Social interactionists believe that society can have a huge impact on a person’s behaviour. Labelling occurs when teachers and other school personnel make judgements about students based on false assumptions, about gender, ethnicity, cultural backgrounds, etc. The outcome of this is that if a child is labelled with a negative tag, then they will act or learn to behave as such.

It is important to consider gender roles that are expressed on an unconscious level in education. Roles are formed throughout society, for example, how a person should behave and learn based on their gender. This is through a process of socialisation that is held back on the level of a family background, education and society. Yet, Gianna Knowles and Vini Lander (2012) advocate that the performance of gender roles is dependent on their ethnicity, class, learning environment and cultures. This means that in an educational setting, there is an enormous amount of diversity and how learners behave and achieve, not because of their gender, but other factors. Due to these various factors, it is difficult to ensure an entirely inclusive classroom environment.

Gender Dysphoria

The term gender identity disorder (GID) or gender dysphoria (GD) is defined as disorders in which an individual exhibits marked and persistent identification with the opposite sex and persistent discomfort with his or her own sex or sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex (Bradley & Zucker, 2001). However, in order to remove the stigma associated with the term disorder, the diagnostic label of GID was used until 2013 and renamed to GD. Some transgender people might experience gender dysphoria, they feel the distress due to the mismatch between their gender indentity and their sex assigned at birth. Most people have a strong desire to live a life that matches their gender identity. They tend to do this by changing their looks and behaviors or even their interests.

Some people who have gender dysphoria would choose to take hormones or undergo surgery to help express their gender identity. Although gender dysphoria is not a mental health problem itself, behavioural expectations from friends and family, bullying and harassment are all factors someone with gender dysphoria may experience that can negatively impact their mental health. The signs of gender dysphoria include 1) low self-esteem, 2) becoming socially isolated, 3) depression and anxiety, 4) Neglecting themselves. They might be the ways that people with gender dysphoria show their distress and discomfort. It is still unclear to understand the exact cause of gender dysphoria, despite there being many researches about it.

Gender identity is critical for children. Any child is exploring gender every day before sexuality comes into the equation. People incorrectly presume gender identity is about sexuality, but it is not about being gay or straight. Children are not showing their sexual orientation but simply trying to indicate who they really are. A diagnosis of gender dysphoria in childhood is rare (Kaltiala-Heino et al, 2015). Children may express their interests in clothes or toys that society tells them are often related to the opposite gender. They might not be happy with their physical sex features. However, this type of behavior is not entirely uncommon, in fact, it is part of growing up. Therefore, it does not mean that children who behave as such have gender dysphoria or other gender identity issues. Most children who feel confused about their gender identity will not continue to feel the same way beyond puberty. A small amount of children may feel protracted and severe discomfort and it might get worse when they are older. They would feel that their appearance does not match their gender identity.

Gender Identity can be complicated, but children seem to be more open minded towards the topic than adults. As they are less aware of judgement from society or traditional labels they are less prone to have gender dysphoria (Kaltiala-Heino et al, 2015). If adults could see gender the way they did when they were a child there would be less stigma around the topic making it easier to discuss and express. Some ways to release someone’s distress from gender dysphoria are self acceptance of gender identity, coming out or transitioning to one’s affirmed gender.


Case study

Di is 6 years old and in Kindergarten. Di likes school but a few times the teachers have noticed Di was trying to sneak home after being teased by a group of boys. Di like to hang out with girls more than boys. At the beginning of the year, Di told a couple of girls that Di wanted to be a girl too. After that, Di is often isolated and alone at lunch and recess.

Sometimes Di dresses like a girl in school and then changes back into pants when being picked up by Di’s parents. The teacher asked Di’s mother about this issue and discovered that when Di was 5 years old, Di told Di’s parents that Di should have been a girl. Di’s father was furious and would not let Di dress like a girl or play with girl’s toys. Di’s mother did not know how to react and just let it be.

Pause and think

  1. What are the indications that Di might potentially be diagnosed with gender dysphoria?
  2. Why might Di’s father act respond the way he does to Di’s behaviour?
  3. How could the teacher help Di in the classroom and with Di’s family?


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Inclusive Perspectives in Primary Education Copyright © 2021 by room305 and Inclusive Education Class 2020-2021 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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