Women are less likely than men to be bothered by the idea of women sharing a bathroom with male-to-female transgender persons, according to a new study published in the journal Gender Issues. Men are much more likely to take an offensive stance and worry about the safety and privacy of the women in their lives.
Such male transphobia seems to have its roots in how men see themselves as the protectors of women, said Dr. Rebecca Stones of Nankai University in China and Monash University in Australia.
The study has practical implications, as transgenderism has become controversial lately. In the U.S., for example, so-called “bathroom bills” are being considered that will determine whether transgender people can use restrooms that are in line with their current gender identity, or if they will have to go to those designated for their birth gender only.
Some people feel that allowing the former will cross a societal boundary, and legislators cite concerns about the safety and privacy of the women and children with whom transgender females would be sharing a bathroom.
For the study, Stones analyzed 1,035 comments posted by readers of 190 related online news articles in order to gauge public opinion regarding the presence of transgender females in women’s only bathrooms.
Men were found to be around 1.55 times more likely to express safety and privacy concerns than the very women who would be sharing facilities with transgender females. Women were much less likely to comment on news articles related to the topic, and when they did they used muted, less intense phrases. Women were much more concerned about the possibility of so-called “perverts” posing as transgender females and entering restrooms.
Stones says that male transphobia appears to be tied to the male gender role of protector. It is reflected in comments such as, “‘I don’t want some guy-turned-girl in a restroom while my wife is in there” and, “I have a teenage daughter and I demand that her privacy be protected from a gender-confused pervert that may walk in on her while she’s in the restroom!”
She theorizes that the concerns expressed by men in their online comments are also rooted in how they view transgender females. They see them not as women, but still as men who are just lying or are merely mistaken about their gender identity.
“Consequently they view themselves as protecting females from these males intruding into private, female-only spaces,” said Stones. “This may be further exacerbated by a fear of deception and a belief that transgender people are mentally ill or ‘sick’.”