Gender Identity and Arts Education

About this Theme:


Gendered practices are societal norms that most experience on a daily basis. We are gendered from birth, and are constantly absorbing gendered messages that come from peers, parents, schools, media, workplaces, and other sources, and which are often expressed as cultural norms and societal expectations.  These messages have explicit and implicit effects, often resulting in the ways we think about heteronormativity, homosexuality, femininity, masculinity, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia.  Gender identity and the arts intersect in numerous ways; for example, it can be apparent in students’ artwork or performances; in the artists and performers that are shown as exemplars in class; even in the ways arts teachers encourage and engage with specific students. There are many examples of this: often dancers are considered ‘feminine’, poets are portrayed as less manly, or female artists as ‘less important’. As educators, we need to consider what kind of gendered messages we are sending our students in our instructional choices to ensure inclusivity of content and pedagogy for all of our students. This means that we need to be constantly reflecting on our teaching practices and questioning if we are being inclusive of students who might challenge our existing notions of gender.  As part of this, it is essential to understand that gender expression is not stagnant, nor set in stone at birth; it is fluid and can be heavily influenced by external forces. Understanding the fluidity of gender means that educators should consider creating space for the multiple gender identities of their students. The arts can be used as ways to discuss and challenge gender norms, and create safe spaces for students’ self-expression of their own gender identity.

Incorporating Gender Identity into Arts Education lessons, units or programs:

General Resources:

Butler, Judith. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge.

Goldstein, T. (2010).  Snakes and Ladders: A Performed Ethnography. International Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy.  

Hicks, B.L. (2017).   Gracefully unexpected, deeply present and positively disruptive: love and queerness in classroom community. Bank Street College Occasional Papers Series.

Hooks, B. (1994). Teaching to transgress. Routledge.

Malins, P. (2016). How inclusive is “inclusive education” in the Ontario elementary classroom?: Teachers talk about addressing diverse gender and sexual identities. Teaching and Teacher Education, 54, 128-138

Pendleton, J.K. (2016)  Tomboys and Other Gender Heroes:  Confessions from the Classroom.  New York:  Peter Lang.  

Reiff Hill, M. and Mays, J. (2013). The Gender Book.  Houston, TX: Marshall House Press.

Taylor, C. & Peter, T., with McMinn, T.L., Elliott, T., Beldom, S., Ferry, A., Gross, Z., Paquin, S., and Schachter, K. (2011). Every Class in Every School: The First National Climate Survey on Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia in Canadian Schools. Toronto, ON: EGALE Canada Human Rights Trust. Retrieved from:   

Arts Education Resources:

Check, E. (2004). Queers and art education in the war zone. Studies in Art Education45(2), 178-        182.

Dalton, P. (2001). The gendering of art education: Modernism, identity and critical feminism.         Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

Freedman, K. (1994). Interpreting Gender and Visual Culture in Art Classrooms. Studies in Art                 Education, 35(3), 157-170. doi:10.2307/1320217

Garber, E. (2003). Teaching about gender issues in the art education classroom: Myra sadker         day. Retrieved from 

Greteman, A. J. (2017). Helping Kids Turn Out Queer: Queer Theory in Art Education. Studies in         Art Education58(3), 195-205.

Hopper, G. (2015). Art, Education and Gender: The Shaping of Female Ambition. Springer.

Ivashkevich, O. (2009). Children’s drawing as a sociocultural practice: Remaking gender and         popular culture. Studies in Art Education51(1), 50-63.        

Melchior, E. (2011). Culturally responsive dance pedagogy in the primary classroom. Research in         Dance Education, 12(2), 119-135.

McGregor, C. (2015). Troubling gender through mail art. International Journal of Inclusive                 Education, 19(12), 1307-1324. doi:10.1080/13603116.2015.1059499

Stinson, S. W. (2005). The hidden curriculum of gender in dance education. Journal of Dance         Education, 5(2), 51-57.

Wagner-Ott, A. (2002). Analysis of gender identity through doll and action figure politics in art         education. Studies in Art Education43(3), 246-263.

Artists & Organizations:

The 519 Community Centre:

Queer Femme Author, Playwright and Performer

Benjamin Lee Hicks, Artist and Educator

Vivek, Shraya, Artist, Author & Educator

Buddies in Badtimes Theatre: LGBTQ youth theatre group

Girls Art Collective Toronto:

Feminist Art Conference Toronto:

Chelsea Vowel, Cree blogger:

No Big Deal Campaign, Information On Gender Pronouns:

The Grove Alternative School, Curriculum Resources All About Gender:

Videos, Interviews and Talks

Interviews with LGBTQ Families and their experiences in schools:

Documentary on building curriculum around gender:

Conversation around race, gender and the arts. Bell hooks and Laverne Cox in a Public Dialogue at The New School. (2014). Retrieved from

Ovation. (2014). Touching the Art - Episode 3 - Queer Art, Eco Art, Race & Art - Ovation. Retrieved from

Tomboy, a cartoon about a Hispanic girl who challenges gender norms:

The Artsy Podcast, No. 21: We Need to Rethink Feminist Art:

Compiled by: Sarah Kamrad