Loughborough University
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Challenging the gender binary in UK Physical Education: Student, teacher and parent perspectives

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posted on 2022-07-04, 14:19 authored by Hannah Kettley-Linsell

There has been little research to date focusing on issues of gender diversity within the UK Physical Education (PE) context. This thesis addresses this notable gap in the literature by focusing specifically on the experiences of transgender and non-binary (TNB) individuals and exploring the perspectives and voices of three key stakeholder groups - teachers, parents and TNB young adults. These individuals collectively facilitate an examination of the lived experiences of TNB students within PE, as well as those adults who can influence these engagements; be it through delivering the subject, shaping school practices or influencing predisposed perceptions of gender and PE through upbringing. Three interconnected studies were conducted to explore the views of these stakeholder groups. The first study sought to investigate the perceptions of teachers towards TNB identities in PE. The second study explored the views of parents towards TNB identities in PE. The third study examines the retrospective experiences of TNB young adults in PE contexts within the UK.

This thesis is underpinned by queer theory and aspects of poststructural feminism to consider the discourses and language which problematise the ways that social structures (e.g., schools) normalise and enforce behaviours based on a notion of binary gender and heteronormativity. Each study utilised a mixed methods approach which included an online survey and telephone interview, due to Covid-19 restrictions. Teachers, parents and TNB young adults were recruited through social media platforms which promoted the online survey. The online survey then acted to recruit these participants to take part in the subsequent telephone interview. Quantitative data were used to generate descriptive statistics, whilst qualitative data were analysed thematically.

Novel findings from this research demonstrate how the different stakeholder groups are important voices when seeking to understand the complexity of the PE space for TNB individuals. For parent and teacher participants, their perspectives towards gender impacted their view of TNB identities. Parents’ views towards TNB identities may indicate whether they support or oppose the implementation of gender diverse inclusive curricular and PE practices within schools, impacting the likelihood of teachers providing such practices and shaping TNB students’ PE experiences. Likewise, teachers’ beliefs about gender can influence their teaching practices, with binary beliefs linked to the provision of binary practices (e.g., gender segregated classes). The reflections of transgender and non-binary young adults highlight how heteronormative and cisnormative practices underpinned their negative experiences of PE. Together, the findings from this study represent a valuable addition to a growing body of knowledge relating to gender diversity within PE and identify important implications for future policy, practice and research.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


Loughborough University

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© Hannah Kettley-Linsell

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Loughborough University.


  • en


Janine Coates ; Rachel Sandford ; Gemma Witcomb

Qualification name

  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

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