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UBC Theses and Dissertations

“It’s a very careful line we walk” : how educators resist, navigate, and make sense of the queer, trans necropolitical landscape of elementary education Paterson, Kathryn


This dissertation explores how elementary educators in Alberta, Canada make sense of and engage with queer, trans, and gender non-conforming diversity in elementary education, and how those understandings inform their pedagogy and practices. Contextualized within Alberta’s political conservatism, this research consists of a policy analysis of Alberta Education’s Guidelines for Best Practices and 12 school district policies, 14 interviews with elementary educators and two group discussions. This dissertation makes a critical contribution to the field by exploring how elementary education is shaped by necropolitical regimes of normativity that bestow privilege and support to some queer and trans kids, while increasing vulnerability and precarity for others. By focusing on discursive practices, this research explores why current government and school district policies, professional development, administrative interventions, and classroom strategies for queer and trans “inclusion” are insufficient. Findings underscore the limitations of an individualized, reactive, “accommodation approach” to change in schools that does little to confront larger, systemic issues in Canada’s public education system. Highlighting the workings of white settler colonialism, cisnormativity, heteronormativity, and neoliberalism, this research discusses how even supportive and knowledgeable educators often perpetuate harmful discourses despite their best intentions. Educators’ stories reveal the pressures, risks, and responsibilities they face as they navigate institutional constraints that are not conducive to implementing queer, trans, and gender diversity into the classroom and school in meaningful ways. By critically examining the limitations of existing approaches to building “safe, inclusive, and welcoming schools,” this research aims to contribute to a better schooling future for queer and trans students in Alberta, thereby improving conditions for all students.

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