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Primary school teachers’ views on transgender identity.

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Sathyanand, Karen.

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Teacher perspectives on transgender identity in the South African schooling system is not well documented although there is evidence of inequalities based on sexual orientation. LGBTIQ+ identities are often marginalised, discriminated against, and victims of violent crimes. Teachers can play a role in perpetuating such inequalities but they can also challenge the status quo. An insufficient amount of research on primary school teachers’ knowledge of transgender identities in South African education directed this study. The research design involved semi structured individual interviews and focus group discussions (using photo elicitation methods and vignettes) with primary school teachers from two schools in Chatsworth, KwaZulu-Natal. This study was guided by three research questions, namely: “How do primary school teachers view and understand transgender identity?” “What lived experiences of primary school teachers influence their views and understanding of transgender identities?” “How do primary school teachers’ views and understanding of transgender identities affect the teaching and learning environment?” Data were analysed using thematic analysis. The research findings revealed inadequate knowledge of transgender identity due to essentialist belief systems that impede the construction of gender knowledge. The findings point to a patriarchal society where unequal power relations within the community, culture, tradition and religion repudiate transgender and other non-conforming gender identities. Notwithstanding this, the teachers appeared intent to acquire more information on the phenomenon and extend their professional development. The dissertation concludes with recommendations to facilitate teachers’ perceptions, understanding, and implementation of gender and sexual diversity in primary schools. These include adopting a whole-school approach that looks at developing inclusive strategies of negotiation, compromise, endorsement of well-informed respect for difference, and promotion of conflict resolution practices to deal with difference of opinion. The implementation of these strategies can ultimately benefit primary school environments in maintaining an atmosphere that is trans-inclusive and repute gender discrimination altogether.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.