Genius’ Speech Community.” In Queerly Phrased: Language, Gender, and Sexuality edited by A. Livia and K. Hall, 181–201. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Beebe, J. D. (2002). Unfinished business: Identity formation and rejection through language learning. The Language Teacher (JALT), 22, 17–21.

Burstall, C. (1975). Factors affecting foreign-language learning: A consideration of some relevant research findings. Language Teaching and Linguistic Abstract,8, 5-125.

Block, D. (2013). Issues in language and identity research in applied linguistics. ELIA, 13, 11-46.

Bourdieu, P., & J. Passeron. (1977). Reproduction in Education, Society, and Culture. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

Boyle, J. P. (1987). Sex differences in listening vocabulary. Language Learning, 37(2), 273-284.

Cameron, D., & D. Kulick. (2006). “General Introduction.” In the Language and Sexuality Reader, edited by D. Cameron and D. Kulick, 1–12. London, UK; New York, NY: Routledge.

Carrillo, H. (2004). Sexual migration, cross-cultural sexual encounters, and sexual health. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 1, 58–70.

Coates, J., & Jordan, M. E. (1997). “Que(e)rying Friendship: Discourses of Resistance and the Construction of Gendered Subjectivity.” In Queerly Phrased: Language, Gender, and Sexuality, edited by A.Livia & K.Hall, 214–232. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Collins, C., Kenway, J. & McLeod, J. (2000). Factors Influencing the Educational Performance of Males and Females in School and their Initial Destinations after Leaving School. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia

Courtney, M. (2007). “The Ins and Outs of Teaching: Social Identity in an ESL Classroom.” Transit 2 (1): 13–16.

Dalley, P., & M. D. Campbell. (2006). “Constructing and Contesting Discourses of Heteronormativity: An Ethnographic Study of Youth in a Francophone High School in Canada.” Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 5(1), 11–29.

Darvin R. & Norton B. (2015), “Identity and a model of investment in applied linguistics”, Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 35, p. 36-56.

Davies, B., & R. Harré. (1990). “Positioning: The Discursive Production of Selves. ”Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, 20(1), 43–63.

Davies, B., & Harré, R. (1999). Positioning and personhood. In R. Harré, & L. v. Langenhove, Positioning Theory (pp. 32-52). Wiley-Blackwell.

Eagly, A. H. (1987). Sex differences in social behavior: A social-role interpretation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Eagly, A. H., & Karau, S. (2002). Role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders. Psychological Bulletin, 109(3), 573-598.

Ehrlich, S. (2001) Representing Rape: Language and Sexual Consent. London: Routledge.

Ellis, R. (2012). The study of second language acquisition (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellwood, C. (2006). On coming out and coming undone: Sexualities and reflexivities in language education research. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 5, 67–84.

García-Pastor, M. D. (2018b). Learner identity in EFL: An analysis of digital texts of identity in higher education. Digital Education Review, 33, 55–76.

Gray, J. (2016). “ELT Materials: Claims, Critiques and Controversies”, in: Hall,

Graham (Ed.). The Routledge Handbook of English Language Teaching. London: Routledge, 95-108.

Halpern, D. F. 1986. Sex differences in cognitive abilities. Hilsdale: Erlbaum.

Howie, D. (1999). Preparing for positive positioning. In Harré, R. & Langenhove, L. V., (Eds.), Positioning Theory (pp. 53-59). Malden, MA: Black.

Kappra, R. (2003). Out and about. GALE Newsletter (Special Interest Group of the

Japan Association for Language Teaching), Winter, pp. 11–12. Retrieved from http://tokyoprogressive.org.uk/gale/newsletters/pdfs/winter2003.pdf.

Kappra, R., & S. Vandrick. (2006). “Silenced Voices Speak: Queer ESL Students Recount Their Experiences.” CATESOL Journal, 18(1), 138–150.

Kayi-Aydar, H. (2013). “’No, Rolanda, Completely Wrong!’ Positioning, Classroom Participation and ESL Learning.” Classroom Discourse, 4(2), 130–150

King, B. (2008). “’Being Gay Guy, that is the Advantage’: Queer Korean Language Learning and Identity Construction.” Journal of Language, Identity, & Education 7(3), 230–252.

Langenhove, L. van, & R. Harré (1999). “Introducing Positioning Theory.” In Positioning Theory: Moral Contexts of Intentional Action, edited by R. Harré and L. van Langenhove, 14–31. Malden, MA: Blackwells Publishers.

Lave, J., & E. Wenger. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Liddicoat, A. 2009. “Sexual Identity as Linguistic Failure: Trajectories of Interaction in the Heteronormative Language Classroom.” Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 8(2), 191–202.

Logan, S., & Johnston, R. (2009). Gender differences in reading ability and attitude: examining where these differences lie. Journal of Research in Reading, 32(2), 129 214.

Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41, 954-969

McKay, S. L., & S. L. C. Wong. (1996). “Multiple Discourses, Multiple Identities: Investment and Agency in Second-Language Learning among Chinese Adolescent Immigrant Students.” Harvard Educational Review 66 (3): 577–608.

Menard-Warwick, J. (2008). “‘Because She Made Beds. Every Day’. Social Positioning, Classroom Discourse, and Language Learning.” Applied Linguistics 29 (2): 267–289.

Meyer, Elizabeth J. (2010). Gender and Sexual Diversity in Schools. New York: Springer.

Moita-Lopes, L. P. (2006). Queering literacy teaching: Analyzing gay-themed discourse in a fifth-grade class in Brazil. Journal of Language, Identity, & Education, 5, 31–50 doi:10.1207/s15327701jlie0501_3

Moore, A. R. (2013). The ideal sexual self: The motivational investments of Japanese gay male learners of English. In P. Benson & L. Cooker (Eds.), The applied linguistic individual: Sociocultural approaches to identity, agency and autonomy (pp. 135–151). Bristol, CT: Equinox Publishing.86–108.

Moore, A. R. (2016). Inclusion and exclusion: A case study of an English class for LGBT learners. TESOL Quarterly, 50, 86–108. doi:10.1002/tesq.208

Nelson, C. (1993). “Heterosexism in ESL: Examining Our Attitudes.” TESOL Quarterly 27 (1): 143–150.

Nelson, C. (1999). “Sexual Identities in ESL: Queer Theory and Classroom Inquiry.” TESOL Quarterly 33 (3): 371–391.

Nelson, C. D. (2002). “Why Queer Theory is Useful in Teaching; a Perspective from English as a Second Language Teaching.” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services 14 (2): 43–53.

Nelson, C. D. (2006). “Queer Inquiry in Language Education.” Journal of Language, Identity and Education 5.

Nelson, C. D. (2009). Sexual Identities in English Language Education: Classroom Conversations. New York, NY: Routledge.

Nelson, C. D. (2010). “A Gay Immigrant Student’s Perspective: Unspeakable Acts in the Language Class.” TESOL Quarterly 44 (3): 441–464.

Nelson, C. D. (2012). Emerging queer epistemologies in studies of “gay”-student discourses. Journal of Language and Sexuality, 1(1), 79–105. doi:10.1075/jls.1.1.05nel

Nguyen, H., & Yang, L. (2015). A queer learner’s identity positioning in second language classroom discourse. Classroom Discourse, 6, 221–241.

Norton, B. (2000). Identity and Language Learning: Gender, Ethnicity and Educational Change. New York, NY: Longman/Pearson ESL.

Norton, B. (2006). Identity: Second language. In K. Brown (Ed.), Encyclopedia of language and linguistics (2nd ed., Vol. 5, pp.502–508). Oxford, England: Elsevier.

Norton, B. (2016). Identity and language learning: Back to the future. TESOL Quarterly. doi:10.1002/ tesq.293. 1-5

O’Mochain, R. (2006). “Discussing Gender and Sexuality in a Context-Appropriate Way: Queer Narratives in an EFL College Classroom in Japan.” Journal of Language, Identity, and Education 5 (1): 51–66.

O’Mochain, R., M. Mitchell, & C. Nelson. (2003). “Dialogues around ‘Heterosexism in ESL: Examining Our Attitudes’ and ‘Sexual Identities in ESL: Queer Theory and Classroom Inquiry’ by Cynthia Nelson (1993, 1999).” In the TESOL Quarterly Dialogues: Rethinking Issues of Language, Culture, and Power, edited by J. Sharkey and K. E. Johnson, 123–140. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Oxford, R. L., & Ehrman, M. E. (1995). Adults' language learning strategies in an intensive foreign language program in the United States. System, 23(3), 359-386.

Paechter, C. (2001). Using postconstructuralist ideas in gender theory and research. In B. Francis & C. Skelton (Eds.), Investigating Gender: Contemporary Perspectives in Education (pp. 41-51). Buckingham: Open University Press

Paiz, J. M. (2015). Over the monochrome rainbow: Heteronormativity in ESL reading texts and textbooks. Journal of Language and Sexuality, 4(1), 77–101.

Pavlenko, A. & A. Blackledge (2004) New theoretical approaches to the study of negotiation of identity in multilingual contexts. In: Pavlenko, A. & A. Blackledge (eds.) Negotiation of identities in multilingual contexts. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters, pp. 1-33.

Podesva, R. J., S. J. Roberts, & K. Campbell-Kibler. (2006). “Sharing Resources and Indexing Meanings in the Production of Gay Styles.” In the Language and Sexuality Reader, edited by D. Cameron and D. Kulick, 141–150. London, UK; New York: Routledge.

Robinson, D., Gabriel, N., & Katchan, O. (1994). Personality and second language learning. Personality and Individual differences, 16(1), 143-157.

Rondón, F. (2012). LGBT students’ short-range narratives and gender performance in the EFL classroom. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal, 14(1), 71-91.

Saint Pierre, R. (1994). On being out in the classroom: Dilemma or duty? In K. Jennings (Ed.), One teacher in 10: Gay and lesbian educators tell their stories (pp. 164–167). Boston: Alyson Publications.

Seidman, I. (1991). Interviewing as qualitative research. New York, us: Teacher’s College Press.

Sunderland, J. (1998) Girls being quiet: a problem for foreign language classrooms? Language Teaching Research 2(1), 48–82.

Sunderland, J. (2000). “Issues of Language and Gender in Second and Foreign Language Education.” Language Teaching 33/4: 203–223.

Swiatek, M. A., & Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. E. (2000). Gender differences in academic attitudes among gifted elementary school students. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 23(4), 360-77.

Talmy, S. (2009). “Resisting ESL: Categories and Sequence in a Critically “Motivated” Analysis of Classroom Interaction.” In Talk in Interaction: Multilingual Perspectives, edited by H. T. Nguyen & G. Kasper, 181–213. Honolulu, HI: National Foreign Language Resource Center, University of Hawaii Press.

Tehrani, E. K., Guilan, I., Vahdany, F., & Arjmandi, M. (2014). Is there any relationship between Iranian EFL learners' personality type and their pronunciation? Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods (MJLTM).

Vandrick, S. (1997). The role of hidden identities in the postsecondary ESL classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 31, 153–157.

Vetter, A. (2010). Positioning students as readers and writers through talk in a high school English classroom. English Education, 43(1), 33-64.

Wortham, S. (2004). “From Good Student to Outcast: The Emergence of a Classroom Identity.” ETHOS 32 (2): 164–187.

Yamashiro, A., & McLaughlin, J. (2001). Relationships among attitudes, motivation, anxiety, and English language proficiency in Japanese college students. Second language research in Japan, 112-126.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.46827/ejel.v6i5.3837


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright © 2015. European Journal of English Language Teaching (ISSN 2501-7136) is a registered trademark of Open Access Publishing GroupAll rights reserved.

This journal is a serial publication uniquely identified by an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) serial number certificate issued by Romanian National Library (Biblioteca Nationala a Romaniei). All the research works are uniquely identified by a CrossRef DOI digital object identifier supplied by indexing and repository platforms.

All the research works published on this journal are meeting the Open Access Publishing requirements and can be freely accessed, shared, modified, distributed and used in educational, commercial and non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).