Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Martino, Wayne J.


This study provides an in-depth examination of the educative and activist function of GSAs in two public secular and two public Catholic Ontario secondary schools. Queer theory, as elaborated by Foucault (1978), Sedgwick (1990/2008), Butler (1990, 1993a/b/c), Warner (1991), and Britzman (1995), provides a foundation for critiquing the heteronormative underpinnings of schooling, and the trans-informed insights of Namaste (2000), Stryker (2006), Serano (2007/2016, 2013), Malatino (2015), and Connell (2009) offers a lens to scrutinize cisnormative infrastructure, pedagogy, and practice as they pertain to the role and educative function of GSAs in selected Ontario schools. To generate knowledge on the particularities of the four GSAs (Patton, 2002), a multi-sited case study approach was undertaken (Patton, 2002; Stake, 2005). Data were gathered by completing semi-structured interviews with 14 youth and five educators across the school sites, observing and participating in GSA meetings, collecting semi-structured diaries from 13 youth, and analyzing club-related visual materials - all of which were made sense of by employing queer and trans-informed theoretical perspectives. There was a concerted effort to speak with trans and gender diverse GSA members in order to (de)subjugate their embodied knowledges and understandings (Stryker, 2006), authorize their voices (Cook-Sather, 2002, 2006), and document their agency in schooling by way of their club-inspired education and activism (see Elliott, 2015, Schindel, 2005, 2008). Three prominent themes emerged within the data: 1: each GSA was a student-driven democratizing space that enabled youth to explore and circulate anti-hetero/cisnormative discourses (Fraser, 1990); 2) all GSAs served as a proxy in the absence of an ongoing systemic commitment to queer and trans-informed education; and 3) pastoral care and its regulatory moral authority within Catholic education impeded GSA development and functioning (Martino, 2014). The implications of the study are outlined in terms of the need for systemic support for anti-heteronormative and anti-cisnormative education so that the burden and responsibility for this education does not just fall on the shoulders of GSA members and gender and sexual minority youth in particular.