Academic journal article Gender Forum

"I Think Journalists Sometimes Forget That We're Just People": Analysing the Effects of UK Trans Media Representation on Trans Audiences

Academic journal article Gender Forum

"I Think Journalists Sometimes Forget That We're Just People": Analysing the Effects of UK Trans Media Representation on Trans Audiences

Article excerpt

1Local and national newspapers in the UK frequently produce content considering trans subjects. The aim of this paper is to analyse the effects that trans representation in UK newspapers has on trans audiences. The impact of this coverage on trans audiences is sought from interviews with self-defining trans people because they are the experts on the ways newspaper reporting affects their lives. The data comes from online interviews and online focus groups. The questions and prompts for these interviews were influenced by a preliminary analysis of trans newspaper coverage over one year to consider emerging patterns. The time frame also allowed for articles to be in the recent memory of participants. These interviews are considered in the context of literature on trans studies, the media and gender theory.

2The UK newspaper industry operates in a news environment increasingly located on digital platforms. Additionally, this industry has been subject to scrutiny in recent years over journalistic practice and methods of holding newspapers to account such as the Editors Code of Practice and the Press Complaint Commission (PCC), now the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). Trans media representation was considered within the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press but academic scholarship on trans media representation remains lacking. In a post-Leveson environment one year after the launch of IPSO it is an opportune moment to consider trans media representation and its relationship with trans audiences. Trans community organisations have produced important work in this area which will be considered - for instance the work of Trans Media Watch (TMW) documented the treatment of trans lives in UK newspapers and submitted evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. TMW and All About Trans work with the newspaper industry to address the problematic coverage of trans subjects. Academic research in this area will allow these important experiences to be considered from a sociological standpoint.

Literature

3Work has been done on trans lives but experiences of healthcare dominate. There is some notable research outside of health experiences but little focus on the media (Beemyn and Rankin; Girshick; Hines, TransForming). Girshick suggests the media "establish[es] acceptable gender behaviours and exaggerate[s] gender roles" (38) which suggests the media has a policing role whilst simultaneously exaggerating gender practices so genders presented as ideals are removed from real experiences. However, not all media representations of trans people have negative consequences. Beemyn and Rankin suggest social media and increased news coverage can benefit young people questioning their gender (Beemyn and Rankin). The increasing representation of trans lives in the media can lead to increased participation in academic research. Hines analysis of research participation found a desire to increase awareness of trans lives and hypothesises this is because "representation of transgender people - especially in popular media and journalism - was associated with misconceptions of 'who' transgender people 'were' and, in turn, to discrimination" (Hines, TransForming 200).

4Despite considerations of some research of the importance of trans media, there has been little specific work on trans media representation or trans audiences' reception. Work that has been done repeatedly found patterns of misrepresentation of trans identities. Oram's book on early twentieth century newspaper coverage of trans people in the UK finds use of shock and the "sensation factor" (Oram 13). In Oram's research to be trans is to be newsworthy but the news sought is evidence of sex assigned at birth. Oram notes significant use of "masquerade" as a descriptor for those that pass in everyday life which is contrasted with the use of "impersonator" for stage performers' crossdressing (4). Later work on trans representation in the media continues to find frequent sensationalism and othering. …

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