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Tomboys and Other Gender Heroes

Confessions from the Classroom


Karleen Pendleton Jiménez

Have you ever been told that you’re too girlish or too boyish? We are all potential targets of the gender police, some more so than others. And how did you respond? Did you hide or change or rebel or hurt or gleefully celebrate your style? Tomboys and Other Gender Heroes is a study that brings together gender stories from approximately 600 children and youth. Set in both urban and rural contexts, these young people show how their schools and communities respond to their bodies, passions, and imaginations. As one 13-year-old student expresses, «My flowered jeans make me feel happy because they represent the sort of feminine side to me and at the same time show my masculine side. They also make me feel like I’m a part of a large force that stands up to bullying and criticism, to express themselves and to show the world that our lives have meaning.» In this book, student writings are framed by teaching strategies and gender theory, featuring themes of sports, film, media, landscape, joyfulness, and gender creativity. The research will be of great interest to university students in the fields of education, gender, sexuality and women’s studies, sociology, social work, psychology, counseling, and child development. This book is ideal for teachers, professors, parents, and community members who hope to create accepting environments for gender diversity.


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2. Off The Script: A Study of Techniques for Uncovering Gender-Bending Truths in the Classroom


· 2 · off the script1 A Study of Techniques for Uncovering Gender-Bending Truths in the Classroom “Are You a Boy or a Girl?” On an August evening, surrounded by fields of yellow and green, I watch a play performed in the courtyard of a century-old barn. St. Francis of Millbrook is produced by 4th Line Theatre and urges the playwrights to incorporate the culture, history, and sensibilities of the local region. The animals participate as well, with impromptu calls from a barn swallow, a heroic white horse, and uninvited mosquitoes as the sky darkens. A young man, a queer, blond Adonis, the teenage son of farmers during a year of drought, dances to Madonna as he plants the field. It becomes apparent to his family that something out of the ordinary is happening to the oldest son. While other family members nervously skirt around the issue, his father poses what he imagines is a direct question about the state of his son’s sexu- ality. “Are you a boy or a girl?” His son lacks the words to answer, and in the silence his father transforms into a monster that assaults his own child. The lack of a solid/rigid declaration of gender expression implies to his father that his son is gay. His son ultimately responds to a question of sexual orientation, understanding as well that his father is asking about his sexuality and not his gender. Ambiguous gender becomes conflated with gay sexuality. The father responds to his son’s queer body...

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