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Playing with gender: taking up and challenging heteronormativity in an early childhood education setting

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posted on 24.05.2021, 12:57 authored by Lisa-Marie Gagliardi
This study challenges a common view that sexualities and the topic of sexuality are irrelevant and inappropriate to children’s lives. In early childhood education, sexuality is generally viewed as an innate developmental experience that evolves over time as children grows. Framed in a postmodernist and queer perspective, this study upholds sexuality as a social construct influenced by cultural and societal values. This study examines how heteronormativity is discursively constructed in an early childhood education setting. Participant observation was employed and video recorded with ten kindergarten children and their early childhood educators. First, the children were found to employ a number of discourses, including: “hair;” “clothes;” “colours;” “masculinity as the rejection of femininity;” “superhero” and “princess play.” Secondly, the findings suggest that play is a site for children to transgress hegemonic discourses regarding genders and sexualities. Thirdly, the early childhood educator was found to be a critical role in this transgressive play by posing questions and problematizing children’s heteronormative assumptions.





Master of Arts


Early Childhood Studies

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type


Thesis Advisor

Rachel Berman