Lee Airton

Lee Airton

Associate Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies in Education


Graduate Supervisor

Gender and Sexuality Studies in Education

People Directory Affiliation Category

MA, PhD (York)

Assistant Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies in Education, Graduate Faculty 

Dr. Lee Airton is an Assistant Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies in Education at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. In 2012, Dr. Airton founded They Is My Pronoun, the first Q+A-based blog about gender-neutral pronoun usage and user support with over 30,000 unique visitors in 2017 alone. In 2016, Dr. Airton founded the No Big Deal Campaign, a national social media initiative that helps people show support for transgender peoples' right to have their pronouns used. In 2021, Dr. Airton and their research team launched www.gegi.ca, the first bilingual self-advocacy resource for K-12 students who are experiencing gender expression and gender identity discrimination at school. In recognition of their advocacy work, Dr. Airton received a 2017 Youth Role Model of the Year Award from the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity.

Dr. Airton's first book, Gender – Your Guide: A Gender-Friendly Primer on What to Know, What to Say and What to Do in the New Gender Culture offers practical steps for welcoming gender diversity in everyday life, and has been adopted as a key professional development text in teacher education programs, school districts, public sector and private sector organizations. With Dr. Susan Woolley, they recently edited Teaching About Gender Diversity: Teacher-Tested Lesson Plans for K-12 Classrooms (Canadian Scholars Press), the first such anthology to be published.

Dr. Airton's SSHRC-funded research program on gender diversity, human rights, policy, law, teaching, and learning has received 10 merit-based research grants since 2018 alone. Their research explores how the Ontario K-12 education system is responding to the inclusion of gender identity and gender expression protections in human rights legislation, and how to make the collection of gender-based data in large studies more reflective of how gender is read and negotiated. Dr. Airton also leads an action research project in the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University, collaborating with staff to remove barriers for transgender and/or gender non-conforming teacher candidates. Dr. Airton is a frequent speaker and media commentator, and has been interviewed over 60 times nationally and internationally on topics related to gender diversity. Dr. Airton’s scholarly publications have appeared in top-tier research journals such as Teachers College Record, Gender and Education, and the Journal of Education Policy. Learn more at www.leeairton.com.

Research Interests

  • gender and sexual diversity in K-12 and teacher education (in Ontario, across Canada, and in comparison with other contexts)
  • teacher learning and skill development in relation to social difference and social justice
  • anti-racist, intersectional and coalition-building approaches to gender and sexuality democratization in schools
  • gender-neutral pronoun usage, accommodation and user experiences
  • queer theory, affect theory, neo-materialism and micropolitical approaches to the study of social difference and social justice in education

Selected Publications

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Harwood-Jones, M., Martin, K., & Airton, L. (2023). Reimagined and redesigned: How (and why) to stop the exclusive provision of gendered washrooms and changerooms on post-secondary campuses. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 53(1), 62-79.

Airton, L. (2023). You don’t know me: Welcoming gender diversity in schools via an ethic of hospitality. Curriculum Inquiry, 53(2), 148-168.

Lee, E.-Y., Airton, L., Lim, H., & Jung, E. (2023). An urgent need for quantitative intersectionality in physical activity and health research. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. Advance online publication.

Airton, L., & Martin, K. (2022). How teacher education profoundly and unremarkably fails transgender and/or gender non-conforming candidates. Teachers College Record, 124(8).

Airton, L., DesRochers, J., Kirkup, K., & Herriot, L. (2022). Toby goes to Catholic school: Ontario Catholic school board policy and the protection of gender expression. Canadian Journal of Education, 45(3), 587-617.

Konnelly, L., Bjorkman, B., & Airton, L. (2022). Towards an engaged linguistics: Nonbinary pronouns as a site of advocacy in research and teaching. Journal of Language & Sexuality, 11(2), 133-140.

Lim, H., Jung, E., Jodoin, K., Du, O., Airton, L., & Lee, E-Y. (2021). Operationalization of intersectionality in physical activity and sport research: A systematic scoping review. (Advanced online publication.) SSM – Population Health, 14.

Airton, L., & Woolley, S. (2021). The chalice (or, how to occult yourself, gender-wise): An affective exploration of ‘teaching about gender diversity.’ (Advanced online publication.) Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies.

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

Kirkup, K., Airton, L., McMillan, A., & DesRochers, J. (2020). The aftermath of human rights protections: Gender identity, gender expression, and the socio-legal regulation of school boards. Canadian Journal of Law & Society. (Advanced online publication.)

Airton, L., Kirkup, K., McMillan, A., & DesRochers, J. (2019). What is "gender expression"? How a new and nebulous human rights construct is taking shape in Ontario school board policy documents. Canadian Journal of Education, 42(4), 1154-1182.

Airton, L., & Koecher, A. (2019). How to hit a moving target: Thirty-five years of gender and sexual diversity in teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 80, 190-204.

Airton, L. (2018). The de/politicization of pronouns: Implications of the No Big Deal Campaign for gender-expansive educational policy and practice. Gender and Education, 30(6), 790-810.

White Papers and Research Reports

Airton, L., Gray, S., Pyne, J., Turje, M., & Whitmore, T. (2023). No for now: Guidance for school staff on supporting transgender students and parent-child relationships [White paper].

Harwood-Jones, M., Martin, K., & Airton, L. (2021). Research and recommendations on gender-inclusive washrooms and changerooms. Principal’s Action Group on Gender and Sexual Diversity.


Airton, L. (2018). Gender: Your guide - A gender-friendly primer on what to say, what to know, and what to do in the new gender culture. Adams Media (An Imprint of Simon & Schuster).

Woolley, S., & Airton, L., Eds. (2020). Teaching about gender diversity: Teacher-tested lesson plans for K-12 classrooms. Canadian Scholars Press.

Peer-Reviewed Book Chapters

Payne, E., Airton, L., & Smith, M. (2022). Accounting for transgender in pre-service and in-service teacher education. In M. Mangin & M. I. Suárez (Eds.), Trans studies in K-12 education: Creating an agenda for research and practice. Harvard Education Press.

Airton, L. (2021). Response: Everyone has an everyday life. In L. Herriot & K. Fry (Eds.), Trans youth stories: An intergenerational dialogue after the ‘Trans Tipping Point’. Canadian Scholars Press.

Airton, L., & Woolley, S. (2020). An introduction to teaching about gender diversity: Stating your why, finding your starting place, and creating classrooms that can welcome all the ways we live gender. In S. Woolley & L. Airton (Eds.), Teaching about gender diversity: Teacher-tested lesson plans for K-12 classrooms. Canadian Scholars Press.

Airton, L. (2020). Resistance is useful: Social justice teacher education as an affective craft. In B. Dernikos, N. Lesko, S. McCall, & A. Niccolini (Eds.), Mapping the affective turn in education: Theory, research, and pedagogies. Routledge.

Airton, L. (2019). Welcoming what we cannot imagine: Toward a sensory curriculum in social justice teacher education. In W. S. Gershon (Ed.), Sensuous curriculum (pp. 47-66). In the series Landscapes of Learning (M. F. He & W. H. Schubert, Eds.). Information Age.

Meyer, E., Tilland-Stafford, A., & Airton, L. (2018). Creating affirming spaces for transgender and gender-creative students in schools: Lessons from their teachers. In E. J. Meyer & A. Pullen Sansfaçon (Eds.), Supporting transgender and gender creative youth: Schools, families, and communities in action (Rev. ed.; pp. 129-154). Peter Lang.

Airton, L. (2014). Hatred haunting hallways: Teacher education and the badness of homophobia(s). In E. J. Meyer & D. Carlson (Eds.), Gender and sexualities in education: A reader (pp. 387-399). Peter Lang.