12. Diverse children and youth

Diverse children and youth in sexualized and gendered cultures

Convenors: Tuija Huuki, Jukka Lehtonen & Eveliina Puutio, University of Oulu

Contact: eveliina.puutio (at) oulu.fi

Seminar room: TH101 (Parallel sessions 1, 2 & 3)

Format: Hybrid

This workshop aims to explore diverse and emerging sexual cultures, as well as various sexual and gender identities, in the lives of children and youth in a constantly changing world. Special focus is on issues of sexuality that matter to children and young people and on the possibilities of making a difference in matters of sexuality.

Recently, the rights of LGBTIQ+ people have become visible in public discussion, and the diversity of children and young people has gained more space in the everyday practices of education. Awareness of gender and sexual matter(ing)s in the lives of children has increased, and younger children openly explore and express diverse sexual and gender identities on multiple platforms. Simultaneously, however, diverse sexual and gender identities are often left unsupported or marginalized under the pressure of persisting heteronormative perceptions and relationalities and in the midst of societal insecurities and global crises.

Drawing inspiration from various feminist frameworks, we invite contributions that explore the changing diversity of gender and sexuality in childhood and youth in a variety of contexts, such as educational and youth cultures, or as part of a global crisis or issues related to intersecting differences, such as class, space and ethnicity. We welcome contributions in English and Finnish from scholars, students, activists and artists interested in discussing how different material, corporeal, temporal, spatial and cultural dimensions construct and shape diverse gender and sexual orientations and alternative relationship cultures of children and youth.

Potential themes may include but are not limited to:

• Diversity of gender and changing sexuality in education and in the lives of children and youth

• Children and youth from the perspective of sexuality or gender in crises

• Intersections of social class, ethnicity or location with sexuality and gender

• Differently abled children and youth in sexualized and gendered contexts

• Teaching, learning and fostering sexualities and gender diversity

• Feminist new materialist and more-than-human perspectives


Kay Siebler

Eveliina Puutio, Tuija Huuki, Suvi Pihkala & Jukka Lehtonen

Jukka Lehtonen, Tuija Huuki, Suvi Pihkala & Eveliina Puutio

Sares-Jäske Laura; Czimbalmos Mercedesz; Klemetti Reija; Lehtonen Jukka; Majlander Satu; Siukola Reetta

Satu Majlander; Jukka Lehtonen; Pauliina Luopa; Mia Teräsaho; Johanna Vihtari; Tellervo Nenonen; Heidi Ahola; Reija Klemetti

Rosa Saukkonen

Silja Kukka

Lydia Kokkola

Annbritt Palo & Lena Manderstedt


Presenter: Kay Siebler, English/Gender Studies, University of Nebraska Omaha, U.S.A, ksiebler@unomaha.edu

1. Every Baby’s Trans: The Technology of Gendering Before Birth

What would it mean to raise a gender free child? How do we move from a world in which technology is the first step in gendering humans, even in utero? This presentation talks about the gendering of fetuses through ultrasound technology, something that has become the norm for many people who are pregnant, especially in countries such as the U.S. Although the ultrasound is not exclusively used for purposes of gendering, it is commonly the first moment when parents begin to gender their child.

A history of ultrasound technology as a first step in gendering a human is discussed as well as the ways in which this technology defines sex/gender as a primary identifying factor for babies. The presentation includes discussion of the cultural trend of “Gender Reveal Parties” in the United States and how these technological and cultural mandates to gender humans before they are born set the family, community, and child on a trajectory that is difficult to resist or undo. Through educating professionals such as ob/gyns, pediatricians, and parenting educators, it is possible to move away from gender mandates to gender fluidity and freedom from/of mandated gender roles/traits for babies and children.

The focus of this presentation will include interview excerpts with parents to be, parents of babies, and medical professionals who work with pregnant people. It will also include interview experts from parents who are committed to raising gender-free babies/children and the resistance they encounter from family, friends, community, and medical professionals.

Eveliina Puutio (eveliina.puutio@oulu.fi), Suvi Pihkala, Jukka Lehtonen & Tuija Huuki University of Oulu

2. School, online communities, and creative workshops as spaces for non-normative pre-teen gendered and sexual cultures

This study focuses on how spaces act in shaping non-normative pre-teen gendered and sexual cultures. It is based on a Northern Finnish, arts-based case study of a 12-year-old Atlas, who attached themself to LGBTIQ+ communities but simultaneously balanced in the heteronormative pressures of everyday life. In the analysis, we utilize feminist new materialist approaches to explore how school and Instagram communities—two central life spheres of today’s youth—act in affording distinct possibilities for more expansive gender and sexuality. Furthermore, the analysis indicates how non-normative relationalities can be supported in an arts-based workshop space in the context of school. By identifying the role of spaces in evoking non-normative gender and sexuality, we can nurture them to promote the sexual rights and welfare of young people.

Presenters: Jukka Lehtonen (jukka.p.lehtonen@helsinki.fi), Tuija Huuki, Suvi Pihkala & Eveliina Puutio, University of Oulu

3. Navigating with pre-teen children within sexuality education

Children learn about relationships and sexuality in a highly gendered and sexualized world full of tensions that they navigate to seek their own paths while responding to the normative standards of the surrounding culture. They make sense of the sexualized images and messages around them, enact (non-)violence within their lives, and survive the gendered and sexual abuses of power they encounter. Sexuality education is important in supporting children, yet pre-teenagers and their diverse experiences have remained largely unnoticed within the field. 

In Finland, the national curriculum obligates schools to prevent sexual harassment and homo/transphobic violence, to provide knowledge on gender diversity and support children in constructing their sexualities and gender in expansive ways. However, there are severe deficiencies in sexuality education provision, including heteronormative practices that leave children to cope with the pressures of normative cultures on their own. There is an urgent need to learn more about pre-teen children’s thoughts and experiences regarding gender and sexuality. 

To address these challenges, our presentation draws on our long-term research on designing affirmative spaces for children to explore sexuality, gender, and nonviolence and on developing arts-based pedagogies in sexuality education. Drawing on our new materialist creative praxis with Northern-Finnish school children, we focus on gender and sexual diversity in the pre-teen ages (10–12), bringing forth (1) the ways in which children’s knowledges of sexuality and gender is negotiated between formal educational practices and discourses on the one hand and their own inventive peer cultures on the other, (2) how children educate each other on sexuality and gender diversity in their peer communities, and (3) how arts methods can inform sexuality education by creating spaces for diversity and expressions of non-normative genders and sexualities to be addressed creatively with and by children. 

Sares-Jäske Laura (laura.sares-jaske@thl.fi), Czimbalmos Mercedesz, Klemetti Reija, Lehtonen Jukka, Majlander Satu, Siukola Reetta, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, P.O. Box 30, FI-00271 Helsinki, Finland

4. Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin eriarvoisuus trans- ja cis-nuorilla: kouluväkivaltakokemusten yhteydet mielenterveyteen

Aiempien tutkimusten mukaan kouluväkivaltaa kokeneilla nuorilla on muita nuoria heikompi mielenterveys. Transnuorilla on enemmän mielenterveysoireilua kuin cis-nuorilla. Sukupuoliryhmien välisistä mahdollisista eroista kouluväkivallan ja mielenterveyden välisissä yhteyksissä on vain vähän aiempaa tietoa. Tutkimuksen tavoitteena oli selvittää, miten kouluväkivaltakokemukset ovat yhteydessä eri mielenterveysvasteisiin, ja kuinka muut taustatekijät selittävät yhteyksiä eri sukupuoliryhmissä: cis-tytöillä, cis-pojilla, transfeminiinisillä ja transmaskuliinisilla vastaajilla. Tutkimuksessa käytettiin vuoden 2021 Kouluterveyskyselyn aineistoa (N=152 880). Kouluväkivaltakokemusten yhteyksiä kuuteen mielenterveysvasteeseen tutkittiin lineaarisella ja logistisella regressioanalyysilla. Transnuorilla oli enemmän kouluväkivaltakokemuksia ja huonompi mielenterveys kuin cis-nuorilla. Jokaisessa sukupuoliryhmässä kouluväkivaltakokemukset olivat yhteydessä heikompaan mielenterveyteen. Verrattuna cis-poikiin, joita ei ollut kiusattu, heikon mielenterveyden todennäköisyys transmaskuliinisilla nuorilla, joita oli kiusattu viikoittain, oli monikymmenkertainen. Etenkin transmaskuliinisilla nuorilla, oli korkea mielenterveysoireilun todennäköisyys. Lisäksi kouluväkivaltaa kokeneilla transmaskuliinisilla nuorilla todennäköisyys oireilulle oli vielä korkeampi. On tärkeää tuottaa tietoa tekijöistä, jotka ovat yhteydessä mielenterveysoireiluun transnuorilla, jotta voitaisiin kohdistaa toimenpiteitä transnuorten mielenterveyden ja hyvinvoinnin edistämiseksi.

Satu Majlander, (satu.majlander@thl.fi) (THL), Jukka Lehtonen (THL & Oulun yliopisto), Pauliina Luopa (THL), Mia Teräsaho (THL), Johanna Vihtari (THL), Tellervo Nenonen (THL), Heidi Ahola (THL) & Reija Klemetti (THL)

5. Sateenkaarinuoret poikkeusoloissa

Sukupuoli- ja seksuaalivähemmistöihin kuuluvilla nuorilla on riski hyvinvointia kuormittaville tekijöille, kuten yksinäisyydelle, kiusaamiselle ja syrjinnälle. Näihin vaikuttavat myös yhteiskunnan jäykät sukupuoleen ja seksuaaliseen suuntautumiseen liittyvät normit. Koronakriisin aikana palveluihin ja harrastuksiin pääsy hankaloitui, mikä on vaikuttanut todennäköisesti erityisesti nuoriin, joilla oli jo ennestään vaikeaa. Toisaalta etäopiskelu on saattanut vähentää esimerkiksi kiusatuksi joutumista. Tutkimuksessamme selvitettiin koronakriisin vaikutuksia sateenkaarinuorten yksinäisyyteen, psyykkiseen hyvinvointiin, opiskeluun ja vapaa-ajanviettoon. Tutkimusaineistona ovat vuosien 2019 ja 2021 Kouluterveyskyselyt. Tutkimusvuosina lomakkeilla oli samat kysymykset nuorten mielenterveydestä, yksinäisyydestä, opiskelusta ja harrastuksista. Vuonna 2021 lomakkeella kysyttiin myös, onko nuori ollut koronaepidemian vuoksi etäopetuksessa lukuvuoden aikana ja onko nuori saanut tukea oppimiseen ja koulunkäyntiin etäopetuksessa. Lisäksi kysyttiin koronaan liittyviä huolia ja kokemuksia rajoitustoimien vaikutuksista perheen kesken vietettyyn aikaan, perheen sisäisiin ristiriitoihin ja yhteydenpitoon. Vuosien 2019 ja 2021 välillä tapahtuneita muutoksia verrataan muissa kuin koronakriisiin liittyvissä kysymyksissä. Aineistona hyödynnetään myös Helsingin yliopistossa koottua sukupuoli- ja seksuaalivähemmistöihin kuuluville suunnattu kyselyaineistoa (N=325) avovastauksineen ja heidän oikeuksia ajavien järjestöjen edustajien haastatteluaineistoa (N=23), joilla kerättiin tietoa koronakriisin vaikutuksista vähemmistöjen elämään. Vuonna 2019 kaksi kolmesta seksuaalivähemmistöihin ja noin 60 prosenttia sukupuolivähemmistöihin kuuluvista nuorista sekä lähes joka kolmas muista nuorista kertoi olleensa huolissaan mielialastaan 12 viime kuukauden aikana. Sukupuoli- ja seksuaalivähemmistöjen nuorilla oli muita nuoria useammin kokemuksia yksinäisyydestä (25 % vs. 10 %). Lisäksi sukupuoli- ja seksuaalivähemmistöjen nuoret kokivat koulu-uupumusta muita nuoria yleisemmin (25–30% vs. 10 %). Sateenkaarinuorilla on hyvinvointia kuormittavia tekijöitä, joihin tulisi vaikuttaa ehkäisevästi tarjoamalla tukea ja ohjausta koteihin ja kiinnittämällä huomiota nuorten kouluympäristön turvallisuuteen.

Roosa Saukkonen, University of Tampere, roosa.saukkonen@tuni.fi)

6. Sateenkaarinuoret ja seksuaalinen suostumus

Sateenkaarinuoret ja seksuaalinen suostumus Seksuaalinen suostumus ilmiönä on ollut osa julkista keskustelua niin globaalisti kuin paikallisesti Suomessakin viime vuosina. Seksuaalirikoslainsäädännön ja sitä myötä raiskauksen määritelmän uudistaminen sekä sosiaalisen median Me too -kampanja ovat olleet keskustelun liikkeelle laittavia ja sitä muovaavia voimia. Kuitenkin niin julkinen keskustelu kuin aiempi tieteellinen tutkimuskin ovat keskittyneet pääosin cissukupuolisiin ja heteroseksuaalisiin yksilöihin. Minua kiinnostaakin miten sateenkaarinuoret, eli sukupuoli- ja/tai seksuaalivähemmistöihin kuuluvat nuoret, käsittävät ja ymmärtävät seksuaalisen suostumuksen omassa arjessaan Suomessa. Vaikka sateenkaarinuoret kokevat muihin nuoriin verrattuna enemmän muun muassa seksuaalista häirintää ja seksuaaliväkivaltaa, haluan keskittyä seksuaaliseen suostumukseen asiana, jolla on mahdollisuus tuottaa hyvinvointia sateenkaarinuorten elämään. Lisäksi minua kiinnostaa nuorten toimijuus kansalaisuuden tekemisenä (Isin 2008), eli nuorten pyrkimyksinä aktiiviseen osallisuuteen heidän jokapäiväisissä yhteisöissään ja laajemmin yhteiskunnassa.

Silja Kukka, University of Oulu, silja.kukka@oulu.fi

7. Making room for Queer possibilities in lives of Youth in online fan fiction communities

Online fandom or fan fiction communities are increasingly places where young people come learn about, discuss, play, and experiment with sexuality and gender. Online discussion forums and fandom-based communities seem to be places where especially young women and queer people discuss and experiment with different ways of presenting themselves as sexual and gendered beings, outside of the normative and institutionalized venues, like school. Fandom-based online communities give young people chances to imagine and reimagine themselves, over and over again, by taking on different roles and possible identities, all safely done in the guise of fictional characters. By freely playing with different aspects of sexuality and gender, young people in these communities also learn about sexuality, which can be vital especially in countries and communities where institutionalized sex education may be limited or non-existent. In many countries, neo-conservative views and politics are on the rise, and the rights of girls, women, and queer people are often the first to be sacrificed, which can make getting correct information about sex, sexual and gender diversity, contraception, etc. difficult. In Finland also we see public discussion about the nature of sexual education in schools, especially about the rights of students to learn about non-hetero identities, transness, and non-straight sex. The rights of trans kids are still not properly protected by the law, Pride marches have been threatened, rainbow flags and symbols are burned and destroyed, etc.

In the light of all this, free and safe online fan communities have a potential to offer young people chances to combat the rise of neo-conservatism by educating themselves in matters of sexuality, gender diversity, trans-rights, etc. Fan fiction communities can be and often are also places for queer activism, and fan fiction in many ways is active on social movements towards equality.

This presentation is based on my Doctoral dissertation, but it is also the first proposition of a new study I’m planning. For Post-doc research, I would like to expand my Doctoral dissertation by perhaps studying how young people in Finland are using fandoms, fan fiction, and fan art-based methods to discuss, discover, and play with sexuality and gender, and how fan art could be used to help young people self-actualize and take control of their own identities. Accepting and open fandoms and fan communities might be beneficial especially for non-straight and trans youth who are in greater risk of getting bullied and harassed in schools, hobbies, and online.

Lydia Kokkola, The Department of English, University of Oulu, Lydia.kokkola@oulu.fi

8. Lonely Landscapes: Desire without direction in the Writing of Anna-Liisa Haakala

Anna-Liisa Haakala is Finnish novelist who is best known for her realistic stories set in Sápmi during the 1980s. Haakala’s teenage protagonists, Anitra in Ykköstyttö (1981) and Ykä in Ykä Yksinäinen (1980), feel lonely and isolated despite being surrounded by their families. Loneliness, as Fay Alberti reminds us, is a social and cultural phenomenon which has its own history. In Haakala’s pre-internet novels, loneliness is mapped onto the northern landscape such that the protagonists’ perceptions of their homes are tinged with feelings of isolation. In this presentation, I investigate the links between the feelings of loneliness and landscape by drawing on Sara Ahmed’s work on the spatial dimensions of orientation.

In Queer Phenomenology, Ahmed asks “What difference does it make what or who we are oriented toward in the very direction of our desire? If orientation is a matter of how we reside in space, then sexual orientation might also be a matter of residence, of how we in-habit spaces, and who or what we inhabit spaces with” (Ahmed 2006, p. 1). In this paper, I adopt Ahmed’s idea of desire as a form of way-finding in relation to the YA novels of Anna-Liisa Haakala. Although neither novel is a romance, desire acts as a form of way-finding for both Anitra and Ykä. For both teens, the non-sexual desire to care for someone vulnerable orients them towards their home environments. The aim of the presentation is to examine the way-finding practices that enable the teenage protagonists to address their feelings of loneliness.

Annbritt Palo (Annbritt.Palo@ltu.se) & Lena Manderstedt (Lena.Manderstedt@ltu.se), Luleå University of Technology, Sweden

9. Counter storytelling: Fluid (?) diversity in Sami novels for young readers

Literature has great potential to provide readers with insights into intersectional diversity. Alternatively, literature may reproduce stereotypes, or be patronising. Therefore, reading pivotal to promote counter storytelling for recognition and knowledge.

The aim of this study is to investigate how themes of diversity have been brought to the fore by Sami writers in two works of fiction for young readers, and how these novels potentially highlight and call into question societal norms on diversity. The books are Köttjuven – I lávvo på Djurgården (2008) by Lotta Willborg Stoor and Ville Söderbaum and Himlabrand (2021) by Moa Backe Åstot. The main characters in both novels are young Sami, and in both novels LGBTIQ+ themes are central. Theories on intersectionality and identity (cf. Crenshaw, 1991; Hill Collins, 1998; Lykke, 2003, 2005: Åhrén, 2008) provides an analytical framework for categories like ethnicity (Sami – non-Sami), sexuality (heteronormativity – LGBTIQ+), gender (binary or non-binary), location (Sápmi – capital), and age (acceptance – need to fit in).

Preliminary results show that the novels for young readers call into question the binary opposition in norms restricting diversity by pushing for a flexibility. By allowing for a discussion on sexuality, gender, location, age, where diversity can be seen as fluid, the novels can problematise the not so fluid category of ethnicity, and in the fictional world, normalise destabilisation of categories, and the shift in the perception of Saminess.