The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy

‘Pop culture is our religion’: Paulo Freire, LGBTQ Rights and Radical Love

Sabrina Boyer, Erin Brownlee Dell


Media coverage of LGBT teen bullying and suicides portrays a national crisis.  If students “read the world” (Freire, 1998, p. 76) around them, they understand a world that often does not bother to recognize their humanity, and worse, vilifies them.  Freire imagines a different way, one where “progressive education. . . must never eradicate the learner’s sense of pride and self worth” (Freire, 2004, p. 8).  At the essence of many of Freire’s writings was the idea of our collective humanity in the classroom and as we re-imagined the world together.  It is here where radical love becomes a powerful force within education.

In the absence of meaningful and “safe” learning spaces for queer students, we maintain that alternate curricula, those within the realm of popular culture offer possibilities of resistance to these dangerous climates. As Giroux and Simon (1988) write, “popular culture is appropriated by students and helps authorize their voices and experiences while pedagogy authorizes the voices of the adult world, the world of teachers and administrators” (p. 11).  The intersection of the student and adult worlds offers a pop culture pedagogy, a tool for alternative learning and a site of resistance.  This intersection reveals a significant impact on societal views, ultimately leading to advocacy and action.  While there are many examples of these sites of resistance, for the purposes of this piece, we focus on three:  the television series, Glee, the music and advocacy work of Lady Gaga, and the It Gets Better project.


Lady Gaga, Paulo Freire, Radical Love, Popular Culture, Glee, It Gets Better, critical pedagogy

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