Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Martin Luther University College

First Advisor

Daniel Rzondzinski

Advisor Role

Review work, offer suggestions on reading, writing, research, work with committee


In the province of Ontario, Catholic schools have public funding from the Ministry of Education and ecclesial oversight from the local Catholic diocese. Transgender students who attend these schools experience both governmental spaces and religious ones. The inherent secular and theological tensions responsive to Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender, intersex, Asexual, and other queer-identities [2SLGBTQIA+] students are the overarching contexts of this study. While many Catholic school boards have completed publicly-facing acts of inclusion for 2SLGBTQIA+ students, such as raising the Pride Flag in June in recent years, there is a scarcity of literature responsive to how transgender students make meaning of available narratives in religious curriculum in their Catholic schools. While some Catholic educators suggest that utilizing the cross as inclusive symbol should suffice, I wondered if transgender students, who experience marginalization and disproportionately negative mental health outcomes, find this to be true. In this context-driven narrative analysis dissertation, I examine the religious curricular context of Ontario Catholic secondary schools to position the panoptic surveillance (Foucault) functioning in this context. I also consider how Butler’s concepts of performativity contribute to our understanding of the experiences of transgender students in Catholic secondary school spaces. Additionally, I use an intersectional and decolonial lens while I consider the impact of trauma, resilience and agency for transgender students in the Ontario Catholic educational sphere. I also outline positive theological spaces within Catholic doctrine itself for an inclusive approach to gender diversity. Thus, this dissertation is context driven, aimed at determining which narratives are available to transgender graduates within the complicated milieu of education in Ontario Catholic publicly funded schools. The purpose of this study was to explore the following question:

How do transgender graduates of Ontario Catholic schools make meaning of the narratives on gender present in their secondary school contexts?

Sub questions include:

  • What are the narratives on gender that transgender students associate with their experiences in Catholic Secondary Schools?
  • What are the implicit and explicit narratives on gender?

Methodologically, I contribute through collaborative efforts borrowing elements from participatory action research, including my former student and transgender activist James Dixon as I prepared the semi-structured interview questionnaire, analyzed the transcripts, and constructed themes from the data. Through narrative interviewing of seven transgender graduates from smaller cities and towns outside the Greater Toronto Area, we constructed six themes from the participants’ accounts of their experiences: (1) [In]Accessibility of Language, (2) The Visibility Paradox, (3) A ‘Good’ Person is a ‘Good’ Catholic, (4) Malleable Concrete Spaces, (5) Theological Tensions and Traps, and (6) Acts of Resistance. In the conclusion I suggest that this dissertation contributes to theoretical applications of queer theory in Ontario Catholic schools with an intersectional lens, responding most dominantly to religion, mental health, and rurality. I offer a hopeful counter-narrative within an intersectional theological frame to centre inclusion of gender-diversity as theologically plausible in Ontario Catholic schools.

Key words: 2SLGBTQIA+, Catholic, schools, Ontario, gender identity, gender expression, Catechism, narrative, theology, transgender

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