"I think journalists sometimes forget that we’re just people”: Analysing the Effects of UK Trans Media Representation on Trans Audiences

Rhi Humphrey*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The increased focus on trans lives across a variety of media has brought to light the difficult relationship between trans audiences of this media and the content produced about trans people. The print and digital content of newspapers is an important site for investigation because it can be readily accessed and shared quickly across a variety of platforms and there is a significant volume of content produced about trans people. In order to critically engage with the content produced about trans people in UK newspapers the views of trans audiences are important to assess the impact this media has on their daily lives. Academic work addressing trans lived experiences has been invaluable in understanding healthcare and relationships (Girshick, 2008; Hines, 2007) but there has been comparatively little specific work on trans media representation. The work that has been done found patterns of misrepresentation of trans identities (Kermode and TMW, 2010). This notable absence presents a potential barrier to understanding the ways in which trans media coverage impacts trans lives. With qualitative interviews at the centre of this research methodology, this paper considers trans representation in UK newspapers and analyses the effects on trans audiences. Interviews and focus groups were conducted online with self-defining trans people as experts on the ways newspaper reporting affects their lives. Online methods are useful for media reception research because of the amount of media consumption that occurs online. In the specific case of trans audiences online methods become necessary as a means to work with harder-to-reach communities with concerns about participating in research. The questions asked of trans audiences were influenced by a critical discourse analysis of trans coverage in UK newspapers over the period of one year to provide a snapshot of content. This initial search also provided example articles. During this period the newspaper complaints body issued guidelines on trans reporting so questions on the effectiveness of these were also asked. Participants were interviewed online across online focus group and instant message software. The findings that emerged from interviews revealed newspapers repeatedly influenced daily lives especially in relation to transphobia, misgendering and misrepresentation which were highlighted frequently. Some participants focused on the sensationalist nature of reporting which led to feelings of othering, whereas others were more focused on opportunities for resistance to the tropes about trans people produced. This paper considers these interviews in the current context in which they are produced and the wider discourse of trans media representation to address the impact this media has on trans audiences. By critically reflecting on the ways trans newspaper coverage affects trans audiences, this paper offers a unique and community influenced perspective that seeks different trans media representation that does not cause harm for trans readers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-43
Number of pages20
JournalGender Forum
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


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