Journal of LGBT Youth: an international quarterly devoted to research, policy, theory, and practice Special Issue Call for Papers

Still Queering Elementary Education

Journal of LGBT Youth

Eighteen years ago, shortly after the tragic murder of Matthew Shepard, the landmark book “Queering elementary education: Advancing the dialogue about sexualities and schooling” (Letts & Sears, 1999) was published with critical attention. At the time, even the word “queer” was viewed as controversial and contested as the field of LGBT educational studies challenged everyday taken-for-granted heteronormative assumptions about teaching, curriculum, childhood, gender, race, and the construction of family. This groundbreaking collection contained 22 essays, which explored foundational questions such as “What does it mean to teach queerly?”; “Why discuss sexuality in elementary schools?”; “What is a family?”; and “Who makes a girl or a boy?”. During the 2008 presidential contest, the book continued to draw focused attention when a written endorsement by Bill Ayers (featured on the book’s back cover) was associated with a Right Wing conservative attack on the Obama campaign.

While the study and field of elementary education has gradually progressed into more nuanced and complex investigations examining the normalizing processes of sexuality and gender, there still remains a paucity of critical scholarship focused on the primary schools as foundational to the construction and regulation of (hetero)sexualities and binary gender identifications. This is especially evident with recent increased interest and awareness of transgender children who are becoming much more visible and vocal at younger ages in primary schools. How are elementary educators and administrators responding to this “gender revolution”? How do elementary schools operate as critical sites for the production and regulation of sexuality, gender, and the promotion of childhood innocence? How are teachers implicated in or complicit with these normalizing discourses? How do students understand and do gender? How do they creatively resist and redeploy these identity-constituting practices? At what costs? Under what historical, social, cultural, and political conditions are discourses of sexuality and gender circulated and (re)produced? What are the impacts of hegemonic masculinities and femininities and possibilities for students to be and act otherwise? How might we continue to queer elementary classrooms and teaching practices to create spaces of immense hope and possibility to live beyond the gender binary?

This special double issue invites papers examining these and other questions to explicate the current state of the field of elementary education and LGBT issues worldwide. How far have we come as a discipline? What are the continued absences, barriers, and silences? Where does the field need to go to continue to advance the dialogue and bring forth meaningful change?

We invite historical and contemporary perspectives to help us “think the unthought” of sexualities and genders in elementary or primary schools (ages 13 and under), which might explore:

•    Impacts of hetero- and gender-normativity in primary schools
•    Intersectionality with particular attention to race, class, culture, location, faith/religion, and dis/ability
•    Inequities experiences by queer and same-gender parented families
•    Examination of white, heterosexual, and cisgender privilege and impacts on identity construction
•    Examples of “queering” elementary curriculum, policies, and educational practices
•    Exploration of queer and trans pedagogies and praxis
•    Global, two-spirit, and transnational perspectives on sexuality and gender in childhood 
•    Realities and resistances of primary school teachers, administrators, and parents to do and think otherwise
•    Emergence of gay-straight alliances and queer-straight alliances in elementary schools
•    Moving beyond the binary: Supporting trans, intersex, and gender diverse identities
•    De-gendering school practices, facilities, and forms
•    The politics, promises, and failures of queer visibility in the classroom 
•    Challenging the “gay agenda”, childhood innocence, and religious opposition 
•    The (im)possibilities of sex(ed) and queer bodies and desires in primary grades
•    Maintenance of sex and gender taxonomies through official and hidden curriculums
•    Personal narratives, drawings, art, and other creative works exploring these themes

We welcome critical, theoretical, and lived perspectives based upon these and other themes, which examine the “everydayness” of sexuality and gender that is both everywhere and actively silenced in elementary schools. 

2018 will be the 15th anniversary of the Journal of LGBT Youth and this special themed double- issue will mark an important part of the Journal’s celebrations. This special issue will also serve as the foundation for a companion book published by Taylor and Francis.  

Submission Instructions

To participate in this special issue, please send a maximum 500-word paper abstract, with a short listing of key references, and bios to both editors, Dr. James Sears (islandauthor@gmail.com) and Dr. Kristopher Wells (kris.wells@ualberta.ca). 

The deadline for abstract submissions is April 30, 2017. Submitters will receive notification of results no later than May 30, 2017. Final accepted submissions will be due by October 21, 2017.

The Journal of LGBT Youth is the interdisciplinary forum dedicated to improving the quality of life for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. This quarterly journal presents peer-reviewed scholarly articles, practitioner-based essays, policy analyses, and revealing narratives from young people. For more information or to subscribe, please visit the journal website

Editorial information

  • Special Issue Editor: James Sears
  • Special Issue Editor: Kristopher Wells