UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Beyond the binary : how secondary students express gender-variant identities Savage, Béene


The inclusion of gender identity and expression in the Canadian Human Rights Code in 2017 denoted a further step forward for LGBTQ recognition. All British Columbia school board policies must now include gender identity and expression in the list of attributes for which students have the right to be protected from discrimination. This thesis is an examination of some of the ways that gender-variant students express their gender identities in B.C. secondary public schools. Engaging with arts-based and narrative inquiry in small group sessions, past students of B.C. secondary schools share some of their experiences of having gender identities that are recognized as falling outside of the dominantly accepted norms of binary gender. Questioning not only how students expressed their gender identities within their school communities, but also where they did/did not find support for those expressions, queer theory and queer phenomenology form the core of the methodology by which these questions are examined. Looking at the ways that students orient themselves within the culture of their schools, the lens of queer phenomenology illuminates the ways in which gender-variant students may be faced with more difficulties than their cisgendered peers to find inclusion and belonging. The lens of queer theory assists in understanding the dominant discourse around gender in the public school system and helps to look critically at how this impacts gender-variant students. The research is an arts-based and narrative inquiry. It involves participants sharing stories while creating individual art pieces that express inner gender identity and outer performances of gender. Discussions included ways in which gender expression during the students’ years in school often varied from their inner identity, and the issues this discrepancy brought forward.

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