The article examines the media coverage of transgender discourse in the Anglo-Saxon mass-media. The British and the American mass-media are chosen as a source of material for analysis on the ground of the fact that they release the news promptly, track all the latest events, are ahead of all the news. The methods of observation, comparison and description, discursive, linguistic and pragmatic, linguistic and cultural, contextual analysis are used while studying the linguistic representation of transgender discourse in a broad social context. The investigation of the empiric material shows that a great number of terms is used to describe people whose biological sex doesn’t coincide with their gender identity. The situation with transgender problems in the society and their media representation may be described as children transgender revolution. There are also adversaries of this phenomenon who advocate the anti-transgender ideas. They are accused of transphobia but what they really want is to prohibit performing transgender operations to children of a very young age. The reason of that may be seen in the society’s attitude towards sex and gender. In today’s world with the abundance of social networks the very idea of gender is levelled and turned off. The social networks’ users may not announce their gender and very often the gender of their peers remains anonymous. The conclusion is made that it’s up to the school, parents and social services help children find the right balance between accepting who you really are and your gender identity.
Keywords: Mass-mediatransgender discoursegender identitychildren transgender revolutiontransphobiaanti-transgender discourse
In spite of the urgent and topical character of transgender discourse problem there is still a paucity of studies which examine the issue of media coverage of this type of social practice. Meanwhile, linguistic characteristics are not less important when the society deals with a new kind of speech and language. According to Cheshire (1984), “changes that take place in society are reflected in language, though language change tends to lag behind social change” (p. 45). Mass-media discourse can handle that variety of speech interaction which registers and describes the social changes taking place at this or that cultural and national community. Firoozi, Mostafaye, & Khaledian (2014) espouse that “mass media has played a significant strategic role in expanding mass communication, facilitating the transfer of information and awareness, strengthening socio-political sociability processes, enhancing thinking” (p. 30). Nowadays mass-media serve a firm ground for creating and transferring social information; they form a public opinion about civil events; enhance awareness about changes taking place in the society.
Social changes which have been mentioned above have given rise to a new type of linguistics which was formed as a result of tolerance and decrease of discrimination towards homosexuality and non-cisgender, i.e. LGBTQ linguistics (queer linguistics, lavender linguistics). The main aim of queer linguistics is “the reconceptualisation of dominant discourses which shape our understanding of gender and sexuality, often to the detriment of people who, for various reasons, are judged as not meeting the heteronormative ideal” (Motschenbacher & Stegu, 2013, p. 520). The term
The scope of research questions of the present study is connected with the application sphere of the methods and methodology of mass-media description in the broad social and extra-linguistic context. Mass-media perform various functions in the society, one of which is that they are “an important stimulant in encouraging and developing of education and human behavior, culture and style of living” (Koceva & Mirascieva, 2018, p. 60). Mass-media form and shape public opinion on social, political, economic, educational, cultural issues possessing a wide range of instruments to influence the target audience. The first tool with the help of which the mass-media form and shape the public opinion is informing the audience of the events which have already taken place or will happen in the future. The second tool which lets the mass-media form and shape the public opinion is the interaction which is possible due to the correlation of semantic positions of the addresser and the addressee. The third tool is the interpretation which is closely connected with the information: by informing the interlocutor or target audience about something, influencing them in one way or another, the participants in the process of communication at the same time give an assessment of the events that take place, that is, they analyze certain actions, phenomena, personalities, relying on the concepts of “good” and “bad”. The fourth tool is the evaluation: assessment from the moral and ethical point of view the situation in a country or in the world, as well as the actions of associates or opponents, is one of the main functions of a mass-media discourse. The fifth tool which allows the mass-media form and shape the public opinion is the manipulation which consists in the suggestive usage of language; deliberate appliance of such its properties that provoke play with meanings, uncritical perception of a speech message, creation of a corresponding emotional state of the target audience and effective influence on the information consumer. The above-mentioned tools demonstrate their potential to their fullest extent in the transgender discourse, the most controversial and socially vulnerable type of interaction.
Purpose of the Study
The aim of the study is to analyze the mass-media coverage of the transgender discourse revealing its typical and specific features. These features are determined by a broad social context and non-linguistic environment. The articles from the Anglo-Saxon mass-media serve as the material for analysis. The Anglo-Saxon media include any material published in English. The USA and countries of Western Europe have a special influence because the Anglo-Saxon model of journalism was compiled precisely on the basis of the experience of these two “powers”. Both the US and Europe advocate freedom of media, speech, information; democratization of all spheres of human life, which bribes the reader from the very beginning, since he trusts these sources. The status of the American and British mass-media, as well as the status of the countries themselves, is at a high level. Initially, since the materials are published in English, which is very prestigious nowadays, the Anglo-Saxon media are elevated against other mass-media means. Society tends to believe Anglo-Saxon mass-media because they trust the information presented by them. And it is also the Anglo-Saxon media that release the news promptly, tracking all the latest events, being ahead of all the news.
The empiric material determines the choice of the methods used for the analysis of the speech data. The selection of the material was carried out with the help of the methods of observation, comparison and description. The evaluation of the semantic, communicative and pragmatic peculiarities of the material under study was performed with the help of the methods of discursive, linguistic and pragmatic, linguistic and cultural, contextual analysis.
The first and foremost thing for common people is to comprehend the variety of terms which are used to describe gender identity. The American journal
Whereas the article
In this example we come across several terms used in the context of transgender discourse:
The question of gender-neutral bathrooms is just one of the topics to be discussed in connection with the transgender discourse. The latter encompasses a wide range of problems the most essential of which is the issue of the “other” when your identity doesn’t coincide with your physical gender, when you feel different from your peers, when you don’t possess enough means to express your gender perception.
In this case it’s very important to listen to the voices who, if it’s possible to put it in this way, represent the transgender discourse. The article under review represents the stories of 12 young boys and girls who speak about their gender identity.
Thus, the question of gender identity is the vital issue especially for those who find themselves at an age between a child and an adult. Gender identity is closely connected with gender socialization and gender expression. Gender socialization describes the behavior which is considered appropriate for a given sex. Gender expression is how a person expresses his gender identity, e.g. through clothes, appearance and behavior. In the context of gender socialization and gender expression the topic of gender-dysphoric children is pushed on the agenda. The article under the title
The article runs about the vital role of pediatricians for gender-nonconforming people who are at a high risk of depression and suicide.
Geographical factor also influences the quality of gender-dysphoric children’s treatment.
In general, the overall tone of mass-media publications can be described as the one advocating “children transgender revolution”. Mass-media form a positive image of the families where children change their gender at four years already. But still there are those who oppose the idea of performing transgender operations to children of a very young age. The British newspaper
The movement which protects the rights of the children in the matters of changing their biological sex got the name anti-transgender campaign. One of the heads of this campaign is Jeffrey Younger. He fights with his ex-wife who makes their son, aged 6, live as a transgender girl. The American conservative media company
It is a vivid example of confronting not only a family member by the whole propaganda system which is able to “destroy” anyone who disagrees with it. Mario Lopez, an American actor and entertainment journalist, is one more person who suffered from this propaganda machine. On July 31, 2019
Mario Lopez was really under attack after his utterances, he nearly lost his job, he was boycotted by his colleagues and accused of transphobia. The latter is defined as a negative attitude or feeling toward transgender or transsexual people. The media representation of this social phenomenon could become the subject of scientific research in a separate paper.
Thus, the analysis of the media coverage of transgender discourse lets us come to the following conclusions. The mass-media give the readers an excellent opportunity to get a full picture of transgender problems which are inseparable from a broad social context and their linguistic representation. A great number of terms is used to describe people whose biological sex doesn’t coincide with their gender identity. Gender identity is closely connected with gender socialization and gender expression. Children transgender revolution is thoroughly covered by the Anglo-Saxon mass-media, sometimes even the problem is exaggerated. Those who advocate the so-called ‘anti-transgender’ campaign are attacked and boycotted. The reason of that may be seen in the society’s attitude towards sex and gender. In today’s world with the abundance of social networks the very idea of gender is levelled and turned off. The social networks’ users may not announce their gender and very often the gender of their peers remains anonymous. Such a wide coverage of transgender discourse in the mass-media serves as a kind of compensation for lacking social gender identity. The role of school, parents, social services in this case is to help children find the right balance between knowing who you are and accepting your real gender identity.
- Balteiro, I. (2015). Social changes reflected in specialized languages: lexical re-/deconstruction in Lesbian Studies. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 173, 307-311.
- Cambridge Dictionary (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/label
- Chasmar, J. (2019). Mario Lopez under Fire for Trans Kids Comments: ‘I Just Think about the Repercussions Later On’. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/jul/31/mario-lopez-under-fire-for-trans-kids-comments-i-j/
- Cheshire, J. (1984). The relationship between sex and language in English. In Applied Sociolinguistics. (pp. 32-49). London: Academic Press.
- Fetters, A. (2018, June 26). Many Pediatricians Don’t Know How to Handle Gender-Dysphoric Kids. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/06/pediatricians-gender-dysphoria-knowledge/563630/
- Firoozi, H., Mostafaye, F., & Khaledian, M. (2014). The strategic role of the mass media in strengthening the discourse of moderation and rationality. International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, 25, 26-32.
- Greco, L. (2012). Production, circulation and deconstruction of gender norms in LGBTQ speech practices. Discourse Studies, 14(5), 567–585.
- Koceva, D., & Mirascieva, S. (2018). From mass-media and culture to mass society. Balkan Social Science Review, 12, 59-71.
- Motschenbacher, H., & Stegu, M. (2013). Queer Linguistic approaches to Discourse. Discourse and Society, 24(4), 519-535.
- Steinmetz, K. (2014, February 14). A Comprehensive Guide to Facebook’s New Options for Gender Identity. Retrieved from http://techland.time.com/2014/02/14/a-comprehensive-guide-to-facebooks-new-options-for-gender-identity/
- Steinmetz, K. (2017, March 16). Beyond ‘He’ or ‘She’: the Changing Meaning of Gender and Sexuality. Retrieved from https://time.com/4703309/gender-sexuality-changing/
- Tominey, C. (2019, March 7). NHS Transgender Clinic accused of covering negative impacts of Puberty Blockers on Children by Oxford Professor. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/03/07/nhs-transgender-clinic-accused-covering-negative-impacts-puberty/
- Urbanski, D. (2019, January 30). Texas Dad’s Update on Nightmare Custody Fight with Ex-Wife who Makes Their Son, 6, Live as a Transgender Girl. Retrieved from https://www.theblaze.com/news/texas-dads-update-on-nightmare-custody-battle-with-ex-wife-who-insists-their-son-6-is-transgender-girl
- Zottola, A. (2018). Narrating Transgender Identities: A Linguistic Perspective, PIJ, 3(1/2), 51-52.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
About this article
20 April 2020
Print ISBN (optional)
Discourse analysis, translation, linguistics, interpretation, cognition, cognitive psychology
Cite this article as:
Koshkarova, N. N., Polyakova, L. S., & Tomberg, O. V. (2020). Media Coverage Of Transgender Discourse. In A. Pavlova (Ed.), Philological Readings, vol 83. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 350-357). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.04.02.38