Body, gender, and sexuality diversity in early years education

At the 2022 Early Childhood Australia National Conference, there was a noticeable interest in body, gender and sexuality diversity (BGSD). BGSD interests are relevant to all early childhood education and care settings.

Identity, including body, gender and sexuality, features prominently in Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (EYLF), and Canadian researchers Kristy Timmons and Lee Airton suggest that ‘ample support exists within the profession’s key guiding documents for “gender-expansive” practice, or an approach to teaching children and supporting their development that both expects and sustains gender diversity’ (2020, p. 1). The same can be said for bodies and sexuality. Timmons and Airton—whose work is focused on the Canadian early years framework, but is also applicable to our EYLF—even suggest that there may be legal ramifications for not doing this.

For those who want to catch up, here’s a rundown of the key points from the BGSD talks at this year’s ECA conference. All these sessions are available to watch until 11 December 2022 by registering here.

Playing with pronouns: Exploring gender diversity through language and literacy

Sam Newbury

Sam Newbury offered practical ways to explore, discuss and embed gender diversity in early years education through language and literacy. They explained how this can be done at all ages—in a baby room, a toddler room and a kindergarten room. Sam recommended numerous gender diversity books for the different age groups, activities such as a clothes rack, and ways to talk to children about pronouns.

Parent response and engagement with non-binary gender work in early years settings

Lizzie Maughan, Mimi Hayward & Phoebe Zander

Lizzie Maughan, Mimi Hayward and Phoebe Zander shared a case study from an early years classroom at Ngutu College. Each presenter—a researcher/consultant, an early years educator and a parent, respectively—explored the case study from their unique perspective. While many educators fear doing gender-expansion work because of backlash from parents, this presentation gave practical examples of how to engage with and respond to parents.

Creating safe and inclusive early childhood services: Spotlighting the ‘I’ in LGBTQIA+

Dr Agli Zavros-Orr & Peta Fitzpatrick

Agli Zavros-Orr and Peta Fitzpatrick invited us on to the yellow brick road to better understand intersex interests. They encouraged everyone to be aware of the diversity of bodies in our early years education settings and to use language in an aware way. With October being intersex awareness month and 26 October being Intersex Awareness Day they recommended viewing Rob’s story and Noah’s story (both from the ABC), and exploring the extensive resources at Intersex Human Rights Australia.

Queering cultural diversity: Everybody’s business!

Dr Red Ruby Scarlet & Sam Newbury

Red Ruby Scarlet and Sam Newbury’s powerful presentation started with letting us all know that queerness in early years is not a ‘hot topic’—it’s about people’s lives. Their key takeaway was that there is no time for permission. We should not be asking for permission to be ourselves. Asking permission sets people up to say yes or no to people’s identities and this is unacceptable. Raise those rainbow flags, add your pronouns to your email signature, and read The Rainbow Cubby House.

Beyond the rainbow: Connecting, supporting and empowering diverse families

Scott Brunelle, Marly Greenwood & Shae Haylen

Scott Brunelle, Co-Chair of Rainbow Families, parent and volunteer Marly Greenwood, and ECA’s General Manager of Professional Learning Shae Haylen discussed the discrimination and disadvantage often experienced by LGBTQ families. They emphasised the need for ALL families to feel welcome and to proactively create environments that celebrate diverse families, regardless of the current families enrolled in our early years education and care settings.


Timmins, K., & Airton, L. (2020). Welcoming gender diversity in the early years: Interpreting professional guiding documents for gender-expansive practice. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood.

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Lizzie Maughan

Lizzie Maughan is a PhD candidate at Flinders University, researching gender diversity and early years education. They are a member of the Australian Association for Researchers in Education (AARE) and co-convene the Gender, Sexuality and Cultural Studies special interest group. They also volunteer at ShineSA and work as a consultant at Lizzie writes short practical posts for early years practitioners at Singular They. Twitter: @lizziemaughan

One thought on “Body, gender, and sexuality diversity in early years education”

    Peta Fitzpatrick says:

    Brilliant synopsis Lizzie! Thankyou for highlighting the importance of this work in real time.. this is now! And it’s do-able, necessary and there are people and resources available to guide educators in BGSD expansive practice! This will only become increasingly evident,and is already well evidenced, and we look forward to increasing conversations and sharing of practice! The updated ALFs will support us further in this work!

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