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Muddling through together : educators navigating cisnormativity while working with trans and gender-nonconforming… Frohard-Dourlent, Hélène 2016

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  “MUDDLING THROUGH TOGETHER”:  EDUCATORS NAVIGATING CISNORMATIVITY WHILE WORKING  WITH TRANS AND GENDER-NONCONFORMING STUDENTS  by Hélène Frohard-Dourlent  B.A., Université Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle, 2007 M.A., The University of British Columbia, 2010  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF  DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE AND POSTDOCTORAL STUDIES (Sociology)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver)  April 2016 © Hélène Frohard-Dourlent, 2016 ii  Abstract There has been increased attention on transgender and gender-nonconforming youth and the obstacles that they face in schools, especially in terms of peer harassment and access to washrooms. Yet little is known about those who can potentially help create more hospitable school cultures for these students, including teachers, administrators, and counsellors. This dissertation fills this gap by exploring the meanings that educators produce about their experiences working with trans and gender-nonconforming students. I draw on 62 interviews conducted with school staff who have worked with trans and gender-nonconforming students in four school districts in British Columbia. By focusing on discursive practices, this dissertation illuminates the role that cisnormativity, or the belief that the fixed and binary nature of gender is an unchangeable fact, plays in shaping the way that educators respond to the presence of trans and gender-nonconforming students and make sense of their experiences. Although the educators in this study endeavor to be supportive of these students, their efforts are constrained by cisnormative modes of thinking and by dominant discourses of diversity, safety, bullying, heteronormativity as well as what it means to be a good teacher or a young person. An analysis of educators’ talk also makes clear that they have to contend with institutional patterns and practices that can limit their capacity to imagine and enact change. In particular, dominant discursive frameworks and institutional constraints often work to enable understandings of change that focus on accommodating individual students without disrupting the normative status quo of schools. Given that this normative status quo creates inequities and exclusions in educational spaces, it is crucial to think about possibilities for intervening into dominant discourses in order to address the norms and institutional practices they help constitute. To this effect, I highlight moments in the stories of educators that offer some potential for disruption and iii  resistance of discourses and their material effects.  These moments are an invitation to consider what it could look like to move beyond accommodating individuals to consider instead how to shift school cultures to make them more hospitable to students in all of the complexities of their gendered embodiments.    iv  Preface This dissertation is the sole intellectual work of the author and all research was conducted independently. This research is covered by the Behavioural Research Ethics Board Certificate number H12-02591 and has been approved by the research committees of the relevant school districts in British Columbia.  Part of the analysis offered in Chapter 5 has been published in the following publication: Frohard-Dourlent, H. (2016). “I don’t care what’s under your clothes’: the discursive positioning of educators working with trans and gender-nonconforming students [Special issue: Gender and Sexuality: Taking Up Space in Schooling]. Sex Education, 16(1), 63-76.    v  Table of Contents  Abstract .......................................................................................................................................... ii Preface ........................................................................................................................................... iv Table of Contents ...........................................................................................................................v List of Tables ................................................................................................................................ ix Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................................x Chapter 1: Introduction ............................................................................................................... 1 1.1 Study overview ........................................................................................................... 6 1.1.1 Note on vocabulary: Trans and gender-nonconforming ......................................... 7 1.2 Review of the literature ............................................................................................. 10 1.2.1 Transphobia, trans repudiation, and cisnormativity in Canadian society ............. 10 1.1.1 Schools as sites of hetero- and cisnormativity ...................................................... 16 1.2 Research questions .................................................................................................... 21 1.3 Theoretical frameworks ............................................................................................ 23 1.3.1 Gender ................................................................................................................... 24 1.3.2 Power .................................................................................................................... 25 1.3.3 Experience............................................................................................................. 27 1.3.4 Discourse............................................................................................................... 28 1.4 Goal and outline of dissertation ................................................................................ 29 Chapter 2: Methodologies & methods ...................................................................................... 32 2.1 Introduction ............................................................................................................... 32 2.2 Ontological and epistemological foundations ........................................................... 34 vi  2.3 Setting up the project ................................................................................................ 36 2.3.1 On deciding not to interview youth and families .................................................. 36 2.4 District and participant selection .............................................................................. 41 2.4.1 District selection ................................................................................................... 41 2.4.2 Note on comparisons within the data .................................................................... 43 2.4.3 Participant selection .............................................................................................. 43 2.4.4 Description of participants .................................................................................... 48 2.5 Reflexivity................................................................................................................. 52 2.6 Generating data: Interview as a method.................................................................... 59 2.6.1 Silences, contradictions, and the limitations of language ..................................... 62 2.6.2 Brief note on transcription .................................................................................... 65 2.7 Analyzing discursive data ......................................................................................... 66 2.8 Conclusion ................................................................................................................ 71 Chapter 3: Cisnormativity at the intersection of diversity discourses ................................... 73 3.1 Introduction ............................................................................................................... 73 3.2 Diversity as safety ..................................................................................................... 76 3.2.1 Understanding gender and sexuality together ....................................................... 79 3.2.2 GSA and gender diversity ..................................................................................... 90 3.2.3 GSAs as spaces of “valuing diversity” ................................................................. 94 3.3 Diversity and racialized bodies ................................................................................. 99 3.3.1 Homo/transphobia as a racialized phenomenon ................................................. 100 3.3.2 Racialized diversity as a potential obstacle ........................................................ 105 3.3.3 Attempts to resist racist narratives ...................................................................... 109 vii  3.4 Conclusion .............................................................................................................. 115 Chapter 4: Making room for trans and gender-nonconforming students in decision-making processes..................................................................................................................................... 119 4.1 Introduction ............................................................................................................. 119 4.2 The student “drives the car”: positioning students as empowered subjects............ 124 4.3 At the limits of the ‘student in charge’ narrative .................................................... 130 4.3.1 The fear of ‘encouraging’ students ..................................................................... 130 4.3.2 Making ‘safe’ choices ......................................................................................... 138 4.3.3 Concerns over age ............................................................................................... 152 4.4 The effects of putting students “in charge” ............................................................. 159 4.4.1 Students expected to advocate for themselves .................................................... 160 4.4.2 Student choice: Individualizing the transition process ....................................... 166 4.5 Conclusion .............................................................................................................. 175 Chapter 5: Imagining change in schools ................................................................................. 179 5.1 Introduction ............................................................................................................. 179 5.2 Navigating gendered spaces & practices ................................................................ 182 5.2.1 Washrooms and change rooms: anxieties and solutions ..................................... 183 5.2.2 The everyday and administrative work of gendered practices ............................ 189 5.2.3 Youth in transition, gender fluidity and non-binary identities ............................ 200 5.3 Facing constraints ................................................................................................... 210 5.3.1 Transphobia v. cisnormativity: talking about systems and structures................. 211 5.3.2 Self-perception: open-minded and caring adults ................................................ 216 5.3.3 (Cis)normative systems ....................................................................................... 225 viii Administrative hurdles ................................................................................ 226 The risk of unsupportive local communities ............................................... 231 5.4 Reactive accommodation versus cultural change ................................................... 235 5.4.1 The limits of reactive responses .......................................................................... 237 5.4.2 Questioning and changing practices ................................................................... 247 5.5 Conclusion .............................................................................................................. 261 Chapter 6: Conclusion .............................................................................................................. 264 6.1 Thinking trans inclusion through cisnormativity: Research findings, significance and contribution to research....................................................................................................... 268 6.2 Strengths and limitations of the research ................................................................ 273 6.3 Directions for future research ................................................................................. 277 6.4 Final thoughts.......................................................................................................... 278 References ...................................................................................................................................282 Appendices ..................................................................................................................................331 Appendix A - Interview guide ........................................................................................ 331 Appendix B - Recruitment letter ..................................................................................... 334 Appendix C - Letter of information to youth .................................................................. 336  ix  List of Tables  Table 2.1 Demographics of school staff participants.................................................................... 52   x  Acknowledgements This dissertation was written on the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) nations. This beautiful land has sustained me through this program and I am grateful to have the opportunity to live here as I try and practice decolonization. I want to acknowledge the generosity of the study participants, who shared their time and knowledge with me. In an age of neoliberal education that constantly requires doing more with less, I am humbled by the willingness of educators to make time for me, and by the commitments that so many of them make to learning and changing so that they can better support their students. They are the reason I still hope for schools as sites of social change. This dissertation would not have been possible without the guidance, insights and steady encouragement of my doctoral committee, Dr. Becki Ross, Dr. Dawn Currie, and Dr. Lisa Loutzenheiser, as well as the support of many UBC faculty members and graduate students, especially Dr. Saewyc, Dr. Roth, and Dr. Guppy. I would also not be where I am without my family and friends, who have supported me through thick and thin in the past six years. Laura, Dan, Brad, LJ, Heather, Patricia, Derek Lau, Vanessa, Katrina, Sarah, Nick, Manjeet, Sam, Fan’ and Jaimie: I am so thankful for the laughter, serious chats, board games, hikes, adventures, and delicious food I have shared with all of you. Mariah: I am so lucky to have found you along the way. Maman, papa, and Pierre-Yves: Merci d’être là pour moi depuis bien plus longtemps que ces six dernières années. Of course, I must end by mentioning Kelenn and Meimei, whose wobbly cuddles and wiggly welcomes brighten my every day.  Thank you all for coming on this journey with me.  xi        fluctuat nec mergitur  1  Chapter 1: Introduction I like the discomfort [trans and gender-nonconforming students] present for people. I think that’s a good thing. […] Now having said that, I – I don’t want to be disrespectful about the expense and the cost to the student that comes with, like I – that’s just a personal thing where I think – good. That’s good. We need that. It’s good to get shaken up. […] I like it when I’m uncomfortable like that because I know… it’s just you’re growing, moving. (Zoe1, teacher, District B)  It is a cool Wednesday afternoon at a local queer and trans youth drop-in where I have been volunteering for years. As part of the introduction circle, Jackson, a young trans man who is new to the space, takes the floor and shares that he was able to use the ‘boy’s washroom’ at his school for the first time this week. The relieved delight in his voice rings through clearly as he tells the group about his encounter in the washroom with an initially surprised, but ultimately respectful, cisgender2 boy. In a room where space is often held for young people to be able to share their frustrations with school, most faces in the room have brightened with cheerfulness. The empathy of this response makes sense: many of the youth sitting in the room with Jackson have been there, hope to be there one day, and/or have close friends who are familiar with the tribulations that have led to Jackson’s telling of this success story (a success always partial, always contingent, always a little vulnerable).  School is not the only setting that appears in the stories of young people like Jackson, but it is a recurring, often unavoidable one. Educators – which I conceptualize here not just as teachers but as adults who work in school settings and thus become part of the school’s                                                  1 The names of all people and places in this dissertation have been anonymized through the use of pseudonyms. 2 I use the term cisgender to refer to people whose gender identity matches the one that they were assigned at birth. I primarily use the word to index the privilege that comes from experiencing this congruence and want to acknowledge Enke’s (2012) compelling critique that the term can “encourage investments in a gender stability that undermines feminist, trans*, queer and related movements”  (p. 61).  2  pedagogical intention – play many different parts in these stories. Occasionally they are protagonists, sometimes they appear in the supporting role of champion or villain, and most often they exist as more-or-less helpful background extras in the drama of young lives that center on peers and family. Even when educators go unmentioned, as they did when Jackson told his story, they are always there implicitly: Jackson’s presence in this gendered washroom was authorized and likely monitored from a distance by adults. Through their actions (or lack thereof), educators as well as policies and their systemic reinforcement in schools set the stage and create the conditions for what happens in the stories of young people. This constant but often invisible presence of educators is my entry point for this dissertation. I started this project because I wanted to think about, and write about, the educators who organize the complicated spaces of school that trans and gender-nonconforming young people have to navigate.  In addition to the many stories I have heard and read from young people, I also came to this project as a (not so young now) queer adult who has been working with educators for over a decade on issues of gender and sexuality in schools. I have seen resistant educators who show little respect for students who push the boundaries of our culture’s norms of gender and sexuality, but much more frequently, I have seen educators who care deeply about their students and about creating more hospitable3 schools for trans and gender-nonconforming students. This dissertation is about them, their efforts and sometimes their blind spots, the dominant discourses that they negotiate and sometimes resist, and the structures that they work within and sometimes work to change. My goal with this dissertation is to illuminate how the stories of adults complement the stories of young people about what it is like to be a trans and gender-                                                 3 I borrow from Gilbert (2014) the notion of hospitality as one that “resists idealization and risks ambivalence” (p. 82). 3  nonconforming student in British Columbia at this specific moment in time. These stories, I will argue, can in fact help scholars and educators make sense of the experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming students by offering cisnormativity as a crucial lens through which to read the encounter of educators with gender diversity.  We live in a time where more and more people are exposed to some of the reality of trans and gender-nonconforming lives. From Laverne Cox’s cover in Time Magazine (which claims we are at a “transgender tipping point”), to Caitlyn Jenner’s public transition and Janet Mock’s memoir, to TV shows like Transparent and mainstream movies like The Danish Girl or About Ray, trans and gender-nonconforming people are increasingly visible. They also more often have a chance to take charge of the way their stories are told. Prejudice and violence are still too common elements of these stories, but they are not inevitable. This rapidly changing cultural context constitutes the backdrop for the research presented in this dissertation. When I started working on this project, I was keeping track of the in-depth coverage and news stories about young trans or gender-nonconforming people in North America (the stories of Jazz Jennings, Coy Mathis, Tru Wilson, Cory Oskam, Bella Burgos, and Harriette Cunningham are amongst the most publicized). I soon found myself overwhelmed by the growing media attention on these stories, which more and more frequently was inclusive of non-binary gender identities (Bielski, 2015; Scelfo, 2015; White, 2012). Many of these stories revolved around young people fighting for recognition at their school, a testament to a social context where this recognition can increasingly be expected and even demanded.  The mediatized struggles of these young people are not surprising. By every scholarly and experiential account, schools are spaces that function within systems that enforce gender and sexual conformity (McCormack, 2012; Pinar, 1998; Sykes, 2011; Talburt & Steinberg, 2000), 4  although schools are also often simultaneously spaces of discovery and new experiences (Talburt, Rofes & Rasmussen, 2004). The regulation of gender in schools affects all youth, but its effects are heightened around the lives of trans and gender-nonconforming youth (Greytak, Kosciw & Diaz, 2009; McGuire et al., 2010). When they become visible as trans and gender-nonconforming subjects, these young people disrupt dominant assumptions about the binary and coherent nature of gender. This often generates the kind of discomfort that Zoe mentions in this chapter’s epigraph (Payne & Smith, 2014). These disruptions constitute interesting moments where discourses have the potential to be reworked and re-articulated, opening up space for thinking about, and challenging, the ‘naturalness’ of the constellation of gender-sex-sexuality (Youdell, 2005) in schools. As Zoe put it, “it’s good to get shaken up” because being uncomfortable can push one to move and grow in unexpected directions. This dissertation draws attention to these moments of disruption and their potential. The way that educators navigate and articulate their experiences working with trans and gender-nonconforming youth can also shed light on how dominant regimes of gender and sexuality maintain themselves in schools, even when their coherence is temporarily disrupted. In speaking about the reproduction of whiteness in schools, Castagno (2004) notes that we need to be able to see how inequity functions in order to address it (p. 4). I use the concept of cisnormativity in this dissertation to illuminate how educators are implicated in the school system’s (re)production and management of gender and sexual conformity in ways that are rarely determined by them. Bauer at al. (2009) define cisnormativity as the expectation that “those assigned male at birth always grow up to be men and those assigned female at birth always grow up to be women” (p. 356). In other words, cisnormativity is the belief that gender is a binary category that naturally follows from one’s sex assigned at birth. Cisnormativity governs all of us 5  by drawing the boundaries of who is seen as a legitimate and intelligible subject, and educators work within institutions that are structured by cisnormativity. By illustrating these processes through the examination of discursive practices, this thesis underlines that cisnormativity, like whiteness, “must be understood as a patterned, ideological, and institutional phenomenon” (Castagno, 2014, p. 6), and must be addressed as such. Young people are often implicated in the policing and enforcement of systems of gender and sexual conformity in schools, as much of the literature has described (see for example: Bastien Charlebois, 2011a; Martino, 2000; Pascoe, 2007; Payne, 2007, 2010; Renold, 2004). Unlike students, however, adults hold structural positions of power within schools. This means that they play a crucial part in determining both the field of legibility – who is, and is not, going to be seen as a legitimate subject – and the material realities of youth’s lives. By validating particular discourses and disallowing others, engaging in certain practices and discouraging others, educators set boundaries for what becomes possible in their school for trans and gender-nonconforming youth, as well as for other youth. Discursive work sustains and justifies these practices and their material consequences, and is thus important to examine. The work of talking about experiences of working with trans and gender-nonconforming students is particularly interesting because it can generate moments where naturalized systems of meanings have to be more explicitly articulated. This project therefore analyzes the talk of educators to trace the workings of cisnormativity alongside other discourses as adults make sense of their experiences 6  working with trans and gender-nonconforming students. I also explore the implications of these discursive practices for the management of sexual and gender diversity4 in schools.  1.1 Study overview This project started taking shape as I sat through meetings of a school district’s LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer5) committee in the province of British Columbia (BC) during the 2011-2012 school year. I noticed that more and more conversations revolved around the topic of supporting trans and gender-nonconforming youth in the district. I became increasingly interested in how educators understood their experiences of working with trans and gender-nonconforming students within an institutional setting (school) that is structured by hetero- and cisnormative systems of gender and sexual conformity (Meyer, 2010; Pascoe, 2007; Payne, 2007; Taylor et al., 2011).  I spent the summer and fall of 2012 refining this project by reading academic literature, meeting with my committee, and having conversations with educators and community members who work closely with trans and gender-nonconforming students and their families. I went on to interview 62 educators, and conducted auxiliary interviews with 6 people who were either trans and/or gender-nonconforming youth or parents of trans or gender-nonconforming youth.                                                   4 As I analyze in Chapter 3, the term ‘diversity’ has a complicated history and complex effects (Airton, 2009) and I recognize that it is somewhat paradoxical for me to use this phrase given my critical interrogation of the uses and discursive effects of ‘diversity.’ I want to acknowledge the discomfort of this phrase while recognizing that I have not been able to come up with a better term or phrase to describe the range of sexual and gender possibilities that extend beyond the traditional binaries. Note, however, that I do not use the term ‘gender-diverse’ as that would imply that some bodies, practices or identities (usually ones that challenge hetero- and cisnormativity) somehow index diversity more than others. 5 I use different iterations of this acronym depending on which parts of the acronym are relevant. 7  For the primary interviews, I wanted to interview school staff in a variety of positions because adults who work in schools are all actors within that institution. They all shape the context and circumstances of schooling that trans and gender-nonconforming students have to navigate. Additionally, depending on the school, adults in different positions are involved in working with trans and gender-nonconforming students. Given this reality, I did not want to limit myself to a specific staff category. Whenever I discuss a specific participant as well as when my analysis warrants it, I specify which of the four main categories a participant belongs to: administrator, teacher, school counsellor, or support staff (a phrase meant to encompass all other potential positions found in schools, including librarians, support workers, secretaries, etc.). Otherwise I use the broad term ‘educator.’  1.1.1 Note on vocabulary: Trans and gender-nonconforming I have chosen to use the phrase “trans and gender-nonconforming” to describe the youth whose experiences constitute the backdrop for this research project. The use of the words “trans” and “transgender” as umbrella terms have a complex history (Valentine, 2007). Often, they have been used by trans authors and activists who reject the gender binary (Bornstein, 1994; Feinberg, 1998; Wilchins, 1997). As such, they have been criticized for erasing the specific needs of those who tend to identify with the gender binary (Namaste, 2000, p. 1-2; Davidson, 2007, p. 64-67).  As is the case with cisgender people, trans people have diverse relationships to their gender. Different trans people seek access to various degrees of gender-affirming health care, and may not even be interested in any medical intervention. Some trans people see their trans status as a temporary state while others identify as trans throughout their lives. Different trans people envision different end points to their transition, and indeed may not even frame their experience 8  in terms of a transition with a clear start and end point. Being “trans” is by no means one shared experience.  If the label “trans” covers complex and contradictory range of experiences, what is its analytic usefulness? I argue alongside Shelley (2008) that the shared experience of trans repudiation and erasure justifies considering together people who have a trans history, despite differences in how they identify, relate to the gender binary, or access gender-affirming health care (p. 16). It is safe to argue that trans people share the experiences of having their subjectivity and selfhood negated, as well as that of being stigmatized, marginalized, and erased in both everyday and institutional contexts. I therefore use the adjective “trans” as an umbrella term for people with a trans history, recognizing that this term sits uncomfortably across categories.  I use the phrase “gender-nonconforming” in addition to the adjective trans for several reasons. This decision resists an all-inclusive use of “trans” that would encompass people who disrupt the dominant gender/sex system but may not identify themselves as trans for a host of reasons. Many people (youth in particular) who are trying out different forms of gender expression and styles of personal appearances may not identify as trans, and may indeed strongly identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. These people may still experience trans repudiation and raise challenges for educators in ways that echo the experiences of trans youth. As a result, they may appear in conversations about trans youth and their experiences can be relevant to this research. In its current usage, gender-nonconforming is a descriptive term rather than an identity term (such as genderqueer, pangender, agender, neutrois, etc.) that serves to broadly describe people whose gender identity challenge dominant cultural expectations of gender and gender expression.  9  Originally (in my research proposal as well as during my interviews) I used the term ‘gender-fluid’ in an attempt to capture a similar sentiment. Upon further reflection, I am now suggesting that this term ascribes too specific a meaning onto people’s lives. People whose gender expression exceeds or eschews the dominant expectations of the gender binary may not experience their gender as fluid in any way. I believe that the term ‘gender-nonconforming’ avoids this ascription. It functions not as an identity term but as a descriptor, indicating that the person’s gender does not conform to current dominant norms of gender. In this way, the term also centers the role of norms and highlights that it is the existence of these norms (rather than the person’s gender in itself) that marks certain bodies as different in ways that can create insecurity for the people who inhabit these bodies (see Horn, 2007).  Finally, the term gender-nonconforming adds an important analytic layer to ‘trans’ as it can help illuminate potential disparities between a student’s gender identity and how this student is read. For example, educators sometimes talk about certain trans students as gender-nonconforming subjects even though the student understands themselves as having a binary gender-conforming identity. This focus on someone’s perceived disruption of gender norms at the expense of their own identification with the gender binary is precisely one of the forms of repudiation that Shelley (2008) describes (p. 26). While it is essential to talk about the experience of being read by others as gender-nonconforming, it is equally important to acknowledge the way that these readings can erase someone’s gender identity. I argue that the use of the term gender-nonconforming helps me achieve this in this dissertation, as it points to norms rather than the person’s intention or identity. In summary, a young person may be trans, gender-nonconforming, or both. Using the phrase “trans and gender-nonconforming” captures this range of possibilities and acknowledges 10  that both the student’s gender identity and the way that they are read by those around them contribute to their experiences at school and beyond. This is not to deny that the use of this phrase can have a homogenizing impact, flattening out a wide range of experiences and embodiments. To counteract this tendency, I specify the term when possible. Additionally, identity terms are also very personal and constitute part of the process of self-determination (Miller, 2015a). The design of my study did not give me a chance to ask young people who are featured in the stories of my participants how they identified; the terms trans and gender-nonconforming in this dissertation must therefore be understood primarily as analytical categories rather than reflections of terminology preferred by young people, with the limitations that this implies.  1.2 Review of the literature 1.2.1 Transphobia, trans repudiation, and cisnormativity in Canadian society It is impossible to conduct research that is connected to the experiences of trans youth without starting by acknowledging that trans and gender-nonconforming people face various forms of violence. This violence produces significant vulnerability in people’s everyday lives. Research often focuses on overt violence (Stotzer, 2009; Witten & Eyler, 1999), which ranges …from verbal insults (e.g., calling someone a ‘fag’), to an invasion of personal space (e.g., throwing a bottle at a lesbian as she walks by, to intimidation and the threat of physical assault. ‘Violence’ also includes the act of attacking someone’s body – whether through sexual assault (rape), beating, or with weapons like baseball bats, knives, or guns. (Namaste, 2000, p. 139)  These forms of overt violence remain a reality, as is illustrated by numerous reports of fatal transphobic violence directed in particular and most often at trans women of colour in 2015 (Kellaway & Brydum, 2015; see also a recent interview with Judith Butler in Tourjee, 2015).  11  It is crucial to recognize these forms of transphobic violence while remaining aware of the limitations of the concept of transphobia. The idea of ‘phobia’ suggests conscious fear, even though there is “little evidence to suggest that all forms of trans-based discrimination are rooted in fear” (Shelley, 2008, p. 32). The conceptual limits of the term transphobia echo the extensive critiques that have been articulated in the literature on the framing of homophobia as an individual pathology (Kitzinger, 1996). Scholars have questioned the ways that homophobia is often imagined as a form of violence that occurs between individuals, due to individual rather than systemic prejudice (Walton, 2005). This framework draws on discourses of neoliberalism wherein “inequalities are routinely assigned to ‘private’ life, understood as ‘natural,’ and bracketed away from consideration in the ‘public’ life of the state” (Duggan, 2003, p. 5). Individualized explanations for inequality neglect the fact that violence is related to social biases and cultural norms (Bastien Charlebois, 2011b; Payne & Smith, 2013). Butler (1997) also challenges the notion that injurious speech and acts are “attributable to a singular subject and act” (p. 50): they are made possible by the context in which they are produced.  The erasure of the dominant discourses and structures that enable transphobic speech and acts marks this context as irrelevant. It also assumes that lack of intent is a relevant variable. This allows ‘nice,’ ‘tolerant’ subjects to feel as if they have no part to play in the reproduction of systemic inequality. Bonilla-Silva (2006) argues similarly that modern, liberal conceptions of racism frame racism as individualized prejudice and ignorance. As a result, ‘nice’ white people can distance themselves from systemic racism and its effects. In fact, Castagno (2014) argues that niceness and lack of intention do not simply allow the reproduction of inequality. They actually reinvigorate whiteness (and, I would add, cisnormativity) by making invisible the working of structural inequalities. 12   Shelley (2008) uses the term ‘trans repudiation’ as a way to better conceptualize the violence encountered by trans people as well as the ways in which trans lives are made vulnerable in our society. Trans repudiation is defined as “an array of reactive dynamics directed towards [trans people], which are often hostile and threatening” (p. 31), including acts that “reject, refuse, repel, disown, renounce, and back away from that which engenders repulsion” (p. 37). By taking the focus of individual prejudice, the concept of trans repudiation allows us to “look more at impact than intent” (Spade, 2011, p. 30). Unlike the notion of transphobia, the phrase trans repudiation frames the denial of trans subjectivities as a phenomenon that “mirrors historical problems, related to the ruling of bodies internalized by subjects through the social world” (Shelley, 2008, p. 34) rather than as a problem of individual prejudice. In this sense, trans repudiation is connected to genderism, which Browne (2004) describes as “the hostile readings of gender ambiguous bodies” (p. 332; see also Nestle, Howell & Wilchins, 2002) that results from a profound cultural investment in gender and sex binaries. This can be true even when trans people identify with the gender binary. It is often how people are read by others, rather than how they identify, that works to create vulnerability and violence in the lives of trans people.  Systematically, trans repudiation manifests itself in countless ways, including but not limited to: lack of access to respectful, affordable and competent health care; denial of parental rights; various levels of disavowal and loss of family support; lack of or insecure access to gender-appropriate bathrooms (including at school and work); high rates of imprisonment and homelessness; and discrimination in hiring, employment, banking, the justice and prison system; exclusion from, or marginalization in, the world of competitive sports (for details on these experiences and their effects on the lives of trans people, see Beemyn & Rankin, 2011; Bender-Baird, 2011; Girshick, 2008; Grant et al., 2011; Namaste, 2000, 2011; Ross, 2012; Shelley, 2008; 13  Sullivan, 2011; Sykes, 2006; Westbrook & Schilt, 2014). Although the majority of trans people encounter these obstacles, poor, racialized, immigrant and disabled trans people experience the most extreme forms of vulnerability. As Spade (2011) points out, “access to certain privileges that serve in determining the distribution of life chances (e.g., whiteness, perceived ablebodiedness, employment, immigration status) often confer some individuals some degree of buffering” (p. 13) from this violence. The lives of trans individuals who access these privileges are less tightly controlled and circumscribed by legal and administrative systems.   Spade (2011) offers the concept of administrative violence to further explicate the mechanisms by which trans lives are devalued and made impossible. Trans subjectivity is erased through specific policies and administrative arrangements in ways that have severe material consequences: Namaste (2000), for example, describes the way that Canadian homeless shelters do not serve the population of trans people properly because their specific needs are not identified. Yet the complete absence of policies regarding trans people makes this failure itself invisible, further rendering trans subjectivity unthinkable. She concludes that “the act of invalidating the very possibility of transsexuality bolsters rhetorical operations that exclude literal transsexual bodies while reinforcing institutional practices that do not consider the needs of transsexual and transgendered people” (Namaste, 2000, p. 52). As I will show, similar effects of the discursive operations described by Namaste are visible in schools.  Spade (2011) also focuses on how the impossibilities are produced when people do not fit in existing administrative gender categories. This heightens vulnerability in trans people’s lives: This instability [in how gender categories are defined in different states and by different state agencies], when combined with the rigidity of administrative gender enforcement, produc[e] myriad catch-22s that generate insecurity and violence in the lives of trans people, especially in the context of the War on Terror in which inconsistencies in 14  identifying information have become a more significant obstacle to most basic and essential administrative processes. (Spade, 2011, p. 38)    Administrative norms function to deny the subjectivity of trans people differently depending on a person’s identification with the gender binary. Trans people who wish to be identified with the gender binary are often prevented from doing so (through stringent requirements for changing the gender listed on one’s birth certificate, driver’s license, etc.). On the other hand, trans people who seek to challenge the gender binary are forced into it via the use of inflexible administrative categories. The concept of administrative erasure highlights the way that subjection6 and power are processes that function to make certain bodies more (un)intelligible than others, and some lives more (im)possible than others. To properly understand forms of subjection, we need to think about the way that regimes of practice and knowledge coalesce in conditions that affect everyone but create particular vulnerability for certain groups. This is why it is crucial to look at the discourses embedded in our everyday practices along with the routines of bureaucracy. While discursive effects may be less visible than the kind of violence that the idea of ‘transphobia’ conjures up, they have far-reaching consequences for people because they authorize ways of seeing the world that “structure the entire context of life” (Spade, 2011, p. 24).  The belief system that underpins trans repudiation and administrative violence is cisnormativity. It often – but not always – works in conjunction with heteronormativity (the system of compulsory and naturalized heterosexuality) because dominant conceptions of gender assume a “causal continuity among sex, gender, and desire” (Butler, 1990, p. 31). Both systems of meaning and control (cisnormativity and heteronormativity) often bolster each other and                                                  6 I am drawing on Spade’s (2011) use of the term subjection as it “indicates that power relations impact how we know ourselves as subjects through these systems of meaning and control – the ways we understand our own bodies, the things we believe about ourselves and our relationships with other people and with institutions, and the ways we imagine change and transformation” (p. 25).  15  “permeate our lives, our ways of knowing about the world, and our ways of imagining transformation” (Spade, 2011, p. 25). Educators are entrenched in these systems that govern all of us.  The discourse of cisnormativity pervades everyday language and practices in ways that construct cisnormative experiences as normal and natural, while “[trans] bodies, identities, perspectives, and experiences are continuously required to be explained and inevitably remain open to interpretation” (Serano, 2007, p. 161). As a result, cisnormativity is built into administrative systems and institutional practices in ways that create structural inequities. It is precisely the discursive regime of cisnormativity that I am interested in tracing in the talk of educators who work with trans and gender-nonconforming students. In its institutional and everyday forms, cisnormativity impacts how educators understand trans and gender-nonconforming students, what supporting these students looks like, and what schools can do to be more inclusive of gender diversity.  In the next section, I set the institutional context that educators work in by reviewing the existing literature on queer and trans students. This literature helps position schools as institutional sites that are implicated in the administration of the gendered categories and the reproduction of hetero- and cisnormativity.   16  1.1.1 Schools as sites of hetero- and cisnormativity There is an extensive literature that focuses on homophobia and on the reproduction of heteronormativity in schools. A multiplicity of factors contributes to school cultures7 that are hostile to sexual diversity, including the pervasive presence of homophobic language in school environments (Seale, 2005; Smith, 1998; Thurlow, 2001; Varjas et al., 2008); direct verbal and physical harassment of students who are queer or perceived as such (Burtch & Haskell, 2010; Elze, 2003; Kosciw et al., 2009; Meyer, 2009; Taylor et al., 2009, 2016); heteronormative school rituals and curriculum (Best, 2000; Pascoe, 2007; Payne, 2007; Ryan, 2015; Stafford, 2013; Zlatunich, 2009); and a lack of response from adults in schools to homophobic harassment (Kosciw et al., 2009; Meyer, 2008). Given this hostile context, a plethora of research has emphasized the vulnerabilities of queer youth, particularly in terms of health outcomes and school success (see for example Chamberland et al., 2010; Cocker, Austin & Schuster, 2010; O’Shaughnessy et al., 2004; Saewyc, 2011). Although little research fully considers intersections in the lives of queer youth, a growing amount of research indicates that racism, poverty, and ableism create increased vulnerability (Blackburn & McCready, 2004; Brockenborough, 2013; Daley et al., 2008; Diaz & Kosciw, 2009; Kumashiro, 2001; McClelland et al., 2012; Russell & Truong, 2001; there is a striking dearth of research looking at queer and Two-Spirit indigenous                                                  7 Although much of the literature I review uses the notion of ‘school climate,’ I prefer the expression ‘school culture.’ The distinction between culture and climate has been primarily discussed in the literature on workplace and organizations (see Morgan, 2006), but has been relevant in much of the educational literature as well. MacNeil, Prater & Busch (2009) summarize the difference thus: “climate is viewed as behaviour, while culture is seen as comprising the values and norms of the school or organization” (p. 74-75). School climate is often understood in terms of measurable behaviours and outcomes. In contrast, the notion of culture evokes the role of norms, values, and institutionalized rituals, and is thus more accurately related to my conceptual interests in this project. 17  youth8). However, support programs and legal protections for queer youth rarely acknowledge or address these intersections (Marquez & Brockenbrough 2013; McCready, 2004).  Increasingly, this scholarly literature has become inclusive of trans and gender-nonconforming youth. However, it is often only superficially inclusive, and the use of the phrase ‘LGBT youth’ can conceal a primary focus on the experiences of queer youth, with little attention paid to the specific barriers and experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming youth (who may or may not identify as queer). To the extent that this body of research looks at the experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming youth, it has similarly focused on the risks and negative outcomes in school environments (Greytak, Kosciw & Diaz, 2009; Grossman & D’Augelli, 2006; McGuire et al., 2010; Wylie et al., 2010). Its central concerns are about harassment, risk, and negative effects on physical and mental health (see Burgess, 2000; Di Ceglie et al., 2002; Olson, Forbes & Belzer, 2011; Grossman & D’Augelli, 2007; Grossman, D’Augelli & Salter, 2006; Grossman et al., 2009). Analyses of how racialization, (dis)ability, and class shape the experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming youth are scarce (for some counter-examples, see Singh, 2013; Boatwright, 2014). Many scholars have highlighted the limitations of a field of research that continually reconstitutes queer and trans youth as ‘at-risk’ victims (Ellis, 2007; Hackford-Peer, 2010; Talburt, 2004a; Youdell, 2004). Even the recent turn to ‘resilience’ is inadequate as it often identifies resistance in personal characteristics, thus reinscribing individualized understandings of the subject (Foster & Spencer, 2011). If gender and sexuality are distinct issues that need to analyzed separately, and if the folding of trans issues under the LGBT umbrella has often worked to make invisible trans-                                                 8 This is concerning given both the high vulnerability experienced by indigenous populations in Canada and the United States, and the way that colonization and racism have profoundly impacted indigenous understandings of gender and sexuality (Cannon, 1998; Le Duigou, 2000; Hunt, 2015). 18  specific concerns (Minter, 2006; Stone, 2009; Vitulli, 2010), why is a body of literature that overwhelmingly focuses on queer youth and heteronormativity relevant to this project? The short answer is that, although gender and sexuality are distinct concepts, gender and sexuality are profoundly connected by forms of policing (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009). Behaviours that “act[] to shape and police the boundaries of traditional gender norms” (Meyer, 2009, p. 2-3) are simultaneously shaping and policing heterosexual femininity and masculinity. Butler (1990) explains this connection between gender norms and heterosexuality: “the heterosexualization of desire requires and institutes the production of discrete and asymmetrical oppositions between ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’, where these are understood as expressive attributes of ‘male’ and ‘female’” (p. 23). For heterosexuality to be natural and normal (heteronormativity), there must only be two genders that naturally follow from two sexes (cisnormativity) and are defined by their attraction to one another. This theoretical framework explains the fact that homophobia and the norms of heterosexuality that undergird it are not solely about one’s sexuality.9 Gender-nonconformity is often interpreted and consequently policed as a cue for queerness. Because heteronormativity functions alongside cisnormativity, trans people who identify with the gender binary can also vulnerable to harassment if they are seen to disrupt this assumed natural fusion of sex and gender.  All trans and gender-nonconforming youth can thus be directly affected by hostile heteronormative school cultures. However, heteronormative school cultures do not simply enable the harassment of trans and gender-nonconforming students. Michel Foucault (1977) develops the notion of disciplinary power to explain the way that we are governed by norms, identifying                                                  9 This reformulation is not meant to erase the sexual element of homophobic harassment. Gender conformity does not necessarily protect queer people from homophobic harassment, which indicates that homophobic harassment is not limited to an act of gender policing, but also evokes specifically sexual fears. 19  school as a key technology of this form of power. Disciplinary power is productive and “conjures the very identities to be managed” (Cherniavsy, 2009, p. 10). In school, normative gender and sexual identities become more possible than others as we “learn how to view our bodies, how our actions make us certain kinds of people, and how to practice techniques to modify ourselves to better fit the norms” (Spade, 2011, p. 104). Schools also bolster sexual and gender normativity through heteronormative curriculum, school rituals, and everyday practices (Best, 2000; Pascoe, 2007; Payne, 2007; Ryan, 2015; Stafford, 2013; Zlatunich, 2009). Part of this process is also the self-discipline that comes with disciplinary power. As Foucault (1977) notes, the ever-present possibility of being judged for one’s enactments of gender makes sanctions unnecessary in most cases, because it triggers mechanisms of self-discipline. This process contributes to the routine erasure of trans subjectivities. Practically speaking, this process of normalization is visible whenever normative ideas about gender are made relevant in schools. Some examples include gendered school dress codes, forms that use the categories ‘mother’ and ‘father,’ common-sense assumptions about the fundamentally different ways that girls and boys learn, play, or socialize, and the segregation of students by gender for activities, competitive sports teams, or certain classes (sexual education or physical education). These normative ideas are shaped by racialized narratives that underlie our understanding of what masculinity and femininity look like (Collins, 2005), as well as discourses of class, (dis)ability, and other socially significant categories. Teacher education programs still rarely include in-depth LGBQ content (Clark, 2010; Macgillivray & Jennings, 2008; O’Malley & Capper, 2015; Quinn & Meiners, 2011; Taylor et al., 2016), let alone intersectional discussions of gender diversity. This means that teachers are often poorly equipped to interrupt these processes of normalization in their school. 20   Additionally, the use of gender in schools as a key administrative category in schools contributes to a logic of standardization regimented by classifications and categories that seeks to distinguish between proper and improper members of the nation (Spade, 2011, p. 111). Administrative categories create arrangements that legitimize inequality and distribute risk and vulnerability differently across populations. What is the impact of these categories for trans and gender-nonconforming youth who attend schools? For adults in schools who work with trans and gender-nonconforming youth, this means dealing with the demands of an administrative system that classifies gender as a binary and requires that gender markers be consistent over time and between documents. This is an important site for the erasure of trans subjectivity.  These forms of power are productive in that they generate particular understandings of what a proper boy (man) and a proper girl (woman) is. Butler (1990) notes: [T]he very notion of ‘the person’ is called into question by the cultural emergence of those ‘incoherent’ 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 defined. (p. 23)  Schools are a key site where we learn that personhood is intricately tangled with the capacity to identify someone as unmistakably male or female. Instances of discrimination or violence “based on the discontinuities between the sex/gender with which an individual identifies, and how others, in a variety of spaces, read their sex/gender” (Browne, 2004, p. 332) only makes sense in a context where these discontinuities have been marked as abnormal, unfamiliar, and indeed rendered unintelligible. In other words, harassment is made possible because the space of the school itself is organized, with adult consent and participation, around gender in a way that functions to create school spaces that are hostile for gender diversity. These examples underline that there is no need for adults or students to be transphobic in order for them to perpetuate the 21  relations of power that create a culture of trans repudiation in schools. Instead, they need only be the observers and administrators of the normative gender order that sustains school life.  While trans repudiation might happen at any point in the context of school cultures through jokes, verbal or physical abuse, or naturalized heteronormative routines, there are particular moments and spaces where this type of violence is more likely to erupt, specifically gender-segregated sites. Scholars have flagged bathrooms as a heightened site of tension and repudiation (Browne, 2004; Cavanagh, 2010; Shelley, 2008; Weinberg, 2009-2010). Taylor et al.’s (2011) climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools highlighted washrooms and change rooms as spaces most commonly identified as unsafe by students (p. 17). The fact that repudiation emerges in these specific spaces illustrates a profound cultural investment in fixed gender binarism (Halberstam, 1998a, p. 22). Throughout this review of the literature, I have highlighted the multiple and complex ways in which school cultures (re)create properly gendered subjects. In the manner highlighted, and by the nature of their jobs, educators are active participants in this culture of cisnormativity and the institutional structures that support it, but often in complex and contradictory ways. Educators might at different times be involved in shaping it, enforcing it, and resisting it. It is the discursive work that educators do in negotiating this complicated position in schools that is the focus of my research.   1.2 Research questions Given that educators are involved in the systems of meanings and control that exist in schools, it is essential to understand how cisnormativity shapes how they understand themselves, their experiences, and the changes that they perceive as (im)possible in educational spaces. Analyzing 22  how educators articulate their experiences can illuminate both how cisnormativity operates in schools and how it shapes the “conditions of possibility” (Rose, 1998, p. 41) in these educational spaces. It can also help identify how to intervene into these systems to challenge cisnormativity in schools.  Although cisnormativity organizes school life even in the absence of trans and gender-nonconforming students, its workings are likely to be particularly visible in their presence, when assumptions about the fixed, binary nature of gender are (at least momentarily) disrupted. As a result, moments when educators work with trans and gender-nonconforming students and negotiate their presence in schools are analytically salient. By focusing on the way that adults in the school system talk about their experience(s) working with trans and gender-nonconforming students, this dissertation illuminates how cisnormativity operates discursively but also highlights the material implications of these discursive effects on the lives of students. Guiding and informing my analysis are the following questions:  What are some common narratives and discursive practices that educators use to talk about their experiences of working with trans and gender-nonconforming students?  What broader discourses do these narratives and discursive practices draw on? How does cisnormativity in particular circulate within these narratives?  How does this discursive work open up and/or close off space for gender diversity in schools? In other words, how do these narratives and discursive practices shape what changes educators see as (im)possible?    23  1.3 Theoretical frameworks This dissertation is grounded in a number of interconnected theoretical frameworks that I have started to outline in my review of the literature. I am particularly influenced by critical queer and feminist research, including critical trans theory, which adheres to a social constructionist10 framework and emphasizes how power produces speaking subjects. Social constructionism formed in response to (1) essentialist claims that social identities such as gender, sexuality and race are fixed individual essences, and (2) positivist assumptions that truth about the social world can be discovered through careful, objective observation. Working against these assumptions, constructionist perspectives offer an epistemology that emphasizes the role that history, language, and culture play in shaping how we understand the world, as well as an ontology that challenges the assumption that there are immutable ‘truths’ to be discovered about the social world. Queer theory shares many of the theoretical underpinnings of other social constructionist approaches in that it disputes assumptions about gendered, sexual, and bodily ‘essence.’ It does so by critiquing scientific truth claims, asserting the constitutive role of language, deconstructing binaries and questioning the very notion that we should look for ‘truths’ about the social world (Brickell, 2006; Waugh, 1998; Weedon, 1999).  Within this framework, language constitutes the subject as one that is “precarious, contradictory and in process, constantly being reconstituted in discourse every time we think or speak” (Weedon, 1987, p. 33). Our identity as a subject is not the result of an interior essence. It comes into existence through doing and speaking. This approach emphasizes an intersectional                                                  10 I use the term ‘social construction’ because it resonates with many traditions within the social sciences, but I recognize its limits. In particular, the term ‘construction’ does not quite explain the ways in which sexual orientation, gender, race, and other discursively constituted identities “can be felt as inherent and bodily or even as essential” (Ahmed, 2006, p. 80).   24  analysis that takes into account how difference (whether sexual, racialized, or otherwise) constitutes the gendered subject (West & Fenstermaker, 1995). I further clarify below a few key concepts for this project, namely gender, power, discourse, and experience.  1.3.1 Gender I conceptualize gender as a performative accomplishment by drawing on two main traditions: ethnomethodology and queer theory.  West & Zimmerman (1987) reject the notion that gender is a property of individuals, attributed to us by external forces or biological reality. Instead they conceptualize gender as “a routine, methodical, and recurring accomplishment… embedded in everyday interaction” (p. 126), meaning that individuals are continually accountable for ‘doing’ gender through everyday activities and interactions.  I complement this perspective with Judith Butler’s (1990) insight that gender is performative. Through “a compulsory repetition of prior and subjectivating norms, ones which cannot be thrown off at will, but which work, animate, and constrain the gendered subject” (Butler, 1990, p. 22), gender crystallizes into forms that we come to see as uniform and natural. Schools, for example, help gender “congeal” (Butler, 1990, p. 44) by calling upon it as a relevant category for organizing and classifying students. As Ahmed (2006) reminds her readers, performativity is an embodied experience:  Bodies take the shape of norms that are repeated over time and with force. Through repeating some gestures and not others, or through being orientated in some directions and not others, bodies become contorted: they get twisted into shapes that enable some action only insofar as they restrict the capacity for other kinds of action. (p. 91)  In many ways, we do not engage in the contortions of ‘doing’ gender because it is natural to us, but because our legitimacy as members of society is dependent on our competence at producing 25  and doing gender appropriately11 (West & Zimmerman, 1987, p. 126). It is not just the threat of social, mental, or physical sanctions that are at stake in gender performance, but also our very intelligibility as people (Butler, 1990, p. 23), as illustrated by “the continued refusal in Western society to admit ambiguously gendered bodies into functional social relations” (Halberstam, 1998a, p. 15).  The performative accomplishment of gender is necessarily interactional, relational, and discursive in nature. It is also intersectional, in the sense that it is produced and maintained through other discursively-constituted identities such as race, class, sexuality, or ability; these identities “always work as background for one another, and they often find their most powerful articulation through one another” (Butler, 1990, p. xvi; see also Collins, 2005). This means that researchers need to be paying consistent attention to the way in which gendered discourses shore up, or rely on, assumptions about other forms of difference in order to make sense.  1.3.2 Power I draw primarily on Michel Foucault’s articulation of power for this project. Foucault (1977, 1978) challenges the assumption that power is best understood as a unidirectional, repressive force operating from a single centre. Instead, power circulates throughout society in ways that are productive rather than repressive: it is “bent on generating forces, making them grow, and ordering them, rather than one dedicated to … making them submit” (Foucault, 1978, p. 136). This is what Foucault (1978) calls biopower, “a power that exerts a positive influence on life, that endeavors to administer, optimize, and multiply it, subjecting it to precise controls and                                                  11 As West & Fenstermaker (1995) point out, this process applies to other forms of socially-significant differences. 26  comprehensive regulations” (p. 137). This understanding of power underlines the importance that norms, identities, and categories play in organizing power relations, as they are technologies through which power circulates. Building on this understanding of power, Spade (2011) describes three types of power that shape the distribution of risk and vulnerability in society: exclusionary power, disciplinary power, and population-management power (p. 101-36).  Exclusionary power generates willful exclusion and discrimination, carried out by one perpetrator (whether an individual or an agency) over a victim. This remains the most common understanding of power, and we tend to concentrate on this form of power in our laws (i.e., anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws) as well as in research on queer, trans and gender-nonconforming youth. In contrast, disciplinary power functions to create docile and useful bodies through careful and continuous training (Foucault, 1977, p. 135-69); Foucault (1977) explicitly implicates school as an institution that plays a central role in this form of power (p. 160). Finally, population-management power organizes the distribution of security and insecurity by generating “interventions that impact the population as a whole, usually interventions undertaken through the logic of promoting health or security of the nation” (Spade, 2011, p. 110).  While disciplinary power creates norms about who is a proper subject of the nation and who is a ‘threat’ or ‘burden,’ the population-management mode of power “mobilize[s] those standards and meanings to create policies and programs that apply generally” (Spade, 2011, p. 111). These policies and programs use classifications that target population rather than individuals, and produce gendered and racialized effects out of purportedly neutral policies (see, for example, how welfare policies both shape and are shaped by gendered and racialized notions of who is on social assistance, or the way that rigid gender categories in the shelter system impede access to this service by trans people). Schools are embedded in all three forms of power, 27  with important implications for trans and gender-nonconforming youth and the adults who work with them, as I have started to outline in the literature review.  1.3.3 Experience In line with a constructionist perspective I outlined above, I conceptualize experience as something that is “never wholly outside language or discourse” (Loutzenheiser, 2005, p. 31). This framework does not deny the importance of the materiality of experience, or the power that experiences, categories, and identities can have for people. As Ahmed (2006) underlines, it is important that a constructionist approach take into account how gender, sexuality, race and other identities “can operate simultaneously as effects and be lived or experienced as if they are originary or a matter of how one’s body inhabits the world” (p. 80). This is especially true in the context of research that engages (even indirectly) with marginalized populations: in a cultural context where trans subjectivities are continually negated, it is crucial to respect the way that the experience of the gendered self can be experienced as profoundly immutable.  The tension lies in acknowledging the importance of experience as a tool through which people make sense of their world and their existence while simultaneously interrogating experience as knowledge that is always contextual and historicized (Scott, 1992). Theorists such as Scott (1991), Scott (1992) and Srivastava & Francis (2006) warn against presenting experience as a foundational “truth” and remind us that there is power in which stories are heard and in which experiences are constructed as ‘authentic.’ In other words, the telling of experience is shaped by the context in which it is told. As a researcher, this means honouring the acts of telling that participants engage in while questioning how they came to be articulated in particular ways (Britzman, 1998) and acknowledging that complex and fluid constructions are constantly 28  produced around us (Loutzenheiser, 2005). This approach allows researchers to be self-reflexive about the data that they generate. They can illuminate the processes through which experiences are rendered intelligible, emphasize the context in which these experiences emerge, and recentre their attention to the power dynamics that construct certain experiences as more acceptable or more intelligible than others. In summary, this theoretical approach to experience endeavours to recognize both “the contingency of social categories and identities as well as the material effects of these” (Brickell, 2006, p. 105).  1.3.4 Discourse I draw on different theoretical traditions to articulate my approach to discourse. I start with Foucault’s (1972) definition of discourses as “practices which systematically form the objects of which they speak” (p. 49) to understand the ways that our reality is constituted through the way we use the language available to us. Discursive practices include the work of defining, describing, and classifying that is carried out through language in ways that generate knowledge and power simultaneously. As Graham (2005) explains, “language works to not only produce meaning but also particular kinds of objects and subjects upon whom and through which particular relations of power are realised” (p. 4).  In addition to this Foucauldian perspective, I draw on critical approaches to discourses as ways of representing of the world. From this perspective, discourses “not only represent the world as it is (or rather is seen to be), they are also projective, imaginaries, […] and tied into projects to change the world in particular directions” (Fairclough, 2003, p. 124). Discourses in this sense share some features with Goffman’s (1986) concept of frame, which refers to an “interpretive [schema] that simplifies and condenses the ‘world out there’ by selectively 29  punctuating and encoding objects, situations, events, experiences, and sequences of actions” (Snow & Benford, 1992, p. 137). However, Fairclough (2003) more explicitly ties his understanding of discourses to the workings of power through ideologies, which he defines as “representations of aspects of the world which can be shown to contribute to establishing, maintaining and changing social relations of power, domination and exploitation” (p. 9). Although Foucault and Fairclough do not share ontological premises, I draw on them simultaneously because they each provide tools for understanding the role that power plays in legitimizing certain knowledges over others through discursive practices. I argue that Foucault’s (1972) warning that “we must not imagine a world of discourse divided between accepted discourse and excluded discourse, or between the dominant discourse and the dominated one; but as a multiplicity of discursive elements that can come into play in various strategies” works to complement Fairclough’s (2003) interest in “the ideological work of texts [when they seek] to universalize particular meanings in the service of achieving and maintaining dominance” (p. 58). Drawing on both scholars brings attention to the way that even discourses that have gained a level of dominance in society are used in ways that are “neither uniform nor stable” (Foucault, 1972, p. 100). Together, these perspectives offer theoretical lenses for thinking about how power relations are not fixed but rather are continually (re)produced and contested through ways of representing the world that are activated through our constructions of subjects, institutions, and the everyday world.   1.4 Goal and outline of dissertation  In Chapter 2, I present the details of the methods and methodology that underlie this research. After discussing the ontological and epistemological foundations of the project, I account for the 30  process through which I selected and recruited participants, reflect on my positionality as a researcher, and explain my approach to data generation and data analysis. I have integrated contributions from research participants into this chapter as a way of acknowledging that developing a research project, generating data, and analyzing data are intertwined processes rather than distinct stages of research.  Chapter 3, 4 and 5 constitute the main body of this dissertation. The goal of this dissertation is to explore how cisnormativity shapes the way that educators talk about working with trans and gender-nonconforming students, and to examine how this impacts the material (im)possibilities that exist for trans and gender-nonconforming students in the current school system. To do so, I focus on unpacking three discursive patterns that dominated my transcripts.  I start in Chapter 3 by examining how cisnormativity works within and alongside discourses of diversity. Diversity is a concept that organizes educators’ understandings how schools can be safe and welcoming places for trans and gender-nonconforming students. I look at moments where diversity showed up in my interviews to analyze how the Canadian imaginary of schools as welcoming of diversity can function to make less visible the way that cisnormativity operates in educational spaces. This chapter also highlights how diversity discourses are put to work in ways that bring cisnormativity together with other regimes of power, particularly whiteness and heteronormativity. This analysis helps me establish the foundation and context for the rest of my analysis, which focuses more closely on the way that cisnormativity is produced in the stories that educators shared about working with trans and gender-nonconforming students.  In Chapter 4, I look at how trans and gender-nonconforming students are featured in the stories of teachers as (sometimes untrustworthy) decision-makers through what I call the “youth in charge” narrative. Educators try to resist cisnormative regimes of truth by framing trans and 31  gender-nonconforming youth as experts on their own lives. However, concerns about safety, assumptions about youth, and persistent cisnormative expectations often undergird educators’ positions, thus limiting the transformative potential of this narrative.  In Chapter 5, I build on my analysis of the “youth in charge” narrative by showing how it fits into a larger pattern of talking about change that dominated the data. In talking about their experiences of working with trans and gender-nonconforming students, educators favoured stories and explanations that emphasized the need for individual accommodation rather than deeper cultural changes. These discursive practices reveal the difficulty of dislodging cisnormative practices even when (some) trans and gender-nonconforming students are (conditionally) welcomed into schools. The emphasis on accommodation provides few tools for educators to recognize and interrogate their own complicity in cisnormativity.   I conclude this dissertation in Chapter 6 by emphasizing the necessity of bringing the concept of cisnormativity into analyses of gender diversity in schools. I argue for discursive practices that open up possibilities for changing school cultures in ways that go beyond accommodating individual trans and gender-nonconforming students. Instead, it is imperative to interrogate the way that school spaces are constituted through exclusions that are undergirded by norms of gender and sexuality as well as race, class, and ability.   32  Chapter 2: Methodologies & methods Claire:  HFD: I’m going to make a total guess here. You can’t put this in your research as-- - as a fact, no, I won't. (Interview with administrator, District C)  2.1  Introduction As an exchange between researcher and interviewee, the above interaction between Claire and I offers an interesting glimpse into a larger conversation about the process of knowledge production, and the choices that researchers constantly have to make about how they will represent the data that they have generated. Doing research always involves speaking about others, and for others, and the methodologies that researchers choose shape how we engage in these acts of speaking as well as their consequences. Positivist research traditions in the social sciences have tended to obscure this process by encouraging scholars to remove themselves from their research in order to achieve an ‘objective’ perspective and taking for granted the ontological and epistemological roots of research. As a result, discussion of methods is too often considered the practical side of research, a straight-forward description of the means of data collection with little theoretical impact.  In this chapter, I deliberately challenge this perception by discussing the theoretical foundations of my methodology and methods, the choices I have made throughout the research, as well as the implications of these choices. Following Harding (1987), I distinguish between methods, which are “techniques for gathering data” (p. 2), methodology, which is “a theory and analysis of how research does or should proceed” (p. 3), and epistemology, which is a theory about knowledge (p. 2). It is particularly important to acknowledge the specific ontology and epistemology underlying research, as they shape methodology and methods. The questions that 33  we ask, how we ask them, the data that we generate, and the conclusions that we reach are directly implicated in the research process (Naples, 2007).   In conducting this research, I have adopted a feminist critical approach based in the idea of social construction. Unlike the tradition of positivist research that assumes that researchers “can observe and measure reality in an objective way with no influence of the research on the process of data collection” (Hennick, Hutter & Bailey, 2012, p. 14), a social constructionist ontology instead acknowledges that the production of knowledge is “a social enterprise” (Sprague, 2005, p. 2) grounded in a particular historical and cultural moment. It also understands the researcher as an agent of knowledge who shapes “the context of discovery” (McCorkel & Myers, 2003). This ontology underlines “how privilege and self-interest are implicated in the production of knowledge—shaping what we chose to write about, whom we shared our work with, and whose voices we silenced” (McCorkel & Myers, 2003, p. 208). It thus requires researchers to openly discuss the choices made at every methodological step. I begin this chapter by offering an overview of my project and its genesis, and discussing the process of selecting the four school districts and individual participants who I interviewed. Following this introduction to the project, I engage more specifically in a reflection on the process of self-reflexive research and my own position as a researcher. I then delve into my choice of using interviews as the method for generating data. Finally, I discuss the analytical approaches to discourse that inform my analysis in the rest of this dissertation. Throughout this chapter, I highlight the fact that methodological choices have theoretical significance and emphasize that my analytical approach is fundamentally connected to my understanding of data.   34  2.2 Ontological and epistemological foundations I started to make visible the ontological and epistemological assumptions of this project in Chapter 1. These assumptions are important to revisit in a conversation about methodology, as they shape the research – not only what kind of knowledge is seen as valuable, but what kind of research becomes possible and even beneficial, what kind of assumptions are questioned from the outset of the research project, and what is seen as necessary to take into consideration when constructing a research project. For example, in-depth interviews are a common method for qualitative research (Atkinson and Silverman, 1997), but what we make of interview data is shaped by the foundational assumptions upon which a particular project is built.  My decision to conduct interviews, for example, is shaped by my interest in discourse as a space where “power and knowledge are joined together” (Foucault, 1978, p. 100). This particular epistemological leaning, in turn, directs my understanding of the stories that participants shared. It also guides my analysis of talk not as a window into people’s internal world but instead as an interactional accomplishment, a process through which people construct themselves and their world by drawing on discourses that are “both instrument[s] and effect[s] of power” (Foucault, 1978, p. 100). Highlighting the relationship between discourse and power is essential to my project as one that seeks to trace how normative regimes (like cisnormativity) shape the way we talk about, and respond to, the presence of trans and gender-nonconforming students. In other words, ontological and epistemological reflections set the stage for more practical questions about how we, as researchers, can put methodologies into action in the way that we do research.  This research project draws on feminist epistemologies and methodologies but also on their reformulations by other critical scholars. My own understanding of feminism is not one of 35  narrow focus on gender, but rather one of a movement for social justice that critically examines all processes of marginalization and privilege and the way that they interlock (bell hooks, 2000). This is a theoretical positioning which has led me to ask questions that may temporarily forefront questions of gender but do not assume its primacy. One of the largest contributions that this type critical feminism has made to social sciences is to encourage a shift from a concern in truth/reality to an interest in power/knowledge (Ramazanoglu & Holland, 2002, p. 60). How do these truth claims circulate in society, and what are the social implications for this process? I take up these questions by focusing on discursive practices, rather than on seeking to uncover the truth of stories told by participants.  This perspective has important implications for methodological considerations. Inherent to this approach is the idea that the process of knowledge production is not one where the researcher, having shed all biases, discovers a truth or an object that’s ‘out there’, waiting to be known. Instead, researchers and their subjectivities are profoundly implicated in the process of knowledge production. As Haraway notes (1988), “accounts of a ‘real’ world do not, then, depend on a logic of ‘discovery’ but on a power-charged social relation of ‘conversation’” (p. 593). Knowledge is not produced through the discovery of pre-existing objects but through social relations and discursive practices. Our understanding of the world around us depends on our social position, our embodiment, power dynamics at play, and our assumptions about the world. No knowledge can exist independently of these elements. Specific perspectives are not conceptualized as a way to access a more real ‘truth’, but rather they illuminate the process through which the ruling relations and their institutional order extend from everyday practices, which are specifically located and embodied (D. Smith, 2005).   36  2.3 Setting up the project 2.3.1 On deciding not to interview youth and families One of the first and most important methodological decisions that I had to make about this project was whether the research was going to include young people and their perspectives in a significant way. This project is impacted by my own journey as a (relatively) young queer person who has been working within queer and trans communities for a decade. When I first came out, I quickly became involved in queer youth organizing, and I was immediately drawn to education as a site of interesting and complex tensions for young people, especially surrounding issues of gender and sexuality. Over the years, I have facilitated countless workshops in schools and with educators on sexual and gender diversity, and spent hundreds of hours volunteering in queer and trans youth spaces, first as a youth, then as an adult. These commitments have shaped my personal and intellectual growth. They explained why I became increasingly interested in how systems of sexual and gender conformity structure school spaces and regulate young people’s lives. I have also developed many close relationships with trans and gender-nonconforming young people, as a mentor and/or a peer. I am deeply attached to these relationships, and emotionally invested in the way that people that I love have navigated, and in some cases continue to navigate, educational spaces. Despite these personal attachments, as my idea of this project started to sharpen I became convinced that I did not want to center the project around the lives of trans and gender-nonconforming youth themselves but rather on the experiences of school staff who help shape the institutional context that trans and gender-nonconforming youth have to navigate. Two major reasons led me away from conducting a project about youth. First, I have watched mainstream culture become increasingly aware of the existence of trans and gender-nonconforming youth 37  and the obstacles that they face. This has led to heightened scrutiny of their lives and their experiences, and this media attention often continues to sensationalize trans and gender-nonconforming lives as fascinating and exceptional. The reality of gender diversity has not been new or exceptional to me for many years now, and I saw little point to a project that would seek to ‘uncover’ the institutional and interactional obstacles that we already know many trans students face on a daily basis at school (Greytak, Kosciw & Diaz, 2009; Grossman & D’Augelli, 2006; McGuire et al., 2010) (less is known about the experiences of gender-nonconforming and non-binary students).  Second, my training as a critical scholar has made me sensitive to the tendency in the social sciences to ask “questions that address a social problem […] in terms of what is wrong with the person who is experiencing the problem, rather than in terms of what it is about the current social order that makes the problem likely” (Sprague, 2005, p. 12). Scholars have often been criticized for framing trans people as objects of curiosity and inquiry in a way that has medicalized, repudiated, and/or dismissed trans people’s own accounts of their experiences (Hale, 2009; Vipond, 2015). In large part, this is due to an objectivist tendency of health and social researchers with cisgender privilege to impose their own authoritative, ‘neutral’ conclusions onto the lives of trans people, with the consequence of shaping policy and possibilities in the lives of trans people without taking into account their insights or perspectives (Namaste, 2000, p. 27-37). This approach to research has contributed to a culture where trans subjectivity is negated and cisgender people (including scholars, clinicians, and other experts) feel entitled to making claims about who trans people are and what they need (or don’t need) in ways that has sometimes authorized political refusals to acknowledge or protect trans people (Shelley, 2008, p. 3-5). 38  This denial that trans people are experts on their own lives is compounded by the fact that most research on trans people is concerned exclusively with issues of gender identity: how people explain their gender identity, how they have come to understand themselves as trans, what surgeries they have gotten or intend to get, how they manage their gender identity, how people around them perceive them (for example of this type of research, see Devor, 1999; Ekins, 1997; Girshick, 2008; Rubin, 2003). Because this type of research is concerned with explaining the existence of trans people, it can function to reify the assumption that the management of one’s assigned gender at birth is somehow more natural than one’s gender identity, and to recentre cisgender lives as the unexamined norm (Namaste, 2000, p. 32). It also puts trans people under undue pressure to narrate themselves and to let their bodies or personal histories be dissected in order to gain some level of legitimacy. Some trans activists, for example, have noted the limitations and constraints imposed by transnormativity (Vipond, 2015), including the legitimizing effect of the dominant trans narrative of being ‘born in the wrong body’ (Califia, 1997; Bornstein, 1994; Halberstam, 1998b; Hines, 2007; see Davy, 2011 for a discussion of the complexities of trans embodiment).  This preoccupation with gender identity and the results of surgery “produces transsexual and transgendered [sic] people as an object of inquiry” (Namaste, 2000, p. 45) rather than as active subjects. Within this model, trans people are interesting only insofar as they have chosen to live in a gender other than the one that they were assigned at birth. This focus on trans people as transgressing the gender binary further marginalizes and negates the experiences of transsexual people who do not wish to disrupt or destabilize the gender binary. Namaste (2000) notes that queer theory and mainstream sociology have both been guilty of this problematic 39  framework, as both traditions focus on the production of transsexuality and transgenderism at the expense of an analysis of how these identities and experiences are erased in our culture (p. 51).  There are undoubtedly positive consequences to the increased visibility of trans youth in academic research and mainstream culture, and it is possible to conduct research that centers trans youth’s lives, experiences, and perceptions without problematizing them. However, I was growing frustrated with the way even these positive frameworks do not examine closely the institutional context that young people have to navigate on a daily basis. Researchers almost never talk to the people who are directly implicated in the (re)production of the norms that structure these contexts. Given this complicated history and the privilege I gain from being read as cisgender, I realized that, as both a scholar and an activist (two identities intricately linked for me), I needed to turn my critical attention to the people who are part of the systems that create institutional and interactional challenges for trans and gender-nonconforming students. This offered me a better opportunity to ask critical questions about the reproduction of institutional norms and the limits of current discourses about trans and gender-nonconforming youth.  The research questions I outlined in Chapter 1 are inevitably tied and tangled up with the lives of trans and gender-nonconforming youth and their experiences of educational spaces, but they are not directly about them. I am increasingly convinced that if we do not look to how our everyday discursive practices and their material impacts for constituting particular institutional and interactional spaces, we are unlikely to deconstruct the ways that these spaces continue to automatically tend towards enforcing norms of gender and sexual conformity. We are thus unlikely to make a significant and sustainable change. I also have no doubt that my investment in approaching this topic from this particular angle is a product on my own position: despite my continued commitment to young people, I am increasingly situated closer to educators than I am 40  to queer and trans and gender-nonconforming youth. This project thus is ultimately also motivated by a desire to interrogate my own practices and investments in educational contexts that enforce sexual and gender conformity. Regardless of my reasons for focusing on adult rather than youth perspectives, it is important not to deny the challenge of writing about this research in a way that engages with the fact that trans and gender-nonconforming youth are a constant presence – yet absence – in my interviews and in much of my analysis. I have often wondered with whom my responsibility lies most strongly: the dedicated educators who took time out of their (very) busy schedules to share their thoughts and experiences with me? Or the youth that they told me about, along with the countless of other queer and trans and gender-nonconforming youth who have to navigate hostile educational environments? The answer is not neatly dichotomous, and I have tried in my analysis to honour and respect my participants while remaining committed to a critical investigation of the way that discourses, particularly in institutional contexts, work to (de)legitimize certain lives over others (a process fundamentally tied colonization and nationalist ideologies, as Nagel (2000), Rifkin (2011) and other critical scholars of race and indigeneity have pointed out).  I also find an answer in my analytical goals: I focus not on telling the ‘truth’ of what happened at the schools that I visited (an approach which would undoubtedly be profoundly inadequate for lacking the perspectives of the youth involved) but on examining how the adults that I talked to construct accounts of what happened. My aim is to make sense of the meaning-making work that is involved in navigating dominant discourses in the institutional context of schools. I have no interest in, or illusion about, speaking for the youth whose stories are partially and inadequately told in this research: that is not how I can best engage in responsible, respectful research in this case. This is especially true given the colonizing impulse involved in speaking 41  for others in research (Alcoff, 1991-92; Minh-ha, 1989) and the myth of ‘authentic voice’ that it perpetuates (Ellsworth, 1989; Orner, 1992). Instead, I believe responsibility and respect in this case is best achieved by conducting and writing research that is relevant to both trans and gender-nonconforming youth and educators. This kind of research critically examines the institutional conditions that structure the lives of young trans and gender-nonconforming people and their experiences in schools, as well as the complicated discursive negotiations that educators have to engage in within constraining institutional contexts.  2.4 District and participant selection 2.4.1 District selection Given that I am interested in the ways that institutional settings might constrain or expand the discursive possibilities for educators, I wanted to select participants who worked in different institutional contexts, including different school districts. I obtained ethics approval to interview school staff from four districts in BC. Three of the four districts (District A, C and D) where I conducted this research project are located in the Lower Mainland of BC, the urban area that includes Vancouver and its neighbouring cities. The fourth one, District B, is located in northern BC. I had always intended on interviewing educators in District D since it is considered to be one of the ‘model’ districts in the province and it is also the district with which I was most familiar. The other three districts were selected based on strong initial interest from one or two key educators working in these districts, who learned of the project through different avenues: informal networks (District A), a recruitment email that I sent out through the listserv of the B.C. Teacher’s Federation (District B), and a direct contact from me, as the educator in this case was a key informant (District C). Additionally, I was drawn to these three districts because they 42  provided a variety of institutional contexts regarding LGBTQ issues. At the time I was conducting my research, these four districts were at different stages of acquiring a district policy on LGBTQ inclusion – District A had recently established a policy, District B and District C were in the process of acquiring one, and District D had a long-established policy (see BCTF website12 for information on LGBTQ policies across the province). All four districts now have such a policy on the books, although only the policy in District D specifically addresses the needs of trans and gender-nonconforming students. In order to recruit individual participants, it was necessary to gain approval from these four districts. Although somewhat lengthy, the process was straightforward, and all districts (except for District A) quickly approved the research upon reviewing the information package I provided. District A was reluctant at first, seemingly because of a misunderstanding: their rejection letter stated that they do not track or keep statistics on trans and gender-nonconforming students, but reaching the person in charge of reviewing research projects to explain the misunderstanding proved difficult. I was finally able to obtain approval by asking the principal at Wolfe Secondary (the school where I had some interest from teachers) for a letter of support. Because the district approved the research project in connection to Wolfe Secondary specifically, I was not able to reach out to administrators at other schools. As a result, District A is the only district where all my interviews were with staff (current or former) of a single school site.                                                   12 43  2.4.2 Note on comparisons within the data  As stated above, part of my analytical interest going into this project was the impact of institutional context on the availability of discourses that educators might use to make sense of their experiences and on what changes were perceived as possible or not. In other words, I thought I might notice different patterns across districts in the likelihood that educators favoured certain discourses over others. Although differences did sometimes emerge, in particular in people’s opinions of the importance and role of district-wide policies, even these differences very rarely drew clear distinctions between districts.  This is not to deny that there are some significant differences between the districts where I conducted research. Both my interviews and observational data confirmed that the most urban district makes accessible a wealth of expert knowledges and resources that are less easily accessible in other districts. This lack of accessibility was especially felt in the northern BC school district because of its physical distance to trans competent service providers in a province where trans competencies still tend to be centralized. However, these differences rarely made a coherent pattern that would warrant making analytical distinctions. As a result, while I occasionally point to moments where differences emerge that did seem to be partly about institutional contexts (e.g., whether an administrator felt that their district would defend their decision to let a young trans woman use the girls’ washroom), I do not offer a systematically comparative analysis.  2.4.3 Participant selection All interviews were conducted between March and June of 2013. In that period of time, I interviewed 62 participants for an average of 70 minutes (see the interview guide in Appendix 44  A), who were currently or recently employed in a public school. Most educators were employed in secondary schools at the time of the interview. Most interviews took place at the participant’s current place of employment, usually after school hours or during a free period. The large majority of participants were administrators, counsellors, and classroom teachers but I also interviewed other staff when conversations pointed me in their direction due to their experience. In three of the four districts, this included at least one district employee whose position had brought them in contact with situations involving trans and gender-nonconforming youth.13 I use the term “educator” whenever I need to refer broadly to all school staff, and mention individual participants’ position when possible.  Almost all of my participants had worked directly with at least one student who had socially transitioned or was in the process of socially transitioning from one gender to another. A couple of participants who did not have direct experience were interviewed for one of two reasons: either they held a position at the school (i.e., as a librarian or an administrative clerk) that meant they had had an indirect involvement in institutional processes that impacted trans and gender-nonconforming students, or they had worked with queer-identified students and conflated sexuality and gender identity. The commonplace confusion and conflation of queer and trans identities and issues meant that it was sometimes difficult to assert early on in the interview that these participants did not have the direct experience I was looking for. Rather than to discard these interviews, I use them to shed light on the perceptions of school staff of the complicated terrain of gender and sexuality, and the often-murky ideas that exist about the relationship between sexual orientation and gender identity, especially when talking about adolescents.                                                   13 In order to protect their anonymity, I will not be mentioning their specific position at the district. 45  In addition to the 62 school staff, I also interviewed 6 participants who were either trans and gender-nonconforming youth or were parents of trans and gender-nonconforming youth. As I have explained above, I made the decision early on to focus my research explicitly on educators rather than on trans and gender-nonconforming students themselves. However, as I designed the project and reflected on its boundaries, I determined that it was ethically important to make sure that, whenever possible, the students whose experiences might come up during my interviews with school staff would be made aware that I was conducting this research project. It felt important that they be invited to contact me if they had any concerns or if they wanted to talk to me (informally or formally) about the project and their experiences. Each time that I entered a new school site, I checked with key participants to see if they were able to contact the student(s) on my behalf and provide them with a sheet briefly introducing my research (Appendix C). This was possible in about half of the schools I visited, usually when the student was still attending the school or had very recently graduated. This strategy led a small number of youth and families to contact me and to be interviewed by me. Although I draw on these interviews in places to illuminate some of my findings and/or to help me put the experiences of school staff in context, these interviews are not the focus of my analysis but rather worked to inform my interviews with school staff as well as my analysis.  In spite of my own mixed school experiences as a teenager, the hallways hold few fears for me. I have always made positive connections with teachers, if not with peers. I continue to have much respect for people who work in schools, and I have developed additional familiarity with schools by completing numerous hours of volunteer work in school settings. Once I had managed to gain access to a school, this comfort with the space of school and the people who work there, combined with a friendly disposition, made the recruitment process relatively 46  smooth. I easily established rapport with administrators and other staff, and few people I approached were unwilling to speak to me for this research.  Practically speaking, I usually first made contact with an educator in the district who had expressed strong interest in the project. This key contact helped me identify specific schools where staff had worked with at least one trans or gender-nonconforming student and might be interested in participating in the research, so that I would be able to get multiple perspectives from people working in the same institutional context. I also usually asked participants if they could refer to me to other educators after our interview, especially if they had mentioned specific colleagues in the course of our conversations. Additionally, I always contacted the school’s administrators in order to inform them of the project and of my interest in interviewing some of their current or former staff. In all cases, administrators were supportive of the project and helped me by identifying potential participants at the school and circulating information about the research to the relevant staff (see recruitment letter in Appendix B). Most administrators also agreed to participate in an interview. These different steps are aligned with a snowball sampling technique (Morgan, 2008), which uses a small pool of initial informants to identify people who could meet the eligibility criteria for participating in the study. By accessing participants through several points of entry, and focusing on a limited number of school sites, I was able to recruit from beyond people’s personal networks and avoid a sample where people shared highly similar beliefs. However, there remain limits to relying primarily on snowball sampling. Undoubtedly, people had their own idea of who would have interesting opinions and experiences to share with me when they directed me to their colleagues. Another limitation of my sample is that people typically agreed to be interviewed for this project because they saw themselves as being supportive of trans and gender-nonconforming youth (this 47  investment in the identity of caring, supporting educator is a theme that I explore more fully in Chapter 5). Twice in the course of recruitment, I was told that I should talk to someone because that person had struggled, at least initially, with supporting trans and gender-nonconforming students. In both cases, the people were told about the research project but were not interested in participating. This anecdote highlights the difficulty of reaching participants who might be concerned about how their perspective would be received and/or portrayed, or worried about professional consequences. This limitation echoes my earlier discussion of how knowledge production is affected by practical decisions and the reality of being in the field. As a result, this study is primarily a study of educators who understand themselves as supportive of trans and gender-nonconforming students. I critically investigate this positioning as part of my analysis. My original idea for recruitment was to focus on a very limited number of school sites and interview as many staff as possible at each of these sites. This was somewhat successful – with the exception of two schools, I was able to talk with multiple educators at every school I visited where a trans and gender-nonconforming youth had attended or was attending. However, where I had hoped to end up with a small handful of clearly delineated school sites, the recruitment process proved messier. Educators rarely work at the same schools for many years in a row, so that many of my participants had worked with different trans and gender-nonconforming youth at different schools. Additionally, their colleagues had often moved on to working at other schools, and/or in different positions (e.g., first as a counsellor then as an administrator). In these conditions, relying on snowball sampling often led me to more school sites than I had anticipated, with more complex lines connecting my various participants.  48  2.4.4 Description of participants As mentioned above, I interviewed a total of 62 school staff as well as 4 trans and gender-nonconforming youth and 2 parents of trans and gender-nonconforming youth. Table 2.1 below breaks down the demographics of my school staff participants: they are predominantly white (87%), mostly identify as straight (84%), and almost all of them have grown up in Canada (90%). They are also a majority of women (71%), hold Master’s degrees (71%) and most of them are in their forties and fifties (61%). As I conducted my research, I made few efforts to recruit for particular demographics and instead let the process of snowball sampling drive the demographics of my sample.  In some ways, my sample resembles the larger body of B.C. educators: in their statistics on teachers and administrators for the year 2013-2014, the government of British Columbia report that 67% of educators in B.C. are between the ages of 40 and 60, and 69% are women (BC Ministry of Education, 2014). Given the persistent assumption that women continue to constitute a majority of school staff, I assumed I would interview a majority of women. Similarly, I expected to interview primarily white participants based on my experience in the school system and the knowledge that schools continue to be dominated by white educators. There is statistical evidence that in Canada, including BC, the “racialized teacher population has not kept pace with the racialized student and general populations” (Ryan, Pollock & Antonelli, 2009, p. 592). My observations do suggest that white educators dominate at the various schools that I visited.  However, the question of why I recruited a majority of white participants cannot be dismissed as simply a matter of statistics. It is important to acknowledge that my own embodiment as a white person – and the fact that my approach to recruitment did not incorporate specific strategies to interview people of color – shaped who I ended up interviewing. In 49  interactions, my whiteness carries significance, and although it is difficult to ascertain the precise impact of whiteness on the recruitment process, I see a number of possible effects: (1) my whiteness may have directed who people thought of connecting me to (other white educators); (2) my whiteness, combined with a research topic that did not explicitly mention race, may have communicated that I had no interest in issues of racialization (a perspective facilitated by the advent of the myth of colorblindness, which suggests that too much interest in race is undue); (3) racist narratives persist in Western cultures about people of colour being more homophobic/transphobic than white people (Bronski, Pellegrini & Amico, 2013; Egan & Sherill, 2009, p. 9), which may have shaped people’s ideas about who would make a good participant for my research. In anticipation of this limitation, I integrated questions about racialization into my interview guide in a conscious effort to ensure that interviews touched on this subject regardless of the racial or ethnic make-up of my participants. Critical whiteness studies warn scholars against the predominant notion that “only people of color have race” (Collins, 1995, p. 729) and remind us that white people also “live racially structured lives” (Frankenberg, 1993, p. 1). White people are implicated in systems of racialization, a process I wanted to try and capture as part of my analysis. I discuss this more extensively in Chapter 3.  Conversely, while the research topic and my own ties to queer and trans communities could have led to a large number of queer- and trans-identified participants, most of my interviewees identified as heterosexual and, with one exception, all of them are also cisgender. As I discuss in the next section, we must not assume an uncomplicated relationship between identity and knowledge production. Nonetheless, knowledge is produced through power relations, and occupying dominant social positions give people different vantage points than those whose lives are shaped by marginalization (bell hooks, 2000, p. xvi). It was thus crucial 50  that my analysis would take into consideration how my participants’ privileged positions worked to shape their talk and their perspectives.  For example, Fawn (teacher, District C) discussed a trans educator coming into her class to talk about gender identity: although she could not recall what specific questions her students asked of the educator, she told me that she remembered them being “normal, logical, regular questions.” One way that this account can be analyzed is in the context of a cisnormative culture that often gives cisgender people a sense of entitlement over the experiences of trans people. This can translate into microaggressions such as invasive questions, which can be experienced as traumatic by trans people (Richmond, Burnes & Caroll, 2012; Nadal, Skolnik & Wong, 2012; Namaste, 2007, p. 195) but seem entirely unremarkable to cis people like Fawn. This example is meant to serve as a reminder that participants’ relative positions of privilege are not simply demographic facts to be asserted, but rather can inform my analysis throughout this dissertation. Such an approach is helpful in writing responsible research that remains respectful of the participants, as it does not attribute negative intentions and actions to individuals but instead takes into consideration the broader culture and its discourses. Ultimately, the make-up of the project’s sample provides an opportunity to examine how people with dominant identities negotiate discourses about trans and gender-nonconforming students in a cisnormative context. Given that most educators in this province occupy similarly socially privileged positions, this research can provide essential insights into how to understand and thus support educators who work with trans and gender-nonconforming students. Samples of participants always have their limitations. Rather than imagine what may have been a more ideal sample, it is more productive to acknowledge these limitations, and actively engage in the work of thinking through how the make-up of one’s participants shapes 51  the data generated in the course of the research process. I continue this discussion as I move through my analysis in the next chapters. But first, I continue this self-reflexive work in the next section by discussing my own positioning as a researcher and how this affected my relationship to my participants and the process of data generation.   52   Administrators Counsellors Teachers Other staff Total Total participants* 14 (23%) 15 (24%) 21 (34%) 12 (19%) 62 School District      A 0 2 8 3 13 (21%) B 4 4 6 3 17 (27%) C 6 5 2 2 15 (25%) D 4 4 5 4 17 (27%) Age      30-40 (1982-1973) 2 3 11 4 20 (32%) 41-60 (1972-1953) 11 12 9 6 38 (61%) 61+ (1952-earlier) 1 0 1 2 4 (7%) Gender identity      Woman 7 13 15 9 44 (71%) Man 7 2 6 3 18 (29%) Sexual identity      Queer spectrum 2 1 4 2 8 (13%) Straight 12 13 17 9 52 (84%) Unclear/No answer 0 1 0 1 2 (3%)  Race/ethnicity      Person of color 1 2 4 1 8 (13%) White person 13 13 17 11 54 (87%) Higher education      High school 0 0 0 2 2 (3%) Bachelor’s 0 4 8 4 16 (26%) Master’s 14 11 13 6 44 (71%) Grew up in CA      Yes 14 13 20 9 56 (90%) No** 0 2 1 3 6 (10%) Table 2.1 Demographics of school staff participants  2.5 Reflexivity An approach based in the idea of social construction, especially when it is influenced by feminist theory, often involves some form of self-reflexivity, which is the practice of “acknowledge[ing] that the researcher’s background, position, or emotions are an integral part of the process of producing data” (Hennick, Hutter & Bailey, 2012, p. 19) Reflexivity is not simply as a restrictive practice, wherein positionality is identified in order to be neutralized. It is a way to actively 53  engage with the process of knowledge production with the goal of producing responsible research. For me, reflexivity means research that honours people’s time and participation, recognizes the power dynamics that infuse the research/participant relationship, and generates knowledge that can be used to improve structural conditions for marginalized populations.  While widespread in feminist research, the practice of self-reflexivity has been criticized on several counts. First, it is often reduced to a superficial list of social attributes of characteristics, a “confessional tale” (Pillow, 2003, p. 182) that describes the researcher(s) but does not generate a deeper reflection on how this particular positionality has affected the different stages of research and the relationship to participants. In other words, these surface attempts at self-reflexivity do little to decenter the researcher’s privilege (if anything, they recenter it) or to connect it to a larger analysis of how positionality shapes and is shaped by power arrangements. As a result, these accounts fail to “provide a meaningful account of how power organizes knowledge” (McCorkel & Myers, 2003, p. 208). Because they assume that these declarations of identity speak for themselves, these kinds of accounts also do not adequately acknowledge that “outsiderness and insiderness are not fixed or static positions” (Naples, 2003, p. 49). Finally, reflexivity practiced in this way often suggests that these utterances can neutralize the effects of the researcher’s identity on their research instead of engaging in an adequate and meaningful evaluation of them (Alcoff, 1991-92).  Pillow (2003) suggests instead that we might engage in what she calls “reflexivities of discomfort” (p. 187); this type of uncomfortable reflexivity “seeks to know while at the same time situates this knowing as tenuous” (p. 188) in a way that does not deny the potential and importance of self-reflexive practice, but also explicitly interrogates its “complicit relationship with ethnocentric power and knowledge in qualitative research” (p. 192). Ultimately, the value of 54  critical self-reflexivity is precisely not that it “somehow manages to avoid problems associated with privilege and difference [but] instead it reveals them” (McCorkel & Myers, 2003p. 229).   Certainly there is value in working to “identify the baggage we bring with us as we enter the field to collect and analyze empirical materials” (Best, 2003, p. 908). A researcher’s location is “epistemically salient” (Alcoff, 1991-92. p. 7): it shapes the question we ask, the interactions we have with our participants, how we listen and hear what they tell us (Currie, Kelly & Pomerantz, 2007; DeVault & Gross, 2007, p. 71). Pillow’s (2003) reformulation is productive precisely because it works alongside an interrogation of how “the substantive relations between the knower and the known mediate the relationship between the knower’s standpoint and the production of knowledge (McCorkel & Myers, 2003, p. 221) and of the ways that “social privilege affects the process of knowledge production” (McCorkel & Myers, 2003, p. 206). Yet it does not assume clear causes and effects, or static relationships of privilege and marginalization. Rather than imposing limitations based on the specific positionality of individual researchers, this approach instead questions the connection between knowledge production and researcher identity, and “interrogates the notion that one’s identity determines how one produces knowledge” (Allen, 2010, p. 149).  What is important is to recognize and analyze “how the researcher’s positionality facilitates specific forms of understanding and impedes others” (McCorkel & Myers, 2003, p. 228), no matter who the researcher is and what topic they are researching. By practicing reflexivity in this way, we do not deny that research necessarily involved speaking about, and for others, but we ensure this act of speaking always carries with it “an accountability and responsibility for what one says” (Alcoff, 1991-92. p. 25).  Further complicating the practice of reflexivity is my approach to interviews as interactions where identities are not simply relevant but are actively produced. This conception 55  draws on an understanding of subjectivity as “precarious, contradictory and in process, constantly being reconstituted in discourse every time we think or speak” (Weedon, 1987, p. 33). The epistemological stance that one’s identity comes into existence through its doing and speaking has an impact on how we understand the interview relationship. Best (2003) notes: An implicit assumption that underlies these discussions [about the effects of identity relations on research practice] is the idea that the researcher’s biography with regard to race, class, and gender is already formed prior to the research experience rather than being an emergent feature of the research process itself. (p. 908)  Instead of drawing conclusions about the interview relationship based on the assumed fixed identities of the interviewer and interviewee, it is important to pay attention to the way that identities are generated through the interaction of the interview, and in particular to the way that the interviewer is actively involved in this interactional encounter.  For example, as I conducted interviews, I was confronted with the fact that how I identified was less important in my interviews than how participants read me and my body. In my interactions with participants, it often felt as if the topic of my research combined with my gender expression (which I am tempted to describe as safely gender-nonconforming – most people do not read me as feminine, but also feel comfortable in reading me as a woman) did the work of positioning me as a (potentially queer) cisgender ally to the trans community. Sometimes, this meant that my participants felt accountable to me for their tendency to make gendered assumptions. In the middle of explaining why physical education (P.E.) at his school is sometimes segregated by gender, Ernest, a principal in District C, noted: There are at some things like floor hockey where [P.E. teachers] want just guys because you know - and actually having said that, we have girls’ hockey academy here and so girls are welcomed to join it but it’s like 90% guys thumping each other and the girls are playing basketball or something like that.  56  At the beginning of the quote, Ernest assumes that gender-segregating hockey makes obvious sense. His use of ‘you know’ calls upon shared dominant narratives about hockey as an activity suited just for ‘guys.’ But immediately, he shifts as he becomes accountable14 to me for the gendered assessment he just made: he softens his original claim by mentioning that the school does offer girls the opportunity to play hockey as well, ultimately reaffirming the gender order by assessing that few girls choose to take hockey. While it is impossible to know exactly why this principal felt accountable to me for his original statement, the combination of the research topic and my embodiment is likely to have played a role. This moment highlights the way that interviews are the product of an interaction between two specific people, but it also carries analytical significance. In the excerpt above, Ernest’s show of accountability provides a more complex look into his construction of sports as a gendered space – one where girls are not nominally excluded from the practice of hockey yet where the relationship to hockey to masculine enactment remains central (“it’s like 90% guys thumping each other”). At other times, the fact that participants positioned me as a cisgender ally had the effect of allowing certain utterances. Often, this positioning seemed to work as a “point of connection” (McCorkel & Myers, 2003, p. 204) that helped establish rapport between me and my cisgender participants who saw themselves as allies. However, it could also be uncomfortable. For example, participants sometimes assumed that I shared their opinion of how odd or complicated a particular situation was. This could implicate me in heterosexist and cisnormative discourses.                                                  14 In ethnomethodology and related approaches to discourse analysis, the notion of accountability refers to the way that people talk in ways that show that they are orienting to their conversation partner(s). Edwards & Potter (1993) explain: “At the same time as they are reporting and constructing explanations of events, speakers are accountable for their own actions in speaking, for the veracity of their accounts, and for the interactional consequences of those accounts.” If your conversational partner demonstrates surprise at one of your statements, for example, you are likely to demonstrate accountability by further explaining your perspective or softening your claim(s). 57  An example of this was visible in the way that Rebecca (teacher, District B) discussed Kayla, a trans girl who had attended her class a couple of years prior:  My favourite part was he’d [sic]15 shave his eyebrows off and then make lightning bolts – so that, like, so, which is interesting… so he [sic] didn’t try to hide, ’cause not – what kid do you know that’s 17 or 18 years old shaves her eyebrows and paints on lightning bolts for eyebrows.   By using the phrase “what kid do you know,” Rebecca brings me into her assessment of the student’s style as unusual and likely to attract attention, giving it additional force than if she had simply made a broad statement about what 17-year-olds do or do not do. Again, this is not simply a methodological reflection on the impact of my presence as an interviewer but has analytical relevance: it shows how cisnormativity can be bolstered through interaction.  The concept of reflexivity also invites me to reflect on another area in which I struggled with interview dynamics: my occasionally shifting identity between that of neutral interviewer and that of expert. Even though I avoided expressing opinions during interviews, the very structure of my encounter with participants located me as a researcher and expert in my field of research. Participants regularly assumed (correctly) that I already possessed knowledge on this topic. At times, it was difficult to negotiate my position as an interviewer maintaining some distance from the stories and opinions of my participants with my position as an expert and activist from whom my participants were curious to learn. Given my interest in my participants’ discursive practices, it felt important not to feed particular concepts or definitions to them. I did not want to establish a dynamic that subordinated their experiences and narratives to my explanations. Yet this sometimes involved remaining quiet when participants stated uninformed                                                  15 I use this annotation after a third-person subject pronoun (he/she) or possessive adjective (his/her) to signal a misgendering, the act of referring to someone by a pronoun or form of address that does not accurately reflect their gender. I only use the annotation when I have strong reason to believe (based on informal conversations with informants or interviews with other participants) that the participant is misgendering the student. 58  opinions or specifically asked for my advice or input, such as when Amy (principal, District B) told me, “you can correct me at any point if you feel you want to share your knowledge with me.” These were tricky moments to navigate because they sometimes came in the midst of interviews with people who did not quite have the tools to properly support their trans and gender-nonconforming students and who could (and wanted to) benefit from additional insights or information. It struck me as counter-productive and epistemologically illogical to inhabit the position of distant researcher when I did in fact possess knowledge and tools (rather than straightforward truths and answers) that could be helpful to these educators. Yet I remained unsure how to best intervene into our conversation. Often there was time after our interview to share thoughts or resources with them, and I did so. Still, some of these interactions left me with the sense of having missed opportunities to effectively manifest my commitment to responsible research and to social change. I ended up feeling unsettled about the impact of maintaining distance as an interviewer, and unsatisfied about the part that I was playing in the field as a researcher.  This discomfort has not been unproductive, as it has pushed me to think further about the responsibility I have both to my participants and to the people whose lives might be impacted by my research in ways that extend beyond the interview relationship. These experiences strengthened my conviction that it is crucial for scholars to be involved in the communities they work with beyond research-oriented interactions, and that they put an emphasis on knowledge dissemination beyond academia. For instance, my involvement in policy changes in the Vancouver School Board’s LGBTQ policy is a concrete and recent attempt to ensure my knowledge would be shared with communities and stakeholders who have an impact on the lives 59  of the educators I interviewed and on the lives of queer and trans and gender-nonconforming students. These efforts do not erase my discomfort but inscribe it in a larger context. By taking into consideration the way that interviewer and interviewee co-construct interview data, we are better able to recognize “that the insider/outsider relation is ultimately a fragile one, subject to change as the topic of talk shifts” (Best, 2003, p. 907). Power circulates in discourse to generate identities that are flexible and can shift in the course of the interview, in part because identity “is not the base of a subject but an effect of being produced as a subject through meanings of difference” (Dhamoon, 2009, p. 11). By acknowledging that the data generated in the process of interviewing are discursive productions of reality, it is possible to transform the range of our positionalities from being a problem that ‘gets in the way’ of proper interviewing to being both a potential resource for understanding our data.  This section has delineated some of the conversations that run through this dissertation as I attempt to practice reflexivities of discomfort and grapple with the way in which knowledge production is affected by the research process. To be able to fully engage in this effort, it is also important to pay close attention to the theoretical underpinnings of our actual methods of research; I do so in the next section, where I detail my understanding of interviewing as a method and a knowledge-constituting interaction. I also outline my approach to the practice of analyzing the discursive data generated by interviews.  2.6 Generating data: Interview as a method By discussing my approach to interviewing and interview data, I intend to both illuminate and complicate a process of data generation that is frequently perceived as straightforward, one that does not require a clear ontology (Cook, 2008) yet is able to give skilled researchers access to the 60  truth of their interviewees and “the observation of others” (Weiss, 1994, p. 1). In contrast, and as I have already highlighted in the previous section, I am interested in thinking through the implications of approaching interviews both as “meaning-making partnerships” (Hennink et al., 2012, p. 109) during which the interviewer and interviewee co-construct knowledge and meanings. As I promised Claire in the quote that opens this chapter, the goal is not to take my participants’ words as ‘facts’ in the positivist sense. Instead I want to explore what, in Claire’s words, a “total guess” might be able to tell us about the institutional context in which these guesses are made possible. In other words, in examining how events are represented in the talk of educators, the goal is not to compare “the truth about an event with how it is represented in particular texts [but to] see it in terms of comparison between different representations of the same or broadly similar events” (Fairclough, 2003, p. 136). In this way, I can illuminate the discursive processes by which educators construct their own truth or representation of an event through discourses available to them, and the potential material implications of that process.   This interest in the representational role of discourses and narratives (or processes of meaning-making) explains my choice of in-depth interviews as my method of data generation for this project. In-depth interviews, especially in a semi-structured format, provide valuable opportunities for participants to discuss their perspectives on the research topic, to tell stories, and to bring up themes and topics that the research did not anticipate. Patton (2002), for example, contends that the objective of qualitative interviews is to capture the diverse nature of people’s worldviews, experiences, perceptions, and judgments using their own words. As such, in-depth interviewing can be a powerful tool for exploring processes of meaning-making: how people make sense of their worlds, how they understand a certain topic, what discourses they have available to them to talk about their experiences, and how these discursive processes shape 61  what actions are understood as (im)possible. Rather than take participants’ talk as unmediated truth and an unambiguous reflection of reality, I understand interviews – like other instances of talk – as moments where people are representing the world in ways that allow them to (re)construct themselves and their social world.  A critical examination of processes of meaning-making takes into account the way that power circulates in representations. I draw here on Dhamoon’s (2009) work, where she describes her analytical project as one where she considers “how meanings of difference are produced, organized, and regulated through power, and the effects of these meanings on socio-political arrangements” (p. 2). As I have noted in the introduction, this approach conceptualizes power “in Foucauldian terms as a relation and as a capacity that is spread throughout the socio-political body, rather than as something that is possessed or held by a sovereign subject or the state” (Dhamoon, 2009, p. 10). Power circulates through discursive practise by making certain subjects or arrangements more legible than others; my focus is precisely on this process, and “the rules (what Foucault calls ‘regimes’) that determine what can be said as meaningful to other participants” (Currie, Kelly & Pomerantz, 2009, p. 65).  In approaching interview data with this lens, my goal is to shift the focus from individualized accounts to an analysis of how power functions in the life of educators and at the schools where they work, so as to avoid blaming individual educators for systemic failures and institutional limitations. Instead I seek to illuminate how dominant discourses and institutional patterns of marginalization are sustained, resisted, and negotiated by participants as they work to make sense of their experiences with trans and gender-nonconforming students, and the effects of this process on what happens in schools. In the rest of this section, I detail this approach to 62  interview data by considering its implications for silences and contradictions in data, as well as for the process of transcription.  2.6.1 Silences, contradictions, and the limitations of language In addition to widening dominant sociological understandings of interview data, feminist scholars have emphasized the need to also listen for hesitations and silences: in other words, for what is not said (DeVault, 1990). Fairclough (2003) also brings his readers’ attention to the fact that “texts inevitably make assumptions. What is ‘said’ in a text is ‘said’ against a background of what is ‘unsaid’, but taken as given” (p.40). This attention to the unsaid is important because silences often reveal something about the taken-for-granted assumptions made by speakers. As Currie, Kelly & Pomerantz (2009) note, “established languages and frames of reference that orchestrate everyday life have been authored by those allied with dominant institutions” (p.64; see also Smith, 1990). Assumptions contained in silences are often ideological in nature in the sense that they organize the world, often according to dominant representations. In addition to highlighting authorized and take-for-granted meaning, silences can also point to the limits of language. Sometimes, silences or hesitations can suggest that the right vocabulary is not readily available given what participants are trying to articulate. Instead of dismissing hesitations, silences, or pauses as unimportant features of language, paying attention to what they suggest about the limits of dominant frames. A lack of language can give some insight into moments where participants are negotiating dominant and/or emergent discourses. In the quote below, Adeline, a teacher in District B, is answering my request that she defines for me the words trans or transgender:  63  I think most people see, you know, like the play Raining Man or whatever - you see guys dressed up as females and you think that they are all gay, and maybe they are but it could be a gender thing, right. Gay is a sexual preference and gender is a gender preference. It’s really when that was kind of explained to us we were going, yeah I guess that’s it, right. They are like… when you really think of it.  In this excerpt, Adeline shows some confidence that she has a good grasp on the concept of gender identity (there are no hesitations when she summarizes that “gay is a sexual preference and gender is a gender preference”). Yet when she recounts the time that the definition finally made sense to her, she qualifies that experiences with hedges like ‘kind of (“that was kind of explained to us”) and ‘I guess’ (“I guess that’s it, right”). The tag ‘right’ at the end of the latter sentence could also be read as a dialogical element that calls onto me, the researcher positioned as (more of) an expert on gender diversity, to confirm Adeline’s definition as correct. Most significantly, when it comes to reformulating the definition in her own words, Adeline ends up with a silence as she finds herself unable to finish the utterance “they are like…” This suggests that, despite her original confidence, she still experiences trans as something that is complicated to summarize.  Similar hesitations are even more pronounced in the following quote, in which Jelena, a support staff in a District A, answers the same question about defining transgender: I would say that, I don’t know how I would word - I - but transgender is where you may have, you are not - I don’t know how to say it, your body image doesn’t match your sexual orientation or something along that line. I know for some students where they are sort of wrestling with that idea of ‘am I a male or am I a female’?  Jelena is more obviously wrestling with finding the right words to explain the experiences of her students, hesitating and backtracking throughout the start of the quote, and twice stating explicitly that she “do[esn’t] know” how to say what she means. In slightly different ways, both Adeline and Jelena are attempting to find the language they need to articulate their experiences. 64  This is the case even though the concept of ‘transgender’ is not foreign or unfamiliar to them since they have worked directly with trans students. In a culture organized by heteronormative and cisnormative representations, I would argue that Adeline and Jelena’s struggle with language points to a lack of discursive certainty around concepts of gender identity and transness. This includes the conflation of gender and sexuality and an absence of clearly established and authorized definitions. In this way, these two excerpts exemplify the analytical importance of listening to, and for, hesitations and silences, rather than dismissing them as irrelevant. My approach to interview data also challenges the traditional analytical perspective that frames contradictions in people’s talk as a problem to be resolved. This dominant understanding of contradictions originates in the conceptualization of variability in positivist as well as in functionalist strands of research. In these contexts, variability and contradictions are seen either as the result of ‘measurement errors’ or as a surface element of language that covers up an otherwise coherent view or a cognitive schema that may not be socially acceptable in certain circumstances (for example, when people use a disclaimer such as, ‘I’m not a racist but’ as a function to hide their racism). Both these perspectives assume there is a coherent subject behind the talk. Instead, a theoretical approach that understands people as actively constituting their identities during interviews allows the researcher to see how research participants may be ‘doing’ different identities at different times, drawing on different interpretative repertoires to do so, leading to what may look like contradictions or changes in meanings over the course of an interview (van den Berg, 2003). This different perspective also suggests an ontological shift, as the refusal to resolve contradictions is motivated by a post-modern questioning of our traditional understanding of the subject as a unitary, coherent whole (Waugh, 1998, p. 179). I prefer this approach because of my ontological leanings (the multiplicity of the subject, the complexity of 65  experience, and the instability of ‘truth’). I also appreciate the fact that it creates room to examine how people accomplish certain identities within interviews in ways that often reproduce dominant discourses (Wetherell, 2003).  This approach to interview data has important consequences for the process of data analysis. It cautions researchers against analyzing their participants’ words as factual testimonies or direct representation of what happens outside of the interview. Instead it suggests that we need to consider how participants are actively invested in creating a presentation of the self that exists in response to the interviewer but also to the context (cultural, historical, institutional) in which the interview is happening. This approach is crucial in providing me tools for data analysis that can help move beyond individualized explanations and examine participants as subjects who are navigating complex social and institutional systems.  2.6.2 Brief note on transcription Due to time constraints and the large number of interviews I conducted for this project, I had the vast majority of my interviews transcribed by a third-party company.16 Transcription is usually taken to be an unambiguous process that can be done with complete accuracy if one is careful and detailed enough, instead of an analytical practice inevitably embedded in relations of power (Bucholtz, 2000). Green, Franquiz & Dixon (1997) identify two distinct processes that make transcription a situated act: it is both an interpretative process (what we decide to transcribe or not transcribe) and a representational process (how we decide to transcribe it) (see also DeVault, 1990). The decisions that researchers make about recording, transcribing, and excerpting are                                                  16 In order to ensure the maximum amount of confidentiality for my participants, I selected a Canadian company so the data would not be stored in the United States. The company was also based in a different province (thus reducing the likelihood that transcribers would know participants). I also had the company sign a confidentiality agreement.  66  analytically relevant: “All transcripts take sides, enabling certain interpretations, advancing particular interests, favoring specific speakers, and so on. The choices made in transcription link the transcript to the context in which it is intended to be read” (Bucholtz, 2000, p. 1440).  Because transcription transforms our data and produces the raw material upon which we base subsequent analyses, an awareness of the complex nature of transcription urges researchers to reflect on the choices they make during transcription. It also asks that researchers articulate how these choices may affect other parts of the analytic work that comes at later stages of the research (Witcher, 2010). Since I was not able to personally transcribe the vast majority of the transcripts for this project, this process for me takes the form of acknowledging that I relinquished control over a piece of the analytical process. This means that I need to remain attuned to the fact that the transcripts I am working from are mediated representations constructed by other people. For example, one difficulty of having a third party transcribe interviews is a potential loss of the moments of silence and hesitations whose importance I have highlighted above. Standard transcription practices tend to smooth over talk, taking out much of the false starts, repetitions, and hesitations that are traditionally seen as superfluous but contain information about the limitations of the language available to us. To compensate for this, I have re-listened to audio recordings and tried to remain attentive to textual indications that my participants are stumbling or hesitating, so I could go back to the original recording if needed.   2.7 Analyzing discursive data Now that I have set some foundations for how I understand interview data, I want to focus on the process of analyzing these data. Analytic attention to discursive practices is crucial because these practices “contribute to changes in people (beliefs, attitudes, etc.), actions, social relations, and 67  the material world” (Fairclough, 2003, p. 8). Goffman (1986) similarly notes that people “[take] action, both verbal and physical, on the basis of [their] perceptions” (p. 345), highlighting that discursive practices have both representational and material impacts: they change how people see the world and themselves, but also what actions people can imagine themselves taking in that world. Fairclough (2003) warns against assuming that discursive practices have straightforward casual effects on beliefs and attitudes, noting: “we cannot for instance claim that particular features of texts automatically bring about particular changes in people’s knowledge or behaviour or particular social or political effects” (p. 8). Keeping this in mind, he argues that discursive practices can contribute to sustaining or changing ideologies and thus social relations of power, domination, and exploitation (Fairclough, 2003, p. 9).  I draw on these insights for my understanding of discursive practices as sites where dominant meanings are negotiated and often reconstituted, but where they can also be disrupted in ways that can function as points of intervention into the discursive systems of institutions. This understanding bridges my approach to data with an epistemological stance that draws on the work of Foucault. Within that framework, truth claims “become very interesting to study, not for their assumed reflection of reality but […] for their production of social and cultural effects” (Søndergaard, 2002, p. 188). My analytical project for this research, then, is to critically examine the discursive practices of educators to analyze how these practices produce social and cultural effects that affect the understanding of gender diversity within the institution of school.  I have outlined in the Chapter 1 the way that I combine different understandings of discourse in order to highlight the way that language functions to constitute identities and social realities. My approach to analyzing discourse similarly draws on different analytical traditions that do not sit easily with each other, namely a critical tradition to discourse analysis that sees 68  discourse as one of several social practices that constitute reality, and a more poststmodern tradition that understands reality as entirely constituted through discourse. I share with scholars within a critical tradition of discourse analysis an interest in the way that institutions have “disproportionate power to produce and circulate discourse, and [to] promote dominant interests” (Bucholtz, 2003, p. 57). Institutions are therefore a crucial site of analysis to understand the way that discourses are implicated in the reproduction of inequities. However, I put this perspective in productive tension with the theoretical insight that understands discursive practices not just as one-sided impositions onto subjects, but rather as processes through which “power relations are discursively produced, sustained, negotiated, and challenged” (Lazar, 2007, p. 142). This poststructuralist influence helps me retain a focus on “the constitution of social practices and cultural patterns and on processes of subjectivation” (Søndergaard, 2002, p. 188). It is also a reminder that discursive practices can never exist entirely outside of normative regimes like cisnormativity or whiteness that govern social life and that it would thus be misguided to interpret discursive practices through an individual rather than structural lens. Keeping this tension in mind, I analyzed the talk of my participants in two broad phases. First, I conducted a thematic analysis, which is “a method for identifying, analysing and reporting patterns (themes) within data” (Braun & Clark, 2006, p. 79). Braun & Clarke (2006) distinguish between an inductive thematic analysis, in which themes emerge from the data independent of a pre-existing coding frame, and a theoretical (or deductive) thematic analysis, in which is the coding frames are driven by the researcher’s analytic interests. I relied on both types in my analysis. This involved reading through transcripts carefully and coding for topics or concepts that seemed important to me based on my research questions and theoretical knowledge as well as unexpected topics or concepts that recurred in participants’ answers. I thus ended up 69  with codes that were connected to existing literature (e.g., discussion of gendered spaces or of bullying) and my own analytical interests (e.g., decision-making) as well as codes that I had not anticipated (e.g., ‘student in charge’). I then collated codes into potential key themes, creating clusters of codes that I was interested in examining together (see Braun & Clark, 2006, p. 89 for a detailed description of this process). These themes formed the basis for what would become the chapters of this dissertation. For example, the theme of diversity that constitutes the basis of Chapter 3 came from analyzing together codes such as ‘tolerance/acceptance,’ ‘racialization,’ ‘slippages gender/sexuality,’ and ‘safe/inclusive spaces’ because these codes seemed to be frequently coming up in together and in conjunction with the concept of diversity. In this first phase of analysis, I was attentive to the relationship between codes: whether they combined together, made visible some tensions within the data, had positive or negative associations, etc.  Once I had organized codes into themes and sketched how codes related to each other within a theme, I moved to a second phase of analysis where I returned to the data to refine my analysis. Going back to the transcripts allowed me to review my themes and confirm their analytic relevance in that they “adequately capture the contours of the coded data” (Braun & Clarke, 2006, p. 91). I also used this time to start examining the transcripts more closely. For this moment of the analysis, I drew in large part on a tradition of critical discourse analysis interested in the detailed analysis of specific acts and practices of speaking. In other words, this critical tradition pays attention not only to content but also to form (Cameron, 2001, p. 51). Fairclough (2003) and Gee (2005) have both published detailed accounts of this form of discourse analysis, which offers a more detailed linguistic analysis of texts (see also Chouliaraki & Fairclough, 1999). I did not draw directly from a specific method but rather drew on insights from the work of multiple approaches to critical discourse analysis to inspect the details of talk by paying 70  attention to a range of discursive elements (Cameron, 2001; Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002). Examples of discursive elements that I was attentive to in this second phase of include the use of the linguistic forms (e.g., passive vs active voice), lexical choices and the way that words are put in semantic relation with each other, the assumptions built into the use of certain phrases, what remains unsaid, the way that “particular identities, interests, representations come under certain conditions to be claimed as universal” (Fairclough, 2003, p. 40), and contradictions that might suggest that the speaker is negotiating competing discourses. This phase of analysis was important for me to identify the underlying conceptualizations and ideologies that informed the way that educators talk about the themes that I had identified in the first phase of analysis, and understand how certain discourses are naturalized through discursive means. This close attention to talk also helped me pay attention to the way that participants use language in ways that normalize and legitimize their identities and actions (Clarke, 2002; Clarke & Kitzinger, 2004; Clarke, Kitzinger & Potter, 2004). Both phases of analysis provided me with tools to better understand the way that educators make sense of themselves and their experiences by negotiating dominant discursive frameworks. The goal of the analysis is thus to connect individual discursive practices to larger discursive constraints that we all have to contend with. In doing so, this analytical approach highlights the importance of moving beyond individualized accounts to consider the “systems of meaning-making which members of a culture have available to them” (Stokoe & Weatheral, 2002, p. 708). This approach also allows me to bridge my epistemological concerns with my analysis by providing a way to remain attentive to the ways in which power and oppression are not imposed upon individuals but rather are processes that are “continually created, sustained – and sometimes resisted – through the practices of social members in interaction” (Wilkinson & 71  Kitzinger, 2008, p. 556). Both of these elements of discursive practices – constraint and negotiation – strike me as crucial to avoid analytical claims that isolate individuals. Instead, I turn critical attention to the tensions that arise from navigating complex discursive landscapes within institutional spaces like schools.   2.8 Conclusion The underlying epistemologies and ontologies of the choices that researchers make about their methodology and methods too often remain unacknowledged. I have tried to make my choices visible in order to emphasize, beyond the technical details of my analysis, the fact that the encounter between researcher and participant is a “key interactional moment wherein [social] identities and inequalities are actively managed, articulated, reproduced, and at times threatened” (Best, 2003, p. 888). In this chapter, my goal was to highlight my active role in the process of generating data and the subsequent production of knowledge that constitute the foundation of the analysis detailed in the coming chapters. It was also to connect this methodological process to an analytical approach that focuses on the way that power circulates through discursive means, and is negotiated in ways that have an impact on material realities. The capacity of researchers to be critical of their practices and to reflect on the implications of these practices on the research process and on research findings is one of the keys to conducting respectful and responsible research. At its best, it is precisely this willingness to critically look at oneself and one’s work that makes possible the rethinking of how inequalities are produced and sustained in the social world. This strategy signifies a powerful kind of academic activism that can stimulate and provoke social change, and maybe start to give an answer to Pillow’s (2003) question: if doing 72  ethical research in an unethical world is impossible, how do we move forward and continue to do research? (p. 187) 73  Chapter 3: Cisnormativity at the intersection of diversity discourses   When I heard [the] stories [of trans and gender-nonconforming students], and I heard the way some of the teachers spoke and I recognized that it was a sign that […] [these students] weren’t getting their needs met and yet we were a public school that had to meet the needs of all of our diverse populations.  (Meadow, support staff, District D)  3.1 Introduction I start my analysis with an examination of how diversity discourses appeared in interviews with educators because it situates my study of cisnormativity in a larger institutional context. Canadian educators do not understand their work with trans and gender-nonconforming students in a vacuum. Their perceptions are connected to larger discourses that frame education in Canada and form a basis for how teachers make sense of their job and of their students. Diversity discourses are part of this foundation. In the quote above, Meadow echoes a very common sentiment amongst the educators that I interviewed: the idea that public schools in British Columbia “[have] to meet the needs of all of our diverse populations.” It is indisputable that the young people attending public school in this province are diverse. It is also a meaningless claim unless we interrogate how statements about diversity work as ideological claims that tell us about how diversity is defined (what counts, or does not count, as diversity), and how these claims shape educational practices. In other words, while Meadow’s affirmation might read as a simple statement of fact, it carries ideological weight. In it, she espouses a specific definition of diversity by explicitly encompassing trans and gender-nonconforming students in the phrase “diverse populations.” She also makes a claim about how diversity should be managed by her statement that public schools should be responsive to, and inclusive of, the needs of diverse populations. The use of ‘have to’ in the 74  sentence “we were a public school that had to meet the needs of all of our diverse populations” establishes that she sees this responsibility as a strong obligation.  This particular orientation to diversity in schools (how it is defined and how it should be managed) is not an idiosyncratic vision held by Meadow. It reflects a larger political and cultural construction of diversity in Canadian education, which is sanctioned by neoliberal state and educational policy that focus primarily on social cohesion and individualized understandings (Joshee, 2007, 2009). Fleras & Elliot (1992) suggest the apparatus of multiculturalism has shaped a “formal acceptance of diversity as a legitimate component of the educational system” (p. 183) in Canada. Multiculturalism is “a state-initiated enterprise” (Bannerji, 2000, p. 538) that was created as a way to manage a society with multiethnic and multiracial populations by reconciling competing claims of different groups and recuperating diversity as a central tenet of its national image as a pluralist society (Ang & Stratton, 1998; Mackey, 2002; Day, 2000).  The state-supported cultural resonance of multiculturalism in the Canadian imaginary has also enabled the expansion of diversity discourses beyond racial and ethnic diversity, so that other forms of diversity have also become part of a discourse about a national self constituted by the tolerance for, and inclusion of, ‘others’ (Blackmore, 2006; McCarthy, 2003; Moodley, 1983). This language of diversity has been put to work by some LGBTQ activists who have sought to normalize sexual orientation and, more recently, gender identity. Both concepts have undergone significant discursive resignification in neoliberal times, as they transformed from deviant characteristics to aspects of human diversity that make up the Canadian nation and thus should be recognized and protected against prejudicial or inequitable treatment (Rayside, 2008; M. Smith, 2005b). This shift is visible in the legal realm, where sexual orientation has been added to federal and provincial legislation or read into existing lists of protected grounds against 75  discrimination (Meyer, 2010; M. Smith, 2005a; Wintemute, 1997). Although lagging behind, gender identity is following a similar path (Cowan, 2005; Elliott & Bonauto, 2005).17  The shift has also been cultural: LGBTQ activists and scholars have employed the language of diversity to give legitimacy to their efforts to create more hospitable school environments for queer and trans students (Lipkin, 2003; McCarthy, 2007; Nichols, 1999). For example, the foreword of an educator guide edited by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation highlights the need to “embrace and learn from diversity and difference” (Wells, Roberts & Allan, 2012, p. 1) in order for educators to support trans and gender-nonconforming students. Another example is the complaint brought by Peter and Murray Corren to the BC Human Rights Tribunal that the Ministry of Education discriminated against non-heterosexual students and their parents by not including sexual orientation as a cross-curricular interest in its Integrated Resource Packages (IRPs) (which provide teachers with basic information to implement curriculums) (Corren and Corren v. B.C. (Ministry of Education), 2005). This complaint led to an agreement between the Correns and the Ministry wherein the Ministry agreed to review IRPs “from the perspective of inclusion and respect for diversity with respect to sexual orientation and other grounds of discrimination” (Corren Agreement, 2006, p. 2). This language explicitly folds sexual orientation into the broader category of diversity, and illustrates the way that discourses of diversity are integrated into legal understandings of education.  I mention these examples to emphasize that discourses of diversity, as any discourse, can be “both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumbling-block, a point of                                                  17 See, for example, efforts to pass bill C-279, which would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination (Neve & Ryan, 2014), and the recent promise by the country’s new Liberal government to pass such an amendment and to add gender identity to the list of characteristics of “identifiable groups” protected by the hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code (Wählen, 2015). 76  resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy” (Foucault, 1978, p. 110). Diversity discourses reify particular relations of ruling but can also serve to advocate for trans and gender-nonconforming students in educational spaces. These efforts, in turn, work to integrate sexual orientation and gender identity into the state apparatus of diversity and its educational system.   Taking this historical and social context into account, this chapter examines how educators drew upon diversity discourses as they discussed their experiences. I pay particular attention to the entanglements of diversity discourses with discourses of safety (Hackford-Peer, 2010; Leonardi & Saenz, 2014). In a cisnormative context, what is the role that diversity is understood to play in creating ‘safer schools’ for trans and gender-nonconforming students? When is diversity evoked as a factor that can enhance safety, and when is it evoked as a potential difficulty? In tracing the movement of diversity discourses in the talk of educators, I illuminate how cisnormativity functions alongside heteronormativity and whiteness to generate ideas about how schools can support trans and gender-nonconforming students.  3.2 Diversity as safety  Diversity was often invoked by educators in broad and unspecified terms, as when Jerrilyn, a counsellor from District C, noted that she lived in “a metropolitan city where diversity is embraced.” In these cases, diversity was usually attached to notions of inclusion and safety as if the pairing was natural. It also simplifies the complexity of safety as a concept that holds multiple and contradictory meanings (Hackford-Peer, 2010; Leonardi & Saenz, 2014). In other words, the simple presence of diversity in the student body was imagined as having the positive impact of creating inclusion and safety in schools. Lea, a counsellor in District B who also had over twenty years of experience in schools, provided another example: “I think it helps, like I 77  think there’s […] just so many differences, that makes it work better.” The idea that differences “makes it work better” attributes a specific (beneficial) role to the presence of diversity. Pruney, a support staff in District A who had been working at her school for over twenty years, described her school by saying, “we are just like a mini world and everybody is represented and everybody has the same sort of feelings and rights.” Other phrases that mirror the expression “mini world,” such as “microcosm for the world,” were used by many other educators. This use of metaphoric hyperboles suggests that these expressions work as ideological statements rather than factual descriptions. It was important to Pruney and other educators to emphasize how diverse their schools are, because it also emphasizes that their schools are welcoming beacons of equality. They are the kinds of places where “everybody has the same sort of feelings and rights.”  Within this framework, the presence of diversity is assumed to foster more tolerant or welcoming attitudes amongst students (and, to a lesser extent, staff). Eric, a teacher in District B who had been teaching at his school for ten years, exemplified this idea when he said, “I find at [Wolfe Secondary], because there’s such a mix of different cultures, I think people are more accepting. But that’s just my theory or my belief.” Eric’s use of the conjunction “because” is key: it establishes a causal relationship between the presence of diversity (“a mix of different cultures”) and a “more accepting” attitude that Eric has identified in the people at his school. Only one educator explicitly articulated the possibility that diversity could lead to conflict and divisiveness rather than automatic acceptance. The vast majority of participants tended to share Eric’s ‘theory and belief.’  This tight discursive connection between diversity and safety is likely a product of the larger diversity discourses, in particular the national Canadian imaginary that links the diversity of Canadian citizens to the country’s supposed welcoming, tolerant attitude (Dhamoon, 2009; 78  Mackey, 2002). The notion that diversity creates tolerant citizens (in the nation and in classrooms), however, should be put in tension with the ways that whiteness works to distribute life chances unequally, even in a time of embracing diversity in schools (Adelson, 2005; Carr, 2008; Castagno, 2014; Codjoe, 2001; Oxman-Martinez et al., 2012; Rezai-Rashti, 2005; Reitz & Banerjee, 2007; Solomona et al., 2005; Statistics Canada, 2010).  While the connection between diversity and safety was common throughout my interviews, this assumption was particularly strong when participants specifically discussed sexual diversity. Early on during my interviews, I noticed that educators easily slipped between talking about gender and sexuality. For example, conversations about gender diversity frequently turned into conversations about queer youth, and my questions about trans and gender-nonconforming youth were often answered with anecdotes about queerness. These slippages caught my attention because they often seemed to strengthen the aforementioned assumption that diversity can generate safety in the life of students (and trans and gender-nonconforming students specifically). In this section, I examine what discursive practices contributed to positioning a school’s support for sexual diversity18  as something that could easily translate into support for trans and gender-nonconforming youth. I then analyze the implications of this positioning for educators’ understanding of how schools can become more hospitable spaces for trans and gender-nonconforming students.                                                    18 Educators were most likely to talk about gay and lesbian students, an unsurprising dynamic given that bisexuality continues to made marginal and often invisible (Elia, 2010). 79  3.2.1 Understanding gender and sexuality together More than any other type of difference, educators brought up sexual orientation as relevant to conversations about trans and gender-nonconforming students. For example, educators sometimes mentioned out gay and lesbian people as an indication that their school was a diverse, and thus accepting, place for trans and gender-nonconforming. As we talked about creating safer school climates for trans and gender-nonconforming students, Roni, a queer teacher who had been working in District A for fifteen years, brought up the fact that her school has “kids in grade 8 coming out!” as a sign of her school’s openness. In schools where at least one staff openly identified as gay, their presence was often mentioned as a factor in creating a hospitable environment for trans and gender-nonconforming students.  One school in District B exemplified this phenomenon. Lee was an out gay teacher at the school and he was consistently identified by other staff as a crucial element of why the school was a safe place for students for LGBTQ students. Lee himself felt that his role was to “try and make it safer for kids,” including trans and gender-nonconforming students. He discussed supporting students one-on-one, helping run a group for LGBQ students, and facilitating workshops on homophobia for colleagues. While other educators mentioned some of these efforts, his simple existence was regularly highlighted as important in and of itself. For example, Rebecca, another teacher at his school, thought that “just [the] presence in the school all the time” of this gay colleague had made “a huge difference.” In a different district, a parent and young trans man that I interviewed separately both emphasized the difference it had made for the boy to have a queer staff at his school because this way he had someone “watching his back.” The connection that educators saw between queerness and hospitable spaces for trans and gender-nonconforming students was especially visible when participants discussed clubs focused 80  on gender and sexual diversity, such as Gay-Straight Alliances or Gender-Sexuality Alliances (GSAs).19 These groups were often mentioned without my prompting, although I usually followed up to try to get a sense of why participants thought that GSAs were relevant. In line with the idea that “the GSA presents a public image that prioritizes tolerance” (McIntosh, 2007a, p. 132), educators often thought of these spaces when discussing how to create more hospitable schools for trans and gender-nonconforming students.  In the following quote, Marcel, a teacher in District A who had been introduced to trans and gender-nonconforming people in his personal life, brings up the GSA in this way:  HFD: If there's one thing that Wolfe or other schools could do to make schools a more welcoming environment for transgender students, what do you think it would be? Marcel: I think a student-based support unit is essential. It's not enough to have adults saying, ‘it's OK.’ You've got to have a portion of the community that's organized to do that. I think every school needs to have something like the Gay-Straight Alliance, they need that space.  Marcel distinguishes between support from adults and support from peers. In order to send a strong message that a school is welcoming, he sees a need for “a portion of the [student] community” to be organized around this message. He then brings up the GSA as a model for what that “student-based support unit” could look like. Although Marcel does not assume the GSA is that space, the fact that it is the group that comes to him first is telling of the imaginary that circulates about the role of GSAs in schools.  Goofus, an administrator in District D who had experience doing queer activism in education, illustrates the same belief: There has to be effort made that the person has, um, an ally they can go to and there’s opportunities for them to find peer support within the school, whether it’s a GSA or anything else.                                                  19 Although GSAs is primarily understood to stand for Gay-Straight Alliance, some students (and educators) have started to rework the acronym to make it more inclusive. This reformulation seemed to me important to note, as it highlights the flexibility and expansiveness of language. Participants in this study themselves did not refer to GSAs as ‘Gender-Sexuality Alliances’ and framed these clubs primarily through the lens of sexual orientation. 81   Like Marcel, Goofus highlights the importance of peers (“finding peer support”) in creating hospitable school environments, and connects the possibility of peer support with the GSA specifically. Both Goofus and Marcel leave open the possibility this function could be fulfilled by another space (“a GSA or anything else”; “something like the GSA”) for trans and gender-nonconforming students. However, the GSA is the only specific initiative that gets mentioned.  The mentions of GSAs in these quotes speak both to the connection that is made between gender and sexual diversity, and to the specific space that GSAs occupy in schools. Namely, I argue that the need for a separate space for support highlights the current hetero- and cisnormative conditions in schools, where few spaces (if any) are designated to discuss gender diversity. Scholars have pointed out that this construction of GSAs has problematic effects in that it produces the very exclusions that it aims to address by reaffirming that other spaces in schools can only ever be hetero- and cisnormative (Britzman, 1995; Butler, 1993, p. 53). Although GSAs provide valuable spaces for youth in schools (Lee, 2002; Mayo, 2004; Elliot, 2015), a number of scholars have also pointed out the existence of GSAs does little to “disrupt the heteronormative foundation of the education system” (Lapointe, 2015, p. 147; Macintosh, 2007a, 2007b) particularly when they are institutionalized without the integration of other structural changes. In that sense, the assumption that trans and gender-nonconforming students need GSAs or spaces like GSAs can perpetuate the positioning of GSAs as an exceptional space in otherwise hetero- and cisnormative schools.  In other interviews, the assumption that GSAs are spaces that are connected to issues of gender diversity was more visible. Helgita, a teacher in in District A who had been teaching for twenty years, was familiar with sexual and gender diversity before hearing of the trans student 82  who attended her school. She told me she had been introduced to these realities through books and discussions with her now-adult straight daughter, who was part of a GSA in high school. When I asked Helgita her opinion on whether her school district’s LGBTQ policy addresses the specific needs of trans and gender-nonconforming students, she admitted to not having read the policy closely, and added, “you know, if I was part, running the GSA like Clark [her colleague] is, I’d want to know more about it so I could help the students understand it, what the district has done.” In this answer, Helgita makes an indirect connection between the GSA and trans and gender-nonconforming students by suggesting that a GSA sponsor teacher would “want to know more” about their district’s policy on trans and gender-nonconforming students than teachers (like her) who are unconnected to the GSA. The GSA sponsor teacher is framed as someone who has more of a stake in policy related to trans and gender-nonconforming students, which suggests that these teachers are understood to be more invested and/or aware of the experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming students. I would argue that the last part of Helgita’s sentence cements this understanding by making explicit that this knowledge serves a purpose (the coordinating conjunction “so” signals this relationship between the two clauses). For Helgita, it is important for a GSA teacher to have this knowledge of district policy because they need it in their practice, which includes “help[ing] the students understand.” GSA support teachers thus have a double duty of knowing the policy, and transmitting this knowledge to students.  Given that I was asking about policies specific to trans and gender-nonconforming students, her answer marks the GSA students as students who have a stake in understanding trans and gender-nonconforming-specific policy. This implies either that she imagines that (some of) the GSA students are trans and gender-nonconforming themselves and/or that GSA students who are not trans or gender-nonconforming still have reasons to want to understand “what the district 83  has done” when it comes to gender identity. Both possibilities, I argue, create a connection between trans and gender-nonconforming students and the space of the GSA. This is a connection that Helgita did not feel the need to explain or justify. Similarly, when asked explicitly, many participants struggled to provide reasons for why they believed that GSAs would be supportive spaces for trans and gender-nonconforming students, such as when I asked Roni, the teacher in District A I mentioned earlier, and she admitted, “it hasn’t been tested.” Although this automatic association between GSA and trans and gender-nonconforming students seemed obvious to many educators, it needs to be interrogated and denaturalized. Historically, GSAs are student clubs that focus on sexual orientation rather than gender identity. This fact is obvious when one looks at early writings on these clubs (i.e., Blumenfeld, 1995), but this is not just a historical fact. Most of the current literature on GSAs still focuses largely on sexual orientation, with gender identity only being given the occasional nod (Miceli, 2013; Russell et al., 2009; Walls, Kane & Wisneski, 2010; see Elliot, 2015 for a counter-example). There are, of course, many analytically relevant reasons for bringing together issues of gender and sexuality in schools. As I have argued myself, trans and gender-nonconforming youth are directly affected by hostile heteronormative climates because heteronormativity and cisnormativity are intertwined processes (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009; Valdes, 1996). At the same time, gender and sexuality are often conflated in ways that can perpetuate confusion, stereotypes, and basic misunderstandings about queer and trans lives. Consequently, it is important to examine how and why the concepts of gender and sexuality are brought together and the effects of that linkage.  This connection of gender and sexuality, and slippages between the two concepts, were extremely common in my interviews. Most (though not all) people I spoke with were able to give 84  me a definition of “transgender and gender-fluid” that made a clear distinction between gender and sexuality, and some educators even explicitly commented on the fact that many people still confuse sexual orientation and gender identity. Filipa was a teacher of 25 years who spoke enthusiastically about the progressive way she taught sex education classes at her school. When I asked her to define transgender and gender-fluid, she answered with an anecdote about a meeting she had had with a trans student who was just starting to come out to his friends at school: I said, “I know what the number one thing your friends are going to be asking you. They confuse gender identity and sexual orientation.” He was like, “Every single time. They’re like, Are you a lesbian now? Are you-” And they just don’t get it.   In this excerpt, Filipa tells this story in such a way that her knowledge of the distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation works to position her as an ally to this student: she knows the misconceptions the student might have to face. Her knowledge also creates rapport with the student in the story, as he recognizes the misconception she has identified. By attributing the conflation of gender and sexuality to ignorance/confusion, Filipa marks herself as a knowledgeable subject. A number of other participants similarly used their capacity to differentiate the concepts of gender and sexuality as ways to differentiate themselves from students or colleagues, who were framed as less informed or more prejudiced (Preston, 2015). Yet this clear distinction between gender and sexuality often eroded in the course of our conversation. Xavier, a gay administrator in District D, mentioned at some point that he “grew up in a very… very rural conservative area, very… you know, homophobic. Gender wouldn’t even have been a conversation, or an idea or a concept.” In this quote, Xavier slips from homophobia to gender. This is an analytical connection that has long been supported by the literature (Pharr, 1988). However, Xavier does not make this analysis visible, and it is thus never clear why it is that he believes a homophobic climate would pre-empt a conversation about 85  gender. Sally was a teacher who had been working in District D for over 20 years, and she had worked closely with two young trans men recently. She provided another useful example of this tendency to slip between gender and sexuality without contextualizing the shift. At the start of our interview, Sally gave me an almost textbook definition of transgender:  Transgender to me means you exist in one physical form externally and biologically and yet emotionally, spiritually and intellectually you belong to an entirely different gender. Or perhaps you actually appear one way but you have higher levels of testosterone or estrogen in your system that disallow you to connect and see yourself as that gender that you have been deemed.    In this answer, Sally defines gender identity without ever indexing sexual orientation, which suggests that she clearly distinguishes between the two concepts. Another key indication that Sally is familiar with trans issues is that she does not rely on the standard narrative of being ‘born in a girl/boy body’ in her explanation. Instead she frames gender as something “that you have been deemed” (a phrase reminiscent of the expression ‘sex assigned at birth,’ now commonly used in trans activism). This framing makes society responsible for the mismatch between the trans person’s assigned and actual gender, rather than situating the problem within the trans person themselves.  Despite displaying this knowledge at first, Sally made slippages between gender and sexuality several times in the interview. For example, the following quote is from a moment where she discussed exposing students to queer authors in her literature class: I showed them the clip from [a movie where a poem by a gay poet is featured] and I said, ‘You know it’s probably important you understand that [the poet] was gay.  And so when he’s writing this for his partner, his lover, his husband, this is a big deal because, look how he’s describing, the mourning is very public in the poem.’ But I don’t go, ‘and since you’re going through a gender issue you might relate to this.’ I’m not doing that.    In this quote, Sally frames a queer experience (here, losing a same-sex partner) as something that “you might relate to” if you are going through “a gender issue,” thus directly connecting 86  queerness and transness. Yet she does not make explicit why it is that she believes that making queer experiences visible might be important for a young trans and gender-nonconforming person. A little later in the interview, she talked about Parker, one of the trans boys that she taught, and remarked on “how remarkably open he was and how that did not hurt him.” Her admiration for Parker’s openness led her to add: I wish kids didn’t feel that they had to be – not that you have to advertise everything. I don’t expect everybody to stand up and go heterosexual, heterosexual, homosexual, questioning. It’s not really relevant. But I would like everyone to feel safe enough to be able to be honest about who they are.  In this quote, Sally moves from an anecdote about a young trans man to a broader statement about “kids.” It only becomes obvious in the next sentence that this interpellation, “kids”, does not actually refer to trans and gender-nonconforming youth, which would naturally flow from the previous sentence about Parker. Instead, she has now shifted to talking about sexual orientation (“I don’t expect everybody to stand up and go heterosexual, heterosexual, homosexual, questioning”). Her conclusion about feeling “safe enough to be able to be honest about who they are” potentially applies to queer and trans and gender-nonconforming youth. Both categories of youth have to navigate a hetero- and cisnormative world that makes it necessary to “be honest about who they are.” In contrast, this honesty is automatically built into the lives of straight and cisgender children and youth, who are assumed to always have been so. Over the course of a few sentences, Sally moves seamlessly from transness, to queerness, to a statement that potentially encompasses both. My point is not that this movement is unjustified. Rather, I am pointing out both that these concepts can get merged in complex ways in the talk of educators. As Sally’s story suggests, these slippages between gender and sexuality happened even in conversations 87  with educators well-versed in these topics. Most notably, they often happened without the speaker acknowledging that they were doing it, or explaining why they were doing it.  The fact that educators made this connection between queerness and transness without explaining (and in some cases, without being able to explain) the logic of this connection is important to identify and highlight, because it can have negative impacts on the way that issues of gender and sexuality are addressed in schools. In particular, one possible effect of this conflation is that it can encourage the thinking that acceptance of (and safety for) sexual diversity automatically generates greater safety for gender diversity. We can see this mechanism at work in Sally’s earlier comment, where she framed bringing up a gay poet in class as being something that trans and gender-nonconforming students could “relate to.” While this might be true, the assumption that issues of sexual diversity and gender diversity necessarily overlap can make invisible the needs of trans and gender-nonconforming students. If it is assumed that they can relate to gay artists or historical figures, then why ensure that the curriculum also mentions trans people?  Clark, a teacher in District A, explicitly reflected on the way that approaching sexuality and gender together often works to prioritize queer issues and make the specificities of trans issues less visible. Clark was one of the most active GSA sponsors amongst my interviewees, and she had worked to educate some of her colleagues on her school district’s new sexual orientation and gender identity policy. In discussing this policy, Clark remarked that transphobia often “gets lost” in the emphasis that her district has put on addressing homophobia after passing the policy. Later on, she noted that the acronym LGBTQ contributes to this tendency: Even the acronym LGBTQ […], I think a lot of people look at that and they think ‘gay.’ I don’t think that the T [chuckles] is something that is – y’know, if someone was sort of like, oh what do you think the acronym is, people could spell it out but I sort of think 88  when they see that, they think, oh, that’s gay and lesbian stuff. […] For me, it’s been education through GSA and that sort of stuff that’s made me way more aware of the differences. […] I don’t think that there’s… enough specifics set out about why these [issues] are different and why you might… treat them differently or look at them differently.  The term LGBTQ is meant to be inclusive of all identities, but Clark’s experience is that it is not taken up as such by her colleagues. People have superficial knowledge (they can spell out the acronym), but lack a deeper understanding of why queer and trans issues “are different and why you might treat them differently.” As a result, they reduce the acronym to its most well-known components, “gay and lesbian stuff.” This quote from Clark illustrates how the merging of gender and sexuality (such as in the acronym LGBTQ) can lead to a sole focus on queer issues.  Neglecting the issue of gender identity and/or the specificities of the experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming people is a serious problem. Many of the obstacles or difficulties that educators had encountered in working with trans and gender-nonconforming students were not applicable to the lives of cisgender queer students. For example: dealing with class lists that indicate the wrong name or gender marker, making decisions about access to washrooms and change rooms, or keeping the knowledge of a student’s recent transition private. These are some of the issues that risk going by the wayside when gender and sexuality are conflated and educators focus solely on “gay and lesbian stuff.”  This risk is especially concerning given that educators still have difficulty integrating queer content in the curriculum (Brant & Tyson, in press; Freer, 2013; Hansen, 2015; Thein et al., 2013). Taylor et al.’s (2016) study on LGBTQ-inclusive education in Canada found that “educators were less likely to practice LGBTQ-inclusive education than to approve of it or to see it as relevant” (p. 20). Efforts to combat homophobia are often limited to particular times and spaces, such as GSAs or special days (Pink Day, Transgender Day of Remembrance) 89  (MacIntosh, 2007a). Even more in-depth efforts that attempt to change institutional educational cultures and bring discussions of sexual diversity into the curriculum (such as the Corren agreement in BC) have tended to be translated into practices that are spatially and temporally contained to specific classrooms Social Studies, Health and Career Education, Social Justice 12). These efforts can give schools a sense that they are addressing queer issues without challenging the way that heteronormativity and cisnormativity organize everyday life and administrative systems in school (MacIntosh, 2007b). Sanders & Mathis (2012) argue similarly that educators should be careful to go beyond superficial inclusion: the simple mention or presence of LGBQ themes in the classroom is not enough to disrupt heteronormativity. If questions of gender diversity are subsumed under the integration of queer content in classrooms, and that integration itself is still inadequate, there is little chance that trans issues are sufficiently present in schools.  Slippages between sexual and gender diversity in the talk of educators reveal an instinctive understanding that issues of gender and sexuality are connected, but also a difficulty to articulate exactly how and why this connection exists. Given how tightly hetero- and cisnormativity are wound together, there is potential in the fact that educators make this connection. In fact, it may be possible to call upon this instinctive understanding to give educators tools to address heteronormativity and cisnormativity together: for example, professional development opportunities could explicitly connect the workings of sexism, homophobia and transphobia, administrators could be trained to recognize how forms solidify societal assumptions about gender and sexual orientation, educators could ensure that their lesson plans meaningfully integrate both gender and sexual diversity, or educators who discuss homophobic slurs with their students could discuss why trans students are also likely to be targeted by this verbal violence. The educators in this study currently lack the discursive tools 90  needed to articulate the potential of this connection between gender and sexual diversity. This shortcoming is not an individual one, but rather one that reflects the limits of the dominant discourses available to them, including through inadequate preparation from teacher education programs. Taylor et al.’s (2016) study notes that “almost two-thirds of participants who had completed their B.Ed. degrees in the previous five years reported that they had not been at all prepared for sexual and gender diversity education in their B.Ed. degrees” (p. 24).   3.2.2 GSA and gender diversity  As an extension of the assumption that openness to sexual diversity automatically extends to gender diversity, GSAs were often discussed by participants as spaces that are naturally welcoming to (and thus safe for) trans and gender-nonconforming students. This presumption understates the tensions that have historically existed between queer and trans communities. Queer people do not necessarily understand trans issues or support trans activism. In fact, queer spaces have historically had a complex relationship with trans people, one often steeped in invisibility, exclusion, and trans repudiation (Gamson, 1997; Minter, 2006; Namaste, 2000; Ross, 2012; Stone, 2009). When GSAs are primarily queer spaces, as many still are, the situation may not be any different. In the study by Fetner et al. (2010) on GSAs, for example, a student acknowledged that her group did not make room for people of different gender identities.  In my interviews, some of the educators who were involved with their school’s GSA reflected on similar limitations of that space. Clark, the GSA sponsor from District A I mentioned earlier, explained that “[the GSA’s] umbrella has opened” after she took the students to attend a local event that got them “all fired up about the gender spectrum.” The fact that this was a recent development suggests that the GSA was previously a space where gender identity 91  was not addressed much. In District B, another GSA sponsor teacher, Christine, recounted, “well, [the trans student has] been pushing for trans topics in the GSA for quite a while, unsuccessfully mainly, not because the kids don’t want to talk about it but the kids don’t know anything about it.” Later, she added that “the gay kids are so ignorant on the topic.”  This frank assessment is not entirely surprising given that most queer students are cisgender, and many of them are gender-conforming.  Christine’s testimony also calls attention to the fact that trans and gender-nonconforming students often find themselves educating others in GSAs. At a different school in District B, Adeline talked about the young trans man at her school who was “teaching [her] so much about what he feels.” In District C, one of the trans and gender-nonconforming students I interviewed, Simon, explained: Okay, being trans… I'm not out to my GSA yet, almost… Being trans I've tried to incorporate things, I've brought in stories, I've brought in documentaries and…We did a little Trans Day of Remembrance thing… We learned, so I've tried to incorporate trans issues as much as possible.  In this quote, Simon reveals the amount of work he has been doing (notice he uses the pronoun “I,” not “we,” which suggests he is the primary force behind these efforts) to engage his GSA with topics related to gender identity and create learning opportunities (through stories, documentaries, and events). The fact that he is “not out to [his] GSA yet” also challenges the idea that GSAs are automatically hospitable spaces for trans and gender-nonconforming students. While there are many reasons why Simon may have chosen not to come out to his GSA yet, I would argue that this quote suggests that one factor is that he feels that the other GSA students need to be educated before he can come out to them.  92  These different excerpts all illustrate the lack of knowledge about gender identity that students who attend GSA meetings (as well as the educator(s) supporting the GSA) can have. While people involved in the GSA may indeed be more receptive to learning about gender diversity than other students at the school, as many participants assumed, these quotes reveal the risk of taking for granted that GSAs provide a supportive space for trans and gender-nonconforming students. As a result, it seems even more hazardous to assume that the presence of a GSA is likely to make trans and gender-nonconforming students feel supported in schools.  At the same time, Simon, Clark and even Christine’s experiences also show that GSAs can be or become spaces of gender activism (Schindel, 2008). All three of their anecdotes showcase moments where gender diversity is brought into the space of the GSA. Clark explicitly articulated that it is “education through GSA” that has made her “way more aware” of the differences between issues of gender and issues of sexuality. In Clark’s case, the rest of our interview made it clear that it is students who led that process and pushed to make gender diversity a central concern of the GSA. Elliot’s (2015) recent study of a GSA at one high school similarly highlights the students’ commitment to activism that challenges both hetero- and cisnormativity at their school (it may matter that one of the leaders of the GSA identifies as transgender, while the other is a gender-nonconforming queer student). Addison, a teacher in District A, recounted a moment in her class when one of the GSA students stood up in front of the class and went over the basics of gender identity using a common activist teaching tool, the genderbread person.20 By all accounts of the educators at this particular school, the GSA was in                                                  20 Although the origins of this graphic are disputed, the genderbread person is a teaching tool popularized by the blog “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual.” It is a tool meant to introduce people to the distinctions between gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual attraction. See the most recent iteration of this graphic at 93  great part to thank for this student’s knowledge about gender and sexuality, as well as his confidence in speaking out about these topics.  As I have noted before, there is no doubt that GSAs can be powerful spaces for students. Although most of the research focuses on queer students, it does show that GSAs and similar clubs are valuable for individual students and contribute to challenging heteronormative school environments (Griffin et al., 2004; Mayo, 2004; Miceli, 2005; Russell et al., 2009; Walls, Kane & Wisneski, 2010). Acknowledging this positive role that GSAs can play in changing school cultures, however, should not mean assuming that this potential in GSAs is already always activated, especially when it comes to gender diversity. It should also not mean assuming that these spaces are enough to counteract existing systems of hetero- and cisnormativity and bring about institutional changes in schools without the support of adults (Elliot, 2015). As Pascoe (2007) shows in her study of the “fag discourse” at a Californian high school, the presence of an active GSA does not guarantee that schools are free of heteronormativity or even of blatant homophobia. In fact, students in Pascoe’s (2007) study encountered resistance from school administrators when they sought to challenge the underlying heteronormative functioning of the school, which works in conjunction with cisnormativity to create the conditions for gender policing (p. 140-151). This resistance illustrates the fact that GSAs can co-exist with an institutional context that remains invested in systems that enforce gender and sexual normativity.  This is not to suggest that GSAs are failing to do enough. As student-focused (and often student-led) spaces, GSAs are too often expected to change their school’s culture without additional efforts from adults or broader institutional changes. This approach shifts the burden of creating more hospitable schools to students (MacIntosh 2007a; Mayo, 2013; Wooley, 2012) in ways that are unsustainable and likely to have limited success. Despite remarkable efforts, Elliot 94  (2015) notes that the students in her study “struggled to dismantle dichotomies and destabilise identity categories from within an institution and culture structured by them” (p. 12). As I will examine in Chapter 5, this is a struggle that educators themselves encounter, which highlights how unreasonable a burden it is to put onto students. Underlying the limits of GSAs should draw attention to the other kinds of interventions that are necessary in schools to make sure that hetero- and cisnormativity are adequately challenged, such as consistent integration of gender and sexual diversity in the curriculum and throughout school spaces, rethinking of administrative procedures, adequate training of educators, and other interventions that I discuss in Chapter 5.  3.2.3 GSAs as spaces of “valuing diversity” I have temporarily wandered away from notions of diversity to highlight the ways that sexual and gender diversity were articulated as connected to each other in the talk of educators. Let’s now go back to Helgita, the teacher from District A who said she would expect to know more about her district’s LGBTQ policy if she was the teacher sponsor for the GSA. I was curious about the connection that Helgita was making between GSAs and trans students, so I asked her to explain how she saw the GSA as contributing to a school that is supportive of trans and gender-nonconforming students: HFD: You said yourself, the transgender thing isn’t necessarily connected to sexuality, right? And originally, at least, the Gay-Straight Alliances were specifically created for sexual minorities, so I’m really interested in how a club that was focused originally on sexuality can still be helpful to students who identify as transgender. So what do you think it is about this club rather than other diversity club or any other sort of club that promotes acceptance that makes it more likely to be welcoming? Helgita: Well, I mean, the Gay-Straight Alliance is basically about supporting kids who have a different sexual orientation but it’s also about difference and kids, um, identifying differently than the mainstream, and I think within that, I think it could, um, even if they are identifying male but they still, you know, they still want to be with males or whatever. I don’t think that, I think about an open forum to, to be able to be different and 95  to understand that difference and maybe to see out, uh, reading, resources, teachers to talk to about that. So it doesn’t necessarily have to mean about their sexual orientation but helping them discover who they are.  Helgita’s statement that “the Gay-Straight Alliance is basically about supporting kids who have a different sexual orientation” supports an assertion that the GSA’s original focus is on sexual diversity. However, she immediately extends her definition of GSAs to encompass difference in a much broader sense (“but it’s also about difference and kids, um, identifying differently than the mainstream”). This definition echoes through the rest of her response with phrases such as “be able to be different” and “discover who they are”. Because difference remains unspecified, GSAs are constructed as spaces where all differences are, or should be accepted. In other words, in this particular argument, GSAs are positioned as spaces that are hospitable to trans and gender-nonconforming students. This is not because there is an especially strong connection between the concepts of gender identity and sexual orientation, or because the experiences of queer and trans and gender-nonconforming students are similar in some ways. Rather, it is because the GSA is a space where all forms of diversity are accepted. It is this conviction that GSAs are not relevant only for queer students that Helgita reiterates at the end (“it doesn’t necessarily have to mean about their sexual orientation”), when she emphasizes the importance of the space of the GSA as one where students can “discover who they are.” Helgita never specifies how a space that is supportive of one difference (sexual orientation) becomes a space where all differences are accepted.  Helgita’s reframing of the GSA as a space accepting of diversity was a common discursive strategy that educators used to explain the instinctive connection that they drew between gender and sexuality. Instead of tightening the connection between the two concepts, however, this particular discursive strategy tended to loosen the link between gender and 96  sexuality by making the GSA about diversity more generally. Like the unnoticed slippages between gender and sexuality, this loosening also speaks to the difficulty that participants had articulating and explaining the connections between these two concepts, despite their instinct to bring them together in their talk. Donna, an administrator in District D, provides an example of this particular form of diversity talk: HFD: And so what do you think it is about GSAs that can make a school more welcoming to transgender students? Donna: Well, I think a strong GSA in a school can make… can just make a school more welcoming period to diversity, just a sense of openness and valuing diversity. You know, I think a GSA… a strong GSA speaks to that more than a lot of other clubs would.  Know what I mean? More than a multicultural club. I don't know. Maybe it pushes the boundaries a bit more or… I'm not sure. But that's my sense anyway, yeah. And while a multicultural club is often about celebratory… you know, it still tends to be rather culture, food, that kind of thing. But a GSA's a little bit more kind of personal or about the person and not so hiding behind food and other things. It's kind of more about who you are and valuing people for who they are.  In her answer, Donna barely gestures towards sexual orientation: the idea that GSAs are “more kind of personal” and “more about who you are” could be read as an oblique reference to sexuality, but she never makes this explicit. Instead, she defines the GSA by its “sense of openness and valuing diversity.” Diversity in this sentence is left undefined, leaving her interlocutor free to read as many (or as few) differences into this concept as they want. Donna continues by reinforcing this understanding of the GSA by describing it as a place that “speaks to that [a sense of openness and valuing diversity] more than a lot of other clubs.” This sentence frames GSA not as one space amongst others where ‘diversity’ (however defined) is accepted, but as the space where that is the case.  Donna’s subsequent comparison between the GSA and a multicultural club (a space explicitly associated with diversity via its name) is particularly effective at framing the GSA as a primary space of acceptance within a school. The implication that spaces centered on race and 97  culture (such as a multicultural club) are less likely to communicate this message of overall acceptance than spaces centered on sexuality (and, potentially, gender diversity) is an interesting tension. It both gestures at the cultural assumption that racialized minorities are less accepting than the white majority (Jackson, 2014), and paints spaces focused on sexual orientation as accepting of all. The prevalence of the latter notion is particularly concerning given the “White-centeredness of our conceptualizations of queerness” (Kumashiro, 2001, p. 12) and the legacy of colonialism in modern conceptualizations of gender and sexuality (Morgensen, 2012).   GSAs, like other queer spaces, tend to centre issues of sexuality to the detriment of an intersectional approach that also takes into account other forms of systemic marginalization, particularly the effects of racialization and colonialism (Fox & Ore, 2010; Giwa & Greensmith, 2012; Greensmith & Gia, 2013). Scholars adopting a queer of colour critique have written extensively on the topic (Brockenbrough, 2013; Marquez & Brockenbrough, 2013; McCready, 2001, 2004). Writing specifically on trans youth of colour, Singh (2013) describes how their feeling of being welcomed in queer settings was “related to whether they were able to talk about their everyday lives with peers and friends about racism and transprejudice” (689), highlighting that this ability cannot always be taken for granted. In other words, the idea that “GSA[s] at least giv[e] an indicator that ‘Hey, we accept all people in the school” (Alon, a counsellor, District A) erases the way that GSAs often reproduce certain hierarchies and exclusions, in particular in terms of whiteness (Diaz, 2010; McCready, 2001, 2004). As a result, statements like Donna’s indirectly contribute to downplaying the ways in which racialized people can experience marginalization in queer and trans spaces.  Whether educators made discursive slippages between gender and sexuality, whether they framed GSAs as a space always already inclusive of gender diversity, or whether they saw 98  GSAs as a space inclusive of all types of diversity, all these discursive practices tended to minimize the specific needs and experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming students, which may include exposure to misgendering, difficulties with forms and administrative procedures, help with misconceptions about gender identity, access to certain spaces and facilities, etc. As a result, these discursive practices leave little room for a discussion of possibilities of GSAs for trans and gender-nonconforming students that would simultaneously acknowledge the limits of that space. GSAs were one of the main examples that educators pointed to as an indicator that their school was both welcoming of diversity (including gender diversity) and that trans and gender-nonconforming students had a specific safe place to go. The idea that I discussed in the beginning of this chapter – that unspecified diversity was imagined to engender safety – were even more present in these conversations. This framework was bolstered by the complex ways in which gender and sexuality are connected and conflated in our society.  Many of the problems contained in the assumption that diversity generates safety are especially relevant when the connection between discourses of diversity and safety is tightened because gender and sexuality are imagined as ambiguously linked. The two main problems can be delineated as follows: (1) diversity is understood to exist in visible, unitary subjects that embody diversity, in this case the gay and lesbian students involved in GSAs; and (2), it assumes that visibility and presence of these students, often embodied in the GSA as an organization, automatically leads to greater inclusion for trans and gender-nonconforming students. The process tends to make invisible the specific needs of trans and gender-nonconforming students. This tightened connection between sexual diversity and safety for trans and gender-nonconforming students also raises an additional concern: if schools feel that the needs of trans and gender-nonconforming students and queer students overlap completely, GSAs and other 99  initiatives focused on sexual diversity may give them the sense that they are already doing something to be inclusive and/or to provide an inclusive environment for trans and gender-nonconforming students (MacIntosh, 2007b). This belief can prevent schools from addressing the more systemic and institutional roots of hetero- and cisnormativity that delegitimize and erase the existence of trans and gender-nonconforming students in schools.  In the next section, I compare what happened to diversity discourses when educators connected them to sexual orientation with what happened to diversity discourses when they focused on race, ethnicity, and (racialized) religion. In these cases of racialized talk, in sharp contrast with what I have described so far, the notion of diversity often became uncoupled from that of ‘safety.’   3.3 Diversity and racialized bodies  I have argued so far that educators, drawing on diversity discourses available to them, often connected diversity and safety. ‘Diverse’ environments are assumed to be safer for trans and gender-nonconforming students, because diversity generates tolerance. This logic was especially applicable to sexual diversity, which participants instinctively associated with gender diversity. However, this rationale was sometimes disrupted when diversity became specified as racial and ethnic diversity. In this section, I explore how racialized diversity (which was often discussed as “cultural diversity”) got recoded as potential unsafety, and the implications of this process. I suggest that educators in this study, most of whom were white, can have conflicted relationships with racialized narratives, sometimes resisting them openly while continuing to rely on them to make sense of their experiences and expectations. This reality illustrates the fact that, despite a 100  national commitment to multiculturalism, Canadians – including its educators – are still “educated in whiteness” (Castagno, 2014).  3.3.1 Homo/transphobia as a racialized phenomenon One of the assumptions that lightly peppered my conversations with educators was the idea that people of colour are less likely to be accepting of difference, especially when it comes to gender and sexual diversity. Marcel, a white teacher in District A I briefly mentioned earlier, shared he had known trans and gender-nonconforming people throughout his life. He told me that he had seen his school become a “better environment” especially in terms of homophobia. He felt that homophobic slurs were less common and queerness had become more accepted (he described it as a “there's just more of an automatic, ‘oh, of course it's OK’”). Although his testimony centered on homophobia, he explicitly connected homophobia to “the idea of certain behaviors that weren't traditionally associated with the male or female” and thus to gender diversity. When I asked him to tell me more about that change, he explained,  We also have a lot of cultural backgrounds here. We all know that there are certain cultures that are less tolerant of that [queerness] than others. Without starting to sound racist, there are. Part of the battle, I think, is reaching out to those kids that... where it [tolerance] hasn't really been modeled at all in the home.  In this quote, we see the way that culture and race are imbricated: Marcel starts by talking about “a lot of cultural backgrounds” but his subsequent use of the term “racist” suggests that when he says “certain cultures,” he is specifically thinking about racialized minority cultures. He continues by expressing a racial view (“certain cultures that are less tolerant of that than others”). He introduces this statement with the expression “we all know,” which de-individualizes his statement and makes him less personally accountable for this claim by framing it as a 101  commonly-held view. Additionally, the phrase “without starting to sound racist” is typical of what Bonilla-Silva (2010) has termed the “rhetorical maze” of colorblindness. These types of phrases, which have become common in the speech of white people in a post-Civil Rights area where the open expression of racial views is frowned upon, “act as discursive buffers before or after someone states something that is or could be interpreted as racist” (Bonilla-Silva, 2010, p. 57; see also Bonilla-Silva & Forman, 2000). Both this phrase and the expression “we all know” allow Marcel to express a racial view while maintaining a discursive attachment to a liberal, non-racist self. Marcel reiterates this racial view in his last sentence, this time without the same discursive work to distance himself from it: “reaching out to those kids that... where [tolerance] hasn't really been modeled at all in the home.” This sentence locates the origin of the relative lack of tolerance on the part of young racialized people “in the home,” which is to say in racialized families.  When I asked him if he was thinking of particular backgrounds, he confirmed the racialized nature of his talk by specifying: “certainly some Asian communities, South Asian communities, I just don't think it's particularly tolerated.” He immediately added, “I want to preface this by... I mean, there are exceptions to every culture, we know that, but just in terms of a general worldview, in some cultures it's just not as condoned or accepted.” I argue that Marcel’s statement that there are “exceptions to every culture” is another attempt to distance himself from the specter of racist accusations following his affirmation that queerness (and by extension, gender-nonconformity) is not “particularly tolerated” in certain racialized cultures. Yet his statement does little to unsettle the overall conclusion that homophobia is more common in non-white cultures. In some ways, the exception confirms the rule. In this quote, “presumed cultural practices [are imagined as] fixed features” (Bonilla-Silva, 2006, p. 40-41). As Bonilla-102  Silva (2006) underlines, this is a key component of cultural racism, which justifies racial inequalities by shifting the blame for the poor standing of racialized minorities onto them and ‘their culture.’ While Marcel does not take his argument in this direction, the descriptive style of his claims nevertheless uses (and thus bolsters) the rhetorical foundations of cultural racism. Similarly, when I asked Pruney, a white support staff in District A, how her school’s racial and socioeconomic diversity might affect how open or closed-minded the students were, she responded: “I think certain cultures, like the East Indian culture, and let's say any of the Islamic peoples, their children probably aren't aware of it, but if they were, if the parents were, it would be a problem, an issue.” In Pruney’s response, racialized cultures are framed as monolithic and unchanging: they are either unaware of gender and sexual diversity or they are unaccepting of it. Yet another example can found in my conversation with Claire, another white participant who had worked for five years as an administrator in District C. She told me about the positive experiences that she had had with two trans and gender-nonconforming students in two different schools: both of them had been well-accepted by the rest of the student population. I followed up her assertion by asking, “do you feel like you could have taken any high school and that would have gone sort of similarly?” Claire answered in the affirmative at first, but moderated that statement by saying that she hadn’t worked in a lot of schools in another part of the district. This prompted me to ask what the difference was between parts of the district, and she explained:  There’s probably much more cultural diversity in [the part of the district in which she has not worked much]. So there’s-, there are some schools [there] that have a really large Asian population, some with South Asian population. So I don’t know culturally whether that might be a concern, although I know that here, it seems to be okay.  103  Again, we see the conflation of culture and race (the “cultural diversity” of the first sentence becomes “a really large Asian population” in the second sentence) and an assumption that the presence of trans and gender-nonconforming students “might be a concern” for racialized populations. In some ways, Claire’s statement is more nuanced than Marcel’s: both her use of “I don’t know” and the modal verb “might” soften her suggestion that schools with a higher percentage of racialized students could run into more difficulties than the school where she works where “it seems to be okay.” However, the fact that this possibility is still thinkable – let alone speakable – for Claire is indicative of the dominance of racialized discourses that frame racialized students as less open and accepting due to their culture, and its underlying framework of cultural racism. The racialized utterances of these educators are not outlandish or unique to them. First, the association of racialized identities with homophobia and transphobia is part and parcel of dominant discourses that frame heterosexism as a racialized phenomenon (bell hooks, 1989; Collins, 2005; Jackson, 2014). The belief that people of colour are framed as more homophobic than whites both perpetuates and legitimizes racist discourses by justifying prejudicial attitudes towards people of colour, who are framed as less ‘enlightened’ than whites. The highly-mediatized case of the California Proposition 8 vote, which asked California residents whether or not they want to keep same-sex marriage legal in their state, provides a recent example of how this narrative dominates in the media. When the proposition passed, effectively ending legal same-sex marriage in California, American media outlets overemphasized the impact of the “black vote” in the passage of this proposition (Abrajano, 2010; Egan & Sherrill, 2009). In contrast, processes of racism and settler colonialism in white queer communities are rarely noted or questioned (Logie & Rwigema, 2014; Giwa & Greensmith, 2012; Greensmith & Gia, 2013).  104  Due to the connection between hetero- and cisnormativity in Western cultures, transphobia is also racialized in ways that emphasize the presumed lack of acceptance of people of colour and deemphasize the role of whiteness in the maintenance of cisnormativity and transphobic institutions. Lamble (2008) argues in her analysis of events held for Transgender Day of Remembrance that conversations about transphobic violence deracialize this violence and tend to absolve whiteness from its complicity in trans repudiation (institutional and otherwise). Other scholars have challenged the way that contemporary trans politics mirror gay and lesbian politics in emphasizing legal and civil rights approaches that rely on systems that carry out racist and cisnormative violence, e.g., the criminal justice system (Spade, 2011; Meyer, 2014).  Second, educators are also contending with the discursive landscape of whiteness in educational spaces, where multiculturalism encourages the superficial celebration of diversity (Cochran-Smith, 1995; Solomon, 1996) without addressing the way that whiteness continues to structure schools (Carr, 2008; Castagno, 2014; Lund & Carr, 2015;). In my conversations with educators, racialized discourses of homo- and transphobia were not always as visible as they were in the excerpts I have highlighted above. More often, racialized discourses stayed below the surface, emerging briefly in short exchanges. For example, Addison, a teacher from District A, answered my question about a student’s ethnic background with, “He looked, I think, part First Nations. I think. Like, I don’t know what his, I didn’t go look. For me, it doesn’t matter, right?” Addison’s first statement briefly acknowledges that she read the student through a racialized identity, but this statement is immediately tempered by Addison’s acknowledgement that this is speculation on her part and that she gave little importance to this piece of the student’s identity. The difficulty to make visible racialized discourses is a product of teacher education programs, which rarely give educators tools to engage with whiteness and dislodge assumptions about 105  meritocracy that still bolster dominant discourses of education (Solomona et al., 2005; Castagno, 2014). As a result, the complexities that live at the intersection of sexuality, gender, and racialization were also almost entirely absent from interviews. These silences are not insignificant. They gesture towards the discursive constraints that organize educational spaces.   3.3.2 Racialized diversity as a potential obstacle The assumption that racialized communities are more likely to be prejudiced against gender and sexual diversity meant that schools with a higher percentage of students of colour were more likely to be seen or described as potentially more complicated spaces, compared to schools where the majority of students were white. ‘Diversity,’ when it specifically referred to ethnic and racial diversity, became a potential source of unsafety.  This uncoupling of diversity and safety was especially common when educators discussed South Asian students (especially boys). When we were discussing washrooms and the possibility that multi-stall unisex washrooms would become more common, Laxlady, a white administrator in District C who had first worked as a counsellor, first identified “old people” as the primary obstacle. As we kept talking, however, she started talking about the “cultural piece” that she also saw as a barrier to change. She explained, “some of the South Asian people and parents and, you know, they're very strict and very, you know, so that could even be something that could be standing in the way as well.” Although her assessment is tempered by the use of “some” and “could,” Laxlady frames strictness as a cultural trait of “South Asian people and parents.” She then identifies it as something that could be “standing in the way” (here, of more progressive washroom options). Addison, the white teacher in District A who I quoted earlier, 106  provided another example. In this quote, she is talking about a gender-nonconforming boy who comes to class wearing make-up:  He comes to class, and nobody really bats an eye about it. That’s your grade 12s, right? And I have a huge group of East Indian boys in that class, there’s seven of them, and they’re typically more against that kind of thing and so I would expect them to make comments or whatever. No, they’ve accepted him that way.  First, Addison describes the seven South Asian boys in her class as a “huge group.” Assuming a class size of thirty, seven is less than a quarter of students. Although it is impossible to tell if Addison would find this number equally large if the boys were white, I argue that this qualifier is telling of the ways that racialized bodies – especially in groups – are more noticeable in a Western white culture. From this description, Addison then goes on to describe East Indian boys as “typically more against that kind of thing.” Again, the qualifier “typically” softens her racial claim and arguably provides some protection against accusations of intentional racism. Nevertheless, it speaks to a particular racialized imaginary; she still expects these students to “make comments.” I am not arguing here that Addison, Laxlady, Claire, Marcel or any of the educators that made similar claims stand out amongst an otherwise anti-racist body of educators. Rather, their construction of racialized students (and parents) highlights dominant racialized discourses available in Canada.  To understand why educators routinely singled out South Asian people as likely to be unaccepting of trans and gender-nonconforming students, it helps to look at what “kind of racialized gendered selves get produced” (Razack, 1998, p. 13) in Canada. South Asian communities are imagined to be sites of patriarchy and gendered violence (Ahmad et al., 2004; Batacharya, 2004; Handa, 1997; Razack, 1998), and, by extension, of homophobia and trans repudiation. These gendered narratives about South Asian communities contribute to their 107  experiences of marginalization and racism in Canada (Aujla, 2000; Bannerji, 2000) and reflect the way that Canadian society is organized through whiteness and systemic racism (Henry & Tator, 2009; Razack, 1998). It is worth noting that some of the educators of colour I spoke with drew upon these racialized discourses as well, which highlights that whiteness can extend beyond white bodies (Castagno, 2014, p. 7).  Often, educators framed the cultural differences that they identified in South Asian students as differences rooted in religion. I am reluctant to dismiss the racialized element of this form of talk of religion because the conflation of culture and religion is a feature of multiculturalism (and its accompanying diversity discourses) as well as of modern nationalist racist discourse (Anthias et al., 1992; Dunn et al., 2007; Puar, 2007; Rana, 2007; Smolash, 2009). Alyson, a teacher in District C, provided a salient example of this racialized treatment of religion. I asked her if she saw the socioeconomic or racial make-up of her school as having had an impact of the experience of the young trans woman with whom she’d worked. She answered: I would say that the hardest thing would be the cultural differences, right?  Because again, as soon as you're dealing with religion, things become much more difficult. And many of our South Asians do follow a very strong religion and anything that falls in the line of homosexuality, transgendered [sic], bisexual, any of those are absolutely not accepted.  It goes against their cultural being.  So I think that side of it would be very difficult.  And then within the Caucasian population I would say there's a real mix of comfort levels just depending on how they've grown up, students who couldn't care less to students who are extremely welcoming to students who are absolutely not accepting. And there … and I shouldn't … to be fair, there are many students in our south Asian population who are also extremely accepting.  It just depends on the depth of the religious beliefs.  From the start, Alyson’s shift between culture and religion (“cultural differences” becomes “religion” in the second sentence) signals a racialized understanding of religion. This racialization is made explicit in the next sentence, when she names “many of our South Asians” as the group that “follow[s] a very strong religion.” Like almost all the educators I have quoted, 108  she uses the qualifier “many” to soften her generalization, but there is no mention of a non-religious South Asian body or of a religious White body. This absence contributes to conflating South Asianness with “very strong religion,” a discursive effect that is emphasized when Alyson seamlessly shifts back to referring to culture with the sentence, “it goes against their cultural being.” This last sentence once again evokes the tropes of cultural racism that defined cultural traits as immutable. The expression “cultural being” suggests an essential, unified and stable South Asian subject that is in part defined by its rejection (“goes against”) of queerness and transness. This leads Alyson to say that having to deal with the anticipated negative reactions of South Asian students “would be very difficult.”  In contrast with this representation of South Asian students, her discussion of white students is more nuanced. Right away, she says “there’s a real mix of comfort levels.” By stressing the importance of upbringing as an element of variability (“depending on how they’ve grown up”), she deemphasizes race as a factor in her interpretation of white students’ attitudes. As a result, white students are explicitly given the potential to have a wide range of reaction (from “extremely welcoming” to indifference to “absolutely not accepting”). At the very end, Alyson goes back to talking about South Asian students and moderates her analysis further. The unfinished utterance “I shouldn’t…” as well as the expression “to be fair” point to her awareness that she has made a previous generalization that could be misinterpreted as ‘unfair.’ She amends her earlier depiction of South Asian students with the statement, “there are many students in our South Asian population who are also extremely accepting,” and chalks up the difference in attitude primarily to “the depth of religious belief.” This shifts the blame of non-accepting attitudes to religion rather than racial identity. However, I would argue that the fact that Islam and Sikhism are racialized religions (Dossa, 2009; Nagra, 2011; Rana, 2007) explains why 109  religion is more likely to be made relevant in discussions of racialized students and used to generalize about these populations. In contrast, when religion came up in the context of white families, these families were defined primarily their religion rather than race and as such, religious conservativism was not taken to be representative of whiteness.  3.3.3 Attempts to resist racist narratives The different quotes I have presented so far in this section exemplify the ways that racialized diversity was often discussed as something that could be an obstacle to creating school environments that are welcoming of trans and gender-nonconforming students. Instead of signaling safety, these quotes frame (racialized) diversity as being a site of tension, and in some cases as creating the potential for hostility and risk/unsafety. This particular framework perpetuates the racist assumptions and discourses that organize meaning-making in much of Canadian culture.  However, I want to emphasize that moments like the one where Alyson attempts to repair her earlier statement (“to be fair, there are many students in our south Asian population who are also extremely accepting”) should not be read solely as an attempt to restore a proper non-racist self. It is also an indication that Alyson, like other educators, navigate contradictory discourses about the meaningfulness of racialized categories. In other words, less than an indication of individual and intentional prejudice, the racialized talk of educators is likely a reflection of the dissonance in Canadian society between “democratic liberalism and the collective racism of the dominant culture” (Henry & Tator, 2009) and the continued dominance of whiteness in Canadian society (Lund & Carr, 2015), including in teacher education programs (Aveling, 2006; Solomona et al., 2005).  110  This tension was visible in Alyson’s quote, as well as any time that educators tried to qualify their generalizations. It also appears in instances where white participants tried to explicitly complicate or interrupt these racialized narratives even as they sometimes relied on and contributed to them. This was the case at one point in my interview with Clark, the GSA sponsor teacher from District A: I think I’ve seen [religious resistance]… like, I wouldn’t necessarily pinpoint that it’s a particular – and y’know sometimes I’m really surprised. My own stereotypes and prejudices come through and I think – I would expect it of somebody and maybe not of somebody else and then someone will say something and then I think oh! Wasn’t really expecting that from you.  Clark starts with saying that she has witnessed religious resistance but right away she refuses to draw broader generalizations from her experience by adding that she “wouldn’t necessarily pinpoint” this resistance to a particular group. Her admission that she’s sometimes “really surprised” by her experiences implicitly acknowledges that cultural assumptions exists about where religious resistance comes from: her surprise comes from the discrepancy between expectation and reality. Clark is relatively unique amongst participants in her willingness to explicitly name her “own stereotypes and prejudice” as part of her process of making sense of her experience. In this quote, Clark gestures at the way that racialized assumptions about religion have shaped her expectations, but she refuses to give voice to these assumptions. Instead she emphasizes the ways in which her expectations have been disrupted.  This kind of outright refusal was rare amongst educators. It was more common for participants to use racialized narratives even as they tried to challenge them. Keith, a support staff in District D who had worked with a number of trans and gender-nonconforming students over the years, explained: 111  I think that culture does play a role, and certainly religion also plays a role in staff and student comfort and levels of acceptance.  Of course it’s not black and white. It’s not absolute. There are people from every culture and religion who are extremely accepting and celebrate queer people all the time.  But there are I think cultural hurdles with various cultures and how acceptable or not acceptable various people and practices are in home countries.  In this quote, Keith begins with an affirmation that culture and religion “play a role” in how accepting students and staff are of queer as well as trans and gender-nonconforming students (although he indexes “queer people” in this excerpt, I had asked him specifically about trans students and he makes connections to transness shortly after the end of this excerpt). He then immediately qualifies that statement by emphasizing “of course it’s not black and white” and that he knows that acceptance exists in “every culture and religion.” Yet at the end of the quote he returns to his original analysis by reaffirming the existence of “cultural hurdles.”  This back-and-forth is typical of the efforts that many educators made to reflect on their own tendency to generalize about racialized populations. I argue that this suggests that educators are aware of the negative impact that such generalizations can have, and that they are aware of their currency in our culture, and that they actively try to resist them discursively. But in most cases, as in Keith’s, this awareness did little to actually unsettle the frame of whiteness, because few educators had alternative discourses available to them to talk about their experiences. Clark’s refusal to even name the dominant assumption comes closest, and even then, the very fact that she needs to refuse the discourse is proof of its dominance in our21 cultural imaginary. Because whiteness remains a dominant discourse in Canadian society, racialized ways of making sense of the world, of education, and of personal and professional experiences all persist                                                  21 I think it is essential that I acknowledge here that I am no more immune to the dominance of racist narratives as any of my participants. In fact, my own whiteness is likely to have enabled the emergence of these discourses in the talk of white educators, as they likely assumed that I was aware of them and would not fundamentally challenge their relative validity. 112  irrespective of awareness and even open attempts to challenge or resist them. Building on the argument of Solomona et al. (2005) about teacher education programs and the fact that (white) educators are not taught to recognize and address white privilege, I would argue that this situation is partly the result of a lack of alternative discourses made available to educators. Creating alternative discourses is precisely the kind of work that anti-racist education can accomplish (Aveling, 2006), especially if it is combined with “queer ideals” (Kumashiro, 2003). Also standing in the way of generating new discourses about students and communities of colour was a tendency to talk about racism as a problem that has been mostly resolved in Canadian society. For example, Scott, a white teacher in District D, thought that the fights against racism (and sexism) “have been rather successful,” and Pinklady, a white teacher in District B, said “we don't normally have an issue as much now with racial bullying.”  Barbie, a teacher in District B who was very involved with helping several trans and gender-nonconforming students and described her ethnic background as “Caucasian and aboriginal,” offered a longer example: When I talk about LGBTQ issues and um, the supporting of people being gay or lesbian, I always refer to it as being back in the 1960s where we were with, um, racism. And that we have a good fifty years of work with LGBTQ issues to get to where we are now with racism. Right? You don’t see a lot of racism in schools anymore. You see a little bit but you don’t see a lot. Not like what you do [with] the heterosexism. Right?  Barbie compares current levels of heterosexism with racism “back in the 1960s.” This frames racism as a thing of the past. She confirms this analysis by stating explicitly, “you don’t see a lot of racism in schools anymore,” although she allows that “you see a little bit.” As a result of this belief that racism was no longer common, some participants expressed the belief that racism 113  would more obviously be interrupted and challenged than homophobia22 in educational spaces. For example, Christine, a teacher in District B, noted that “kids have been told since grade 1” not to use racial slurs whereas “they suddenly get to grade 8 and oh you mean we’re not allowed to say gay, no one’s ever said that before, well why not?” These narratives obscure the ways in which racism and colonialism continue to structure Canadian education (Battiste, 1998; St. Denis, 2011) as well as the educational experiences of Canadian youth of colour and indigenous youth (Dei, 1997, 2005; Hare & Pidgeon, 2011; Martin & Kipling, 2006; Rummens & Dei, 2012; Ryan, 2003; Samuel & Burney, 2003). This refusal to know racism and its continued effects (Dion, 2004, p. 58) would be concerning in any circumstances. But it is particularly worrying given that, as I have shown, educators themselves engage in discursive practices that draw on racist narratives. These discursive practices can only shift if educators are able to recognize the ongoing reality of racism and of the dominance of whiteness. Some educators were clear that racism has not been eradicated. For example, Kate, a counsellor in District D, pointedly noted that despite efforts to address it, “racism still happens, right?” However, even these assertions usually framed racism as intentional and a property of individuals (“people who are racist,” as Anuj, an administrator in District C, said) rather than a question of structural inequality. As I have indicated, the few educators of colour that I spoke with were not immune to some of these racialized narratives. Specifically, almost all of these educators of colour I spoke to used analogies between racism and heterosexism or transphobia. There are convergences between these systems of oppression, as Collins (2005) points out: “racism and heterosexism                                                  22 I use the term homophobia here to reflect the framings of participants. Even in conversations about gender diversity, educators often turned to the concept of homophobia. They were far more likely to have been trained (formally or informally) to recognize homophobic slurs over acts of trans repudiation. 114  […] both use state-sanctioned institutional mechanisms to maintain racial and sexual hierarchies” (p. 95). However, participants of colour used analogies that framed racism as at least partly resolved instead of connecting both systems of power. For example, Ray, an Indo-Canadian administrator in District B used the same racial analogy as Barbie to explain that he is not “well-versed” in issues of gender diversity: “I’m at the very initial stages of that learning journey, right? Just like we were with, you know, race, 50 years ago. That’s sort of is how I, you know, describe that.” Similarly, Arya, an Indo-Canadian counsellor in District C, drew a parallel between transphobia and racism to explain that she thought fear was key in explaining people’s negative reactions:  So I think generally speaking people are a lot more okay with that [people from various racialized backgrounds] now.  That fear is dissipated a lot more than it once was.  Of course there's still racism and all that, but now this [gender diversity] is, like, the… the new thing.  Arya acknowledges the continued relevance of racism (“of course there’s still racism”), yet still positions issues of gender diversity as less accepted than race. The currency of this particular narrative even amongst educators of colour does not speak to its validity as much as it illustrates its discursive dominance in a culture of whiteness where we all learn to downplay the persistent reality and impact of racism, especially in its institutionalized forms.  This section has explored the way that racialized meanings crystallized around diversity discourses in ways that enable rather than disrupt the way that racism and settler colonialism continue to circulate in Canadian society. While this examination might seem disconnected from my overall focus on cisnormativity, it is not. Educators rely in part on diversity discourses to understand how and why schools should support trans and gender-nonconforming students in schools. However, the potential of diversity discourses in that area should not be considered 115  independently of its racialized effects. Otherwise, educators and activists run the risk of bolstering the racist and colonial effects of diversity discourses as these discourses are put to work to encourage schools to be more hospitable to gender diversity. As Black feminists and other critical scholars have long pointed out (bell hooks, 2000), working towards social justice and a more equitable society can only make sense when different forms of marginalization are not compartmentalized. Cisnormativity, heteronormativity, and whiteness are regimes of power that often bolster each other (Skidmore, 2011; Vipond, 2015) and as such they cannot be properly addressed separately from one another.  Additionally, trans and gender-nonconforming students are not all white, although like queer students, they are frequently imagined as such (McCready, 2004; Campisini, 2013; M. Johnson, 2014). Thinking about how whiteness can be reproduced alongside and/or against cisnormativity is essential to capture the imbrication of social categories and the complexity with which these categories are embodied in students as well as educators.  3.4 Conclusion Ahmed (2012) notes at the beginning of her book On Being Included: “my aim is not to suggest that we should stop doing diversity, but that we need to keep asking what we are doing with diversity” (p. 17). The way that educators frequently drew on diversity discourses to discuss the relationship between schools and trans and gender-nonconforming students illustrates the larger way that diversity discourses organize Canadian education. It also underlines the importance of going beyond diversity’s ‘niceness’ (Castagno, 2014) to examine what these discourses accomplish when they circulate in the talk of educators.  116  I opened this chapter by situating diversity discourses within Canadian history, which are structured by a national imaginary that associates diversity with tolerance/acceptance. As Castagno (2014) and other scholars critical of the notion of diversity (e.g., Carr & Lund, 2009) have pointed out, this notion of diversity as a positive value often works to hide the workings of power (in particular, of whiteness). This chapter focused on examining how this association between diversity and safety played out in the talk of my participants in distinct ways depending on whether diversity was specified as sexual diversity or as racialized diversity.  In the first half of this chapter, I discussed how participants often slipped back and forth between notions of gender and sexuality and assumed a natural affinity between queer students and trans and gender-nonconforming students. I used discussions of GSAs to illustrate the effects of these slippages: efforts to create safer school environments for queer students were often assumed to have a positive effect on trans and gender-nonconforming students. This, I argued, can make invisible the specific needs of trans and gender-nonconforming students, such as making gender diversity visible in the curriculum or addressing administrative hurdles that classify students in restrictive ways. This reliance on diversity discourses also limited opportunities to go beyond superficial acceptance to address the underlying hetero- and cisnormative structures of schools.  In the second half of this chapter, I showed that when diversity appears in the talk of educators as racialized diversity, the assumption that diversity generates safety for trans and gender-nonconforming students often disappeared. Racialized diversity instead was often framed as something that might create difficulties and additional barriers to acceptance of gender and sexual diversity. This pattern is indicative of the complex ways that whiteness can maintain itself even under the veneer of the celebration of diversity. The cultural availability and dominance of 117  these racialized discourses made it difficult for educators not to draw on them as they discussed their experiences in schools. Some educators did try to disrupt and resist them, with limited success.  Particular articulations of diversity discourses and specifically the diversity/safety nexus have material consequences for trans and gender-nonconforming students as well as for students of colour (two groups that are not mutually exclusive). They shape who is seen as a subject worthy of acceptance in educational spaces, they make certain interventions in schools (im)possible, and they give credence to certain stories over others. For example, diversity discourses in their different forms might make it likely for a counsellor to connect a new trans student to their school’s GSA, or for a teacher to hesitate discussing gender diversity in class because of the notable presence of racialized young men. I have discussed the complexities of the relationship between diversity and safety in order to denaturalize it, and highlight its different effects. It is important to think about the ways in which ‘diversity,’ depending on how it is imagined, may be assumed to generate safety in schools – or not. As I have emphasized, diversity discourses can serve to neutralize and hide racialized effects, and allow participants to position themselves as subjects who accept and value diversity without recognizing that they also contribute to centering whiteness in their talk.  Dei (2011) has recently suggested that, for all its limitations, multiculturalism can be “an allied discourse [and] a valuable first step towards a more critical anti-racist approach” (p. 16). I would like to suggest that diversity discourses may also have their usefulness. The fact that they resonate with educators offers some potential that they can be conduits for change, especially if they are combined with discourses that are critical of the various normativities that constrain school spaces. Diversity discourses may help create some of the conditions for classrooms to be 118  experienced as safer by trans and gender-nonconforming students, but this connection between diversity and safety should never be naturalized or ossified.  This risk of ossification is particularly present when we do not engage critically with the notion of diversity and the norms of niceness that constitute it: it helps whiteness and other normative regimes to “maintain[] power and privilege by perpetuating and legitimating the status quo while simultaneously maintaining a veneer of neutrality, equality, and compassion” (Castagno, 2014, p. 3). Instead, diversity discourses informed by anti-racist and critical (trans)feminisms could be offered to educators as ways to disrupt normative regimes. For example, they could serve to re-envision safety as an ongoing process (rather than a characteristic of a space), to think about inclusion without relying on the presence and visibility of ‘diverse’ bodies (an approach that re-asserts the centrality of ‘non-diverse’ bodies), and to question the mechanisms by which schools tend to administer and manufacture conformity and assimilation rather than difference and equity. In doing so, diversity discourses could potentially be deployed in ways that disrupt, rather than make invisible, systems of difference in schools that marginalize certain bodies more systematically than others, including trans, queer, racialized and gender-nonconforming bodies. 119  Chapter 4: Making room for trans and gender-nonconforming students in decision-making processes 4.1 Introduction We let the students come and tell us that that’s what they’re comfortable with, right. So if it’s a student who is coming to us, like in the intake meeting, we’ll kind of discuss, we’ll kind of put all that stuff out there and say, “What are you comfortable with, what are you safe with, what do we have for you?” (Claire, administrator, District C)  Having established the larger context that educators navigate in Canadian schools, I now shift to an analysis of how cisnormativity is articulated in the talk of educators. As is the case with whiteness, schools do not exist independently from the rest of society. They function within broader systems that enforce norms of gender and sexual conformity, but also work as institutional sites that (re)produce and naturalize these norms.  When trans and gender-nonconforming students seek recognition in their schools, they often highlight the many ways that schools are structured by administrative systems, institutional practices, and everyday routines that rely on particular gendered assumptions and narratives. Many of these assumptions and narratives require a stable gender binary to make sense: gendered washrooms, gender-segregated Physical Education or sex education classes, M/F gender markers on class lists, the interpellation ‘boys and girls’ and other moments where students’ gender are made relevant in the jokes and stories of educators, assumptions about how girls and boys learn differently, etc. This institutional terrain marks trans and gender-nonconforming students as different because they do not fit seamlessly in these systems and disrupt some of these practices and routines. As the quote that opens this chapter illustrates, trans and gender-nonconforming students force educators to ask themselves the question, “what do we have for you?” The disruption of difference is particularly true of students whose gender identity is non-binary, but 120  also happens to binary students when they go through social transition and thus become visible (at least temporarily) as trans.23  I use the term “social transition” or simply “transition” to refer to the process through which a student comes to identify (and be identified) publicly as a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth. This process usually involves a series of steps that contribute to the student being identified as the gender they identify with, such as taking on a different name and pronouns, using different washrooms and change rooms, dressing more in accordance with societal expectations for their gender, etc. In the context of this dissertation, social transition also means that the student has taken active steps to let school staff know that this process is happening, and has requested that changes be made to recognize and validate this process. It is also worth noting that social transition is distinct from medical transition.24 The two may or may not be simultaneous; some students who socially transition may never transition medically. A student’s medical transition is largely irrelevant in a school context. As such, I only speak to this topic when participants make it relevant. This process of social transition is simpler for people who identify with a binary gender. Because our society is structured by binary understandings of gender, it is much more difficult to be recognized publicly and consistently as someone with a non-binary gender identity. Indeed, the type of decision-making that I discuss in this chapter was made relevant by participants only when they discussed students who had made a binary transition from male to female, or vice-versa. Students who may have identified as non-binary were precisely made invisible by the fact                                                  23 For binary students, this disruption may or may not be temporary depending on how outspoken the student decides to be about their history of transition, and/or on how much they are later read as gender-conforming. 24 Medical transition refers to gender-affirming medical care such as the prescription of hormone suppressants, hormone replacement therapy, and gender-affirming surgeries. 121  that institutional changes are less available to them.25 The way that binary gendered norms structure schools makes it more difficult to communicate their needs and have them addressed in institutional settings.  When trans and gender-nonconforming students become visible in school spaces (often through a social transition), an institutional response becomes necessary. This is the process that Claire is describing in this chapter’s epigraph: “we’ll kind of discuss, we’ll kind of put all that stuff out there and say, ‘What are you comfortable with, what are you safe with, what do we have for you?’” The ‘we’ here stands for the team of adults that organizes around the student, usually involving at least one administrator and counsellor. These adults are tasked with figuring out how the student’s identity will be integrated into established systems and practices (or, in some rarer cases, how these established systems and practices must be reworked to integrate the student). Adults who want to support trans and gender-nonconforming students thus have to negotiate a number of changes, either by making decisions themselves about these changes, or by making sense of decisions that were made by others.  Before I explore this decision-making process more fully in the next chapter, I want to start by focusing on a specific narrative that ran through my conversations with educators about decision-making. This narrative, which I call the ‘student in charge’ narrative, was used by educators to make sense of the way that students were involved in these decision-making processes. The main feature of this narrative was a verbal commitment on the part of the speaker that the trans and gender-nonconforming student going through a social transition (or being                                                  25 At the turn of the twenty-first century, Namaste (2000) pointed out that “the act of invalidating the very possibility of transsexuality bolsters rhetorical operations that exclude literal transsexual bodies while reinforcing institutional practices that do not consider the needs of transsexual and transgendered people” (p. 52). While this continues to be true in schools, I was struck me by the fact that, even when people have integrated the possibility of binary trans students, this process still functions to invalidate the possibility of non-binary students.   122  accommodated in some way) should be the one to guide the decision-making process. This narrative usually framed the young person as the person who sets the pace and shapes what the transition looks like, with the adults gladly following their lead. The quote from Claire provides a good example of it. In it, she is answering a question I asked about how her school would reach a decision about which bathroom a trans and gender-nonconforming student should access. Her answer starts with affirming, “we let the students come and tell us that that’s what they’re comfortable with, right.” This narrative caught my attention because it is unusually respectful of trans and gender-nonconforming students and their identities. It suggests that educators recognize that the student is the expert on their own life and thus most capable of deciding what needs to happen so that they can thrive at school. The ‘student in charge’ narrative also sits uneasily with a common view of youth and children26 as “uninformed person[s]” (Postman, 1983, p. 59), an idea which finds its roots in Christian theological constructs and often dominates Western societies. This perspective frames modern ideas about children and youth as too immature to make a number of decisions regarding their own lives and bodies, which explains “adult society’s need to control young people as well as its fear of them being autonomous” (Holm et al., 2006, p. 86). In modern Western culture, this construct of childhood often sits alongside a more recent view of children and youth as people in their own right, with “their individual personality, their unique emotional                                                  26I am purposefully not distinguishing between children and youth here. Although often talked about in biological and developmental terms, distinctions between different life cycles are profoundly sociological in nature (Neugarten & Datan, 1996, p. 96), and the concept of adolescence is a relatively new one  (Fasick, 1994). Childhood and adolescence are often constructed as distinct life stages (with adolescence as a time of risk and irresponsibility and childhood as a time of innocence). But both of them are set apart from adulthood by their lack of stability and maturity (both children and youth are understood to be ‘in process’ towards adulthood) and thus an incapacity to know themselves as well as adults do. It is this commonality that matters to my analysis, hence my overall lack of distinction between these life stages. 123  and psychological development” (Mills, 2000, p. 21). This view is informed by, and contributes to, neoliberal27 discourses that conceptualize subjects primarily through notions of individual agency, personal responsibility, and free choice (W. Brown, 2003, 2006; Gill, 2008; Gonick, 2006). Within this paradigm, children and youth are tasked with becoming agentive adults but, because they are not there yet, “adults must evaluate and guide [their] development” (Talburt, 2004b, p. 117).  Both paradigms justify the imposition of adult authority over young people, a perspective seemingly at odds with the idea that trans and gender-nonconforming students should be ‘in charge’ of their social transitions in schools. In his introduction to his book on childhood studies, Richard Mills (2000) rightly notes, “the philosophical and ideological stances taken by parents, carers, and educators [on the nature of childhood], whether precisely articulated or merely implicit, will determine how children are treated” (p. 12). Because of the promising ideological shift that the ‘student in charge’ narrative seems to imply for how students (trans and gender-nonconforming students in particular) are treated, I became interested in examining it more closely, including its effects and its limits. I start this chapter by presenting the ‘student in charge’ narrative and how it was articulated by educators. Having established what this narrative looks like, I continue by examining moments where the confines of this narrative became visible: when adults worried about ‘encouraging’ the student in their non-normative gender identity, when adults had concerns about safety, and when adults expressed doubts because of the student's age. I end this                                                  27 Many of these discourses have a long-standing history in liberal discourses about the subject, but have been reinvigorated by neoliberalism, which Duggan (2003) describes as “a late twentieth-century incarnation of Liberalism” (p. 3) whose key notions of privatization and personal responsibility increasingly impose market logics onto people. 124  chapter by looking at what I believe are unintended effects of the ‘student in charge’ narrative. Specifically, I look at the way that this narrative puts students in a situation where they are expected (and assumed to be able to) advocate for themselves. I also show that the narrative’s concerns with the student’s individual perspective leads to an individualizing approach that misses the way that trans and gender-nonconforming students are embedded in – and constrained by – existing normative systems and practices.  4.2 The student “drives the car”: positioning students as empowered subjects Almost every educator I spoke to discussed student input as part of their stories about how decisions were made at their school following a trans student making their existence known. In their narratives, student input was often not simply one element to be taken into account, but rather the driving force in why and how decisions were made.  For example, Jelena, a support worker in District A, talked about a situation where a student and his parents had “the school know that she [sic] was in process of gender change.” Jelena summarized the process in this way: “we… let [the student] case manage us, basically.” This turn of phrase is particularly interesting because it is a role-reversal. In educational and counselling settings, it is usually adults who are in charge of students and managing their ‘cases.’ By reversing roles, Jelena suggests that, from her perspective, power shifts in situations that involve trans and gender-nonconforming students. In District D, one of the counsellors, Dawson, told me that when a student came out to her as transgender, she sought out a variety of colleagues who had already worked with trans and gender-nonconforming students to hear their perspective. Here is how she reported the advice she heard from them:  125  The message that I got from [a support staff] and from [another counsellor] was just that basically the student drives the car, right?  It's just… It's about… simply all about wishes and needs and requirements and expressed desires of the student, which makes tremendous sense.  In this quote, Dawson makes explicit that the idea that “the student drives the car” is central to how educators understand what it means to support a trans and gender-nonconforming students. By centering the “wishes and needs and requirement and expressed desires of the student” in her understanding of “what matters,” she also implicitly positions the opinions of adults as secondary to the process of decision-making. Although I will complicate this position later, it is enough to say for now that this is how Dawson, along with many other educators, framed the role of the trans and gender-nonconforming student within the decision-making process.  Two things should be noted here. One, this narrative aligns with neoliberal understandings of individual subjectivities, namely the underlying belief that “our biographies are increasingly under individual control” (Currie et al., 2009, p. 18). Both the repeated focus on a single grammatical agentive subject (“the student”) as well as the vocabulary – “wishes and needs and requirements” – construct an image of a free-standing individual who has not only wishes that are specific to them (rather than embedded in existing systems of power) but has agency in making them happen. These notions of choice and freedom, Spade (2011) points out, constitute “the emotional or affective registers of neoliberalism” (p. 50). As a result of these assumptions, individual accommodations rather than institutional changes are emphasized in Dawson’s account. I discuss the implications of this framing further in the next chapter.  Second, Dawson’s quote indicates that the ‘student in charge’ narrative is often one that is not generated idiosyncratically by unconnected individual educators; rather it is often taught, or at least produced collectively, by and with educators who are positioned as ‘experts’ on the 126  topic. Dawson explains clearly that it is “the message [she] got” from peers who had more experience than her that has helped her discursively frame the decision-making process in this way. By concluding with the phrase, “which makes tremendous sense,” she validates the advice as logical and sensible and takes ownership of it.   Other educators got external validation of the idea that the student should lead the decision-making process. Blue, who worked as an administrator in the same school as Dawson, also talked about consulting outside sources and in particular, informal district guidelines28 about supporting trans and gender-nonconforming students. The take-away message that she took from these guidelines is similar to Dawson’s:  I guess the phrase I remember more than anything else was ‘at the end of the day it is up to the individual.’ So if the individual wants to play soccer on the girl’s team, then the individual plays on the girl’s team. If the individual wants to play soccer on the boy’s team, then the individual plays soccer on the boy’s team. And for whatever reason I just thought, okay you know what, yeah at the end of the day whatever the person wants, whatever makes sense to him or her, that’s what you do.  By stating that she remembers it “more than anything else,” Blue makes clear the centrality of the ‘student in charge’ narrative. Her claim of recollection is then substantiated by her clear re-articulation of this approach in the rest of the quote. In Blue’s description, the trans and gender-nonconforming student (“the individual”) is repeatedly the subject of the active verbs “want” and “play.” This grammatical structure frames the student as the active subject and decision-maker. Meanwhile the adults only appear as responding to these requests positively: “whatever the person wants […] that’s what you do.” Blue goes even further with the phrase “whatever makes sense to him or her,” which suggests that, even if the student wants something that does not                                                  28 At the time of our interview, District D had no official district policy on trans and gender-nonconforming students and thus such guidelines were usually provided by support staff with experience working with trans and gender-nonconforming students. 127  make sense to the adults, the student’s perspective should be prioritized. This is a representation of the decision-making process where the role of adults is reduced to enacting decisions taken by the student without intervening in any way, shap