Some of the major organizations involved in the social media conversation about Trans rights include the Trevor Project, the ACLU, Breitbart media, American Family Association, and individuals (such as Laverne Cox, Allen West, and others). The Trevor Project has a large voice in this conversation as it is a medium in which LGBTQ youth can go/contact if they need help or resources. They provide a support center, suicide prevention hotline, and crisis intervention. Some of the donors supporting them include political action campaigns, AT&T, Toyota, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, etc. I guess the founders and staff of the project would count as grassroots activists because they want to make a difference. These are individuals who came together because they wanted to provide a change and support for LGBTQ youth. They include Peggy Rajski, Randy Stone, James Lecesne, Michale Norton, Abbe Land, Ashby Dodge, Amy Loudermilk, Ann P. Hass, etc. The other organizations and influencers aren’t targeting Trans rights exclusively, so it can be hard to track who is funding/supporting them for what exactly. For example, Breitbart media is a right wing news organization, and American Family Association is an organization that focuses on pro-family values.
While they have made declarations about LGBTQ lives, they haven’t spent time on a specific campaign.
The Trevor Project’s new media strategy is to spread awareness of their organization and the resources they offer through social media campaigns. They have their website; they post on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other online forums. Their posts typically include inspirational sentences, a way to spread their information, how to help donate, or other posts about the organization, followed by their hotline number.
As for the others (Breitbart, American Family Association, etc.), since their focus is not on LGBTQ lives specifically it can be hard to track their new media strategies. What I’ve been able to notice through my research of their posts and voice is that they typically jump on the bandwagon. That means they will defend family values, write about political or social issues (through a more conservative lens) when it is the current topic. For example, their tactics during #occupotty were to post about boycotting Target, Starbucks, and wherever else because Trans restroom policies were the “thing” to talk about at that time. Whereas, organizations like the Trevor Project are constantly talking about LGBTQ issues. So, the strategy I’ve found for the organizations on the other side of Trans rights is that they don’t actively post or insert themselves in the discussions. Instead, they interject when there is a large enough debate about the issue to draw attention. From there they can gain followers/likes and promote their name because they will circulate around individuals who think like them. As for who is more successful, I want to say the organizations like the Trevor Project, the Human Rights Campaign, or even tags like #transisbeautiful or #translivesmatter. They are consistent with their efforts to bring attention to LGBTQ individuals and violations to their rights. They are always in the social media sphere posting and commenting and providing resources. While Breitbart Media or the American Family Association have their foot in all kinds of different conversations.
Their following might be a tad larger, but I believe that to be because they have a broad range of topics they discuss so their audience would be larger. If I were to try to compare just the following based on LGBTQ rights, I would say that organizations supporting Trans/LGBTQ rights probably gain more attention and are more effective.
Over the course of the semester, I have identified several issues and controversies about Trans rights, specifically through social media. From restrooms to celebrity transitions to employee laws, Trans rights have been on the news and in media quite a bit over the past couple of years. Some of the key issues circulating through media have been about the restroom controversy. Places like Target and Starbucks were even boycotted by some people because they were restructuring their restroom policies to be more inclusive of Trans individuals. Caitlin Jenner and Laverne Cox have become incredibly popular in social media and have almost become the face of Trans rights, and they are very public figures who aren’t shy about discussing their lives or opinions on Trans issues. Other issues/controversies include HB 2, the North Carolina restroom law that asked for consistent regulation of single-sex restrooms. It is a very discriminatory law that caused a lot uproar (still does), many people tried to protest it and stop it from getting passed, and now, since it has passed, Trans rights leaders are inherently against it and are trying to repeal it. Over the past few months that I have been researching this movement, I haven’t necessarily seen a change in the issues discussed, in the way laws and rights are handled or anything of that nature. Instead, I’ve seen more attention being drawn, discrimination continuing, and an attempt to bring forth policies and changes to create a safe and positive environment for all people. Over the past few years, there has been a change. As I stated previously, Trans rights have become a more public discussion over the past few years. Five years ago there wasn’t anyone on social media being vocal for or against anything related to Trans lives specifically. Now, Trans activists have been working to make their rights as important as Gay rights/straight rights.
This topic has been fascinating to track and learn about over the past few months. Honestly, what I found to be most interesting was the Trans rights has had to stand on its own. I’ve come to discover while Transgender is technically counted in LGBTQ*, Trans individuals tend to be left out or ignored by LGBQ individuals. LGBTQ* centers, shelters, etc. sometimes discriminate against Trans individuals or they don’t have the right resources for them. Besides that, LGBTQ* “rights” tend to focus on rights for gay and queer individuals and sometimes don’t put in the same effort for Trans people. I was not expecting there to be such a subtle yet impactful divide yet there is. I guess it has to do with LGBQ* individuals thinking Trans politics will stray too far from their goal, will make them “too not normal,” or a number of other reasons. It was really disappointing to see that Trans rights have constantly been denied and neglected, even by people supposedly supporting that community. I hope as this movement continues that it will gain the attention and support it deserves.
It’s always fascinating to see how this topic connects to this class, and even a couple of my other classes. Through my time monitoring Trans rights I’ve come to see just how relevant new media and power is to the conversation. From our readings about social media vs the press, to Facebook’s influence, to the power of social media in progressing social movements (and how social media will not actually insight change), to our obsession with social media and the power it holds, I see how influential new media is to today’s social movements. My experience monitoring Trans rights shows me that overall it conforms to most of the readings we’ve had in this class. New media is a tool for power, and social movements would not function today without some form of new media. Overall, I strongly believe that new media activism and politics has been a positive experience for social movements. Social media has completely changed strategy and delivery for activism and politics. It’s no longer about who can deliver the facts (at least the perceived facts/truth) with the strongest voices. Now, it’s about who can get the most attention, who can share the most clever information, who is likable, and how many followers there are. This new media has given people an opportunity to be more connected, to feel as though they have a voice, and to fight the larger power. As week 10 readings showed, social media has dismantled the traditional press, anyone with access to the internet and a loud voice can share their opinions and facts. The press/news media don’t hold the same authority anymore because their corruption and bias are not revealed easily and quickly on social media because a tweet gets out faster than breaking news on CNN. Social media has completely changed the dynamic of presenting news to the mass public, but in a positive way. Week 11 readings show the positive ways this has changed. From the development of Black Lives Matter to the idea of a social revolution, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, etc.) are all fast, active, and easy ways to communicate with large crowds, to not just provide information but provide a space in which conversation and ideas are welcomed. Each week we read documents and articles that either discuss how powerful new media/social media is, or how it’s a false understanding of revolutionary ideas. We read that Facebook and Twitter have changed the way we communicate and has opened up new ways to collect information and come together as communities. We also read that new media only gives the illusion of change, that pressing a like button or retweeting something doesn’t enact any change, it doesn’t create a revolution. I disagree, new media doesn’t just spit out information, it gives us the power to make a change, even if we’re only pressing the like button or retweeting. For example, with the ALS ice bucket challenge so much awareness was spread and money was raised that scientists have been able to make a breakthrough in their research. Bringing it back to my topic, Trans rights has never had the support and awareness as it does right now, and that has to do with the spread of new media. The power a tweet or a post has is enough to bring support to an individual in need, to share resources and help hotlines across state lines. It may not look like a lot of progress, but I believe new media has created a positive contribution, it has saved lives, made individuals more aware, and has made activism and support easier to spread.