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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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8. Creating a Gendered Landscape: Recommendations for Practice


· 8 · creating a gendered landscape Recommendations for Practice We need education that “allows young people to learn to imagine themselves in a different more habitable future.”1 118 tomboys and other gender heroes Introduction: Just One of Six Hundred Voices May 28, 2015 On the eve of this book’s completion, I was asked to speak in a grad- uate education course “Sexualities, Gender and Schooling: Approaches to Anti-Homophobia and Anti-Transphobia Education,” taught by Tara Goldstein at The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Two particular questions asked by students helped me to clarify what this research has offered me personally. The first question was about how queer educators can continue to offer anti-homophobia and/or anti-transphobia education without becom- ing too alienated, too “othered” in the process. The second question was a follow up to my discussion of creating the cartoon Tomboy2as a way to imagine more inclusive and loving lands for ourselves (Elenes, 2003). I ultimately chose to conduct this study and write this book as a project of social justice education; however, it has also, at every step, been about my own learning and well-being. This study is one answer, one strategy, to fight against the feeling of being “othered” as a queer educator. As unabashedly butch as I have been for more than 20 years, I have continued to struggle with how my maleness and femaleness both collide within and propel my body. Intellectually I could understand how social constructions of gender binaries have constrained an individual’s ability...

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