University of Calgary

Tonya Callaghan

  • Assistant Professor

Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.


Dr. Callaghan has enjoyed a varied teaching career with over ten years of experience in national, international, rural, urban, Catholic and non-Catholic environments. She completed a joint doctoral degree in two graduate programs at The University of Toronto: 1) The Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development Program in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE/UT), and 2) The Graduate Collaborative Program in Women and Gender Studies with the Women and Gender Studies Institute in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

Research & Scholarly Activity

When a promising drama student in the Catholic high school where Dr. Callaghan was teaching committed suicide in 2004 after suffering several months of homophobic bullying due to his sexual orientation, she decided to take action regarding the Catholic school system's sanctioned and institutionalized homophobia by engaging in research about it. The overarching goal of Dr. Callaghan's research agenda is to integrate theory and practice so that educational stakeholders become motivated to free members of sexual and gender minority groups from religiously-inspired heterosexist oppression. Dr. Callaghan specializes in critical social justice theories, anti-oppression education, and anti-homophobia education. She employs qualitative research methodologies to conduct her research projects.

Current Projects:

The Catholic Closet: A Comparative Study of Resistance to Homophobia in Catholic Schools

Dr. Callaghan's current study is a comparative cross-case analysis of Catholic school systems in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom vis-à-vis sexual minority groups. This study broadens the parameters of Dr. Callaghan's research agenda by extending beyond Canada's borders into a global discourse of resistance to heterosexist oppression. It aims to uncover the causes and effects of clashes between Catholic canon law and the common laws of the aforementioned nations regarding sexual minorities – clashes which are increasingly being played out in Catholic schools.  

Funding source: The University of Calgary Vice President (Research) Starter Grant

Advancing Healthy and Socially Just Schools and Communities

Member of an interdisciplinary committee comprised of faculty members from the Werklund School of Education and the Faculty of Social Work who work collaboratively to design and implement an MEd Interdisciplinary degree called “Advancing Healthy and Socially Just Schools and Communities.” Lana Wells, the Brenda Strafford Chair for the Prevention of Domestic Violence with the Faculty of Social Work, conceived of this interdisciplinary project and the two Deans of the respective faculties invited Dr. Callaghan to contribute to it.

Funding source: The donor prefers to remain anonymous

The Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey

Co-Investigator on The Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey, which is part of a Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) grant awarded to Principal Investigator Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc (PhD, RN, FSAHM, FCAHS), Professor with the University of British Columbia School of Nursing. The full CIHR-funded ($2M) national, five-year, multi-university study is called “Reducing Stigma, Promoting Resilience: Population Health Interventions for LGBTQ youth.” This grant is notable in that it is CIHR’s singe largest investment aimed at improving health and school outcomes for sexual and gender minority youth.

Funding source: Canadian Institutes for Health Research


PhD in Education and Women and Gender Studies
University of Toronto

Master of Education
University of Alberta

Bachelor of Education
University of Calgary

Bachelor of Arts in English
University of Calgary

Professional & Community Affiliations

Dr. Callaghan has served as a facilitator with support groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth in Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto. As a member of the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee, Dr. Callaghan has provided input on professional development workshops designed to build safe and caring classrooms, schools, and communities. Currently, Dr. Callaghan serves as an Ambassador for the Canadian Association for the Study of Women and Education (CASWE) at the University of Calgary Werklund School of Education, as a member of the Diversity and Equity Network (The University of Calgary Office of Diversity, Equity and Protected Disclosure), and as an Advisory Board Member of the Werklund Foundation Centre for Youth Leadership Education.


Callaghan, T. D. (2014). My real gay agenda: Exposing the holy homophobia of Catholic schools. In G. Walton (Ed.), The gay agenda: Claiming space, identity, and justice, (pp. 223-238).  New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Lund, D. E., & Callaghan, T. D. (2012). Homophobia. In J. A. Banks (Ed.), Sage encyclopedia of diversity in education, (pp. 1093-1096). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Callaghan, T. D. (2012). Holy homophobia: Doctrinal disciplining of non-heterosexuals in Canadian Catholic schools (Doctoral dissertation, University of Toronto, Canada). Retrieved from

Callaghan, T. D. (2009, July 31). The policy polka and the curriculum cotillion: How Catholic schools dance away from their obligations regarding sexual diversity. Canadian Journal of New Scholars in Education, 2(1). Retrieved from

Callaghan, T. D. (2007). Acting OUT: Using Augusto Boal’s theatre of the oppressed techniques to dramatize homophobic incidents in Catholic schools. In I. Killoran & K. Pendleton Jimenez (Eds.), Unleashing the unpopular: Talking about sexual orientation and gender diversity in education, (pp. 129-139). Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International.

Callaghan, T. D. (2007, December 31). Contra/Diction: How Catholic doublespeak in Canadian Catholic secondary schools furthers homophobia. Canadian Online Journal of Queer Studies in Education, 3(1). Retrieved from

Callaghan, T. D. (2007). That’s so gay: Homophobia in Canadian Catholic schools. Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller.


  • American Educational Research Association (AERA) Dissertation of the Year Award, Queer Studies Special Interest Group
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Travel Award, Institute of Gender and Health and Institute of Community Support
  • The Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal
  • The Canadian Association for the Study of Women and Education (CASWE) 2012 Doctoral Award for Outstanding Dissertation
  • Izaak Walton Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship for 2011-2013 (Honorary)
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship for 2011-2013
  • Scholarship Recognition Award for the 2010/2011 Academic Year — Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto
  • Keith. A. McLeod Scholarship for Human Rights, Sept. 2010 — Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto
  • Academic Excellence Award for the 2006 through to the 2011 Academic Years — Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto
  • Ontario Graduate Scholarship (Doctoral), Sept. 2009 to Sept. 2010 — Provincial Government of Ontario
  • Canada Graduate Scholarships (Doctoral), Sept. 2006 to Sept. 2009 — Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)

Media Work

Rice, B. (2014, June 25). Quick chat: Acting out – Werklund prof uses unique theatre techniques to help LGBTQ campers find their voices. UToday. Retrieved from

Ennahdi, N. (2014, May 5). Homophobie dans les écoles religieuses: Est-ce que les écoles confessionnelles font de la discrimination liée à l'orientation sexuelle? [Homophobia in religious schools: Do denominational schools discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation?] Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Ici radio-Canada via Le téléjournal Alberta [televised broadcast]. Retrieved from

Ennahdi, N. (2014, May 5). L'homophobie présente dans les écoles catholiques, selon une ex-élève [Homophobia is present in Catholic schools, according to a former student]. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Ici radio-Canada, édition Montréal [published article]. Retrieved from

O'Shaughnessy, H. (2014, March 15). Tonya Callaghan: We need gay/straight alliances in Canadian Catholic high schools [blog post on the blog "Albertan in Toronto"]. Retrieved from

Rice, B., & Dawes, N. (2014, February 19). Developing healthy relationships in youth focus of new interdisciplinary graduate program – Werklund School of Education, Faculty of Social Work collaborate to launch Safe Schools, Safe Communities. UToday. Retrieved from

Rice, B. (2013, August 19). Camp fYrefly goes to Calgary. BEdition: The official faculty of education magazine [University of Alberta Faculty of Education]. Retrieved from

Rice, B. (2013, August 14). Education prof participates in summer camp for LGBTQ youth. UToday. Retrieved from

Kuhl, N. (2013, April 9). Holy homophobia! The Lethbridge Herald, p. A1 (front page). Reprinted in The University of Calgary's daily publication UToday. Retrieved from

Mayer, F. (2013, January 31). Holy homophobia: U of C researcher looks to end sexual discrimination in Catholic schools. The Gauntlet, p. 6.

Rice, B. (2013, January 22). A classroom for all? UToday. Retrieved from

MacGillivray, C. (2012, August 31). Meet Tonya Callaghan. UToday. Reposted in The Killam Trusts “Killam Recipients in the News” section of the University of Calgary website and retweeted several times. Retrieved from 

Houston, A. (2012, June 5). Catholic doctrine bullies queer youth: expert. FEATURE: Study on homophobia in Catholic schools wins Governor General's Academic Gold Medal. Xtra! Canada's Gay and Lesbian News. Retrieved from 

Thomas, E. (2012, May 14). Tonya Callaghan’s doctoral dissertation receives top honours. About OISE. Reposted in the “News” section of the OISE website. Retrieved from

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