Anti-Transgender Rhetoric and Internet Commenting

Jacob Vargas & Alexander Farquhar-Leicester Author
09/17/2020 Added
59 Plays


Transgender and gender-diverse (TGD) people face prejudice, which is associated with psychological distress (Tebbe and Moradi, 2016). This study seeks to identify the arguments used to de-legitimize TGD identities online. Researchers will conduct a thematic analysis of anti-transgender comments on transgender-related articles taken from the Fox News, Buzzfeed, and The Hill websites. We chose to analyze article comments because a) users can edit comments, allowing them to articulate their meaning without the pressure of social interaction, b) the intentionality of aligning oneself with specific ideologies reveals attitudes, and c) anonymity and lack of consequences encourages honesty. A random number generator will be used to select articles published prior to the 2016 presidential election. Researchers will sort the comments from oldest to newest and select approximately 25 prejudiced comments from each article. The same number of prejudiced comments will be taken from each site despite the number of articles used—166 per site for a total of 500. A commenter exhibits anti-transgender prejudice if they use language expressing negative affect (e.g., aversion) explicitly or implicitly toward TGD people. Lacking an a priori theory, we will use reflexive thematic analysis to analyze the data: it proceeds step-by-step, allows for an iterative process and so limits researcher bias, and systematically allows themes to emerge (Braun and Clarke, 2006). Examples of anticipated themes include gender essentialism (e.g., “Gender is biological”), and the belief that transgenderism is a mental illness (e.g., “Transgender people need therapy”). Much literature on anti-transgender prejudice relies on self-report and so is prone to socially desirable responding (Gerhardstein & Anderson, 2010). This study is innovative in its analysis of public comments that reflect anti-transgender sentiment and also shape societal rhetoric on TGD identities. We will present preliminary study findings as they relate to identifying misconceptions surrounding transgender communities and priorities for educational initiatives.

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