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Media Coverage of Transgender Policy in Military

Arthur, D. C., Pollock, G., Steinman, A. M., Frank, N., Mazur, D. H., & Belkin, A. (2020). DoD’s transgender ban has harmed military readiness. Palm Center. 

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The study by Arthur et al. (2020) was one of the first scholarly studies undertaken to investigate the impact of the ban on transgender service in the military. The authors used several research methods to achieve their research aim. They conducted 16 in-depth interviews and an online survey of 97 transgender service members, analyzed demographic and related data, performed a review of scholarly literature, and carried out a search of the relevant media content. The focus of their research was the impact of the ban on the readiness of the US military, which is determined by seven categories: recruitment, reputation, retention, unit cohesion, morale, medical care, and discipline. The authors came to the conclusion that the ban negatively affected all the stated elements of military readiness. In particular, it shrank the recruiting pool, damaged the military’s reputation, harmed retention by stigmatizing transgender individuals, decreased the morale of transgender service members, denied transgender individuals medical care, and undermined discipline.

The source is useful for the proposed study because one of the research methods applied by the authors is the analysis of media content related to the ban on transgender military service. The authors analyzed 218 English-language media articles found in the Nexis Uni database. The findings of their search, as well as their research strategy, can be of great use for the proposed study. The results of their media search revealed that mainstream media opposed the ban imposed by the Trump administration. Moreover, the researchers found that even Republican outlets denounced the prohibition of transgender military service. The authors avoided bias in the representation of their results: they did not exclude findings that contradicted their hypothesis that the ban had a negative impact on military readiness.

Borja, T. (2018). Teaching case: Transgender sailors, leadership challenges, and ethical dilemmas (Publication No. AD1059763) [Technical report, Master’s thesis, Naval Postgraduate School]. Defense Technical Information Center.

In this report, Borja (2018) provides a teaching case for educating leaders of the US Navy about how they should deal with transgender service members in the situation of policy changes and uncertainty. While developing the teaching case, the author relied on Navy policy documents and the media coverage of the transgender military policy. The developed case was about Landon Wilson, a transgender sailor whose transgender identity was eventually revealed. The author provided a detailed overview of Wilson’s experiences in the US Navy and outlined ethical, cultural, and diversity management issues with transgender service members.

The source can be of value for the proposed study because it contains background information on transgender issues in the military and overviews the history of transgender military policies. Furthermore, the author’s research method included searching for the media coverage of the transgender military policy, which enabled the author to create a timeline of policy changes. In addition, Borja (2018) identified that the media coverage of transgender issues increased in the 20th and early 21st centuries and cited several examples of this. This information, as well as the created timeline of policy changes, can be used in the proposed research to establish the background.

Brown, A. (2017). Republicans, Democrats have starkly different views on transgender issues. Pew Research Center. 

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In this article, Brown (2017) summarizes the findings of a survey conducted by Pew Research Center on the differences in views on transgender issues between Democrats and Republicans. The survey came in the midst of public debates on transgender policies, including the transgender military policy. The research showed that political affiliation influences people’s views on transgender issues. The findings indicated that 80% of Republicans and Republican leaners believed that gender was determined by biological sex, while 64% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents argued that gender could be different from biological sex. Further, while society, in general, has not reached a consensus on whether transgender policies have gone too far, the views on this question differ depending on the party. It has been found that 57% of Republicans and only 12% of Democrats think that society has gone too far in accepting transgender people. At the same time, 60% of Democrats and 12% of Republicans believe that society has not gone too far in accepting transgender individuals. Therefore, one may conclude that Democrats have more favorable attitudes toward transgender people, while Republicans tend to be against inclusive transgender policies.

This article is useful for the proposed research because it proves that there are differences in views on transgender issues between the two main political parties. Media tends to depict prohibitive transgender policies as the brainchild of Republicans, and this survey shows that, indeed, Republicans are more likely to be repressive of transgender people. Yet, this article also shows that some Democrats also oppose transgender inclusion, and their attitudes toward transgender individuals differ depending on education and race. Thus, the media representation of transgender policies as an issue related to political affiliation seems to be justified.

Cooper, H., & Shear, M. D. (2021). Biden ends military’s transgender ban, part of broad discrimination fight. The New York Times

This article reports about President Biden’s lifting the ban on transgender service in the military that was imposed by the previous president, Mr. Trump. By doing so, Mr. Biden restored the protection of transgender people provided in 2016 by President Barak Obama. The authors of the article describe what feedback Biden’s actions received and what public debate surrounds the issue of transgender individuals in the military. Cooper and Shear (2021) argue that there were both proponents and opponents of Biden’s actions, and, according to their framing of the issue, those who oppose transgender inclusion in the military tend to be Republicans. The authors state that, while 71% of Americans were against Trump’s ban imposed on transgender service members, most Republicans supported it. The article also reports that Mr. Biden’s actions will go further than allowing transgender people to serve in the military by taking measures to protect them in education, housing, healthcare, and other areas. The authors conclude that the lifting of the ban was a natural progression of the transgender issue, which was bound to happen.

This source is valuable for the proposed research because it is a media article that can be analyzed to identify how the media covers the issue of transgender policy in the military. This article is an example of how the media represents the transgender military policy as an issue linked to political affiliation. According to the authors’ framing of the problem, the ban on transgender service members is supported mainly by Republicans. Overall, the article shows current public sentiments regarding transgender issues and argues that, in general, the public has favorable attitudes toward transgender inclusion in the military and other aspects of social life.

Davis, J. H., & Cooper, H. (2017). Trump says transgender people will not be allowed in the military. The New York Times

In this article, Davis and Cooper (2017) report how Mr. Trump announced his ban on transgender military service. According to the authors, the president informed the public of the new policy on Twitter without consulting or warning his administration. Davis and Cooper (2017) argue that the reason for such a policy change was Mr. Trump’s concern about the military spending on transgender service members’ gender transition and hormone therapy. However, as the authors show, research has been conducted, which has demonstrated that the cost of gender transition was an insignificant part of the US total military spending. In addition, the experience of other countries showed that allowing transgender people to serve in the army did not undermine morale or military readiness. The authors also report how the public responded to Mr. Trump’s ban. Although some conservative lawmakers approved of Mr. Trump’s decision, most people, both Republicans and Democrats, denounced the ban imposed on transgender military service. The authors predicted that Mr. Trump’s new policy could result in lawsuits, as well as a decrease in the attractiveness of the army for new recruits.

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This source is of value for the research because it demonstrates the media coverage of the recent ban on transgender military service. This article shows that, in general, society has become more favorable toward transgender individuals, and the prohibition of transgender military service raises more discontent than transgender inclusion in the army. In addition, this source provides a slightly different viewpoint on the political affiliation of the opponents of the ban. According to the authors, only a few conservatives support the ban, while the majority of Republicans and Democrats oppose such a radical move in relation to transgender individuals.

Embser‐Herbert, M. (2019). “Welcome! Oh, wait…” Transgender military service in a time of uncertainty. Sociological Inquiry, 90(2), 405-429. 

In this study, Embser‐Herbert (2019) explored the experiences of transgender service members in the period of policy uncertainty. The author reports that in 2016 when transgender people were allowed to openly serve in the military, many transgender service members came out with their gender identities. However, in 2017, after President Trump’s ban on transgender military service, they have become utterly concerned about the future of their military careers. In order to explore transgender people’s experiences in the military, Embser‐Herbert (2019) conducted 11 in-depth interviews with transgender service members. The purpose of the study was to provide a basis for future studies on gender in the military, experiences of transgender individuals in cisgender-centered institutions, and transgender military service. The author came to a conclusion that, although each transgender individual’s experience was unique, they had one thing in common: they were committed to their career in the military and were proud of the US military service.

This source can be of use for the proposed research because it overviews transgender people’s experiences related to changes in the transgender military policy. In addition, the author cites several examples from the media, which can be used in the research. For instance, the author refers to Mr. Trump’s tweets, in which he announced the ban, and cites one transgender individual’s description of the public response that the ban received on Facebook. Furthermore, the author provides a background on the policy changes that took place in 2016-2017, which can also be used in the proposed research to establish the context of the research problem.

Favara, J. B. (2017). Recruiting for difference and diversity in the U.S. military [Doctoral dissertation, University of Oregon]. The University of Oregon Libraries.

This dissertation aims to explore how the emphasis on diversity in the US military emerged over time. In order to investigate this question, the researcher analyzed the military recruitment advertisements published in magazines Ebony, Sports Illustrated, and Cosmopolitan in 1973-2015. The purpose of this analysis was to identify how the image of a service member changed over time and came to include women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community. In addition to the advertisement search, the author used supplemental materials for the study, which included policy documents, reports on military diversity, and recruiting reports. These sources were used to establish a broader context for the diversity in the military. The findings of the study indicate that military policy has significantly evolved in terms of diversity. In the times of all-volunteer force, straightness was emphasized in recruiting ads, while after the repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, the military made attempts to advertise directly to the LGBT community.

This source is of value for the proposed study because it investigates policy changes that eventually lead to transgender individuals’ inclusion in the military. In addition, the author analyzes the transgender inclusion policy of 2016, which allows for transgender military service with several limitations. According to Favara (2017), the policy prescribed transgender people to have stable gender for 18 months prior to joining the military to be able to follow standards of grooming and uniform. This shows that, despite inclusion, the military policy is based on rigid gender standards. Furthermore, this source is useful because it can provide guidance on how to analyze media content related to transgender military policy for the proposed research.

Jones, P. E., Brewer, P. R., Young, D. G., Lambe, J. L., & Hoffman, L. H. (2018). Explaining public opinion toward transgender people, rights, and candidates. Public Opinion Quarterly, 82(2), 252-278. Web.

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In this study, Jones et al. (2018) aimed to explore public attitudes toward transgender people, namely, their personality traits, transgender rights, and transgender candidates for public office. The researchers explain public opinion with several independent variables, including values, the need for cognitive closure, media exposure, and demographic characteristics. The data for the study were retrieved from a telephone survey of 901 randomly chosen adults living in the US. Transgender people were excluded from the study because the researchers aimed to assess cisgender people’s attitudes toward transgender individuals. The authors found that the majority of respondents had positive attitudes toward transgender people and policies protecting their employment rights and military service. However, the “body-centric policies,” such as those tackling the issue of gender-neutral bathrooms, had less public support. Jones et al. (2018) also found that negative attitudes toward transgender people were associated with moral traditionalism. At the same time, support for transgender people and their rights was characteristic of egalitarian, liberal, Democratic, and less religious respondents. In addition, positive media coverage of transgender issues was associated with more positive attitudes toward transgender people.

This source is useful for the proposed research because it will help to establish the significance of the suggested research problem. The authors found that the media coverage of transgender people shaped public attitudes toward transgender individuals and policies protecting their rights. These findings show that it is important to study the media coverage of transgender policies and issues because media is a powerful agent that influences whether the public will be supportive of new transgender policies. In addition, the researchers found that the political affiliation with the Democratic party was a predictor of more positive attitudes toward transgender people. This finding supports the idea that the issue of transgender military service is linked to political affiliation, and the two parties are on the opposite sides when it comes to responding to transgender military policies.

Manzella, S. L. (2018). After the tipping point: Investigating visuals of transgender bodies in magazine media [Unpublished undergraduate honors thesis]. The State University of New York at New Paltz.

In this thesis, the author investigates the media representation of transgender people’s bodies and analyzes what message it conveys to the audience. The researcher chose four case studies for the analysis: Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair story, “Gender Revolution” issue of National Geographic, Aydian Dowling’s photo spread in Men’s Health, and Ines Rau’s photo spread in Playboy. The choice of the case studies was explained by the fact that magazines were a type of media that reflected public discourse on transgender issues. Upon analyzing the cases, the author made several conclusions that showed similarities in the media portrayal of transgender individuals. The first finding was that the media depicted transgender people in a way that meets the mainstream audience’s conventional gender expectations. It means that trans-women are portrayed as “real” women, and trans-men are represented as having the markers of masculinity. The second finding was that when the media covered transgender people, their trans identity was at the focus. Nevertheless, the media chose transgender individuals that could be referred to as either male or female by the mainstream audience, disregarding those with non-binary gender identity.

This source is useful because it suggests a research framework for analyzing the media coverage of transgender individuals, which can be used for investigating the media representation of transgender military policy. Furthermore, the author explains the importance of media visibility of transgender people, which can be used to establish the significance of the proposed research. In addition, the researcher analyzed the trans visibility in the age of Trump’s ban on transgender military service, which is especially relevant to the proposed study. The author concluded that transgender visibility had a negative aspect since it provoked the opponents of transgender people to advocate for policies infringing on transgender people’s rights.

Williams, M. L. (2020). Social media’s commodified, transgender ambassador: Caitlyn Jenner, celebrity activism, and social media. Celebrity Studies, 1-19. 

In this article, Williams (2020) examines the political effectiveness of Caitlyn Jenner’s tweets for promoting the rights of the transgender community. The reason why the researcher chose Jenner for the analysis is that Jenner is a controversial public figure who, despite her support of Trump and Republicans, is perceived as an advocate for transgender rights. As for the methodology, the author performed a textual analysis of Jenner’s tweets to explore how she used Twitter to narrate her experiences as a transgender person and advocate for transgender rights. The findings indicated that Jenner’s account contained mainly advertising tweets, with only 11% of analyzed tweets containing Jenner’s transgender experiences. Further, although Jenner attempted to advocate for LGBT rights on Twitter by publishing photos of her LGBT community engagement and urging followers to support LGBT charities, her advocacy attempts did not lead to offline engagement. In addition, the author found that Jenner explained her political affiliation with the Republican party, known for its anti-LGBT attitudes, by her attempts to amend Republicans’ transphobia from within. However, it only irritated her followers, undermining the political effectiveness of her social media efforts.

This source can be of use for the proposed research because it analyzes media content. Williams (2020) argues that textual analysis is a common research method for analyzing media content, which provides a rationale for choosing textual analysis of media content related to transgender military policy for the proposed study. Furthermore, the author analyzes Jenner’s social media response to Trump’s ban on transgender military service. Since Twitter can be considered a modern type of media, an analysis of Jenner’s tweets regarding Trump’s transgender military ban can be included in the proposed study devoted to the media coverage of the transgender military policy.

References

Arthur, D. C., Pollock, G., Steinman, A. M., Frank, N., Mazur, D. H., & Belkin, A. (2020). DoD’s transgender ban has harmed military readiness. Palm Center.

Borja, T. (2018). Teaching case: Transgender sailors, leadership challenges, and ethical dilemmas (Publication No. AD1059763) [Technical report, Master’s thesis, Naval Postgraduate School]. Defense Technical Information Center.

Brown, A. (2017). Republicans, Democrats have starkly different views on transgender issues. Pew Research Center.

Cooper, H., & Shear, M. D. (2021). Biden ends military’s transgender ban, part of broad discrimination fight. The New York Times.

Davis, J. H., & Cooper, H. (2017). Trump says transgender people will not be allowed in the military. The New York Times.

Embser‐Herbert, M. (2019). “Welcome! Oh, wait…” Transgender military service in a time of uncertainty. Sociological Inquiry, 90(2), 405-429.

Favara, J. B. (2017). Recruiting for difference and diversity in the U.S. military [Doctoral dissertation, University of Oregon]. University of Oregon Libraries.

Jones, P. E., Brewer, P. R., Young, D. G., Lambe, J. L., & Hoffman, L. H. (2018). Explaining public opinion toward transgender people, rights, and candidates. Public Opinion Quarterly, 82(2), 252-278. Web.

Manzella, S. L. (2018). After the tipping point: Investigating visuals of transgender bodies in magazine media [Unpublished undergraduate honors thesis]. The State University of New York at New Paltz.

Williams, M. L. (2020). Social media’s commodified, transgender ambassador: Caitlyn Jenner, celebrity activism, and social media. Celebrity Studies, 1-19.

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