We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

E-book purchase
Choose a subscription

Downloaded copy on your device does not expire. Includes 4 years of Bookshelf Online.


Where applicable, tax will be added to the above price prior to payment.

E-book purchasing help


Transforming Prejudice

Identity, Fear, and Transgender Rights

Melissa R. Michelson and Brian F. Harrison

Publication Date - March 2020

ISBN: 9780190068899

256 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock


Since the mid-1990s, there has been a seismic shift in attitudes toward gay and lesbian people, with a majority of Americans now supporting same-sex marriage and relations between same-sex, consenting adults. However, support for transgender individuals lags far behind; a significant majority of Americans do not support the right of transgender people to be free from discrimination in housing, employment, public spaces, health care, legal documents, and other areas. Much of this is due to deeply entrenched ideas about the definition of gender, perceptions that transgender people are not "real" or are suffering from mental illness, and fears that extending rights to transgender people will come at the expense of the rights of others. So how do you get people to rethink their prejudices?

In this book, Melissa R. Michelson and Brian F. Harrison examine what tactics are effective in changing public opinion regarding transgender people. The result is a new approach that they call Identity Reassurance Theory. The idea is that individuals need to feel confident in their own identity before they can embrace a stigmatized group like transgender people, and that support of members of an outgroup can be encouraged by affirming the self-esteem of those targeted for attitude change. Michelson and Harrison, through their experiments, show that the most effective messaging on transgender issues meets people where they are, acknowledges their discomfort without judgment or criticism, and helps them to think about transgender people and rights in a way that aligns with their view of themselves as moral human beings.


  • Provides tactics for overcoming bias against out-groups, with a particular focus on transphobia
  • Introduces a new approach to understanding shifts in public opinion: identity reassurance theory
  • Asserts that self-affirmation is necessary to accept or change one's opinion towards outgroup members

About the Author(s)

Melissa R. Michelson is Professor of Political Science at Menlo College. Brian F. Harrison is a Lecturer at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Founder and President of Voters for Equality. They are authors of Listen, We Need to Talk: How to Change Attitudes about LGBT Rights.


"A key aspect of the analysis is explaining why cisgender men are the least likely to support transgender individuals, asking how to nudge them to change. The answer: reassure their masculinity and make them feel happier in general. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty and professionals. General readers." -- J. J. Aguayo, York College of Pennsylvania, CHOICE

"Michelson and Harrison offer much-needed pragmatic guidance on how to challenge and ultimately change anti-transgender public opinion. The path forward won't be easy, but it is possible and this book can help us take the first steps."-Heath Fogg Davis, author of Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter?

"Transforming Prejudice continues Michelson and Harrison's important work on attitude change and reducing prejudice against LGBTQ communities. Recognizing the distinctive challenges associated with increasing public acceptance of transgender individuals, they create, test, and prescribe a new theory-Identity Reassurance Theory-for changing individual attitudes. While this theory is a significant contribution to political science scholarship, more importantly it provides a tested strategy for facilitating positive change, reducing discrimination, and advancing transgender rights. This book is essential reading for everyone committed to eradicating discrimination against transgender individuals."-Courtenay W. Daum, author of iThe Politics of Right Sex: Transgressive Bodies, Governmentality and the Limits of Trans Rights

"This is a timely and insightful book that examines the difficult task of changing public attitudes about transgender rights. The small size of the transgender community and public discomfort with transgender people make attitudinal change hard. With their Identity Reassurance Theory, Michelson and Harrison offer a theoretically grounded and pragmatic approach to changing people's attitudes about transgender rights. It is recommended for anyone interested in changing attitudes about a marginalized community."-Jami Taylor, Professor of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Toledo

Table of Contents

    Chapter 1: Just a Little Bit of History Repeating: Definitions, Public Opinion, and the Issues
    Chapter 2: Reassurance, Acknowledgement, and Values
    Chapter 3: Finding the Path to Attitude Change on Transgender Rights
    Chapter 4: Gender Roles, Masculinity, and Support for Transgender Rights
    Chapter 5: Emotions and Moral Elevation
    Chapter 6: Feeling a Little Uncomfortable, and That's Okay
    Chapter 7: Transforming Prejudice from the Inside Out