‘America’s Transgender Moment’

On Wednesday, March 9, Edward Schiappa, professor and head of Comparative Media Studies/Writing in MIT’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, presents the 2016 Gravlee Lecture, “2015 as America’s Transgender Moment: The Role of Media Representation,” at 6 p.m. in the Lory Student Center, Ballroom A. A reception in the Long’s Peak Dining Room follows.

Edward Schiappa
Edward Schiappa

Schiappa will discuss the current status of U.S. attitudes toward transgender people and the power of media — both news media and entertainment media — to influence those attitudes.

His findings are based on research about media representation of minorities and on research about definitions, or how concepts are defined. “Those two have a lot to say about current controversies and issues involving transgender people and their representation in the media,” Schiappa wrote in an email interview.

His research also draws on a theory known as the Parasocial Contact Hypothesis, which Schippa and colleagues from the University of Minnesota published in 2005. The theory argues that certain forms of media contact with minority groups, such as gay men, can actually reduce prejudice. Schiappa points to the moment in 2012 when Vice President Joe Biden credited “Will & Grace” for helping increase support of same sex marriage.

“I think ‘Will & Grace’ probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done so far,” Biden was quoted as saying.

2016-Gravlee-LectureSchiappa offers a unique perspective with a background in both classical rhetoric and contemporary media studies. In addition to heading the Comparative Media Studies/Writing program at MIT, he holds the John E. Burchard Chair of Humanities.

Schiappa has 10 published books and research publications in numerous journals, and has earned several awards, including the NCA’s Douglas W. Ehninger Distinguished Rhetorical Scholar Award in 2000 and the Rhetorical and Communication Theory Distinguished Scholar Award in 2006. He was also named a National Communication Association Distinguished Scholar in 2009.

The G. Jack Gravlee Lecture Series was created in honor of professor G. Jack Gravlee upon his retirement from the Department of Communication Studies in 2004. Gravlee came to CSU in 1964 and served as chair from 1975 to 1985. His specialty was British Public Address. The lecture series brings eminent communication scholars to campus for a keynote presentation and interaction with students, faculty and the university community.