I remember when Caitlyn Jenner was all in the news and media. Most of us thought that this would be good for the transgender community, someone in the spotlight, someone famous showing us all that transgender people are part of our society. Well, maybe we were wrong.
The news doesn’t significantly influence public perceptions of trans people, but TV characters do. That’s the core finding of a USC Annenberg study recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Sex Roles.
For the study, individuals watched Royal Pains, a USA Network series that featured a transgender teenager in a June 2015 episode. After viewing the episode, participants reported having a more positive attitude toward trans people and trans policies, like trans students’ access to the bathroom that correlates with their gender identity.
We're not sure if this is part of the episode used in the study, but here is a clip from Royal Pains that aired in June of 2015
Results also showed that television viewers were also more likely to respond with supportive attitudes based on the number of shows they saw that featured trans characters, such as Transparent or Orange Is the New Black. And if viewers did watch two or more television shows that incorporated trans characters breaks down ideologies by half.
- Royal Pains viewers who saw the storyline had more positive attitudes toward transgender people and related policies.
- The more shows with transgender characters viewers saw, the more positive their attitudes toward transgender people and policies.
- Neither exposure to transgender stories in the news nor the Caitlyn Jenner story affected attitudes.
- Exposure to two or more transgender storylines reduced the influence of political ideology on attitudes toward transgender people by half.
- Political ideology influenced responses to the Royal Pains storyline, such as identification with the transgender character and feelings of hope and disgust.
News stories involving transgender individuals do not have the same results. There's just brief snippets and no time to understand and relate to the individual.
Even though her coming out and gender transitioning was a major news story during summer of 2015, Caitlyn Jenner’s transition did not sway participants in the research one way or the other, Even if there was just one single episode appearances or a small story arcs present in an episode, that has an impact in trans acceptance, much more than a news story.
“Our study shows the power of entertainment narratives to influence viewers’ attitudes toward transgender people and policy issues." lead author Traci Gillig said.
Next time someone states that there should be more transgender actors and stories in television, now you can say why.
And we know that Caitlyn Jenner has had an effect on the community, the world. If her fight, if the news about her has helped one person come forwad and be authentic and real to themselves and those around them, then her battle and the meia surrounding her has been worth it. She as well seems happy.
There's no doubt that Laverne Cox is one of the more recognized trans entertainers in the world. Her presence on television and in the media cannot be ignored. We're always hungry for more. She was recently on an episode of America's Got Talent. Bravo NBC for putting Laverne front and center (Bravo pun intended). When I saw that she was going to be on, I wondered how the contestants would react.
When little Celine finished her song (watch the whole thing below) and had the exchange with Cox, saying "Thank you! You're so beautiful, too," I was moved. I think I was more moved by that posiive interaction than when the girl received Laverne's golden buzzer nod.
Someone's parents are doing something right!
Have you watched any shows with trans characters or story lines?
What has been the best representation you have seen?
Has it helped you understand more about who we all are?
Why didn't the study use episodes of "I AM CAIT" in its research?