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Reaction to Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation doesn’t mean society is moving on…

Submitted by on June 10, 2015 – 6:20 am |

Dr Elle Boag, senior lecturer in Social Psychology at Birmingham City UniversityIt is naïve to think Caitlyn Jenner smashing Twitter records marks any real shift in outdated public perceptions, a Birmingham City University psychology expert is warning.

“It’s misguided to believe that an increase in ‘famous’ transgender people is leading general society to endorse them in a tolerant way,” said Dr Elle Boag, senior lecturer in Social Psychology at Birmingham City University.

“Celebrities Caitlyn Jenner and Kellie Maloney have been in the spotlight this week and are newsworthy because of their gender status. We’re intrinsically fascinated by their perceived ‘strangeness’ which is considered to be outside of expected norms.”

Caitlyn Jenner hit the headlines earlier this week when making her first official appearance as a woman on the cover of Vanity Fair and subsequently beat a world record to become the fastest person on Twitter to reach one million followers.

“Although I applaud the openness that celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Kellie Maloney have embraced in sharing their ‘journeys’, I’m concerned that media focus is simply sensationalising what could be an opportunity to foster tolerance,” added Dr Boag.

“The majority of us don’t come face-to-face with ‘real’ transgender people, and if we do then stereotypical thoughts often lead to prejudice and discrimination.”

A Channel 5 documentary this week followed former boxer Kellie Maloney, previously known as Frank, as she underwent gender reassignment surgery.

“The fascination with transsexuality stems from a desire to classify people into sexual orientation. It is often difficult for the general public to identify and acknowledge that emotional, romantic and even sexual relationships are not built entirely on the genitalia of the partners involved,” said Dr Boag.

“Much of the public still view transgender identity as a choice or confuse it with transvestitism or ‘drag’, which are different things entirely. We are certainly far away from a utopian ideal of global tolerance for transgender people.”

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