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‘I use any pronouns, and I’m questioning everything else’: transgender youth and the issue of gender pronouns

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Abstract

The nature of sex/ualities, genders and schooling has changed considerably over the last 20 years, with global political, social and cultural shifts bringing the lives of queer youth to the fore. Trans youth are now more visible and various kinds of support groups in schools (such as diversity support groups, queer groups and gay–straight alliances) have emerged. This article reports on a critical ethnographic study conducted with queer youth in a co-educational secondary school in Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand. The focus of the research was on exploring how LGBTQ students actively negotiate their identities in school. A particular issue of interest was how gendered pronouns (s/he, him, her) are used (both in and outside of schools). We consider how the naming of pronouns both disrupts the articulation between sex, gender and sexuality and also reinforces stable gender identities and binaries. This opens up new possibilities for the trans students to identify but also works to reinforce hierarchies and power relations. We employ the theoretical tools of Foucault (power and resistance) and Butler (the heterosexual matrix, intelligible subjects and performativity) to conceptualise and interpret the power relations evident in trans students’ experiences of using gender pronouns.
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Sex Education
Sexuality, Society and Learning
ISSN: 1468-1811 (Print) 1472-0825 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/csed20
‘I use any pronouns, and I’m questioning
everything else’: transgender youth and the issue
of gender pronouns
Hayley McGlashan & Katie Fitzpatrick
To cite this article: Hayley McGlashan & Katie Fitzpatrick (2018): ‘I use any pronouns, and I’m
questioning everything else’: transgender youth and the issue of gender pronouns, Sex Education,
DOI: 10.1080/14681811.2017.1419949
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/14681811.2017.1419949
Published online: 10 Jan 2018.
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SEX EDUCATION, 2018
https://doi.org/10.1080/14681811.2017.1419949
‘I use any pronouns, and I’m questioning everything else’:
transgender youth and the issue of gender pronouns
HayleyMcGlashan and KatieFitzpatrick
Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
ABSTRACT
The nature of sex/ualities, genders and schooling has changed
considerably over the last 20 years, with global political, social and
cultural shifts bringing the lives of queer youth to the fore. Trans
youth are now more visible and various kinds of support groups in
schools (such as diversity support groups, queer groups and gay–
straight alliances) have emerged. This article reports on a critical
ethnographic study conducted with queer youth in a co-educational
secondary school in Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand. The focus
of the research was on exploring how LGBTQ students actively
negotiate their identities in school. A particular issue of interest
was how gendered pronouns (s/he, him, her) are used (both in and
outside of schools). We consider how the naming of pronouns both
disrupts the articulation between sex, gender and sexuality and
also reinforces stable gender identities and binaries. This opens up
new possibilities for the trans students to identify but also works to
reinforce hierarchies and power relations. We employ the theoretical
tools of Foucault (power and resistance) and Butler (the heterosexual
matrix, intelligible subjects and performativity) to conceptualise and
interpret the power relations evident in trans students’ experiences
of using gender pronouns.
Introduction
The students rush in and spread themselves around the sunshine room, forming a circle on the
brightly covered cushions. Clasping their hot drinks and cookies they chat with those around
them. Once everyone settles in, the teacher and counsellor, Magdalena, welcomes everyone to
the Rainbow Group. She asks the students to welcome this week’s visitor, Seth. A loud round of
applause rises up from the group; Seth stands up, hands in his pockets and a big grin on his face.
Seth: Ok, hello, I’m Seth. I used to come to this school … So, my pronouns are he/him and I’m
transitioning at the moment. So, tell me about yourselves: names, pronouns, gender identity
or whatever.
Tiata: Cool, I’ll start. Hello, my name is Tiata. I use she/her pronouns and I’m Takatāpui
Hi, I’m Vinny, I’m 17 and use whatever pronouns
Hey, I’m Christina, I use she/her pronouns and I am a transwoman
Hi, I’m Ria I use she/her pronouns and I’m a transwoman too
© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
KEYWORDS
Transgender; gender;
sexuality; gay–straight
alliance; pronouns; New
Zealand
ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 28 April 2017
Accepted19 December 2017
CONTACT Hayley McGlashan h.mcglashan@auckland.ac.nz
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2 H. MCGLASHAN AND K. FITZPATRICK
Hi, I’m Socratis, I’m 16, I use any pronouns, … and I’m questioning everything else
Hi, I am Inka, I use female pronouns and I am queer and proud!
Seth: Well, that was really exciting getting to know each other. So, what I’m doing is working
with queer Asian people in New Zealand to look at the minority issues that currently
exist in our rainbow community because, just because we are a rainbow doesn’t mean
we all have the same needs. My needs and your needs might all be very, very dierent.
So, even within our own rainbow community it is about diversity and it is also that within
our own community, ‘right?’
The above discussion comes from the rst author’s experience working with a sexuality
and gender diversity support group (which we call the Rainbow group) at a high school in
Aotearoa/New Zealand as part of a critical ethnographic study of Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, Trans
and Queer (LGBTQ) students. The study aimed to explore how LGBTQ students in one school
actively negotiated their queer identities, and how the school supported them in doing so.
At the centre of the study was a group of LGBTQ students that met every Thursday, lunchtime
during 2016. In the meeting described above, Seth, an ex-student of the school and a guest
speaker, was discussing his role in a support group for queer Asian youth. Seth started the
session by sharing his own gender pronouns and identity, and then asked the students to
do the same. While the sharing of gender pronouns was contentious for some of the students,
it was a comfortable practice for others.
The naming of gender pronouns is a practice used to expose taken-for-granted gender
binaries and the unconscious, heteronormative articulation of sex-gender-sexuality (Butler
1999; Youdell 2005). In some ways, it enabled the trans youth in the group to destabilise and
disrupt gendered categories and embody non-normative, uid and transgressive gender
and sexual identities (Elliot 2009). However, as Seth pointed out, the subjectivities of the
rainbow students also reect particular and dierentiated experiences, desires, needs and
political goals (Elliot 2009). Moreover, for trans and gender non-conforming students, naming
gender pronouns was not always a comfortable or easy task. Some grappled with unstable
gender identities and, regardless of the groups exploration of non-normative pronouns
such as they, ze and hir, some students believed that naming pronouns reinforced ‘gender
hierarchies’ within the group.
Neither of the authors of this article are trans. We are both cisgendered women who
identify as heterosexual, and are privileged by many of the discourses we critique in this
paper. We maintain, however, that sex, gender and sexuality are uid and contestable cat-
egories that require both un-coupling (from each other) and critiquing (Youdell 2005), and
we are committed to developing deep contextual understandings about gender sexuality
in schools, and to contesting power relations. The word ‘trans is, itself, contested. It can be
used as an umbrella term when discussing ‘… people who do not live their sex or gender as
exclusively male or female; who have a uid sense of their sex or gender; or who transition
from one sex or gender to the other’ (Sykes 2011, 37). This includes transgender, transsexual,
non-binary and gender non-conforming people. When discussing individual students in this
study, we use the language they have chosen to represent their identities. We use the word
transgender for students who have self-identied as transgender and have, or are in the
process of gender transitioning. Gender transitioning refers to the process through which
a student comes to identify (and be identied) publicly as a gender dierent from the one
they were assigned at birth. This involves a series of steps and can include social and/or
medical transitioning. Schilt and Westbrook (2009) point out that
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SEX EDUCATION 3
Transgender people who live with a social gender identity that diers from the gender they were
assigned at birth-can successfully do masculinity or femininity without having the genitalia that
are presumed to follow from their outward appearance. (443)
Social transitioning may include changing names and pronouns; using particular toilets
and changing rooms; dressing more in accordance with societal expectations of their gender;
performing mannerisms in line with their gender; using binders or, for some, seeking medical
measures such as hormone therapy. Some trans people may identify as trans throughout
their life while others may see their trans identity as temporary. Two of the six trans students
in this study used the term ‘non-binary’ to describe their gender identity at some point
throughout the study; however, both students now (at the time of writing) identify as trans-
male and have expressed a desire for medical transition. It is important to note though that
being trans is by no means necessarily a singular or even shared experience (Frohard-
Dourlent 2016). Like all identity positions, trans is one articulation among many (including
those connected with ethnicity, social class, place, age, ability and so on).
Background literature
Tensions over pronoun use reect wider identity struggles evident in recent news media
reports and public discussions of gender and sexuality. For example, a recent TIME magazine
(March 2017) cover story – Beyond ‘He’ or ‘She’ – featured a picture of a queer and gender
non-conforming 26-year old. The article explores how ‘you-do-you young people’ reject
conventions around gender and sexuality and are ‘redening everything’. In the piece, Ritch
Savin-Williams comments that ‘young people are not just saying “Screw you”. Their embrace
of a vast array of identities rather says, ‘Your terms, what you’re trying to do, does not reect
my reality or the reality of my friends’ (Savin-Williams in TIME magazine, March 2017).
The concerns we raise here therefore reect wider social trends by which young people
are actively challenging and resisting gender and sexuality norms in social spaces. We are
interested specically in whether such moves are also evident in schools and, if so, what the
implications of this change are. Research suggests that schools are more than likely to be
non-inclusive or unsafe spaces for transgender youth. In a nationally representative study
of 8166 secondary school students in Aotearoa/New Zealand, 1.2% of students reported
being transgender, more than half of whom (53.5%) were afraid that someone at school
would hurt or bother them (Clark et al. 2014). Burford, Lucassen, and Hamilton (2017) suggest
that ‘Reducing bullying related to gender identity and expression is very likely to have a
positive eect on the mental health and educational achievement of young people …’ (213).
Strategies to achieve reduced bullying of trans and gender non-conforming youth have
been explored in studies in New Zealand by Burford, Lucassen, and Hamilton (2017), Clark
et al. (2014), Lucassen et al. (2015), and in international studies by Mayo (2017), Mayo (2013),
Robinson and Espelage (2012) and Wyss (2004). All of these authors recommend that trans-
gender inclusive literature be added to curriculum; that teachers undertake comprehensive
training on trans identities; that schools support queer student groups; and schools improve
access to gender neutral bathrooms and uniforms. Ultimately however, a school-wide
approach to systemic transphobia is crucial.
Rainbow support groups in schools are, of course, not new. Gay–Straight Alliance (GSA)
or Queer–Straight Alliance (QSA) (Quinlivan 2013, 2015) groups have been around for some
time. They vary considerably in makeup and intention (See Kosciw et al. 2012; Mayo 2009;
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4 H. MCGLASHAN AND K. FITZPATRICK
Quinlivan 2013, 2015; Talburt and Rasmussen 2010; Youdell 2011) but are commonly extra-
curricular, student-centred groups where (LGBTQ) students, along with their heterosexual
and questioning allies, gather for conversation, learning activities and mutual support (Mayo
2013). Quinlivan (2013) discusses some of the tensions that school-based QSAs can encoun-
ter, both within the group and in relation to wider school politics. She argues that if the
intent of the QSA is to provide a safe space for queer youth who need support, then this can
position students as ‘abnormal’ or ‘at risk’ and further increase the divide between hetero-
sexual and queer. However, Quinlivan (2013, 2015) and others (e.g. Mayo 2009, 2013; Talburt
and Rasmussen 2010) have also highlighted that critical approaches to learning in QSAs can
allow for the exploration of uid subjectivities and non-normative understandings of gender
and sexuality. While there is a body of work on queer support groups in schools (Elliott 2016;
Mayo 2013; Quinlivan 2013), there are few examples of the specic experiences of trans
students within these groups.
Theoretical framework
In order to understand the experiences of these students, we employ the theoretical tools
provided by Foucault and Butler. Foucault’s underpinning desire was to ‘understand how
people, throughout history, have created knowledge about humans and how such knowl-
edge has shaped the experience of being human” (Markula and Pringle 2006, 24).
Understanding power was central to this analysis. For Foucault, power is:
… exercised rather than possessed; it is not the ‘privilege’, acquired or preserved … but the
overall eect of its strategic positions – an eect that is manifested and sometimes extended
by the position of those who are dominated. (Foucault 1995, 26–27)
Discourses of gender and sexuality can both transmit and produce power as well as
provide spaces for resistance (Nixon and Givens 2007, 453). Schools are one of the social
sites in which meanings about gender and sexuality are discursively circulated and perpet-
uated. These institutions ‘reect and constitute the broader socio-political discourses in
operation, including those that uphold the constructed superiority of heterosexuality’
(Ferfolja 2008, 108), heteronormativity and cisnormativity. Heteronormativity acts to ensure
heterosexuality is the ‘natural’ and accepted sexual orientation (Warner 1993). This is a result
of what Butler (1999) calls the heterosexual matrix, intertwining gender, sexuality and the
body in a referent triad, the result of which is to continually reinscribe particular gendered
and sexual performances. For Butler, ‘Gender is the repeated stylisation of the body, a set of
repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the
appearance of substance, a natural sort of being’ (Butler 1990, 33). Schools, for example, help
gender ‘congeal’ (Butler 1990, 44) by calling upon it as a relevant category for organising
and classifying students. Elsewhere, Youdell (2005) argues that schools reinforce heteronorms
through the regulation of movement, language, dress, use of space, extra-curricular activities,
preferred literature, academic subject choice, relationships and ultimately identity ‘perfor-
mance’ (see also Allen 2005; Epstein, O’Flynn, and Telford 2003).
Discourses of gender and sexuality are constituted through a multiplicity of schooling
structures, processes and power relations produced by heteronormativity and cisnormativity.
Cisnormative structures in schools, such as male and female toilets, classes and uniforms
normalise gender binaries, not only because these practices are widely accepted, but also
because they are so securely entrenched in powerful institutions. These norms are
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SEX EDUCATION 5
particularly limiting for trans students. Cisnormativity governs transgender students by
drawing the boundaries between legitimate and intelligible subject, and others (Butler 2004).
These forms of power are productive in that they create particular understandings of what
a proper girl (woman) and a proper boy (man) is. Butler (1990) notes that
… The very notion of ‘the person’ is called into question by the cultural emergence of those ‘inco-
herent’ or ‘discontinuous’ gendered beings who appear to be persons but who fail to conform
to the gendered norms of cultural intelligibility by which persons are dened. (23)
Trans youth in schools are both the subjects of, and subject to, forms of power that frame
their subjectivities in particular sexed and gendered ways, and which produce levels of
intelligibility. Foucault insists that power is exercised rather than possessed (1995, 6). Within
his framework, all individuals hold power and can exercise power. Students are likely to be
both complicit, and resistant to how schools frame possible subjectivities, but they can also
employ capillary forms of power. In doing so, they may actually recreate hierarchical struc-
tures and/or challenge dominant subjectivities, even while participating in a group that is
consciously ‘resistant’. Foucault (1980) also argued that ‘there are no relations of power with-
out resistances; the latter are all the more real and eective because they are formed right
at the point where relations of power are exercised’ (142).
Butler (1999) maintains that gendered relations of power exist within a matrix wherein
sexuality is a product of ‘regulatory practices that generate coherent identities … and asym-
metrical oppositions between “feminine” and “masculine” (24). The matrix, however, is never
totalising but also provides opportunities for discursive agency (Butler 1990). If QSA groups
in schools open up possibilities for trans students to recognise their agency and to contest
the heteronorms and cisnorms present in school sites, it may be possible to imagine shifts
in policy, discourse and everyday gendered practices. Whether such shifts end up re-inscrib-
ing gender sexuality norms or further marginalising students who attempt to queer the
cultures of schooling remains to be seen (Talburt and Rasmussen 2010).
Methodology
In this study, the rst author engaged employed critical ethnography to explore the wider
experiences of LGBTQ youth in one school (which we call Kahukura High School). The school
is a co-educational secondary school in Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand. Critical ethnog-
raphy is a methodological approach to research that requires the researcher to spend in
depth and prolonged time as a member of the research site, to focus explicitly on culture,
and to engage with issues of power, equity and social justice. The use of this approach ena-
bled the gathering of locally contextualised data using techniques such as interviews, obser-
vations and immersion in the eld of study, and then the theorisation of this information in
relation to wider trends in society and education (Madison 2005).
Reexivity
At the heart of critical ethnography lies an interrogation of the researcher’s own embodied
subjectivities and how these impact on research. The limitations of one’s own subjectivity
may be mitigated by forming long-term, trusting relationships with participants and being
immersed in the site (Madison 2005; Thomas 1993). An initial period of time was, therefore,
spent developing an understanding of the context and culture of the school to appreciate
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6 H. MCGLASHAN AND K. FITZPATRICK
the circumstances that teachers and students were immersed in. This was vital for establish-
ing positive relationships with teachers and students. During the study, the rst author (HM)
openly discussed her sexual and gender identity with students and reected on how her
embodiment aected the research relationships and what was possible in the study. In a
dierent kind of study (e.g. an interview study with less time), having a cisgender identity
might have limited the research more extensively but in this study ethnography allowed
enough time (1 year) to gain the trust of students and to form bonds.
Participants and eldwork
Ethical approval for this study was granted by the Human Participants Ethics Committee of
the University of Auckland. Each participant signed a personal consent form, in addition to
the school Principal and Board of Trustees, the school counsellor and teaching sta.
Throughout 2016, HM was present at the school for 3–5 days (on average 20 h) per week,
for 41 weeks of the year. During her time at the school, she engaged in conversations with
teachers, students and members of the school management, and experienced school life
by observing classroom lessons, assemblies, award evenings, school performances, cultural
groups and a range of student-led groups.
The primary space of observation and participation was the schools’ sexual and gender
diversity or Rainbow group. The group was established in 2012 by one of the school coun-
sellors (Magdalena), who continued to facilitate the group and who was also a participant.
At the time of the study, the Rainbow group was experiencing a period of growth. In 2012,
there were ve students who met once a term. In the year of the study, 2016, there were 40
student members and 3 sta. On average, 20–25 students were present at each weekly
meeting. The group consisted mainly of students who identied as LGBTQ. However, there
were three or four students who identied as heterosexual and/or allies. The LGBTQ students
attending meetings tended to be ‘out’ at school, although what this meant in practice diered
for each student. Some were explicitly out at school but not at home, while some were out
in all contexts of their lives.
Six students in the Rainbow group identied as transgender or non-binary in 2016.
Although the Rainbow group met once a week, Magdalena would also regularly meet with
the trans students alone to discuss specic issues such as the school’s toilet and uniform
policies. The rst author joined Magdalena and the six trans students in three of these meet-
ings throughout the year. As a non-trans researcher, HM shared her personal and research
background with the trans students explaining specically what the research involved and
why she was undertaking the study. Most importantly, she discussed her desire to explore
their experiences and thoughts surrounding gendered and cisnormative practices in their
school.
An extensive amount of time was spent interacting with the trans students attending
their classes, joining them at break time, sharing music and television interests and inter-
acting through social media. Once a relationship of trust had been established with partic-
ipants, HM began to facilitate focus group discussions and interviews with students and
sta within the school. Participant observation, interviews and group discussions, as well as
less formal interactions were utilised to explore the experiences of students. All interviews
and focus groups were approximately 60–90 min long, semi-structured, audio-recorded and
transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis (Saldana 2015) was used to analyse eld notes,
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SEX EDUCATION 7
interview scripts and discussion notes. This involved extracting verbatim ‘signicant state-
ments’ from the data, ‘formulating meanings’ about them, clustering these meanings into a
series of organised themes and then elaborating on these themes through rich written
description (Butler-Kisber 2010, 50–61).
Responding to intersectionality
Participants in this study were diverse not only in regard to sexual and gender identities but
also in relation to ethnic, cultural, religious and social class identities. Importantly, queer
youth are just as heterogeneous as any other group (Talburt and Rasmussen 2010).
Furthermore, research on gender and sexuality in Aotearoa/New Zealand has to acknowl-
edge the ‘particular history of indigenous inhabitation, settler colonisation and the signicant
migrations of peoples from the islands of the South Pacic’ (Burford, Lucassen, and Hamilton
2017, 213). One of the participants in this study identied as takatāpui, which Kerekere (2017)
explains … is a traditional Māori term meaning intimate companion of the same sex. It has
been reclaimed to embrace all Māori who identify with diverse sexes, genders and sexualities
’ (2). Furthermore, three of the six participants who identied as transgender were Pasika
and came from families who held a strong Catholic faith.
To respect and understand the specic subjectivities of each participant, HM constructed
interview scripts with questions focused on the individual’s upbringing, family, cultural and
religious experiences and beliefs. She followed appropriate cultural and religious tikanga
within interviews, focus groups and meetings with members of the Rainbow group. Pasika
Education Research Guidelines (Anae et al. 2001) state that ‘The Pacic practice of providing
gifts, such as food … give[s] tangible form to Pacic principles of reciprocity, love and respect’
(49). This practice is in ‘recognition and acknowledgement of the information and time shared
by each participant’ (Anae et al. 2001, 49). At each interview and meeting therefore HM
contributed kai (food) and oered participants an opportunity to bless the food. She also
often used words from the languages the participants spoke (Samoan, Tongan, Māori) and
shared her own Māori ancestry so as to build trust and connection.
Findings and discussion
The following vignette provides insight into the workings of the Rainbow group and how
the complexities of gender pronouns are navigated within the group.
Pronouns: intelligibility and power
Magdalena, stood at the classroom door and welcomed each student as they arrived. The stu-
dents sat in a circle of chairs, or on the ground on brightly coloured cushions. In an excited
voice Magdalena thanked everyone for coming to the rst Rainbow meeting of the year. There
were about 20 students present, plus Magdalena, Ms. Phelps (another teacher) and [author 1].
Magdalena went on to talk about the purpose of the Rainbow group: we are a group who cele-
brate diversity and actively work towards social justice at Kahukura High School. It doesn’t matter
if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, straight or questioning – everyone is welcome here’.
Older students around the room gave a few little cheers and clapped. Magdalena explained that
today was just about getting to know each other and to work towards developing a safe space
for everyone. Magdalena suggested that the group did ‘a round’, sharing their name and one
thing that makes them unique. Tiata, who identies as Takatāpui (and who was being caressed
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8 H. MCGLASHAN AND K. FITZPATRICK
by her boyfriend) asked if they could also say their preferred pronouns – she had just recently
joined a gender and sexual diversity support group in the city and they always used pronouns
as a way to arm their identities and celebrate diversity. Magdalena asked if the group could
leave pronouns for another day and just share something unique about themselves. So the
group began; ‘I am Raven and I like cats, but I hate dogs’, ‘I am Socratis and I like dogs, but hate
cats’ – the group laughed at the two best friends who constantly banter.
This narrative illustrates something of the ‘messiness’ of the Rainbow group: being messy
in the sense that student identities were in tension with each other and with the teacher;
but ‘messy’ also in the sense that students’ gender and sexual identities intersected with
their ethnicity in key ways. Importantly, there was overt contestation within the group over
the explicit naming of pronouns. Some students wanted to begin each session with everyone
introducing their name and preferred pronoun. The teacher Magdalena resisted this and
some others felt uncomfortable. In a follow-up discussion with HM, the trans members of
the group expressed diverse opinions about the use of gender pronouns. One member of
the group, Socratis (now a transman) commented: ‘I felt uncomfortable because I wasn’t
being myself. I also had a lot of anxiety around it because I was planning on coming out and
it was weird saying I identify with pronouns that I could never actually identify with. At the
time of the discussion, Socratis viewed his gender and sexual identity as uid. Another
student, Vinny, who now also identies as a transman, shared the following about the dis-
cussion: ‘I denitely didn’t feel safe enough to come out as non-binary. I identied as non-bi-
nary for a small while before I drifted into trans territory, but I was totally ne with being
seen as gay’. Christina, a tranwoman, said: ‘I don’t mind it, I think it’s good because sometimes
we may forget to use the correct preferred pronouns, especially for new comers that join us
sometimes ….
Students with shifting identities (and uid relationships with gender), experienced the
naming of pronouns as aronting and non-inclusive. Furthermore, power relations were
reinscribed within the group by reinforcing those who had stable gender identities. Youdell
(2005) states that ‘identity categories, including those of gender and sexuality, constitute
subjects. These categorical names are central to the performative constitution of the subject
who is unintelligible, if not unimaginable, without these’. (2005, 252). Making the unintelli-
gible intelligible was a key task for some members of the Rainbow group. It is interesting to
note that it was most often the cisgendered members of the group who wanted to begin
meetings by naming pronouns. Magdalena (the teacher and counsellor leading the group)
had resisted this request and used her teacher power to stop this from happening. Her
intention was to ‘protect’ the transgender, non-binary and non-gender conforming students
(from having to choose a particular pronoun). As the analysis above suggests, this move
aligned with the trans students’ discomfort in naming a stable gender identity. When visitors
such as Seth came to the Rainbow group and reinstated the practice of naming pronouns,
Magdalena relinquished her fear of ‘outing’ the trans students and joined the students in
this practice. At such moments, HM observed that the cisgendered students seem to relish
the opportunity to celebrate their congruent sex/gender categories. For example, Troy – a
cisgendered, heterosexual man in a relationship with a bisexual woman (Prisha) – always
condently shared his pronouns. Through this practice, Troy exposed his stable identity and
the power that accompanied the congruence. Troy was often the rst to speak in group
discussions and was a key gure in the group’s activism in the wider school. So, while students
used pronouns to expose gender categories and to unhinge the assumed relationship
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SEX EDUCATION 9
between sex, gender and sexuality (Youdell 2005), naming pronouns also reinforced sex/
gender binaries and stable notions of gender by allowing those who did subscribe to nor-
mative gender identities to further their legitimacy (Namaste 2005).
Pronouns: unintelligiblity and resistance
According to Elliot (2009), for many queer people ‘intelligibility’ is not desirable and is actually
at odds with their politics. Non-binary and gender non-conforming pronouns such as they/
them allow for the disruption of such binary thinking and were used by some students
within the Rainbow group. While some students found the naming of pronouns uncom-
fortable (as discussed above), others sought to disrupt this practice by changing their pro-
nouns at each meeting, or by refusing to use pronouns at all. The use of shifting pronouns
illustrates the parody of heteronorms and thus ‘troubles’ the heteronormative matrix by
exposing taken-for-granted gender binaries and heteronormative understandings of sex–
gender–sexuality (Butler 1999; Youdell 2005). Socratis, for example, (who used them/their
most often for their preferred pronoun during the study but who at the time of writing uses
he/him) quite often moved between gender and sexual identities when introducing himself.
He reected that
from a young age we think that sex is just about the act of sex and then we learn it can be used
interchangeably with gender but I didn’t know there was space for this to be dierent until I
joined the Rainbow group. (March 2017)
Socratis explored this further in a follow-up interview later in the year (November 2017). At
that point he was receiving hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and explained that he was
currently experiencing gender dysphoria and shifting between gender and sexual identities.
Socratis had a desire to be male but did not feel comfortable having sex-reassignment sur-
gery. He explained that he did not want to forgo his queer identity and had no intention of
identifying as a heterosexual man, ‘I just don’t feel straight even though I guess I am … I still
want to be queer. I like being queer’.
Socratis’ feelings here reveal the tension between transgender and transsexual gender
variance and the value given to dierent subjectivities based on levels of intelligibility.
Socratis uses the power available to him to remain unintelligible in order to resist gender
norms. Transgender people who refuse the sex/gender binary (as Socratis did) are recognised
by queer scholars for resisting cisnormative notions of identity (Namaste 2005). Elliot (2009),
however, questions the impact of gender variance and the celebration of queer/trans iden-
tities for transsexuals. She states: ‘If gender variance is to be celebrated only in its unintelli-
gible forms, what are the implications for those who embrace more conventional or
intelligible gender categories?’ (6). By merging transsexual desires with those of transgender
people, Butler and others render aspects of a specically transsexual experience invisible
(Elliot 2009).
Students in the Rainbow group who had the desire to be, not only of the opposite gender,
but also the opposite sex, resisted the use of pronouns because there was not a clear con-
gruence for them within the binary system. Vinny – who in the initial vignette stated that
he used ‘whatever pronouns’ – was not condent when a round of pronouns occurred.
Vinny later explained that, prior to his gender transition from female to male, he had not
felt comfortable using pronouns and also felt unsure about identifying as non-binary. Vinny
continued to say that he hoped to one day have sex reassignment surgery but at that time
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10 H. MCGLASHAN AND K. FITZPATRICK
he was using testosterone and binders. Vinny explained the positive eects of binding and
testosterone use as follows, ‘I’ve been binding every day since I got my rst binder (so for
a year and a half) I remember it being oddly comfortable when I rst started, and it made
me feel so much better about my body’. He continued, testosterone makes me feel com-
fortable enough for it not to be overly dysphoric for me anymore. Importantly, it was not
until Vinny could see physical changes in his body that he felt comfortable with his body
and gender identity.
Performativity and cultural intelligibility
In contrast to the above, some students who identied as transgender subscribed to the
pronoun practice using the gender pronoun that represented their gender performance.
Tee, who identied as a transwoman, stated,
It’s a good idea to say which pronoun you prefer. Just so that you’re on the same page or level
as everyone else when it comes to your gender. And with that being said, it actually is helpful
to be able to voice your preferred pronoun.
The Rainbow group provided a space for Tee to arm and celebrate her gender identity.
She explained that she ‘… found it helpful to talk to other trans people and hear their stories
and notice that they went through the same thing I did which gave me a sense of normality’.
Outside of school Tee was not always able to present herself as a transwoman; she had to
leave her church due to a conict with her gender identity and her father’s religious beliefs.
Tee was able to explore and arm her subjectivity as a transwoman through her interactions
in the Rainbow group.
Another example of the power of cultural intelligibility was seen during a second visit
from Seth to the Rainbow group (who we introduced in the opening of this paper) and two
of his colleagues. The colleagues were both of Pasika ethnicity and were male to female
transgender women. In an interview with two other Pasika transgender women in the
Rainbow group, the girls (Ria and Christina) stated that this visit was a highlight for them as
they felt they ‘could connect with the women on many levels’. HM wrote in her eld notes
afterwards that ‘Ria and Christina were more outspoken and amboyant within these ses-
sions in comparison to previous sessions’ (19th May 2016). When HM discussed this with
them, they giggled and said ‘yeah, we could be ourselves more – like glam it up while our
“sisters” were there’. The girls fed o the collective power and solidarity of having the trans-
women of Pasika culture and ethnicity (and who they referred to as ‘sisters’) present in the
group. In a further conversation with Ria and Christina, Ria said that having Christina at
school with her made her feel safe.
HM: What makes you feel valued here at school like, what makes you feel safe and
supported?
Ria: For me it’s like we have each other. There’s someone else that is like you and they
are going through what you’re going through, like the same, so we can relate.
HM: Denitely, cool.
Ria: So you don’t have to be by yourself and like, be so insecure.
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SEX EDUCATION 11
Ria’s sentiments reinforce the importance of collective power and solidarity. By being able
to connect with Christina at various levels, Ria felt secure and, ultimately, more intelligible.
Butler (1990) has written that, There is no gender identity behind the expressions of
gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very “expressions” that are said
to be its results’ (34). In this study, the expressions of the transwomen such as their dress,
the use of makeup, posture and language (both verbal and non-verbal) constituted their
female gender identity. But added to this were key elements connotative of cultural
intelligibility.
HM: Do you call yourselves transgender women or just women?
Ria: Mine is girls or tranny.
Christina: I’m woman when I’m talking with …
Ria: The formal.
HM: Do you use trannies as well Christina, are you comfortable with it?
Christina: Yeah, I like it but only use it with the other girls
Ria: All the trannies yeah.
Christina: Sometimes it can be looked as a bad term but I guess when one transgender calls
another transgender yeah.
Ria: It’s kind of like … heeeey girrrl.
Discussion here about using the term tranny’ in the company of other transgender
women demonstrates how ‘regulatory practices that govern gender also govern culturally
intelligible notions of identity’ (Butler 1990; 23). Among transwomen locally, the term
‘tranny’ is a commonly used term to describe transgender women, but one which, as
Christina says, can also be used oensively. When used in the company of other trans-
women, however, it is used to celebrate and rearm identity. The exaggeration used in
Ria’s speech, ‘… heeey girrrl’ may again be seen as a performative ‘doing’ of gender that
these women employed to reinforce their legitimacy as female subjects (West and
Zimmerman 1987, 126).
Summary
In summary, the Rainbow group enabled trans students in Kahukura High School to explore,
contest and perform their gender identities. This opened up new possibilities, but also
worked to reinforce hierarchical relations within the group. For some students, questioning
the reality of binary gendered performance produced feelings of illegitimacy in the company
of those who embodied more seemingly intelligible and stable gender identities. The pos-
sibility of a legitimate body which aligned with the heterosexual matrix was desirable for
these students. Some students, however, gained a sense of relief and agency from being
able to ‘play’ with gender pronouns and perform a more uid identity. These students not
only resisted the binds of the matrix and cisnormativity but also embodied and celebrated
their queer identities. For those who were seen as intelligible or who ‘became’ intelligible,
the practice of using gender pronouns further cemented their legitimacy to live as and name
their preferred gender identity.
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12 H. MCGLASHAN AND K. FITZPATRICK
Conclusion
Throughout this paper, we have employed the theoretical tools of Foucault (power and
resistance) and Butler (the heterosexual matrix, intelligible subjects and performativity) to
conceptualise and interpret the power relations evident in the trans students experiences
of using gender pronouns within a QSA group. While gender binaries are being disrupted
in many contexts, it is clear from this study that the naming of personal pronouns is not
necessarily straightforward, even for those who support uid notions of gender. While stu-
dents in the Rainbow group wanted to disrupt gender and sexuality norms, they were con-
fronted in group meetings with (sometimes) having to name their gender identity aloud
through the use of pronouns. The problem for several participants was and is that gender
pronouns in the English language are very limited: students were forced to choose between
he/him, she/her, them/their or to deect the question by stating ‘any pronouns’. The option
to use non-gender specic pronouns such as ‘ze’ and ‘hir’ was available but students rarely
used these. We suspect this is because these terms are not used in everyday language in
Aotearoa/New Zealand and so they do not carry meaning for these young people.
For trans students, naming pronouns was especially confronting and uncomfortable
because it required them to have the language in which to name a specic gender at the
same time that they were questioning and changing their gender identity. Because sex,
gender and sexuality are bound together in the heterosexual matrix, questioning gender
identity necessitates an engagement with uncertainties related to sex and sexuality as well.
In some ways, the naming of pronouns worked against moves towards a recognition of
gender uidity because it required students to identify with a secure (even if momentary)
stable pronoun. Some students actively resisted this by refusing to name, by constantly
changing their answer or by saying they identied with ‘any pronoun’. The dierence between
gender pronouns and nouns is important to consider here. While social media sites like
Facebook allow people to use a plethora of nouns to name their sexual and gender identities,
pronouns are much more circumscribed and remain located in relation to she/he binaries.
For these students – and for trans students in particular – their identities were much more
complex than was possible to communicate via pronouns, and for Pasika students, ethnicity
and culture were as important as being trans.
This group’s navigation around gender pronouns highlights the need for an understand-
ing of the complexities of intersectional subjectivities which reect and accept ‘sexual and
gender dierence and multiplicity’ (Elliott 2016, 50, see also Treharne & Adams, 2017).
Considering the complexities of these articulations, we argue that gender pronouns may
work as all labels should – as optional, self-assigned and shared at the discretion of the
individuals themselves.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
ORCID
Hayley McGlashan http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3889-7672
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SEX EDUCATION 13
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The purpose of this study was to examine participating orchestras and performed repertoire at the American String Teachers Association’s (ASTA) National Orchestra Festival from 2004 through 2020. Participating orchestras ( N = 309) primarily consisted of string orchestras and high school–level orchestras with a majority originating from the Southern region of the United States. The most performed full orchestra pieces included Symphony No. 9, op. 95 by Dvořák and Symphony No. 2 by Tchaikovsky, and the most performed string orchestra piece was the Holberg Suite, op. 40 by Grieg. The most frequently cited composers were Dvořák for full orchestra and Mozart for string orchestra. The most frequently cited arrangers were Isaac for full orchestra and Dackow for string orchestra. Female composers and arrangers were highly underrepresented compared with males. Performed repertoire primarily consisted of pieces that conformed to European music traditions. Directors who are unfamiliar with orchestra literature could use these findings as a resource for commonly selected repertoire suitable for high-achieving school orchestras. In addition, findings could provide a catalyst for directors to select music that is more representative of their student population.
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This study aims to investigate the references in English printed media that are commonly used to refer to the group of LGBT people, and also examine the aspects of references in English printed media used to portray their meanings towards LGBT people. The data were collected from NOW Corpus by selecting the first-100 concordance lines. In order to analyze the data, the researcher employed three groups of search words: favorable terms, unfavorable terms and non-gender specific pronouns to search for and analyze them by using descriptive percentage, thematic content analysis and corpus-assisted discourse analysis. The findings revealed that the references which are commonly used in news and magazines to refer to non-binary people are transgender and trans, respectively. Also, there were sub-themes which emerged from the concordances for both favorable terms (transgender and trans) and unfavorable terms (transsexual and tranny) of the search words to refer to LGBT people with sarcastic or negative meanings and positive meanings. On the other hand, the gender neutral pronoun “hir” was equally found to be used with masculine type, feminine type and neutral type, while the non-gender specific pronoun “ze” was found to be more neutral than masculine, but no feminine type was found.
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George Jacobs describes how a quiet person went on to be an activist for moving food production away from animal agriculture and toward alternative protein foods. From someone who did not mention his plant-based diet unless asked to someone who uses his teaching skills in and out of the classroom to advocate for farmed animals, e.g., chickens, fishes, and cows. Among the highlights of George’s chapter is how he works in community organizations and uses his academic writing to implement intersectionality, i.e., linking issues, e.g., connecting farmed animal issues to LGBTQ? issues, environmental issues, women’s issues, and the treatment of poor people. Perhaps, advocates linking various progressive issues via intersectionality have something in common with how student-centered language teachers link various student-centered methods, e.g., extensive reading and cooperative learning.
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Given the long history of LGBTQ+ rights and the current evolving climate surrounding social justice for LGBTQ+ individuals, this chapter explores the idea of creating safe, affirming, educational environments for LGBTQ youth in K-12 and post-high-school educational settings. The authors delineate the unique concerns for the elementary, middle, high, and higher education levels separately. At each level, the authors identify the core obstacles that LGBTQ+ individuals face surrounding acceptance, developing autonomy, and gaining support. The authors delve deeply into the programs and interventions that are currently making a difference in school systems around the country and provide educators with specific ways in which they can create inclusive environments for their students. The important caveats to obtaining robust LGBTQ+ research are also discussed.
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Drawing on data from an Aotearoa/New Zealand study of more than 230 secondary students, this article evaluates the potential of a 60-min gender diversity workshop to address bullying and promote positive environments for learning. Students completed pre- and postworkshop questionnaires. The authors used descriptive statistics to summarize results and conducted t-tests to assess the statistical significance of changes from before the workshop to immediately after the workshop. The authors used thematic analysis to analyze open-ended questionnaire responses. In summary, 237 students (M age = 13.7 years) attending 10 workshops participated in the study. More than 80% of students thought the gender diversity workshop would reduce bullying in schools, and 94% of participants reported that they would recommend the workshop to other young people. There was a significant increase in valuing (p < .001) and understanding (p < .001) gender-diverse people before and after the workshop. School cultures were largely perceived to be hard for gender-diverse students; however, many respondents reported a desire to be supportive of their gender-diverse peers. Reducing bullying related to gender identity and expression is very likely to have a positive effect on the mental health and educational achievement of young people. Brief diversity workshops, as a part of a wider suite of educational reforms, have the potential to create safer environments for learning.
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Michel Foucault's work profoundly influences the way we think about society, in particular how we understand social power, the self, and the body. This book gives an innovative and entirely new analysis of is later works making it a one-stop guide for students, exploring how Foucauldian theory can inform our understanding of the body, domination, identity and freedom as experienced through sport and exercise. Divided into three themed parts, this book considers: Foucault's ideas and key debates. Foucault's theories to explore power relations, the body, identity and the construction of social practices in sport and exercise. How individuals make sense of the social forces surrounding them, considering physical activity, fitness and sport practices as expressions of freedom and sites for social change. Accessible and clear, including useful case studies helping to bring the theory to real-life, Foucault, Sport and Exercise considers cultures and experiences in sports, exercise and fitness, coaching and health promotion. In addition to presenting established Foucauldian perspectives and debates, this text also provides innovative discussion of how Foucault's later work can inform the study and understanding of sport and the physically active body. © 2006 Pirkko Markula and Richard Pringle. All Rights Reserved.
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Butler-Kisber, L. (2018). Qualitative inquiry: Thematic, narrative and arts-based perspectives (2nd ed.). London: Sage. This is an approachable guide to a range of inquiry perspectives grounded theoretically and illustrated with many examples. It explores the traditional approaches of constructivist grounded theory (constant comparison) and phenomenological inquiry as well as narrative and the varied artful approaches that continue to push the boundaries of qualitative research.
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This study investigates how sexuality is dealt with at all levels of formal education and focuses on the way sexualities are manufactured in, and by, educational establishments, ranging from primary schools through to universities and colleges. <br /
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Acknowledgments 1. Introduction to Critical Ethnography: Theory and Method Positionality and Shades of Ethnography Dialogue and the Other The Method and Theory Nexus Summary Warm-Ups Suggested Readings 2. Methods: "Do I Really Need a Method?" A Method ... or Deep Hanging-Out "Who Am I?" Starting Where You Are "Who Else Has Written About My Topic?" Being a Part of an Interpretive Community The Power of Purpose: Bracketing Your Subject Preparing for the Field: The Research Design and Lay Summary Interviewing and Field Techniques Formulating Questions Extra Tips for Formulating Questions Attributes of the Interviewer and Building Rapport Coding and Logging Data Warm-Ups Suggested Readings 3. Three Stories: Case Studies in Critical Ethnography Case One: Local Activism in West Africa Case Two: Secrets of Sexuality and Personal Narrative Case Three: Community Theatre Conflicts and Organization Warm-Ups Suggested Readings 4. Ethics Defining Ethics Critical Ethnography and the Ethics of Reason, the Greater Good, and the Other Maria Lugones: Contemporary Ethics, Ethnography, and Loving Perception Warm-Ups Suggested Readings 5. Methods and Ethics Codes of Ethics for Fieldwork Extending the Codes Warm-Ups Suggested Readings 6. Methods and Application: Three Case Studies in Ethical Dilemmas Case One: Local Activism in West Africa Case Two: Secrets of Sexuality and Personal Narrative Case Three: Community Theatre Conflicts and Organization Warm-Ups Suggested Readings 7. Performance Ethnography Foundational Concepts in Performance and Social Theory The Performance Interventions of Dwight Conquergood Staging Ethnography and the Performance of Possibilities Warm-Ups Suggested Readings 8. It's Time to Write: Writing as Performance Getting Started: In Search of the Muse The Anxiety of Writing: Wild Mind and Monkey Mind Writing as Performance and Performance as Writing Warm-Ups Suggested Readings 9. The Case Studies Case One: Staging Cultural Performance Case Two: Oral History and Performance Case Three: The Fieldwork of Social Drama and Communitas Warm-Ups Suggested Readings References Index About the Author
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What is the trouble with schools and why should we want to make 'school trouble'? Schooling is implicated in the making of educational and social exclusions and inequalities as well as the making of particular sorts of students and teachers. For this reason schools are important sites of counter- or radical- politics. In this book, Deborah Youdell brings together theories of counter-politics and radical traditions in education to make sense of the politics of daily life inside schools and explores a range of resources for thinking about and enacting political practices that make 'school trouble'. The book offers a solid introduction to the much-debated issues of 'intersectionality' and the limits of identity politics and the relationship between schooling and the wider policy and political context. It pieces together a series of tools and tactics that might destabilize educational inequalities by unsettling the knowledges, meanings, practices, subjectivities and feelings that are normalized and privileged in the 'business as usual' of school life. Engaging with curriculum materials, teachers' lesson plans and accounts of their pedagogy, and ethnographic observations of school practices, the book investigates a range of empirical examples of critical action in school, from overt political action pursued by educators to day-to-day pedagogic encounters between teachers and students. The book draws on the work of Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau and Chantel Mouffe, and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari to make sense of these practices and identify the political possibilities for educators who refuse to accept the everyday injustices and wide-reaching social inequalities that face us.
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This paper examines the work of a gay-straight alliance and the ways in which members use elements of queer theory to understand their own and others' identities, both to make sense of their experiences and to support their activist efforts. The analysis identifies queer perspectives on gender and sexual identity as useful tools for supporting student activism. It also illustrates the complexity of this process within the school context, the challenges associated with student-led school change, and the forces, both institutional and cultural, that can hamper this potential.
AimTo provide an overview of the health and well-being of sexual minority high school students in New Zealand, investigate differences between sexual minority youth (SMY) and exclusively opposite-sex-attracted youth (EOSAY), and examine changes across survey waves.Methods Nationally representative cross-sectional surveys were completed in 2001 (n = 9011), 2007 (n = 8002) and 2012 (n = 8167). Logistic regressions were used to examine the associations between selected outcomes and sexual attraction across survey waves.ResultsSMY accounted for 6% of participants in all three waves, with a greater proportion being ‘out’ in 2012 (P < 0.0001). SMY were more likely to work as volunteers (OR = 1.37) than EOSAY, and the majority of SMY reported good general health, liking school and having caring friends. With the exceptions of binge drinking and being driven dangerously by someone, SMY reported comparatively diminished health and well-being relative to EOSAY. Increasing proportions of SMY had depressive symptoms from 2001 (OR = 2.38) to 2012 (OR = 3.73) compared with EOSAY. There were some differences between the sexes; female SMY were less likely to report positive family relationships (OR = 0.59) and liking school (OR = 0.55), and they were more likely to have been hit (2012 OR = 1.95) than female EOSAY. Male SMY reported especially high rates of suicide attempts (2012 OR = 5.64) compared with male EOSAY.Conclusions Health services, schools, communities and families must be more responsive to the needs of SMY to ensure that disparities are addressed.