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Writing in the Margins: Mainstream News Media Representations of Transgenderism

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This study examines representations of transgender individuals and identity in mainstream U.S. newspapers in an effort to understand the extent to which the transgender community is legitimized or delegitimized by news media. To do so, 200 articles from 13 of the 25 most circulated daily newspapers in the United States were coded for the presence or absence of “legitimacy indicators.” The study finds that mainstream newspaper coverage of the transgender community is extremely limited. Moreover, the coverage that does exist contains a significant amount of delegitimizing language, which it is argued will detrimentally impact both the projected legitimacy of transgender claims in the political arena and public perceptions of the transgender community.
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Writing in the Margins: Mainstream News Media
Representations of Transgenderism
THOMAS J BILLARD
1
University of Southern California, USA
This study examines representations of transgender individuals and identity in
mainstream U.S. newspapers in an effort to understand the extent to which the
transgender community is legitimized or delegitimized by news media. To do so, 200
articles from 13 of the 25 most circulated daily newspapers in the United States were
coded for the presence or absence of “legitimacy indicators.” The study finds that
mainstream newspaper coverage of the transgender community is extremely limited.
Moreover, the coverage that does exist contains a significant amount of delegitimizing
language, which it is argued will detrimentally impact both the projected legitimacy of
transgender claims in the political arena and public perceptions of the transgender
community.
Keywords: transgender, journalism, newspapers, legitimacy, content analysis
With the rise of a generation better versed in the issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender (LGBT) Americans and an increase in LGBT visibility in entertainment media, many academics
have dedicated themselves to understanding this minority community more empirically. Yet the wealth of
academic research that is available on media representations of the LGBT community focuses largely on
the L and G portions of the acronym. Even within the already-marginalized LGBT community, transgender
individuals are further marginalized, not only in daily life but in rights advocacy and academic research.
Consequently, queer scholars have recently increased the attention dedicated to media representations of
transgender individuals (Chávez & Griffin, 2012; Spencer, 2015), primarily through qualitative and critical-
cultural studies (Capuzza, 2015).
Transphobia permeates American culture, a culture that simultaneously informs and is informed
by media. There is a consequent vicious cycle of ignorance and hatred toward transgender individuals that
Thomas J Billard: tbillard@usc.edu
Date submitted: 20141107
1
The research presented in this article was originally conducted while the author was at the George
Washington University. An earlier version of this article was presented at the May 2015 annual meeting of
the International Communication Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The author would like to thank
Kimberly Gross for her guidance in the early phases of this project, as well as Patti Riley for her comments
on an earlier draft of this article. The author would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers, whose
thorough critiques greatly improved the article.
4194 Thomas J Billard International Journal of Communication 10(2016)
is reflected in mainstream media representations of, societal attitudes toward, and public policy regarding
transgenderism.
2
Many studies have found that news media consistently misname and misgender
transgender individuals (e.g., Barker-Plummer, 2013; Squires & Brouwer, 2002), misrepresent
transgender identity (e.g., MacKenzie & Marcel, 2009; Schilt & Westbrook, 2009), portray transgender
individuals as “tricksters” who live out their gender to seduce heterosexuals (e.g., Sloop, 2000; Squires &
Brouwer, 2002), and sexualize the transgender body (e.g., MacKenzie & Marcel, 2009; Sloop, 2000). Only
two studies so far have provided larger-scale empirical analyses of news media content: Capuzza (2014)
analyzed journalists’ sourcing practices primarily in the coverage of Caster Semenya and Chelsea
Manning, and Schilt and Westbrook (2009) provided some frame analysis of articles about transgender
murder victims. Therefore, a larger-scale empirical analysis of news media content over time, and across
both several news sources and story types, is required to answer some of the questions left unanswered
by past studies.
Moreover, the transgender community requires legitimacy in order to further its claims in the
political arena. The present study investigates whether mainstream news media discuss transgenderism in
a legitimizing or delegitimizing manner, which will significantly impact both policy and public perception.
Further, there are concerns that mainstream news media produce so little coverage of transgender issues
and individuals that their absence further serves to delegitimize transgender political claims. To provide
evidence for these arguments, the study examines legitimacy in mainstream newspapers in the United
States using a novel set of “legitimacy indicators,” which represent many elements constitutive of self-
identification and human dignity for transgender individuals. Using these indicators, a content analysis
was conducted of mainstream U.S. newspaper articles that discuss transgender issues and individuals.
The Legitimizing Function of News Coverage
As a marginalized population, transgender citizens require systematic political protection and a
fundamental change to current political structures to ensure their rights, as well as a change in overall
American culture that accepts them as equals deserving of respect and proper treatment. While
entertainment media contribute immensely to the formation of cultural attitudes and can greatly
contribute to acceptance of the LGBT community (e.g., Calzo & Ward, 2009; Riggle, Ellis, & Crawford,
1996; Schiappa, Gregg, & Hewes, 2006), news media have primary influence in the political realm and
serve as the primary agent of legitimization for communities and their issues.
2
Although the GLAAD (2014) media reference guide lists transgenderism under “terms to avoid” out of
concern that it pathologizes transgender identity, without the term transgenderism there exists no means
to express the complex and intersecting concepts of transgender identity, embodiment, personhood,
experience, and so on. Transgenderism is an all-encompassing term that does the work of several terms
at once, and it is used as such throughout the pertinent literature, including most of the work cited in this
article, and in the title of one of the leading journals in the study of gender identity and transgender
issues, the International Journal of Transgenderism. Thus, I have employed the term in this article for the
academic and conceptual work it performs.
International Journal of Communication 10(2016) Writing in the Margins 4195
A solid body of literature has demonstrated the significance of news coverage to the perceived
legitimacy and political viability of different groups and issues. Hallin (1986) first proposed a model of
three spheres of news media coverage that dictate the projected legitimacy of an issue or a group of
people (see Figure 1). These spheres occupy concentric spaces with the Sphere of Consensus at the
center, enclosed within the Sphere of Legitimate Controversy, which itself is enclosed within the Sphere of
Deviance. Each sphere is governed by different reporting norms, with the Sphere of Legitimate
Controversy as the sole “province of objectivity” (Hallin, 1986, p. 116). Within the Spheres of Deviance
and Consensus, journalists are not expected to be objective; rather, they are expected to either disregard
or denounce the deviant and advocate the consensus. In between, in the Sphere of Legitimate
Controversy, legitimized parties are permitted to discuss legitimized issues and be reported on
disinterestedly (Hallin, 1986).
Figure 1. Spheres of consensus, legitimate controversy, and deviance.
Adapted from Hallin (1986).
Hallin (1986) demonstrated how news coverage of the Vietnam War at various times regarded
different parties as deviant (antiwar protestors) or legitimate (politicians, generals, troops) and how
legitimacy was conferred through the use of particular framings and discourses. Whereas Hallin looked at
both television news and newspaper coverage (with particular attention paid to television), subsequent
scholars have demonstrated the particular significance of newspaper coverage to the legitimacy of
different political issues and protest groups (Luther & Miller, 2005; Murray, Parry, Robinson, & Goddard,
2008; Taylor, 2014). In their research on coverage of pro- and anti-Iraq War demonstrations, Luther and
Miller (2005) found that newspaper coverage delegitimizes those groups that “challenge the status quo”
(p. 81) through the use of “delegitimizing cue words” (p. 87), supporting the similar claims of previous
4196 Thomas J Billard International Journal of Communication 10(2016)
research (Gitlin, 1980; McLeod & Hertog, 1992). Furthermore, Taylor (2014) showed that the projected
legitimacy of groups could decrease (and thus, conversely, increase) over time as the political climate
evolves, and these changes in legitimacy can be observed through changes in “subtle lexical choices” (p.
48) journalists make in their articles. However, as Taylor (2014) points out, Hallin (1986) and subsequent
studies using his model (Luther & Miller, 2005; Murray et al., 2008) do not “outline the distinguishing
features by which legitimacy and deviance are conferred” (p. 41). This is a shortcoming addressed with
the legitimacy indicators proposed in this article, which operationalize delegitimizing discourse on
transgender issues and identity.
Of course, the other manner in which groups and issues are delegitimized is through invisibility
through news media’s refusal to cover them (Hallin, 1986; see also Gross, 2001). In what Gerbner and
Gross (1976) called “symbolic annihilation,” those on the edges of political hierarchies and social
acceptance are kept marginalized partly through being ignored (see also Gross, 1991). This symbolic
annihilation for transgender people is ending (Arune, 2006; J. Gamson, 1998b; Roen, Blakar, & Nafstad,
2011), but the language used in this early news coverage may or may not be delegitimizing. As Yep,
Russo, and Allen (2015) wrote, “Language constructs, affirms, and invalidates identities” (p. 74), and the
language used in news media determines the perceived legitimacy of transgender claims in the political
realm.
Transgenderism in the News
Although a wealth of research on media representations of the LGBT community exists, the
majority of that research focuses on the L and G portions of the acronym, while the T portion is relatively
ignored (Spencer, 2015). In recent years, research on media representations of transgenderism has
increased (Chávez & Griffin, 2012; Spencer, 2015). However, as Capuzza (2015) points out, most of this
research has utilized critical-cultural approaches rather than empirical social science approaches, as is
often the case in scholarship on minority media representations (Dixon & Williams, 2015).
The literature on news media representations of transgenderism in particular consists mostly of
case studies of news coverage of public figures (Capuzza, 2015; Meyerowitz, 1998; Pieper, 2013;
Skidmore, 2011) and hate-crime victims (Barker-Plummer, 2013; Chávez, 2010; MacKenzie & Marcel,
2009; Sloop, 2000; Squires & Brouwer, 2002; Willox, 2003). As noted by Spencer (2015) and Capuzza
(2015), this literature demonstrates the ways in which news media coverage disciplines and stereotypes
transgender identity (see also Barker-Plummer, 2013; Cloud, 2014; Sloop, 2004). In reviewing these
findings, four clear patterns emerge, each of which contributes to the delegitimization of transgender
individuals and issues: (1) misnaming and misgendering, (2) misrepresentations of transgender identity,
(3) use of the transgender “trickster” trope, and (4) sexualization of the transgender body.
3
3
Capuzza (2015) identified a similar pattern and organized her literature review around four themes in
news coverage: transgender people as “deceivers,” medicalization of the transgender body, conflation of
sex and gender, and “problematic language” (pp. 95–96). The present study’s categorizations are
simultaneously more specific (sexualization and misnaming/misgendering) and broader
(misrepresentations of transgender identity) to categorize the discourses identified in past research more
International Journal of Communication 10(2016) Writing in the Margins 4197
First, past research has documented numerous incidences of misnaming and misgendering of
transgender people in news media, which constrains transgender agency and delegitimizes transgender
self-identifications (Barker-Plummer, 2013; Capuzza, 2015; Cloud, 2014; Hale, 1998; Schilt & Westbrook,
2009; Siebler, 2010; Sloop, 2000; Squires & Brouwer, 2002; Willox, 2003). Much of this research focused
on coverage of the murder of Brandon Teena and noted how frequently he was called by his birth name
and how frequently feminine pronouns were used in news media (Siebler, 2010; Squires & Brouwer, 2002;
Willox, 2003). Beyond this explicit misnaming and misgendering, however, news sources also
delegitimized Brandon Teena’s transgender identity through language such as “the person often called
Brandon Teena” (Hale, 1998), which, while not explicitly misnaming him, suggests that his name is
artificial. In another instance, early news coverage of the murder of Gwen Araujo referred to hir
4
as
“Edward” or “Eddie” and with masculine pronouns (Barker-Plummer, 2013). Even later, as news coverage
shifted to be more sympathetic to hir, Gwen was frequently misgendered through the use of the word she;
news media insisted on using feminine pronouns despite her preference for gender-neutral ones (Barker-
Plummer, 2013). Schilt and Westbrook (2009) showed that these case studies are not examples of
isolated instances, but that misgendering is a frequent occurrence in news coverage of transgender
murder victims.
Second, several studies have discussed the various ways in which news media misrepresent
transgender identity, such as equating transgender womanhood with drag performance (Ryan, 2009) and
transvestitism (Barker-Plummer, 2013; MacKenzie & Marcel, 2009; Schilt & Westbrook, 2009). Just as
common is the deployment of “wrong body discourse” or the definition of transgender identity as having
been “born in the wrong body” (Barker-Plummer, 2013), which restricts the various identities that fall
under the term transgender to a singular conception of (primarily postoperative) transsexualism. Sloop
(2000) discussed the even more insidiously pathologized definition of transgender identity as a reaction
against one’s birth gender due to trauma—in the case of Brandon Teena, a reaction against his sexual
abuse as a childadvanced in news media. Furthermore, news media often misrepresent transgender
women as “deceptive gay men” (Schilt & Westbrook, 2009, p. 456), simultaneously equating transgender
women with homosexual men and advancing the transgender trickster trope.
Many scholars have noted the prevalence of the transgender trickster trope, most commonly
associated with transgender murder victims, which serves as a way to blame transgender women for their
own deaths (Barker-Plummer, 2013; MacKenzie & Marcel, 2009; Schilt & Westbrook, 2009; Sloop, 2000;
Squires & Brouwer, 2002; Willox, 2003). In news media, this trope typically takes the form of comments
about transgender people “pretending” to be their self-identified gender, though sometimes the claim of
“deception” is made directly (Squires & Brouwer, 2002). Sloop’s (2000) analysis of the rhetoric of news
coverage surrounding Brandon Teena’s murder and the subsequent film about his life and death discussed
precisely by the ways in which they are delegitimizing. For example, medicalization of the transgender
body is broken down and subsumed into sexualization (regarding focus on surgical alterations of genitalia)
and misrepresentations of transgender identity (regarding pathologization of transgender identities).
4
Hir is a gender-neutral pronoun, as Gwen, while presenting a feminine appearance and using a feminine
name, did not identify hirself as a woman or female but as genderqueer (see Barker-Plummer, 2013, for
further discussion of Gwen’s pronoun preferences).
4198 Thomas J Billard International Journal of Communication 10(2016)
how the idea of “deception in the heartland” makes Brandon Teena’s gender identity a transgression
against core American values and an attack on American identity, thus justifying his murder as retribution
for his treason. Early coverage of the murder of Gwen Araujo similarly justified the actions of hir
murderers by claiming that Gwen deceived them, tricking them into sexual encounters and thus attacking
their heterosexuality, for which hir murder was punishment (Barker-Plummer, 2013). As Schilt and
Westbrook (2009) wrote, news media frequently frame anti-transgender violence “as a response to actual
or perceived deception of the perpetrator by the transgender person” (p. 446), thereby disciplining
transgender identity for its transgressions against “reality.”
Finally, news media coverage of transgender issues and individuals frequently sexualizes the
transgender body, primarily through a focus on sexual organs as the source of gender identity (Cram,
2012; Landau, 2012; Meyerowitz, 1998; Ryan, 2009; Schilt & Westbrook, 2009; Sloop, 2000; Squires &
Brouwer, 2002) as well as through the portrayal of transgender women in particular as hypersexual
(MacKenzie & Marcel, 2009). This sexualization continues a trend that began with coverage of Christine
Jorgensen in the 1950s, which focused on her sexual organs as proof of her “legitimate” transition to
womanhood (Meyerowitz, 1998). News coverage of Brandon Teena, for example, focused obsessively on
his anatomyprimarily that he did not have a penisand placed a particular focus on his sexual
relationships with women (Sloop, 2000), sifting through the details of his anatomy and sexual history to
determine how to locate his gender. As argued by Adams (2015), discussing transgender individuals in
relation to their genitalia and sexual habits both “insults the dignity of the transgender individual” and
again reduces transgender identity to a singular conception of postoperative transsexualism (p. 179).
Legitimacy Indicators for Transgenderism
Drawing on the pertinent literature as well as the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association
(n.d.) stylebook and GLAAD (2014) media reference guide, a set of nine legitimacy indicators was
constructed to operationalize the more abstract concept of legitimacy. Together, these indicators account
for many of the various aspects of respecting the self-identifications and human dignity of transgender
individuals.
5
Legitimacy indicator 1: Naming indicates whether an author or speaker refers to a
transgender individual by his or her name given at birth (delegitimizing) rather than the individual’s
preferred, chosen name (legitimizing).
Indicator 2: Pronoun usage indicates whether an author or speaker refers to a transgender
individual by the pronouns assigned to the individual at birth (delegitimizing) or the individual’s preferred
pronouns (legitimizing).
Indicator 3: Past-tense references indicates whether an author or speaker properly refers to
a transgender individual’s past by explicitly stating the person was a different gender than the one with
5
Full descriptions of the legitimacy indicators provided to the coders are available from the author.
International Journal of Communication 10(2016) Writing in the Margins 4199
which the individual currently identifies (delegitimizing) or by simply saying the person was his or her self-
identified gender (legitimizing).
Indicator 4: Application of terms indicates whether an author or speaker properly applies the
terms transgender, transsexual, and so on (legitimizing), or does so improperly (delegitimizing).
Indicator 5: Characterizations of transgenderism indicates whether an author or speaker
mischaracterizes transgenderism (delegitimizing) in one of many ways that include, but are not limited to,
categorizing transgender men with women or transgender women with men; equating transgenderism
with drag, cross-dressing, or transvestitism; and referring to transgenderism as a choice, lifestyle,
disease, and so on.
Indicator 6: Slurs and name-calling indicates whether an author or speaker refers to a
transgender individual as a “tranny,” “she-male,” or other transphobic slur; equates transgenderism with
sexual perversion, addiction, and so on; or calls a transgender person by some name meant to offend,
such as “s(he)” or “Mr. Mom” (delegitimizing).
Indicator 7: Defamation indicates whether an author or speaker suggests a transgender
individual has a criminal or amoral background without source or evidence, or where entirely irrelevant to
the story (delegitimizing).
Indicator 8: Shock tactics indicates whether an author or speaker uses a transgender
individual’s gender identity as a shock tactic or hook to get a reader’s attention (delegitimizing). Not all
headline references to a transgender individual’s gender identity are delegitimizing; only references in
which the author attempts to surprise the audience by describing a person but then disclosing the person’s
gender identity as though it were unexpected.
Indicator 9: Genital focus/sexualization indicates whether an author or speaker focuses the
discussion of a transgender individual on the person’s genitalia or depicts the person as a sexual object
(delegitimizing).
Because it is difficult to make normative assumptions about the amount of legitimacy or
delegitimacy conferred on the topic of transgenderism by the news media, no hypotheses are proposed.
To investigate the (de)legitimization of transgender issues and identities in U.S. newspapers, three
research questions are investigated:
RQ1: To what extent are news media representations of transgenderism legitimizing versus
delegitimizing?
RQ2: What is the nature of the delegitimizing representations?
RQ3: Is the amount of legitimizing representations increasing over time?
4200 Thomas J Billard International Journal of Communication 10(2016)
Method
To answer these questions, a content analysis of print news articles was conducted following
Krippendorff’s (2004) guidelines. To form an accurate picture of transgender representations across the
entire country, a list of newspapers was selected from throughout the country for the sample.
Furthermore, the sample was restricted to widely consumed, mainstream newspapers (rather than LGBT-
specific/friendly ones) because their representations of transgenderism are disseminated to the general
public, where the potential to influence large numbers of the population through projected legitimacy is
the greatest. As Schilt and Westbrook (2009) wrote, “mainstream news media both reflect and shape
dominant belief systems” (p. 445; see also W. Gamson, Croteau, Hoynes, & Sasson, 1992).
The newspaper sample construction began with a list of the 25 most circulated daily newspapers
collected from the Alliance for Audited Media’s September 2012 report. Half of the newspapers were
sampled (rounded up to 13): The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, New York Daily
News, New York Post, The Washington Post, The Denver Post, Tampa Bay Times (previously St.
Petersburg Times), Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Orange County Register, Las
Vegas Review-Journal, and The Boston Globe. The sample was constructed from the Dow Jones’s
international news database Factiva using the search terms “transgender,” “transsexual,”
“transgendered,” “born a man,” “born a woman,” “born male,” “born female,” “tranny,” and “she-male.”
The search was restricted to headlines and ledes (leads) to find stories in which transgender people or
issues were the main focus rather than stories in which some other topic was the main focus but
transgender individuals/issues were briefly mentioned. The search spanned 10 years, from January 1,
2004, to December 31, 2013. This allowed the coverage to be analyzed to determine: (1) how much
coverage exists, (2) the nature of that coverage, and (3) whether legitimacy has increased over time.
The Factiva search with all these parameters yielded 1,642 articles. Articles were then de-
duplicated, and those that did not contain one of the search terms in the headline or within the first five
paragraphs of the article outside of the phrase “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender” or one of its
variants were removed. From that remaining pool of only 294 articles (17.9% of the initial yield), 200
(68.0%) were sampled randomly for coding. Articles were coded into one of six story type categories: art
reviews, crime/murder, education, entertainment/celebrity, health, human interest, opinion/editorial,
political, tabloid, or other.
6
The unit of analysis for this study was the paragraph, so each paragraph was
coded for the presence or absence of each legitimacy indicator as well as whether the paragraph contained
discussion of a transgender woman, transgender man, nonbinary/genderqueer transgender person, or no
transgender person. Only articles’ text content was coded; images were not coded. Coding was conducted
by the author and an undergraduate research assistant. Intercoder reliability was determined by selecting
6
Tabloid stories were defined as any story that did not fit into one of the other coding categories and was
also sensational or lurid in style. If the story did not fit into one of the other coding categories and was not
sensational or lurid, it was coded as other.
International Journal of Communication 10(2016) Writing in the Margins 4201
a 20% subsample for comparison between both coders.
7
High intercoder reliabilityat or above .9was
achieved across all categories. Full intercoder reliability data can be found in the Appendix.
Results
From the sample of 200 articles, there were 2,942 paragraphs to be coded, most of which came
from The New York Times (21.1% of all paragraphs), The Boston Globe (13.3%), The Washington Post
(11.1%), New York Post (10.5%), and Tampa Bay Times (10.1%). The Wall Street Journal accounted for
only 0.4% of paragraphs, all of which came from one article. Generally speaking, there was an increasing
amount of coverage pertaining to transgenderism over the 10-year span analyzed, although certain date
ranges were punctuated by spikes around different events, such as the proposal of new legislation or a
murder or, most noticeably in the data, the 2005 release of the film Transamerica (see Figure 2).
However, a nonparametric Mann-Kendall test (Kendall, 1975; Mann, 1945) was conducted to determine
whether the apparent trend is monotonic. The results of the test were nonsignificant, = .24, p = .14.
Figure 2. Coverage of transgenderism over time across all newspapers.
7
Violations of respect indicators 7, 8, and 9 (defamation, shock tactics, and genital focus/sexualization,
respectively) were quite rare. Therefore, in order to have useful intercoder reliability (ICR) data, the ICR
sample was constructed of every article in which one of these indicators was coded, plus a set of randomly
selected articles to bring the final sample size up to 20% of all coded data.
4202 Thomas J Billard International Journal of Communication 10(2016)
The only newspapers in the sample for which the increase in coverage was statistically significant
were The New York Times ( = .48, p = .004; see Figure 3) and The Boston Globe ( = .55, p = .001; see
Figure 4). All of the other news sources’ coverage appeared to be periodic, clustered around certain
events. Quite clearly in the data, for example, the Tampa Bay Times coverage spiked surrounding the
firing of Susan Stanton from the position of Largo city manager, and each spike in its coverage
subsequent to the initial incident followed a public statement by Stanton.
Figure 3. Coverage of transgenderism over time in The New York Times.
International Journal of Communication 10(2016) Writing in the Margins 4203
Figure 4. Coverage of transgenderism over time in The Boston Globe.
The majority of transgender news coverage, as measured by the percentage of all paragraphs,
was in political stories (30.7%). Human interest stories accounted for 15.4% of coverage, followed by
crime/murder (14.0%), tabloid (8.6%),
8
opinion/editorial (8.1%), entertainment/celebrity (7.7%), art
reviews (5.2%), other (4.5%), education (3.3%), and health (2.5%).
Over the 10-year period among the 13 newspapers in the present study, only 294 articles on
transgenderism were published. Only 45.6% of all paragraphs coded discussed or mentioned a specific
transgender person, and only 24.1% usedcorrectly or incorrectlyterms such as transgender and
transsexual. Of all paragraphs that mentioned or discussed a specific transgender person, 21.4% of
coverage was dedicated to transgender men, compared to 77.5% to transgender women, and only 1.2%
to nonbinary/genderqueer transgender individuals.
Moving to the question of legitimacy, 14.2% of all paragraphs across all articles in the sample
including those paragraphs in which no transgender people were discussed/mentioned or transgender
terms were usedcontained delegitimizing language. Though by raw percentage The Wall Street Journal
was the most delegitimizing newspaper in the sample, with 54.6% of its paragraphs containing
delegitimizing language, The Wall Street Journal had only one article of 11 paragraphs in the sample. The
New York Daily News and New York Post followed as the most delegitimizing newspapers, with 25.4% and
8
All of the tabloid stories came from the New York Daily News or New York Post.
4204 Thomas J Billard International Journal of Communication 10(2016)
21.4% of their coverage delegitimizing, respectively. Following them, the Minneapolis Star Tribune (21.0%
of all paragraphs), Tampa Bay Times (20.2%), and The Denver Post (18.1%) were the most
delegitimizing. Among the most legitimizing newspapers were the Las Vegas Review-Journal (3.2% of
coverage delegitimizing) and The Philadelphia Inquirer (6.6%; see Table 1).
Table 1. Delegitimacy by Source.
Number of paragraphs
% Coverage delegitimizing
11
54.6
236
25.4
209
21.4
95
21.1
297
20.2
226
18.1
328
14.3
392
12.0
53
9.4
620
7.6
121
6.6
130
6.3
124
3.2
Legitimacy Indicator 1: Naming
Of all paragraphs that named a specific transgender person, 84.6% used the person’s chosen
name, and only 15.4% referred to the person by his or her name given at birth. Crime/murder stories and
tabloid stories accounted for the most misnaming. All other story types referred to transgender people by
their chosen names in over 80% of paragraphs. Crime/murder stories, however, referred to transgender
people by their name given at birth 39.6% of the time, while tabloid stories did so 24.1% of the time (see
Figure 5). In fact, crime/murder stories account for 35.0% of all misnaming. Misnaming was most
frequent in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (66.7% of all naming paragraphs), followed by the Tampa Bay
Times (38.5%) and The Washington Post (31.6%). The only newspapers in the sample to contain no
misnaming were The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Orange County Register, and Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The Wall Street Journal contained no naming paragraphs in the one article in the sample. The results of a
Mann-Kendall test assessing the trend of misnaming over time were nonsignificant, = .27, p = .11.
International Journal of Communication 10(2016) Writing in the Margins 4205
Figure 5. Percentage of naming paragraphs using birth name by story type.
Legitimacy Indicator 2: Pronoun Usage
Similar to naming, 84.3% of paragraphs that used pronouns for a specific transgender person
used the person’s preferred pronoun, and only 15.7% used the pronoun assigned at birth. Pronoun usage
was most delegitimizing in opinion/editorial (36.7% of pronoun-using articles), political (29.4%), and
tabloid (20.0%) articles. While pronoun usage was delegitimizing in less than 20% of pronoun-using
paragraphs among all other newspapers in the sample, the Tampa Bay Times used pre-transition
pronouns in 53.2% of paragraphs, USA Today in 50.0%, and The Denver Post in 45.1%. Again, as with
naming, The Wall Street Journal contained no pronoun-using paragraphs in the one article in the sample.
However, unlike naming, pronoun usage has become more consistently legitimizing. The results of a
Mann-Kendall test demonstrate a statistically significant decrease over time in the percentage of
paragraphs using improper pronouns, = .36, p = .03 (see Figure 6).
4206 Thomas J Billard International Journal of Communication 10(2016)
Figure 6. Percentage of paragraphs using improper pronouns over time.
Legitimacy Indicator 3: Past-Tense References
Of all paragraphs that referenced a specific transgender person’s past, 37.4% did so in a
delegitimizing manner, while 62.7% did so properly. Of all the story types of which there were more than
10 paragraphs containing past-tense references, crime/murder stories contained the most delegitimizing
references at 33.3% of paragraphs. Human interest stories similarly referenced transgender people’s
pasts in a delegitimizing manner in 30.4% of all paragraphs containing past-tense references. The results
of a Mann-Kendall test assessing the trend of past-tense references over time were nonsignificant, =
.02, p = .92.
Legitimacy Indicator 4: Application of Terms
Of all paragraphs containing transgender terms (24.1% of all paragraphs coded), 16.2% applied
improper terms (such as referring to a transgender person as “a transgender”), while 83.8% used proper
terms. The New York Daily News used delegitimizing terms in 40.9% of paragraphs containing
transgender terms, followed by the Minneapolis Star Tribune (31.3%), The Denver Post (27.9%), and
Tampa Bay Times (27.3%). The New York Times applied improper terms the least, with only 5.2% of term
applications delegitimizing. By story type, human interest (23.5%), political and health (both 16.7%), and
International Journal of Communication 10(2016) Writing in the Margins 4207
tabloid (14.5%) stories were the most consistently delegitimizing. The increase in legitimizing applications
of terms is clear, however. The results of a Mann-Kendall test demonstrate a statistically significant
increase over time in the percentage of paragraphs applying proper terms, = .52, p = .002 (see Figure
7).
Figure 7. Percentage of paragraphs applying legitimizing terms over time.
Legitimacy Indicator 5: Characterizations of Transgenderism
Mischaracterizations of transgenderism were not prominent, with 3.3% of all paragraphs
containing mischaracterizations. Of all paragraphs that discussed a specific transgender individual,
however, 5.4% contained mischaracterizations. More specifically, transgender women were frequently
mischaracterized. The percentage of paragraphs discussing a transgender woman in which transgenderism
was mischaracterized was over one and a half times higher than that for transgender men. Political stories
accounted for the most mischaracterization of transgenderism, with 28.1% of all paragraphs containing
mischaracterizations, followed by crime/murder (26.0%), entertainment/celebrity (12.5%), and human
interest (11.5%) stories. The results of a Mann-Kendall test assessing the trend of mischaracterizations of
transgenderism over time were nonsignificant, = .08, p = .67.
4208 Thomas J Billard International Journal of Communication 10(2016)
Legitimacy Indicator 6: Slurs and Name-Calling
Slurs and name-calling were found in 2.4% of all paragraphs and 3.6% of all paragraphs that
discussed or mention a specific transgender person. In 62.9% of cases, slurs were directed against a
transgender woman, while 5.7% were directed against a transgender man, and 31.4% were directed
against no specific transgender person (although they may still have been gendered slurs such as “tranny”
and “she-male,” which are anti-transgender women). The New York Daily News and the New York Post
combined accounted for 58.6%, and The Washington Post accounted for 12.9% of all slurs and name-
calling in the sample. Only three news sources used no slurs at all: the Minneapolis Star Tribune, The
Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. While 31.4% of slurs and name-calling incidents
were found in tabloid articles, celebrity news accounted for 18.6%, and crime/murder stories accounted
for 15.7%. The results of a Mann-Kendall test assessing the trend of slurs and name-calling over time
were nonsignificant, = .28, p = .11.
Legitimacy Indicator 7: Defamation
Defamation was found in 0.8% of all paragraphs that discussed a specific transgender person. Of
the defamation found, however, 81.8% was directed specifically at transgender women, versus 9.1% each
toward transgender men and no transgender person in particular. Opinion/editorial articles accounted for
the most defamation (36.4% of all paragraphs containing defamation), followed by tabloid, crime/murder,
and political stories (18.2% each). The results of a Mann-Kendall test assessing the trend of defamation
over time were nonsignificant, = .15, p = .45.
Legitimacy Indicator 8: Shock Tactics
Gender identity was used as a shock tactic to gain a reader’s attention in 6.4% of all headlines
and ledes. As with slurs and name-calling, 25.0% of headlines and ledes using shock tactics were found in
tabloid articles, while entertainment/celebrity and crime/murder stories accounted for 18.8% each. The
New York Times and New York Post each accounted for 25.0% of headlines and ledes using shock tactics,
followed by the New York Daily News (18.8%). The results of a Mann-Kendall test assessing the trend of
defamation over time were nonsignificant, = .02, p = .94.
Legitimacy Indicator 9: Genital Focus/Sexualization
Genital focus/sexualization was found in only 1.4% of all paragraphs, though the percentage
doubles to 2.8% among paragraphs that discussed or mentioned a specific transgender person. Of all
genital focus/sexualization, 90.0% was of a transgender woman, while 2.5% was of a transgender man,
and 7.5% was directed at no specific transgender person (no genital focus/sexualization was directed at
nonbinary transgender individuals; see Figure 8). Similar to slurs and name-calling, the New York Daily
News and New York Post combined accounted for 57.5% of all genital focus/sexualization. Again, the
Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s coverage
contained no instances of genital focus or sexualization, though in this case The Wall Street Journal and
USA Today joined them. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe each
International Journal of Communication 10(2016) Writing in the Margins 4209
accounted for 10.0% of genital focus/sexualization, while the remaining newspapers accounted for less
than 10.0% each. The results of a Mann-Kendall test assessing the trend of sexualization over time were
nonsignificant, = .08, p = .66.
Figure 8. Percentage of genital focus/sexualization by gender identity.
Discussion
The present study assessed the extent to which news media representations of transgenderism
are delegitimizing using a novel set of legitimacy indicators, which operationalize legitimacy and account
for the elements of respecting the self-identifications and human dignity of transgender individuals.
Additionally, the study analyzed the nature of delegitimizing representations, identifying the most common
types of delegitimizing language in news media content and how this language use has evolved over time.
This study fills a large gap in scholarship on transgender media representations as the first large-scale
empirical analysis of news media content over time and across both news sources and story types.
It is difficult to make any normative claims about the amount of delegitimizing language in news
media coverage of transgenderism. Although this study provides concrete numbers for what percentage of
paragraphs in stories about transgenderism contain delegitimizing language, there is no “right” amount of
delegitimacy; one cannot identify a threshold of how much delegitimacy may acceptably be conferred on a
group of people. However, it is clear from the present study that the criticisms of news media by
4210 Thomas J Billard International Journal of Communication 10(2016)
transgender activists and scholars of transgender media representations are founded, though the amount
of delegitimizing language in news media content is generally decreasing.
Most notably, there is very little coverage of transgenderism in mainstream news media. Over
the span of 10 years, among 13 of the United States’ 25 most circulated daily newspapers, only 294
articles discussed transgender issues and individuals. This number is especially low considering that only
45.6% of all paragraphs coded mentioned a specific transgender person, and only 24.1% used the terms
transgender, transsexual, or some variant thereof, demonstrating that the majority of news coverage of
transgender people and issues does not focus on them. This supplements the findings of Capuzza (2015),
who argued that journalistic sourcing patterns lead to an underrepresentation of transgender voices in
articles that discuss transgenderism and restrict transgender sources to providing “personal narratives” (p.
96) rather than allowing them to authoritatively speak on transgender issues (see also Capuzza, 2014).
Although there was a statistically significant decrease in the percentage of delegitimizing
applications of terms over time, it is interesting to note that these changes lagged significantly behind the
2006 changes in the Associated Press stylebook standards for reporting on the transgender community.
Already in 2006, the Associated Press issued clear guidance for properly reporting on transgenderism, but
it was not until around 2010 that the amount of paragraphs containing delegitimizing applications of terms
dropped below 20% and remained there. This supports the notion that a broader cultural evolution in
transgender awareness increased the projected legitimacy of transgenderism, since the decreases in
delegitimacy clearly were not tied to formal changes in reporting norms.
The two newspapers with the most delegitimizing coverage deserve special attention: the New
York Daily News and New York Post, which might more appropriately be identified as tabloid papers
(Pelizzon & West, 2010), and which published all articles in the sample coded as tabloid stories. These two
papers accounted for a large proportion of the measured delegitimization and, aside from The Wall Street
Journal (which had a total of only 11 paragraphs in the sample), were the two most delegitimizing
newspapers in the sample. They also contained the most slurs and sexualization. This level of
delegitimization is not surprising, however, considering the informal reporting of tabloid papers, with less
emphasis on “objectivity” and a greater emphasis on scandal, often seen in the excessive use of
“emphatic adjectives” (Baker, 2010, p. 317) and exposé-type stories (Pelizzon & West, 2010). J. Gamson
(1998a), writing about tabloid talk shows, noted how tabloid coverage of transgender individuals
sensationalizes ordinary aspects of life as a means of manufacturing interest, often at the expense of
transgender self-identifications, in ways more explicit than traditional media would. Furthermore, tabloid
coverage focuses on transgender anatomy, the “ambiguity” of which sells the programs and
“reestablish[es] the logic of two distinct sexes” (J. Gamson, 1998a, p. 163), which the present study
found in tabloid newspapers as well.
Interestingly, crime and murder stories comprised only 14% of all paragraphs in the sample,
although they are the focus of most scholarship on transgender news media representations (e.g., Barker-
Plummer, 2013; MacKenzie & Marcel, 2009; Schilt & Westbrook, 2009; Sloop, 2000; Squires & Brouwer,
2002; Willox, 2003). Likely this is because most coverage of transgender murder victims circulates in local
rather than national news media (MacKenzie & Marcel, 2009), and thus the sample of the present study
International Journal of Communication 10(2016) Writing in the Margins 4211
did not adequately represent the full corpus of coverage of transgender murder victims. However, this also
may be attributed to the fact that the most heinous forms of delegitimacy are prevalent in crime and
murder stories, which thus are of most interest to scholars. Nearly 40% of all paragraphs in crime/murder
stories that name a transgender person use the person’s birth name, which is over one and a half times
the amount of misnaming in the second most misnaming story type, tabloid. This could be attributable, in
part, to journalists’ reliance on official police sources for information about crimes (Sacco, 1995) and the
police’s reliance, in turn, on official government identification. However, crime/murder stories also
contained the most improper past-tense references, suggesting that perhaps the issue is greater than
official sourcing patterns. Additionally, crime and murder stories are more often about transgender women
than transgender men or nonbinary transgender people (Schilt & Westbrook 2009), and in the present
study, all of the crime and murder stories in the sample were about transgender women.
Throughout the time frame of the study, transgender women were the focus of news coverage,
while nonbinary transgender people were almost completely ignored, supporting the similar conclusions of
past studies (Capuzza, 2014; Siebler, 2010; Skidmore, 2011; Squires & Brouwer, 2002; Willox, 2003). As
Siebler (2010) argued, American media insist on assigning transgender people the category of male-to-
female or female-to-male, because it is presumed in American culture that “there is [no] way to exist . . .
as a trans person without surgery and hormones” (p. 323). Therefore, nonbinary transgender people must
be ignored or, as Gerbner and Gross (1976) would put it, symbolically annihilated. Similarly, the near
invisibility of transgender men compared to transgender women signals a hierarchy of significance in
American culture that finds transgender women more shocking or intriguing; American media (both
mainstream and queer) have a long history of focusing discussions of transgenderism on discussions of
transgender women (Raz Link & Raz, 2007). Perhaps this is because, as Schilt and Westbrook (2009)
argued, the policing of gender and sexual identity is itself gendered; transgender women are more often
punished by our masculinity-centered culture for transgressing gender expectations than transgender men
are for transgressing the expectations of femininity. The larger amount of coverage is not to transgender
women’s benefit, however. In the sample, transgender women are mischaracterized more often, and they
are more frequently the targets of the most heinous forms of delegitimizing language: slurs and name-
calling, defamation, and sexualization. Considering also the work of many second-wave feminist thinkers
(e.g., Steinem, 1995), who have argued that the policing of women’s bodies precludes gender equality,
these findings have negative implications for the present and future acceptance of transgender women.
Although these most severe forms of delegitimizing language are the least frequent, they
combine with the other forms of delegitimizing language to potentially impact public perceptions of
transgenderism, particularly regarding legitimacy. As Shrum (2002) has written, when people make
judgments about other persons, they tend to use the constructs that are most readily accessible from
memory” (p. 74). The vividness of these delegitimizing representations, in that they provoke strong
emotion and evocative imagery, will be much more easily accessible (Higgins & King, 1981). There is a
particularly rich literature on the importance of accessibility to perceptions of issues discussed in news
media, which has found that vivid representations have a much higher impact on audience perceptions
than “more accurate but pallid base-rate information” (Shrum, 2002, p. 75; see Gibson & Zillmann, 1994;
Zillmann, Gibson, Sundar, & Perkins, 1996). Moreover, these representations have the potential to impact
not only public perceptions of transgenderism but transgender self-perceptions. Although there is room for
4212 Thomas J Billard International Journal of Communication 10(2016)
much more research on the topic, Ringo (2002) has shown that media influence transgender individuals’
self-identification processes, which often results in negative self-perceptions pertaining to identity.
Finally, this study represents one of few applications of Hallin’s (1986) model of spheres of
legitimacy to contexts outside of protest movements and antiwar activism. It further operationalized
legitimacy in the context of transgender coverage, identifying the “distinguishing features by which
legitimacy and deviance are conferred” (Taylor, 2014, p. 41) in a manner previous studies have not.
Analysis of the data in this study also illustrated the movement of groups and issues through these
spheres over time, which previous studies have alluded to but have not demonstrated (Taylor, 2014).
It must be noted, however, that this study has several key limitations. First, the data presented
in this study represent a snapshot of a relatively brief period of time. Particularly because of the very
recent increases and evolutions in transgender visibility in media (e.g., Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, Janet
Mock, Jazz Jennings, Carmen Carrera, Transparent), these data tell an incomplete story. For example, on
May 4, 2015, The New York Times launched “Transgender Today,” a series of editorials on the experiences
and challenges of the transgender community, greatly increasing coverage in its own pages, and likely in
the pages of many other newspapers around the countrybecause, as prior research as shown, coverage
of topics in The New York Times causes increases in coverage of those topics in other news sources
(Mazur, 1987; Ploughman, 1984; Reese & Danielian, 1989). That said, The New York Times’s increase in
coverage has not entirely meant an increase in legitimizing coverage (see Maza, 2015), so the future of
transgender news media representations remains unclear.
Additionally, legitimacy indicators 5 through 9 were found infrequently enough in the sample that
the analyses presented here cannot be assumed to be true independent of error. Likewise, because the
sample was relatively small, the results of many of the trend analyses were nonsignificant, though the
trends may be occurring.
The current study also analyzed content only from legacy print newspapers. Although legacy print
newspapers are of particular significance in the political realm, online news media and social media are
increasingly important as well (Tewksbury & Rittenberg, 2012). Moreover, local newspaper coverage is
incredibly important to the formation of social and political attitudes (Nielsen, 2015), as are television
news sources (Dixon & Williams, 2015).
Future studies should investigate the content of news media not discussed here, such as online
news media, local newspapers, television news sources, and social media. Future studies should also
expand on the present one by investigating the visual framing of transgender news coverage in both
photographs and videos accompanying text articles, building on the work of Cram (2012) and Landau
(2012). Additionally, future studies should empirically investigate the effects that transgender news
coverage has on the development of readers’/viewers’ attitudes toward transgender issues and
individuals, particularly as transgender issues are entering mainstream political debate.
International Journal of Communication 10(2016) Writing in the Margins 4213
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4218 Thomas J Billard International Journal of Communication 10(2016)
Appendix
Intercoder Reliability Scores
Code
% Agreement
Krippendorff’s α
Legitimacy indicator (LI) 1: Naming
98.4
0.94
LI 2: Pronoun usage
99.1
0.98
LI 3: Past-tense references
99.3
0.91
LI 4: Application of terms
98.8
0.95
LI 5: Characterizations of transgenderism
98.8
0.90
LI 6: Slurs and name-calling
99.3
0.95
LI 7: Defamation
99.8
0.96
LI 8: Shock tactics
98.2
0.91
LI 9: Genital focus/sexualization
99.8
0.98
... Media coverage of transsexuality has significantly increased in the last two decades in different parts of the world (Åkerlund, 2019;Billard, 2016;Olveira-Araujo, 2022). And it has not only increased its presence, but also its preeminence within journalistic texts (Olveira-Araujo, 2022). ...
... The academic literature has found empirical evidence that the media do not always respect the sexual identity of women and men in a situation of transsexuality and they also question its stability (e.g.Åkerlund, 2019; Billard, 2016;Capuzza, 2016;DeJong et al., 2021;Gupta, 2019;Osborn, 2021;Seely, 2021). The wrong body discourse (e.g. ...
... Akerlund, 2019;Bolzern et al., 2019;García, 2019) and the genitalization of the sexual identity (e.g. Billard, 2016;Capuzza, 2016Capuzza, , 2014Olveira-Araujo, 2019) are also present in the news, as well as the portrayal of transsexuality as a central axis in the lives of these people through the nominalization of this situation (e.g. Baker, 2014;Billard, 2016;Osborn, 2021;Zottola, 2018), which also leads to confuse transsexuality with a third sexual identity. Likewise, transsexuality is sometimes confused with other types of sexual diversity, such as homosexuality, bisexuality or cross-dressing (e.g. ...
Article
Media coverage of transsexuality has increased in different parts of the world. This increase reinforces its visibility, but it can also contribute to developing, reinforcing and legitimizing different attitudes, such as transphobia. In order to analyze the discursive patterns on transsexuality in the Spanish digital press during the period 2000-2020, this article has conducted a quantitative content analysis. Combining manual coding ( n = 1095) with rule-based text classification ( N = 9922), the media delegitimization to which transsexual people are subjected has been analyzed using logistic regression and multilevel analysis. The results confirm that the newsworthiness of transsexuality in Spain has increased significantly over the first two decades of the 21st century. They also indicate that the media delegitimization of transsexuality has been significantly reduced. These findings suggest a remarkable evolution in the news media coverage of transsexuality. However, improvements are still needed. Therefore, the need to continue training and sensitizing journalists is underlined.
... La diversidad sexual es noticia. Las representaciones mediáticas sobre estas realidades se han multiplicado en los últimos años, tendencia que a nivel internacional parece especialmente notoria en lo que a las identidades trans(género) se refiere (Åkerlund, 2018;Billard, 2016). Este incremento resulta relevante dado que, según la teoría de la agenda setting (McCombs, 2006), los medios de comunicación han demostrado ser capaces de moldear a largo plazo la opinión pública mediante la cualidad acumulativa de sus efectos cognitivos. ...
... Pese a las notorias diferencias entre los hechos de diversidad sexual que se integran dentro del concepto trans(género), gran parte de la literatura en Comunicación, principalmente aquella de carácter anglosajón, ha optado por su análisis genérico en los mensajes periodísticos (por ejemplo, Barker-Plummer, 2013;Billard, 2016, Capuzza, 2016. En este artículo, en cambio, se prefiere diferenciar entre las manifestaciones de diversidad sexual que integra dicho concepto. ...
... También que en la cobertura mediática de estas realidades se recurre principalmente a fuentes expertas. En cuanto a Olveira-Araujo (2019), analiza la representación de la transexualidad durante 2017 en los cibermedios El País, El Mundo, PlayGround y Vice adaptando los indicadores propuestos por Billard (2016). De esta manera, halla desde conceptualizaciones incorrectas en la representación de la transexualidad a el uso inadecuado de la terminología asociada, entre otros. ...
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Las representaciones mediáticas sobre las identidades trans(género) se han multiplicado en los últimos años. Para contribuir a la escasa literatura académica sobre travestismo en el área de Comunicación, se ha examinado mediante un análisis de contenido la cobertura mediática del asesinato de un hombre travestido en Castilla y León. Los resultados indican que la prensa continúa mezclando diferentes hechos de diversidad sexual. Asimismo, de confundir la transexualidad con el travestismo, ahora parece que se confunde el travestismo con la transexualidad. Pese a todo, también sugieren que la cobertura mediática sobre la diversidad sexual ha mejorado.
... This can be especially damaging in the cases of victims of fatal violence, who have no control over their own narratives and no opportunity to contradict offensive or misleading portrayals. While the literature on media depictions of transgender people is very limited, findings suggest that news reports continue to employ sensationalistic and objectifying stereotypes of trans people and fail to use journalistic best practices such as identity-affirming language (Billard, 2016;Capuzza, 2016). Therefore, it is useful to undertake a closer examination of the ways in which this marginalized group is portrayed in news reports of violence and to consider the potential implications of these portrayals in impacting public knowledge and opinions about trans people. ...
... News reports also frequently misgender trans people by referring to them by birth name and/or assigned sex (Billard, 2016). This practice, termed "deadnaming," is profoundly disrespectful, denying already marginalized individuals a basic measure of autonomy (Riedel, 2017). ...
... Capuzza (2014) found that recent increases in the volume of coverage of trans issues have been minimal, and journalists writing about these topics seek input from non-trans "experts" more frequently than from trans people themselves. While the number of stories containing language that delegitimizes and dismisses trans identity has decreased over time, mainstream coverage of trans issues remains extremely limited (Billard, 2016). Reporting guidelines have been updated to address the use of trans-affirming language; for example, by 2015, editorial guidelines for the Associated Press, Reuters, and the New York Times advised that reporters use names and pronouns consistent with the wishes of transgender subjects (GLAAD, 2016). ...
Article
Media portrayals of crime help shape public perceptions of victims and the demographic groups to which they belong. For transgender people, who already face heightened disparities and stigma, news coverage may reinforce negative stereotypes and minimize the wider context of transphobic violence. The present study, a content analysis of news articles (n = 316) pertaining to 27 transgender people killed in the United States in 2016, addresses positive and negative depictions of victims, use of language affirming and delegitimizing transgender identities, and framing of transphobia as a systemic problem. Themes, implications, and future research directions are discussed.
... Until the end of the twentieth century, transgender people were poorly represented in traditional mainstream media (Padva, 2008;Keegan, 2013;McInroy & Craig, 2017) while the available depictions were mostly negative and stereotypical (Cavalcante, 2013). Today, despite still being underrepresented (Billard, 2016;McInroy & Craig, 2017), an upsurge of transgender representations is notable in Western mainstream media (Keegan, 2013;McInroy & Craig, 2015;Jenzen, 2017;McInroy & Craig, 2017;GLAAD, 2019;Zamantakis & Sumerau, 2019;Vipond, 2021), whereby not only adults but also adolescents and children get the opportunity to consume content that is centered around gender diversity (Sandercock, 2015). The visibility of transgender people in mainstream popular media has notably increased in the United States with influential people such as actress Laverne Cox, tv-personality Caitlyn Jenner (Fischer, 2018;Zamantakis & Sumerau, 2019) and actor Elliot Page (Verstraete, 2020), helping this visibility. ...
... As such, characters in drag are laughed at and using wrong pronouns is considered to be a joke (Jobe, 2013). Billard (2016) nevertheless showed that using someone's correct name and pronouns and applying proper terms to refer to trans people in media, increasingly legitimizes trans individuals; in contrast to name-calling them and using incorrect pronouns, which delegitimizes them. Media furthermore tend to portray transgender persons in stereotypical roles (GLAAD, 2012;Cavalcante, 2013;Jobe, 2013) such as 'the psycho-trans', the victim, or the traitor (Cavalcante, 2013). ...
Article
After having been largely ignored, people with a trans*gender identity are increasingly represented in mainstream film and television. Hitherto, only little research on the perspectives of trans persons themselves exists; and therefore this article explores how Belgian transgender persons assess the recurring and contemporary media depictions of trans persons. Based on semi-structured in-depth interviews with transgender persons with ages ranging from eighteen to seventy years old (N=13), we found that the participants appreciated the increased visibility of trans persons and themes in media but noted that trans men and nonbinary persons are still rarely represented. In general, respondents expressed fairly satisfied sentiments with regard to representations that they perceived as realistic, especially in non-fictional and infotainment programs. Nevertheless, they also argued that media tend to focus too much on the physical body of a transgender person and depict a complete physical transition as a precondition to fully fit into society.
... Este continuum de violencias que comienza desde el hogar incluye la mirada de los medios de comunicación, quienes de acuerdo a Parrini y Brito (2012) han fungido como archivo de esta violencia y como ideología, bajo relatos sensibles a las transformaciones históricas del estatus de los colectivos LGBTI+, pero que reproducen tenazmente los estereotipos y prejuicios sobre ellos. Distintos textos hacen alusión a la cobertura que los medios de comunicación realizan sobre este fenómeno, destacan que habitualmente los relatos mediáticos describen, estigmatizan, malgenerizan y culpan a las mujeres trans de sus propias muertes, pues ubican como causa primaria de la violencia la confusión o la pérdida de razón por parte de los perpetradores (Schilt y Westbrook, 2009;Parrini y Brito, 2012;Billard, 2016). De esta forma, la trivialización de la vida y la muerte de las personas transgénero en la prensa contribuye a perpetuar formas sistémicas de violencia que privan a la comunidad transgénero de sus derechos (Billard, 2016), pues lejos de evidenciar las razones de género y la trama de violencia e impunidad que facilitan sus muertes, se abona a la transfobia. ...
... Distintos textos hacen alusión a la cobertura que los medios de comunicación realizan sobre este fenómeno, destacan que habitualmente los relatos mediáticos describen, estigmatizan, malgenerizan y culpan a las mujeres trans de sus propias muertes, pues ubican como causa primaria de la violencia la confusión o la pérdida de razón por parte de los perpetradores (Schilt y Westbrook, 2009;Parrini y Brito, 2012;Billard, 2016). De esta forma, la trivialización de la vida y la muerte de las personas transgénero en la prensa contribuye a perpetuar formas sistémicas de violencia que privan a la comunidad transgénero de sus derechos (Billard, 2016), pues lejos de evidenciar las razones de género y la trama de violencia e impunidad que facilitan sus muertes, se abona a la transfobia. ...
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Desde la teoría del framing, se ha analizado el tratamiento mediático del transfeminicidio realizado por los portales digitales de cuatro medios mexicanos: El Universal, La Jornada, Milenio Diario y Reforma. La detección y caracterización de los encuadres noticiosos se ha hecho de manera inductiva mediante el método mixto propuesto por Amparo Moreno Sardà, que conserva la perspectiva cuantitativa tradicional del análisis de contenido y evaluaciones cualitativas. Esta metodología deja como hallazgos notables la existencia de una mirada informativa androcéntrica que ubica a las mujeres trans en una posición de inferioridad, y el uso predominante de encuadres que deshumanizan a las víctimas y relativizan el continuum de violencia que padecen.
... Their representation in political institutions and many other walks of life do not get attention due to their limited number and fewer employment opportunities. Sadly, most transgender community members make their living through beggary or dancing (Khan, 2017, Sultana and Kalyani 2012, Shah et al. 2018.. Transgender community is one of the most vulnerable communities in the world facing massive discrimination yet in South Asian countries, these discriminatory practices have been more frequent and prevalent (Ramay 2017, Billard 2016. Transgender is one of the most vulnerable communities in the world facing massive discrimination. ...
... Moreover, it also comes to notice that most media has representation bias towards the transgender community, focusing on promoting their stereotypical image (Awan, 2018). Likewise, Billard (2016) and Arune (2006) observe that media portray transgender people as criminals or the individuals of the society that are more active in certain c rimes like drug circulation and addiction, sex work, human trafficking, and prostitution. Among the criminal categories under which the transgender community discussed, the highest figure of 40.5 % was noted under the prohibited category prostitution (Asghar, 2018). ...
Article
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Transgender people are the most overlooked and deprived communities globally, especially in a conservative society like Pakistan. Although the government of Pakistan has passed specific laws to impart equal rights to transgender community, peoples; conceptions about transgender remain unchanged. The literature shows mush less attention has been provided to transgender participation and media representation in the political affairs of democratic Pakistan. The purpose of this study is to explore the media presentation of the political involvement of transgender community in Pakistani political sphere. Using news stories data of the daily Dawn (elite English Liberal newspaper) and the daily Jung (elite Urdu newspaper) from January to July 2018 and applying content analysis applying the lens of framing theory, the authors empirically investigate transgender community's political representation in the elite print media of Pakistan. The authors find that the media treatment of transgender people profoundly influences peoples' thoughts and perceptions about them. Media treat transgender people as abnormal with no space to become equal citizens with usual participation in every walk of life especially the political life and participation in political affairs of the country. The paper fills the gap in the research literature by providing insight on the social and political status of transgender in Pakistani media which is fairly marginalized. Media in Pakistan is adding to the marginalization of the vulnerable transgender community. This work would also guide Pakistani media to improve reporting quality for transgender community of Pakistan.
... In the media, many studies have underlined the necessity of an effort towards a more inclusive representational characterization. In the press, misgendering, sexualisation, and medicalization have been identified as some of the most frequent patters used to represent trans people (Baker, 2014;Billard, 2016;Capuzza, 2015;Gupta, 2019;Zottola, 2021). On TV and in the cinema, the presence of transgender characters or the narration of trans stories has increased sensibly (Capuzza & Spencer, 2016;Leung, 2016;Poole, 2017;Zottola, 2021). ...
Article
Transsexuality has found a place in both the Spanish collective mindset and media. To analyze the portrayal of this type of sexual diversity in the media, we evaluated its presence in cybermedia, its preeminence in journalistic texts, and the issues addressed in its media coverage. A quantitative content analysis (N = 24,363) of the journalistic texts published during the period 2000–2020 by 13 generalist Spanish cybermedia was carried out, using both rule-based classification and unsupervised topic modeling. The results highlight an increase in journalistic texts about transsexuality, in which three inflection points and four phases or distribution changes can be distinguished. The preeminence of this topic within the analyzed pieces has also increased, and the issues covered have diversified over the years. Overall, these data confirm the newsworthiness that this type of sexual diversity achieved throughout the first two decades of the twenty-first century. Media attention especially highlights the newsworthiness of aspects such as conflict, the protagonist’s notoriety, or periodicity through anniversary journalism. Likewise, the results also suggest that the media offer an increasingly complex portrayal that favors both the visibility and the understanding of the different dimensions and characteristics that intersect in these realities. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [Resumen La transexualidad se ha hecho un hueco en el imaginario colectivo español y también en los medios de comunicación. Con el objetivo de analizar la representación mediática de este hecho de diversidad sexual se ha analizado su presencia en los cibermedios, su preeminencia en los textos periodísticos y los asuntos que conforman su cobertura mediática. Para ello se ha realizado un análisis de contenido cuantitativo (N = 24.363) de los textos periodísticos publicados durante el período 2000-2020 por trece cibermedios generalistas españoles, recurriendo tanto a la clasificación de textos mediante un sistema de reglas como al modelado de temas no supervisado. Los resultados apuntan a un incremento de los textos periodísticos sobre la transexualidad, en el que se han distinguido tres puntos de inflexión y cuatro fases o cambios de distribución. Su protagonismo dentro de las piezas analizadas también ha aumentado y los asuntos se han ido diversificando con el paso de los años. En conjunto, estos datos dejan constancia de la noticiabilidad que ha adquirido este hecho de diversidad sexual a lo largo de las dos primeras décadas del siglo XXI, en cuya atención mediática destacan valores-noticia como el conflicto entre las partes, la notoriedad de los protagonistas o la periodicidad a través del periodismo de aniversario. También sugieren que los medios de comunicación ofrecen cada vez una representación más compleja que favorece tanto la visibilización como la comprensión de las diferentes dimensiones y características que interseccionan en estas realidades.]
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In this article we explore how anti-feminist and cisgenderist media logics are intertwined, particularly in the context of sports media. We examine these issues through focused analysis of a recent case reported in 2018–2019 predominantly in the British media. The sequential unfolding of media events surrounding Martina Navratilova’s intervention into the debate about trans inclusion in the female sporting category is explored with regard to key markers in the case study: @Martina intervenes; Self-censorship and loss of control; Legitimisation by status; Legitimisation by history; and Privileging and disciplining women in the media. As a prominent feminist and lesbian activist who asserted cisgenderist arguments on this topic, the events of the Navratilova case study show how feminist voices are complexly fragmented. Moreover, we demonstrate too how feminist perspectives are controlled by a media system that uses them in the substantiation of cisgenderist projects of discrediting trans athletes and actors.
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This study empirically investigated the invisibility, or symbolic annihilation, in Japanese English education of social groups at risk of marginalization. To do so, I assembled a corpus of 3746 English teaching materials selected because they involved world social group representation and because they were disseminated through the JET Program, a Japanese government initiative intended to promote internationalization and interculturalism in schools across Japan. Corpus analysis indicated various forms of symbolic annihilation. Most broadly, the world was portrayed as a dichotomy between Japan and countries of the Kachruvian Inner Circle. Europe was of secondary prominence while other regions were poorly represented. These materials reflected Christonormativity as well with adherents to other religions being symbolically annihilated. The visibility of those other than Anglos and Japanese was likewise highly attenuated. Stereotypes equating ethnicity and nationality were prevalent with Inner Circle dialog characters, for example, rarely having non-Anglo names. Not only did this corpus thus evidence lingering Inner Circle-centrism, but this was a Christonormative, white, Anglo, Inner Circle/Euro-centric imaginary. These results thus evinced a hidden curriculum reinscribing stereotypes and regimes of social power, one working at cross purposes to the stated purpose of the JET Program as promoting internationalization and interculturalism. Keywords: Christonormativity; Colorism; Hidden Curriculum; Internationalization; Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme; Symbolic Annihilation
Book
Tabloid, Inc. provides the first extended study of the rich exchange between New York’s tabloid press and other narrative frames, including Hollywood crime film, museum exhibits, and hard-boiled fiction. Armed with hard-to-find early issues of the New York Daily News, the New York Daily Mirror, and the Evening Graphic, V. Penelope Pelizzon and Nancy M. West trace crime stories from the late 1920s through the 1940s across often-contentious borders between different narrative sites. Rather than dismissing the early tabloids as fodder for "gutter vamps and backyard sheiks," as one critic called them, the authors treat these papers as distinctive literary venues typified by extreme flexibility in storytelling. The papers’ historically denigrated social status prompts the authors to study what they call "narrative mobility"-the process by which a story, in transiting from one medium, genre, or mode to another, reveals the underlying class boundaries that circumscribe that movement. Combining narrative theory with cultural, literary, and film studies, Tabloid, Inc. marshals a wealth of little-seen archival material that includes not only the pages of the tabloids themselves but also Hollywood press books, studio correspondence, and fabulous though now-forgotten movies.
Chapter
Born 1929 in Landsburg an der Warthe, Germany, today Polish Gor- zow Wielkopolski, Christa Wolf has been one of the most influential figures in German literature since 1961. The reunification of the two Germanies in 1990 entailed a marginalization of Wolf and her fellow East German writers in that many of them felt they had been “exiledV201D; or “colonized” by the West. During the Literaturstreit (literature battle), West German critics and intellectuals, in turn, debated the question whether or not East German writers could still be considered artists at a time when their point of reference, the East German state, no longer existed. In an attempt to deal with the many allegations and accusations against her work and her person, Wolf embarked on a voluntary and temporary “exile” in the United States, where much work was done on her first major “post-reunification” novel, Medea (1996; English translation 1998). The text features the author’s usual writerly concerns involving relationships between past and present, men and women, individual and society, and so on in a retelling of Euripides’s tragedy. Wolf presents a modernized) Medea who becomes comprehensible as woman, as victim, and as outsider. Wolf’s Medea attains new meaning in the context of political oppression in general and the former East German regime in particular.