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Caitlyn Jenner coming out as trans made older people less transphobic, study finds

Patrick Kelleher March 12, 2020
Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner (Getty)

Some older, more conservative people may have become less transphobic after Caitlyn Jenner publicly came out as trans in 2015, a new study has suggested.

A new article in American Politics Research – titled The Politics of Being ‘Cait’: Caitlyn Jenner, Transphobia, and Parasocial Contact Effects on Transgender-Related Political Attitudes – looks at the societal impact of her coming out.

Using an original nationally representative survey from the summer after Jenner publicly came out, researchers examined how her visibility affected attitudes towards trans rights.

Notably, the survey found that conservative older people who were “more transphobic” were less likely to see her coming out as part of a “negative social trend” than other groups.

The same older conservative people were more likely to support trans rights after Caitlyn Jenner came out.

These same older people were also more likely to support advances in trans rights after Caitlyn Jenner revealed that she was trans.

Conversely, Jenner’s coming out had little impact on younger people who were “equally transphobic” as the older cohort.

Patrick Miller, one of the study’s authors, told the University of Kansas that Caitlyn Jenner coming out as trans had a bigger impact on “the older, more conservative type”.

He suggested that this was likely due to the fact that more people in this generation would have been familiar with Jenner during her athletic career.

If those who she affected were older people who seemed more socially conservative, maybe she endeared herself with everything she said regarding Trump after our survey.

“She didn’t appear to have any effect on the younger people who might have been more attuned to Keeping Up with the Kardashians. So, in that sense, her audience seemed rather durable, despite her rebranding over time,” he said.

Miller would be interested in conducting another survey on attitudes to Jenner and trans rights because, he noted, the last was done before she endorsed Donald Trump for the presidency.

He would like to find out if her endorsement of the current president improved or worsened her standing among older, more conservative Americans.

Celebrity impact on politics is ‘vastly understudied’.

“If those who she affected were older people who seemed more socially conservative, maybe she endeared herself with everything she said regarding Trump after our survey,” Miller said.

“And given the negative reaction to her 2016 comments, it’s entirely possible she’s developed a negative audience. If she says something today, there are going to be people who want to react against that because they don’t like the messenger. It would be very interesting to rerun this survey.”

Miller said the study of celebrity impact on politics is “vastly understudied” generally.

“Politicians seek their endorsement. Brands obviously pay them a lot of money to endorse their products. We have the sense that they’re important but – especially in political science – we have not appreciated enough just how important they can be.”


More: caitlyn jenner, keeping up with the kardashians, transphobia

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