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“Love is an Action”: Our Responsibility to Trans and Queer Youth as Early Childhood Educators

By: Meghan Gowin, Assistant Professor

On May 18, 2023, my social media feed was flooded with outrage over the latest anti-trans legislation passed in Texas and Florida restricting access to gender-affirming care. According to ACLU data, close to 500 anti-2SLGBTQ+1 bills have been introduced in the 2023 legislative session across the U.S.2 From bills banning conversations about gender and sexual identities to those forcing trans people out of public restrooms based on cis people’s feelings of discomfort, we are currently witnessing a targeted attack on queer and trans children and adults. In our pursuit of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in early childhood education, we must ask ourselves what our response should be and how we should organize in solidary.

Last month, Division K of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) hosted a vice presidential panel session chaired by Dr. Aubry Threkeld titled, “Don’t Say Gay” and Anti-Trans Turns in Teaching and Teacher Education at its 2023 Annual Meeting here in Chicago. Panelists included Drs. Harper B. Keenan, Shamari Reid, Erica Meiners, Carol Brochin, and Eli Kean. As a Black queer early childhood teacher educator and former Texas resident, I sat with my feelings during the session about how to best support my loved ones in spaces that “…situate trans bodies as a threat…” as Dr. Kean maintained. Panel members discussed the history of 2SLGBTQ+ liberation movements and the intertwined struggles for justice and belonging along ideological battle lines. Dr. Keenan advocated for more support from institutions of higher education to create teacher education programs that “value [faculty’s] knowledge of queer and trans resistance…”.

Channeling bell hooks’ proclamation that love is an action, Dr. Reid urged teacher educators to “interrupt the things that are threatening the lives of queer and trans youth”. We have watched as states across the U.S. have doubled down on their attacks against trans and queer youth, criminalizing our humanity through oppressive policies.3 Now is the time to build collective coalitions within our discipline to stand in solidarity with queer and trans communities against harmful and dehumanizing anti-2SLGBTQ+ legislation. Our love must take the form of actions that center and honor “…how queer and trans people operate in radical worldmaking” as Reid reminded us. Only then will we remember our responsibility to protect all children!


1 I am using the acronym 2SLGBTQ+ in solidarity with communities and individuals that include: 2S: Two-Spirit; L: Lesbian; G: Gay; B: Bisexual; T: Trans; Q: Queer; +: inclusive of folks who identify is ways that are expansive regarding gender and sexuality.



Photo by Alex Jackman on Unsplash

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