- Transgender Communication Studies: Histories, Trends, and Trajectories ed. by Leland G. Spencer and Jamie C. Capuzza
In October 2014, I was asked to provide a promotional blurb for Transgender Communication Studies: Histories, Trends, and Trajectories, forthcoming from Lexington Press. I’ll admit that I was surprised by the request. I’m a feminist rhetorical scholar and not an expert in transgender communication. Although I’m still not sure why Lexington contacted me, I’m grateful they did. The book makes an important contribution not only to communication studies but also to larger audiences interested in LGBT studies and activism. The chapters are broad in scope and they offer useful insights for both theory and practice. Moreover, although the practical advice is typically targeted toward specific populations, much of it is applicable to a wide variety of situations. For example, the chapter on health discusses patient–provider communication when the patient is transgender. The authors encourage providers to communicate sensitivity to gender issues, which includes asking about pronouns and naming issues. Of course this is important advice in many situations. Likewise, several of the chapters point out that it’s important not to make assumptions about what being transgender means to a person. Some transgender people will consider themselves closely aligned with the LGB community, others will not, and so the authors urge cis-gender people, when appropriate, to open up lines of communication: to ask rather than assume.
The editors organize the book around three subdisciplines: human communication, media, and public and rhetorical communication. The editors asked each author or set of authors to include three components in their chapters: a review of literature, an original argument, and suggestions for future research. At the same time, the editors were careful to respect the authors’ academic freedom, encouraging authors to follow their research subjects’ lead when questions of language use arose and to make arguments that befitted their subject matter as well as their personal academic and/or activist impulses. The result is an anthology in which each chapter stands alone while also offering a consistent intervention into broad themes within the communication studies discipline. [End Page 204]
In “Patient-Centered Communication: The Experiences of Transgender Adults,” Kami Kosenko, Lance Rintamaki, and Kathleen Maness discuss positive health-care experiences of transgender community members, offering guidance for health-care professionals. Jenny Dixon provides a discussion of transgender working adults’ efforts to understand gender expectations when entering into a new work environment in “Workplace Socialization of Gender Identity: A Phenomenological Exploration of Being Transgender at Work.” In “Trans Interpersonal Support Needs,” Matthew Heinz explores the specific experiences of a group of trans individuals living on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, noting that most individuals experienced feelings of loneliness and social isolation while maintaining that interpersonal communication can help address how such feelings can be countered. In “Families’ Experiences with Transgender Identity and Transition: A Family Stress Perspective,” Kristen M. Norwood and Pamela J. Lannutti discuss the impact of transgender individuals “coming out” on families, emphasizing which factors ease or exacerbate transition-related family stress. And in “Pushing Boundaries: Toward the Development of a Model for Transing Communication in (Inter)cultural Contexts,” Gust A. Yep, Sage E. Russo, and Jace Allen offer a model designed to unpack underlying relations of power across cultural contexts.
The first chapter in the Media section is Jamie C. Capuzza’s “What’s in a Name? Transgender Identity, Metareporting, and the Misgendering of Chelsea Manning,” which explores the many ways news reporting on Manning functioned to regulate her transgender identity. In “The Provisional Acknowledgement of Identity Claims in Televised Documentary,” E. Tristan Booth examines the ways television documentaries about transgender people respond to three distinct challenges: the highly visual nature of television, television viewers’ desire for visual confirmation of gender identity, and viewers’ assumption that gender identity is linked to physical sex. Lucy J. Miller explores the ways transgender people are represented in “Becoming One of the Girls/Guys: Distancing Transgender Representations in Popular Film Comedies,” arguing that film...