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The gay/trans panic defense is a legal strategy that is used to try to lower the sentence of a defendant in cases of assault, claiming that certain actions were justified because an individual had “deceived” them as a result of their sexual or gender orientation. We analyze how cultural perceptions of gay/trans panic shape the way we understand the legitimacy of this legal defense. We look at this in two ways: first, we are using a media analysis to examine how gay/trans panic is represented in film and television to understand how it becomes culturally legitimized. Second, we conduct a survey to gather data about how people from different parts of the United States understand the defense, and gauge if there is a correlation between certain beliefs that they hold and their sympathy towards the defense. We anticipate that political and geographic differences may correlate with perceptions of the defense's legitimacy, given the fact that it is still permissible in many states and has led to lighter sentencing of aggressors.



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Media, Law, and the Gay/Trans Panic Defense