Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Elizabeth Winkler (Director), Alex Poole, Kelly Reames

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


While there is a “T” in the acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ), the focus in both academia and the real world often shifts solely to sexuality. Even though the real world discussion of sexuality (and perhaps academia’s as well) is also much lacking in both attention to all sexualities (not simply heterosexual and homosexual), there is also a distinct lack of awareness about subtleties all along both the sexuality and gender spectrums. Although sexuality can depend on gender to some extent, particularly where limiting prefixes related to the preference for a specific binary gender (such as ‘hetero,’ ‘homo,’ or ‘bi’) occur, gender is separate from sexuality and the two cannot be simply conflated. Once gender is separated from sexuality, the issue of teaching LGBTQ topics in the English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom becomes even more complex. Previous research in the field has focused exclusively on sexuality while using the LGBTQ acronym, which serves as a subtle erasure of gender identities that are not explicitly bound within sexual identity. In the ESL classroom, gender should be problematized so that gender identity is moved from the passive acceptance of an assigned set of performative behaviors to a conscientious decision made by an empowered agent. This battles both cisnormativity (the functioning assumption and cultural framework that all people identify with their assigned sex at birth, which in turn leads to ostracism of those who do not operate in gender normative ways) but also allows all ESL students, regardless of gender identity, to look critically at what defines their gender and what factors go into the construction of any particular gender. Considering that many ESL students are coming from gender constructions present in their own cultures, even if those constructions resemble the Western binary, this is an incredibly feasible option given that scholars, such as Ged (2013), have found that gender identity, like all other aspects of identity, must be renegotiated in the language learning process, with results from the first cultural gender identity that are necessarily different by virtue of being constructed in an entirely difficult culture. This thesis examines the Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) corpus as it relates to non-binary gender identity and sexuality, as well as transgender and nonconforming topics in other disciplines, and suggests several means of opening up and reframing the conversation of gender in the ESL classroom. In addition, a modified replication of Dumas’s (2010) study tool towards measuring educator perceptions in the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) classroom was used to poll the opinions of four pre-service and thirteen in-service with regards to transgender and nonbinary topics in the American ESL classroom. This thesis concludes that there needs to be more research completed in the area, that teacher perceptions and their role in the classroom should be studied further to recognize what understandings or misunderstandings regarding gender in America are making their way into the ESL classroom.


English Language and Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Women's Studies