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Critique Essay History Humanities Law/Legal Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

Transforming Prejudice: Identity, Fear, and Transgender Rights

By Melissa R. Michelson and Brian F. Harrison, 2020

Over the last few decades, public opinion has shifted dramatically to be more supportive of gay and lesbian people and their rights, including support for same-sex relationships and marriage. Support for transgender people and rights, in contrast, remains relatively low. As a result, transgender people suffer from discrimination and violence. Shifting attitudes toward transgender people requires a new approach to persuasive communication, one that recognizes the discomfort that many people feel about the subject but also one that appeals to core values and emotions in a way that encourages them to shift their perspective. This book introduces a new theory—Identity Reassurance Theory—which outlines how to transform prejudice against transgender people. The book provides concrete suggestions about how to reduce defensive reactions, helping people take a journey from prejudice to support. Support for Identity Reassurance Theory comes from a series of experiments conducted with individuals face to face, via the Internet, and in the laboratory. When individuals are put in a happier state of mind or when they are reminded about the good in people, they are more supportive of transgender rights. When they are told a story about a mother who did not support transgender people and rights until her own child came out as transgender, they are more likely to support transgender rights. In these and other experiments, Transforming Prejudice describes a method of boosting the self-esteem of recipients of communication to lower their defenses and to encourage them to be more accepting of others who are different than they are.

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