LGBTQ+HM: Free Speech and Hate Speech: Analysing ‘Anti-Gender’ Discourse

Wednesday 7 February 2024, 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm GMT, York, UK


This LGBTQ+ History Month talk focuses on what is commonly referred to as homophobic and transphobic ‘soft hate speech’ which (unlike ‘hard’ hate) operates within the limits of the law and may be perceived as ‘sayable’ in the public sphere. This makes it more difficult to recognize and challenge.

Like others, speaker Helen Sauntson contends that soft hate speech poses an unsettling threat to democracy and produces concurrent detrimental effects on the social and emotional wellbeing of those who are targeted by it. In the talk, Helen presents a discourse analysis of ‘anti-gender’ soft hate speech in a sample of publicly-available video recordings on the social media platform YouTube. This type of analysis enables the identification of the key discursive strategies deployed by those who produce and post the videos in attempts to distort progressive views of gender and sexuality. The analysis shows how older cultural grievances and forms of discrimination and prejudice are now being recast, or ‘re-trenched’, within current environments, especially in relation to homophobia and transphobia. It is argued that this type of language-focused analysis is particularly useful for conducting analyses of transphobic and homophobic soft hate speech with a view to understanding how it might ultimately be disrupted. The research builds on existing work to further understandings of how anti-gender discourses are established and sustained across transnational contexts, and how the defence of ‘free speech’ is often strategically deployed to sustain and legitimise these discriminatory discourses.

Helen Sauntson is Professor of English Language and Linguistics and Director of the Centre for Language and Social Justice Research at York St John University in the UK. She specialises in teaching and researching sociolinguistics and applied linguistics. She has a special interest in language, gender and sexuality, particularly in relation to education contexts, and has published numerous books, chapters and journal articles in this area. She is co-editor of the Palgrave Studies in Language, Gender and Sexuality book series and co-editor of the Cambridge Elements in Language, Gender and Sexuality book series.

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This event will be held at Creative Centre Auditorium, York St John University, Lord Mayor’s Walk, York, UK.

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