Transgender TV Characters May Impact Audience Attitudes

Posted on August 17, 2017

A new study from the University of Southern California (USC), Annenberg has found that watching a fictional show with transgender characters tend to lead to more positive attitudes towards transgender people and policies affecting transgender people. Fictional TV characters had greater influence on attitudes than real-life transgender issues or people in the news.

The researchers asked 488 regular viewers of the show “Royal Pains” about their attitudes towards transgender people and related policies. Out of these regular viewers, 391 of them had seen a particular episode of the show which featured a transgender character, played by a transgender activist. More positive attitudes for transgender people and policies, like the use of restrooms that corresponds with the gender the individual identifies with, were found from these viewers.

The fictional TV episode had a greater influence than real-life news. Transgender issues and Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, which was in the news during the study period, had no impact on attitudes. In fact, the more viewers watched TV shows featuring transgender characters, the more positive their attitudes were towards transgender people and issues.

The results suggest that increasing transgender characters in mainstream media can influence perceptions from the public about transgender issues and people. Senior Research Associate Erica Rosenthal suggests that watching shows with transgender characters who are relatable or inspire hope breaks down biases in a way that is different from actual news events.

Category(s):LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender) Issues

Source material from Psych Central