Melissa Michelson and Brian Harrison, co-authors of the book Listen, We Need to Talk: How to Change Attitudes about LGBT Rights (Oxford University Press, 2017), which focused on how people came to change their minds about same-sex marriage and LGBT rights, examine their thesis from the previous research to determine if it is applicable to transgender rights as well. What they find is that they need to look at a different kind of framework to engage individuals who are opposed to transgender rights in order to shift that thinking and provide an opening to changing hearts and minds (which is also part of the thrust of Brian Harrison’s 2020 book, A Change is Gonna Come: How to Have Effective Political Conversations in a Divided America, Oxford University Press, 2020). Transforming Prejudice: Identity, Fear, and Transgender Rights (Oxford UP, 2020) focuses on transgender and gender non-conforming rights and how American society has responded and is responding to this subsequent wave of advocacy for the rights of those within this community. Harrison and Michelson’s research indicates that people understand marriage and gender identity in very different ways, and this discrepancy is what led them to reconsider the kind of theoretical framework necessary to move towards rights advocacy for those in the gender non-conforming and transgender community. The book employed a number of different research methods to distinguish what might move people towards being more open to transgender rights. Transforming Prejudice develops the theory of gender identity reassurance as the optimal means to open up the space to changing minds, helping individuals become less afraid and more accepting of the gender non-conforming/transgender community. This is a fascinating and important analysis that also helps guide activism while contributing to political science and social movement scholarship.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI.