Bringing Trans, Non-Binary, and Queer Understandings to Bear in Language Education



Trans, Non-binary, Gender, Language Learner, LGBTQ


Language education represents a site for identity (re)construction, mediated through language acquisition and use (Atkinson, 2011). As students develop linguistic abilities, they also develop a multilingual sense of self. Pedagogies that engage with students as whole persons inherently encourage identity-focused reflection and may facilitate more ethical teaching (Moore, 2016; Norton, 2013). Increasingly, literature considers sexual diversity’s role in language curricula, textbooks, research, and pedagogy (Nelson, 2009; Paiz, 2018; Saunston, 2017). However, herein, there is a marked focus on lesbian and gay considerations—perpetuating trans, non-binary, gender-non conforming (TGNC), bisexual, and queer invisibility (Knisely, 2020a, 2021a; Paiz, 2020). This paper addresses how TGNC lives and concerns can interface with the process of language education, highlighting its importance for applied linguistics, language teachers, and learners. Ultimately, the authors present a toolkit for integrating TGNC understandings of the world into language-learning contexts, outlining potential advantages and challenges as they relate to creating more critical and equitable pedagogies.

Author Biographies

Kris Aric Knisely, University of Arizona

Kris Aric Knisely (Ph.D., French and Educational Studies, Emory University) is an Assistant Professor of French and Intercultural Competence as well as affiliated faculty in both SLAT and TSRC at the University of Arizona. Knisely’s research, in its broadest form, considers gender and sexuality in the linguistic, socio-cultural, and instructional dimensions of language learning. This entails asking how the linguistically- and culturally-situated ways that we perceive and embody gender enter into language education, what normativities manifest there, and how those normativities can be laid bare, upended, and unscripted by language teachers and learners. Within this general frame, Knisely focuses on the culturally-situated linguistic practices of trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming speakers of French, particularly as they can inform the development and articulation of trans-affirming language curricula, materials, research, training, and pedagogies. Dr. Knisely’s work has appeared in a variety of edited volumes and journals including Contemporary French CivilizationCritical Multilingualism Studies, Foreign Language AnnalsThe French ReviewGender and LanguageJournal of Applied Measurement, and Pensamiento Educativo, among others.

Joshua M. Paiz, The George Washington University

Joshua M. Paiz holds a doctorate in applied linguistics from Purdue University. Their research interest includes LGBTQ+ issues in second language teaching, as well as building access and equity for neurodiverse students. Dr. Paiz has taught writing, rhetoric, and linguistics courses in the U.S. and China. Their published work has appeared in such outlets as the Journal of Second Language Writing, TESOL Journal, ELT Journal, the Journal of Language and Sexuality, and the Journal of Language, Identity, and Education. Their first book, Queering the English Language Classroom: A Guide for Teachers is currently available from Equinox UK. They are currently completing work on an edited collection looking at intersectional issues in sexuality, gender, and language education with Dr. James Coda (University of Georgia), which is expected out in fall of 2021 through Palgrave MacMillan. Out now from Dr. Paiz is their first monograph on queer-inclusive pedagogies, Queering the English Language Classroom: A Guide for Teachers from Equinox UK.