618: TJ Billard – The Importance of Trans Voices

You have to be hiding under a rock and not listening to not know that Trans voices are under attack which only means, the entire queer community is under attack. Giving voice to the Trans community, TJ Billard shares their new book Voices For Transgender Equality: Making Change In The Network Public Sphere. This is great episode to learn about why and how to support our trans brothers and sisters.

About TJ

TJ Billard is an Assistant Professor and William T. Grant Scholar in the School of Communication and, by courtesy, the Department of Sociology at Northwestern University, where they are affiliated with the Institute for Policy Research and the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing. Outside of Northwestern, they are the founding Executive Director of the Center for Applied Transgender Studies in Chicago—the leading academic organization dedicated to scholarship on the social, cultural, and political conditions of transgender life—and Editor-in-Chief of the Center’s flagship journal, the Bulletin of Applied Transgender Studies. Billard’s research spans political communication, the sociology of social movements, and transgender studies, with a primary focus on the relationship between media and transgender politics in the United States and United Kingdom. They also conduct research on typography and graphic design, with an emphasis on the role of design in political branding.

Billard is the author of Voices for Transgender Equality: Making Change in the Networked Public Sphere (Oxford University Press, 2024). The book offers an insider’s view into transgender activism during the first two years of the Trump administration, during which trans people were thrust onto the center stage of US politics. Drawing on extensive on-the-ground observation at the National Center for Transgender Equality, Voices for Transgender Equality shows how these activists developed an unlikely blend of online and offline strategies to saturate a diverse ecology of national news outlets, local and community media outlets across the country, and both public and private conversations across multiple social media platforms with voices in support of their cause. Billard is also co-editor (with Silvio Waisbord) of Public Scholarship in Communication Studies (University of Illinois Press, 2024). Taking the position that “public scholarship” should not prioritize publicity for scholars and their ideas, but rather should prioritize serving the public good in ways that go beyond conventional scholarly work, the volume brings together an all-star cast of public scholars to offer both critical meditations on the role and importance of public scholarship in communication studies’ various subfields and “how-to” guides for enacting public scholarship.

Billard’s current research project, tentatively titled Cisinformed: Disinformation and the Media War on Transgender Rights, focuses on the central role of misinformation in anti-transgender movements’ political strategies in both the US and UK, why these strategies work, and what can be done to curb misinformation’s influence on policy and public opinion. This research is supported by a five-year award from the William T. Grant Foundation’s Scholars program.

Billard’s research has appeared in a number of prominent academic publications spanning several fields, including Communication Monographs, Digital Journalism, Frontiers in Psychology, the International Journal of Communication, The International Journal of Press/Politics, JCMS: Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, the Journal of Social History, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Marketing Theory, Mass Communication and Society, Media, Culture & Society, and Politics, Groups, and Identities, as well as in venues such as the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics and the SAGE Encyclopedia of Trans Studies.

Billard received their PhD from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California and their honors BA from the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University.

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