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Exploring Gender Identity and Gender Norms in Primary Schools

Project Description
This study entitled ‘Exploring Gender Identity and Gender Norms in Primary Schools’ sought to understand how gender identities and gender norms are understood, experienced and negotiated in primary schools by: (a) transgender and gender variant children and their families (b) primary school educators. Eleven parents of transgender and gender variant children aged between 5 and 12 and seven primary school educators took part in this study. Key findings are as follows: 1. The children in this study were strongly gender non-conforming from the time they could communicate. 2. Across the children in this study, there was a diversity of approaches to negotiating their gender identity and using names and pronouns. 3. The parents and their children in this study experienced significant pressures related to the gender identity binary in society. 4. In attempting to support their child, parents were in a vulnerable position, particularly because of the age of their child. 5. Parents’ everyday negotiations with schools and health services were affected by their economic, social, cultural and symbolic resources. 6. Highly gendered systems, practices and language in primary schools caused particular difficulties for the children in this study. 7. Educators lacked knowledge about gender identity diversity and the onus was often on the parents to support, educate and procure resources. 8. An absence of national education directives — exacerbated by confusion and fear about the age of children, religious affiliation and religious ethos — caused reluctance and inaction among educators. 9. The approach to gender identity in schools was largely reactive and focused on supporting an individual transgender child, often constraining broader learning and change related to gender. For more detail, the report is available here:

Principal Investigator
Aoife Neary PhD

Catherine Cross  

External Partner
Transgender Equality Network of Ireland  

grant Source
Irish Research Council: New Foundations Engaging Civic Society Strand