UBC Graduate Research

Inclusive classroom environments : creating space for gender non-conforming, diverse family structures Krikorian, Cai Anne


Children who are gender non-conforming (GNC) and children who have diverse family structures (DFS) often experience feelings of not belonging, peer rejection, and lower emotional well-being. Drawing on socio constructivist theory, ecological model of development, queer theory, and dynamic gender development I explore how to create inclusive and supportive classroom environments for children who are GNC or from DFS. In exploring this topic I draw inspiration from Butler's (1990) concept of “ungrounding” the heterosexual matrix and Atkinson and DePalma’s (2008) concept of the heteronormative bias. The heteronormative bias is the assumed “natural order of things” (Atkinson & DePalma, 2008, p. 27) that results in children learning that “normal” families have a mom and a dad; that “normal” boys act like boys, and “normal” girls act like girls. Some children then become “gender policers” who enforce narrow gendered stereotypes which can lead to a toxic learning environment for children who fall outside of the heteronormative bias. I examine how educators can create inclusive classroom environments by “ungrounding” the heteronormative bias while understanding how children’s conceptions of gender and families are influenced by social, family, peer, and literature values and representations. In connecting this review of the literature to practice, I have prepared two “read alouds” for preschool and kindergarten children to introduce children who are GNC or from DFS and to demonstrate how children can be powerful agents in creating inclusive classrooms environments. Based on the findings of this review, I recommend that educators take an active role in responding to instances of “gender policing” and exclusion while empowering children to “unground" the heteronormative bias.

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