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"Is it still a boy?" : hetero/gender normativity in Kindergarten

Authors
Publisher
University of British Columbia
Publication Date
Disciplines
  • Education
  • Linguistics

Abstract

This study examines everyday practices (talk, play, curriculum) in Kindergarten that works with and against hetero/gender normativity. To conduct this research, I spent three months in a Kindergarten classroom in a Vancouver public school. In addition to conducting everyday observations, I facilitated focus groups with students and interviews with educators based on their experiences planning and taking part in curriculum for Valentine’s Day, Anti-Bullying/Pink Shirt Day, and Mother’s Day. This combination of data illustrated ways hetero/gender norms become institutionally routinized in Kindergarten regardless of progressive district school policies and the occasional special events that discourage homophobic bullying. Of critical importance to my analysis are discrepancies between discourse about what children are (e.g., innocent, masculine, feminine) and what children do within their play and social interactions. Such discourses neutralize heterosexuality and gender conformity as asexual, and hyper-sexualize queer and transgender subjectivities, rendering them “inappropriate” in Kindergarten. My research suggests that this normalizes the gender and sexual status quo while othering children who may not fit within these limited parameters. This dissertation contributes to educational and critical childhood studies that seek to understand the routes by which queer and transgender students are isolated and ostracized within public school social life.

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