University of Oulu

Lehtonen, J. (2023). Rainbow Paradise? Sexualities and Gender Diversity in Finnish Schools. In: Thrupp, M., Seppänen, P., Kauko, J., Kosunen, S. (eds) Finland’s Famous Education System. Springer, Singapore.

Rainbow paradise? : sexualities and gender diversity in Finnish schools

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Author: Lehtonen, Jukka1
Organizations: 1Gender Studies, University of Helsinki, PL 59, 00014, Helsinki, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: , 2023
Publish Date: 2023-03-09


The Finnish education system, welfare state and Finland’s position in respect to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) human rights have been praised. In this chapter, the utopian image of Finnish education system as a ‘rainbow paradise’ is questioned. Legislation, curricula, teachers, school textbooks, experiences of non-heterosexual, trans and intersex youth as well as LGBTI human rights organisations’ work are discussed, as well as the influence of COVID-19. All are looked at from the viewpoint of heteronormativity. Even if there have been several advancements in acknowledging sexual and gender diversity within Finnish education, particularly in the area of legislation and educational policies, there are serious everyday problems in making schools safe for LGBTI students and teachers, as well as with treating everyone equally despite their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Teacher training, teaching and textbooks used in schools are often still heteronormative, and teachers lack tools and motivation in resisting heteronormative starting points in their work. Youth culture has changed in recent years, it has become more diverse and less judgemental towards LGBTI youth but non-heterosexual, trans and intersex students are still clearly experiencing more violence in schools than cisgender heterosexual students. The mainly heteronormative Finnish education system creates stress and mental health problems for LGBTI youth. Counselling and health care services are still not fully able to respond to their needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made the situation worse. In short, it will require a sustained effort to make the Finnish education system anything close to a ‘rainbow paradise’.

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ISBN: 978-981-19-8241-5
ISBN Print: 978-981-19-8240-8
Pages: 273 - 288
DOI: 10.1007/978-981-19-8241-5_17
Host publication: Finland’s famous education system : unvarnished insights into Finnish schooling
Host publication editor: Thrupp, Martin
Seppänen, Piia
Kauko, Jaakko
Kosunen, Sonja
Type of Publication: A3 Book chapter
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Copyright information: © 2023 The Author(s). This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.