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Journal of Homosexuality
ISSN: 0091-8369 (Print) 1540-3602 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wjhm20
Reactions to Transgender Women and Men
in Public Restrooms: Correlates and Gender
Differences
Matthew P. Callahan & Kyle T. Zukowski
To cite this article: Matthew P. Callahan & Kyle T. Zukowski (2017): Reactions to Transgender
Women and Men in Public Restrooms: Correlates and Gender Differences, Journal of
Homosexuality, DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2017.1395661
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2017.1395661
Accepted author version posted online: 23
Oct 2017.
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Download by: [UAE University]
Date: 28 October 2017, At: 09:06
Reactions to Transgender Women and Men in Public Restrooms:
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Correlates and Gender Differences
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Matthew P. Callahan, PhD and Kyle T. Zukowski, BA
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CONTACT: Matthew P. Callahan, Department of Psychology, Sonoma State University, 1801
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East Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park, CA 94928, USA. Email: paolucci@sonoma.edu
Abstract
This study examined reactions to transgender people in public restrooms. Participants (n = 158)
completed measures of essentialism and trait aggression and read scenarios where they imagined
sharing a restroom with a transwoman or a transman. Participants indicated which restroom
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Department of Psychology, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California, USA
targets should use and rated potential negative reactions. Results indicate that targets were
assigned to restrooms corresponding to birth sex rather than chosen identity. Women’s reactions
to transgender women were more negative than men’s; men were more negative in reactions
toward transmen. Essentialism predicted some (but not all) reactions for all participants. Among
women, trait aggression predicted negative reactions, but only to transmen. Among men,
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aggression predicted negative reactions, but only toward transwomen. This suggests that despite
views that transgender people belong in birth-sex restrooms, men and women’s trait aggression
predicts negative reactions toward them in such instances.
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Keywords: transgender prejudice, transphobia, genderism, discrimination, essentialism,
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For most, using public restrooms is an uncomplicated few minutes of time. Yet, for many
transgender people, public bathrooms can be anxiety-provoking spaces that are potentially
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dangerous (Girshick, 2008; Herman, 2013). Incidents that transgender people report in public
restrooms include denied access, verbal harassment, being escorted out by a security guard, and
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physical assault (Herman, 2013). Denied access has been attempted in proposed legislation. In
the U.S., legislation was passed in North Carolina that forces transgender people to use the
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restroom assigned to their birth gender (Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, HB2, 2016).
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Although portions of HB2 were subsequently repealed, such “bathroom bills” are growing in
number and have been attempted in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, South
Carolina and Wisconsin (National Center for Transgender Equality, 2016).
We use the term “transgender” to refer to people whose current gender identity differs
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aggression, restroom
from the one assigned at birth (Gerhardstein & Anderson, 2010; Worthen, 2013). This may
include, but is not limited to transsexuals, cross-dressers, gender queer, etc. (Beemyn & Rankin,
2011). We also refer to transmen (or female to-male) as those assigned a female sex at birth
whose chosen identity is male; Transwomen (or male-to-female) refers to women whose
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assigned birth sex was male. Though not all transgender people choose these categories (Beemyn
& Rankin, 2011), those who do are the primary focus of this investigation.
In the following sections, we first summarize the research on transgender prejudice and
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discrimination, including observed correlates and gender differences. We then describe the
unique challenges that transgender people experience in public restrooms and conclude by
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Transgender Prejudice and Discrimination
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Research conducted across a number of nations indicates that transgender prejudice is
widespread. Measuring anti-trans attitudes is still in its early stages, and researchers have defined
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constructs using a variety of terms including transphobia (Hill & Willoughby, 2005; Nagoshi, et
al., 2008; genderism (Hill & Willoughby, 2005) and anti-transgender prejudice (Tebbe &
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Moradi, 2012). Hill and Willoughby (2005) broke new ground by developing a scale to measure
transphobia and genderism. This scale was administered to an undergraduate/graduate student
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sample of 180 Canadian participants who reported considerable antipathy. In the U.S., Nagoshi
et al (2008) developed a transphobia scale focused on intolerance for people who blur gender
categories and who violate conventional gender norms. Ratings for transphobia were higher than
homophobia, and men were higher in transphobia than women. Lastly, using a national
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presenting hypotheses for the current investigation.
probability sample, Norton and Herek (2013) showed that transgender people rated particularly
low on a feeling thermometer (30 out of 100), with it being the lowest across all other groups
measured (i.e. lesbians, gay men).
Transgender people also face considerable discrimination. The National Transgender
Discrimination Survey surveyed over 6,000 trans-identified people in the U.S., Virgin Islands,
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Guam, and Puerto Rico (Grant, et al, 2011). Discrimination was pervasive across nearly every
area of participants’ lives: employment, housing, education, health care, public accommodations,
and abuse from law enforcement. Incidents ranged from daily bias-related hassles to physical and
sexual assault. A shocking sixty-three percent of the sample reported severe bias related
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incidents: job loss, eviction, homelessness, denial of medical care, and school bullying from
teachers and peers. The authors note that because of the paucity of protective laws for trans
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2011).
Research on the correlates of transgender prejudice and discrimination is slowly
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emerging. Several studies show strong associations between transgender prejudice and antigay
prejudice (Hill & Willoughby, 2005; Nagoshi, 2008; Norton & Herek, 2013). Other correlated
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factors include fundamentalist religiosity (Nagoshi et al, 2008; Norton & Herek, 2013), RightWing Authoritarianism (Nagoshi et al, 2008; Norton & Herek, 2013; Warriner et al, 2013),
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Masculine Role Norms (Watjen & Michell, 2012), Hostile and Benevolent Sexism (Nagoshi et
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al, 2008), Rape Myth Acceptance (Nagoshi et al, 2008) and a binary conception of gender
(Norton & Herek, 2013).
Other research links trait aggression with transgender prejudice. Using Buss and Perry’s
aggression questionnaire (1992), Nagoshi et al, (2008) found that aggression correlated with both
transphobia and homophobia, but only in men. Warriner et al (2013) found that aggression again
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people, the current climate of discrimination and violence is expected to exacerbate (Grant et. al,
correlated with both transphobia and homophobia, but only in heterosexuals. This pattern is
consistent with the antigay aggression literature, which shows that men are more prone than
women to aggress against gay men (Parrott & Zeichner, 2005), particularly for men with a strong
masculine identity (Cohn & Zeichner, 2006).
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Lastly, attitudes toward trans people has been linked to essentialism. Essentialism is the
belief that the social categories people belong to are fixed, distinct from one another, and
biologically determined. Essentialism also assumes identical qualities among group members
(Bastian & Haslam, 2006). Essentialist beliefs predict stigmatizing attitudes across a range of
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social groups: the mentally ill (Howell, Ulan & Powell, 2014; Howell, Weikum & Dyck, 2011),
substance abusers (Howell, Weikum & Dyck, 2011) and sexual minorities (Haslam & Levy,
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Hegarty (2006) and Norton and Herek, (2013) both find associations of transgender prejudice
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with a binary view of gender.
Investigations on gender differences in transgender prejudice show higher prejudice in
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heterosexual men than heterosexual women. This effect was found in samples from Hong Kong
(Winter et al., 2008), Canada (Hill & Willoughby, 2005), Portugal (Costa & Davies, 2012), the
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United Kingdom (Tee & Hegarty, 2006) and the United States (Gerhardstein & Anderson, 2010;
Nagoshi et al. 2008; Norton & Herek, 2013). This pattern parallels the sexual prejudice literature,
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with a longstanding finding of stronger prejudice from men than women, particularly toward gay
men (Herek, 2002; Kite & Whitley, 1998).
It is unclear if there are also target gender differences in transgender prejudice. Despite
the critical importance of assessing attitudes toward transwomen and transmen separately
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2006; Hegarty & Pratto, 2001). Although essentialist beliefs were not directly measured, Tee and
(Worthen, 2013), only a small handful of studies have done so. At this early stage of research,
the evidence is mixed. One study of college students found that men’s prejudice was strongest
toward a female to male target and most favorable to a male-to female target, while women’s
ratings did not differ by target (Carroll el al, 2012). Gerhardstein and Anderson’s study (2010)
on transsexual targets found the opposite pattern – women rated female to male targets as more
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attractive than male to female targets, whereas men’s target ratings did not differ (Gerhardstein
& Anderson, 2010). This inconsistency may be due to different dependent variables (general
antipathy versus perceived attractiveness) and/or type of target (transgender versus transsexual).
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Discrimination in Public Restrooms
Unless gender neutral or all-gender restrooms are available, transgender people have two
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options: enter the restroom corresponding to their assigned natal sex or enter the restroom
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assigned natal sex restroom – their gender incongruent appearance could surprise, confuse or
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anger other patrons. The second option- the chosen gender restroom - could cause transgender
people to be “clocked”; that is to be categorized as their assigned natal sex rather than their
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chosen identity. This too may surprise, confuse or anger patrons and lead to harassment. A
female to male college student in a qualitative study described bathrooms as “a site of terror”. He
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added: “I’ve had security guards remove me because they had quote unquote ‘complaints’ from
other students.” (Girshick, 2008, p. 134)
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Research indeed shows that for trans people, instances of restroom harassment are
common. A 2013 survey of transgender adults in Washington, DC reports that eighteen percent
of the sample was denied access to their chosen restroom, sixty-eight percent faced verbal
harassment, and nine percent were physically assaulted in public restrooms (Herman, 2013).
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aligned with their chosen gender. Both options carry risks. If they choose the first option- the
Transgender youth in U.S. schools are also vulnerable. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Alliance
Network (GLSEN) conducted a school climate survey of 7,898 LGBT students aged 13-18 years,
from all fifty states. Of the transgender students in the survey, 59.2% were required to use the
bathroom of their assigned natal sex, and 63% avoided using bathrooms in schools because they
felt unsafe or uncomfortable (Kosciw et. al, 2014). On college campuses, 23% of a sample of
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478 U.S. participants reported being denied access to their chosen restroom (Seelman, 2014).
According to qualitative research, trans people in restrooms experience a range of reactions that
include: being removed by security guards, negative comments, and being told directly to leave
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(Girshick, 2008).
Despite increased in legislation aimed to restrict the restroom choices of trans people
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(National Center for Transgender Equality, 2016), research examining people’s attitudes about
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youth and although they were relatively positive, they believed such youth should use bathrooms
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associated with their birth sex (Elischberger et al., 2016). Because the targets in the study were
young transgender children, it is unknown whether these views also apply to transgender adults.
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Transgender people report that restroom harassment is common and includes reactions from
denied access to being confronted by fellow patrons or a security guard to being physically
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assaulted (Herman, 2013; Seelman, 2014). Whether or not people agree that they would respond
in such ways is also unknown and factors associated with reactions to trans people in public
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restrooms remain unexamined.
The Present Study
The present study was designed to address these gaps. Our goal was to assess views on
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trans people in public restrooms is scarce. One study assessed adults’ attitudes on transgender
which restrooms are appropriate for transgender people to use, how people might react if sharing
a restroom with a trans person, and the extent to which trait aggression and essentialism relate to
these reactions. We manipulated the target gender, randomly assigning men and women to
imagine encountering either a transwoman (male-to-female) or a transman (female to male)
when entering a public restroom. Our hypotheses are as follows:
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Hypothesis 1: When asked which restroom transgender people should use, participants
will assign restrooms according to birth sex rather than chosen gender identity. When asked
which restroom transgender people should use, people will assign restrooms according to birth
sex rather than chosen gender identity. Our rationale for this prediction was that because
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attitudes toward trans people are so negative (i.e. Norton & Herek, 2013), we assumed that
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people would not consider the chosen gender-identity restrooms to be appropriate.
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2013), we expect men to report more discomfort and negative reactions than women to
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transgender people in restrooms.
Hypothesis 3: Compared to transmen, participants will report more discomfort and
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negative reactions toward transwomen. The basis for this prediction was derived from
transgender discrimination research (Miller & Grollman, 2015), which shows that transgender
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transmen.
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women report significantly more instances of harassment and violence when compared to
Hypothesis 4: Higher essentialism and trait aggression will predict more discomfort and
negative reactions toward transgender people. This prediction derives from research that links
trait aggression to transphobia (Nagoshi et al, 2008) and essentialist gender beliefs to transgender
prejudice (Hill & Willoughby, 2005; Norton & Herek, 2013). Because no prior research has
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Hypothesis 2: Consistent with research on transgender prejudice (e.g., Norton & Herek,
examined these variables across transgender targets for men and women, our approach to gender
and target interactions with these variables was exploratory.
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Method
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Participants
We recruited participants by posting an advertisement through Amazon’s Mechanical
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Turk (Mturk.com). Eligible participants were required be at least 18 years old and reside in the
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their participation. One participant identified as neither male nor female, and another did not
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complete the measures correctly, thus both were omitted from analyses The final sample
consisted of 79 women and 79 men, age 19–76 (M = 40.58). Participants self-described as White
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(81%), Black/African-American (8.2%), Asian (4.4%), Hispanic/Latino (3.1%), NativeAmerican (1.9%) and Other (1.3%). The sample was 91.8% Heterosexual, 3.1% Gay/Lesbian,
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3.8% Bisexual, and 1.2% Questioning/Unsure/Other. We retained non-heterosexuals in the
sample because despite inclusion of transgender people in sexual minority communities, sexual
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orientation and gender identity are distinct constructs. Excluding non-heterosexual participants
did not alter any of the findings.
Procedure and Materials
After providing informed consent, participants were welcomed to a study described as
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United States. A total of 160 people completed all required materials and received $0.80 for
“Opinions about Social Situations.” They were then told that they would read a series of
vignettes describing experiences people have in various public situations, and each would be
followed by a set of questions for them to answer. They first completed demographics, followed
by measures of essentialism (Bastian and Haslam, 2006), aggression (Buss and Perry, 1996)
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social desirability (Crowne and Marlowe, 1964). Participants then read a vignette and answered
questions intended as filler. Lastly, they read a vignette about someone encountering a
transgender person in a public restroom and completed the dependent measures. All participants
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received vignettes in this order.
Vignettes. The first vignette was used as filler to reduce demand characteristics. It
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described a person (Taylor) waiting in line for coffee behind a person with a large complicated
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This was followed by filler questions (designed to parallel the questions below) asking
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participants’ reactions to the situation.
The second vignette described a person encountering a transgender person in a public
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restroom at a movie theater. Women read one of two randomly assigned vignettes describing a
woman (Kim) seeing a trans person as she enters the women’s restroom; men read one of two
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randomly assigned vignettes describing a man (Jim) entering the men’s restroom. Vignettes were
identical except that one described a male to female trans person (MtF/transwoman) and the
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other described a female to male (FtM/transman). We purposefully avoided using the term
transgender. This was to reduce demand characteristics, but more importantly, because such
situations are likely to be ambiguous and people are unlikely to automatically assume that the
patron is transgender. Thus, we phrased the scenario to capture this ambiguity. The vignettes
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order. It further described Taylor as inpatient and requesting a separate line for smaller orders.
read as follows:
Kim (Jim) went to the movies with her (his) friends. During the movie she (he) had to use
the restroom. Upon entering the women’s (men’s) restroom, she (he) saw a woman (man)
washing her (his) hands. There was something about the woman’s (man’s) appearance that
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caused Kim (Jim) to look more closely. After a few seconds, it was clear why. The woman (man)
washing her (his) hands was actually a biological man (woman), dressed and presenting as a
woman (man). Kim (Jim) was surprised at first and then uncomfortable.
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Reactions to transgender target. Immediately following the vignette were two sets of
questions. The first set consisted of four questions asking 1) whether it was reasonable that
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Kim/Jim felt uncomfortable, 2) the extent that the person encountered belonged in the women’s
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scale (1 =“strongly disagree” to 7 = strongly agree“).
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extent that the person belonged in neither restroom. Responses were on an 7-point Likert-type
The second set of questions asked participants to imagine if they were in the situation
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depicted. They were presented with four hypothetical responses. They asked participants the
extent that they would 1) notify a security guard about the person, 2) approach and ask the
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person to leave the restroom, 3) stop and wait for the person to leave and 4) enter the restroom
without concern. These responses were designed to measure policing behaviors and were drawn
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from research on transgender people’s reported experiences in public restrooms (Girshick, 2008;
Herman, 2005). Items were rated on the same 7-point Likert-type scale described above.
Measures
Essentialism. Essentialism was measured using Bastian and Haslam’s (2006) Essentialist
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restroom, 3) the extent that the person encountered belonged in the men’s restroom, and 4) the
Beliefs Scale (study α = .90). The scale consists of 23-items designed to assess endorsement that
social categories are largely biologically determined, fixed and informative of social attributes.
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Trait Aggression. We used Buss and Perry’s (1992) 29-item Aggression Questionnaire
to measure trait aggression (study α = .95). Items were averaged such that higher scores reflect
more trait aggression.
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Social Desirability. We included the widely used 33-item Marlowe-Crowne Social
Desirability Scale (Crowne & Marlowe, 1964) to measure to extent to which participants respond
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in a socially desirable way. The scale has 33 true or false items that describe negative but
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However, across all analyses no significant effects were found for social desirability as a
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covariate. Given this, we omitted this variable in the analyses described below.
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Results
Birth sex versus gender identity restrooms
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We conducted a series of two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) to test Hypothesis 1:
participants will assign restrooms according to birth sex and not preferred gender. We entered
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target (transwoman or transman), gender and their interaction as the independent variables. The
dependent variables were men’s room, women’s room, and neither restroom. Across all analyses
a Levene’s test confirmed that the assumption of homogeneity of variance across groups was not
violated.
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common behaviors that may elicit impression management. This was included as a covariate.
The predicted main effect for target emerged for both the men’s room, F(1, 155) = 43.81,
p = .000, η p 2 =.22 and women’s room, F(1, 155) = 21.83, p = .000, η p 2 =.12. As Table 1 shows,
the transwoman was rated as belonging in the men’s room more than the transman. Participants
also rated that the transman belonged in the women’s room more so than the transwoman. The
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“neither restroom” variable was not significant, F(1, 155) = 3.36, p = .07, = η p 2 = .02. Despite
the lack of mean differences, an examination of frequency distributions showed that 18.9% rated
“agree” to “strongly agree” (4-7) that transmen belonged in neither the men’s nor women’s
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restroom; in the transwoman condition, the ratings were 27.%.
Reactions to transgender women versus transgender men
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notify guard, approach/ask, stop/wait,). For this analysis, the Box M test of 101.62 (p < 001)
revealed that the assumption of homogeneity of covariance matrices across groups was violated.
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However, because our sample sizes across conditions were relatively equal, robustness of the
significance test is assumed (Tabachnik & Fidell, 2013). However, an examination of frequency
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distributions revealed that notify the guard, approach/ask to leave, and stop/wait to leave
variables were positively skewed, and enter without concern was negatively skewed. We
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subsequently conducted two sets of analyses: one using the non-transformed variables and the
other using a log(10) transformation for each. Across all analyses, the pattern of findings was the
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same for the transformed and non-transformed scores. For ease of interpretation, we report the
results of the non-transformed scores.
The MANOVA revealed a main effect for gender, Wilks’ Lambda = .92, F(5, 150) =
2.30, p = .04, ηp 2 = .07. Contrary to predictions, there was no main effect for target, Wilks’
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We performed a second two-way MANOVA for the reactions variables (discomfort,
Lambda = .94, F(5, 150) = 1.86, p = .10. Also, follow-up univariate tests indicated that the
overall main effect for gender was not significant for each of individual dependent variables,
Fs(1,154) = .013 to 3.61, ps .06 to .91. Although the predictions for separate main effects for
gender and target (Hypotheses 2 and 3) were not supported, an interaction between gender and
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target emerged, Wilks’ Lambda = .92, F(5, 150) = 3.14, p = .01, η p 2 = .09 and was examined
with univariate tests.
For the interaction between gender and target, univariate tests were significant for
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discomfort, F(1, 154) = 5.94, p = .016, ηp 2 =.03, notify the guard, F(1, 154) = 10.53, p = .001;
ηp 2 =.05, stop/wait, F(1, 154) = 12.05, p = .001, ηp 2 =.07, approach/ask, F(1, 154) = 4.20, p =
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interactions we first conducted pairwise comparisons with a Bonferroni adjustment within target
conditions. In the transwoman condition, women reported more discomfort than men, t(76) =
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3.05, p = .003, but there were no gender differences in the transman condition, t(78) = .38, p =
.70. For notify the guard, women were more likely than men to notify the guard in the
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transwoman condition, t(76) = 2.20, p = .02, but men were more likely to notify the guard for
transmen, t(78) = 2.38, p = .01. For approach/ask, men were more likely than women to
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approach and ask a transman to leave, t(76) = 2.40, p = .02, but there were no gender differences
in the transwoman condition , t(76) = .50, p = .62. For stop/wait, women would were likely than
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men to stop and wait for a transwoman to leave the restroom, t(76) = 3.96, p = .001, but there
were no gender differences in the transman condition, t(78) = 1.22, p = .22. Lastly, men were
more likely than women to enter the restroom without concern, but only in transwoman
condition, t(76) = -2.63, p = .01, (transmen = t(78) = -1.42, p = .15). Table 2 summarizes these
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.04, ηp 2 = .02 and enter without concern, F(1, 154) = 8.02, p = .003, ηp 2 =.05. To interpret the
findings.
We also compared conditions within gender. As Table 2 shows, men’s reactions to
transgender people in restrooms did not differ by target. No target differences emerged for
discomfort, t(77) = .68, p = .49, notify the guard, t(77) = -.57, p = .56, approach/ask, t(77) = .34,
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p = .73, stop/wait, t(77) = .78, p = .43, and enter without concern, t(77) = -.45, p = .65. Women’s
reactions did differ by target. They reported more discomfort with a transwoman than transman,
t(77) = 2.76, p = .006, were more likely to notify a guard, t(77) = 4.02, p = .001, to approach and
ask a transwoman to leave, t(77) = 2.04,, p = .04, stop and wait for them to leave, t(77) = 4.41, p
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Correlations of Reactions with Trait Aggression and Essentialism
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= .001, and were less likely to enter the restroom without concern, t(77) = -3.60, p = .001.
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variables to examine differences in correlations by gender (see Table 2). Of particular interest
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was the relationship between essentialism and aggression with negative reactions to transgender
people. This revealed a parallel pattern for women and men: essentialism correlated with
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discomfort, notify a guard, stop/wait and enter without concern (inversely). Aggression was
correlated with notify a guard and approach/ask to leave for women, and with approach/ask to
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leave for men. Although essentialism and aggression were significantly correlated for women,
they were unrelated for men, and men and women did not differ in essentialism, t(156) = .42, p =
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.67, or aggression, t(156) = 1.76, p = .08. Additionally, for women, essentialism correlated with
views that targets should use to men’s room. We explored this correlation further with separate
correlations for men and women by target. The only significant relationship was for women in
the transwoman condition: essentialism correlated with men’s room, r(38) = .31, p = .05. No
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We next turned to Hypotheses 4 by conducting correlational analyses of all study
other relationships between essentialism and restroom assignment emerged (all ps > .05). We
next turned to the extent to which essentialism and aggression in men and women predict
negative reactions differentially for transwomen and transmen.
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Gender, Target Gender, Essentialism, Trait Aggression and Restroom Reactions
To explore the extent to which essentialism and trait aggression predict negative reactions
to transgender people in restrooms we conducted multiple regressions for the five reactions
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variables: discomfort, notify the guard, approach/ask, stop/wait, and enter without concern. We
included gender, target and their interactions in the model for exploratory purposes. Following
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Aiken and West’s (1991) recommended procedures, we dummy coded the two categorical
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mean-centered essentialism and aggression. After computing two and three-way interaction
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terms, the variables were entered simultaneously into each regression equation. Because of
insufficient power, we did not examine four-way interactions. Collinearity tests confirmed that
1.02 to 6.75).
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multi-collinearity was not a concern across any of the regression equations (VIF’s ranged from
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Discomfort. The overall model was significant, F(12,145) = 3.41, R2 = .22, p = .001,
with a main effect for gender, β = 1.20, p = .002, indicating that women were more likely than
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men to feel discomfort. A two-way gender X target interaction, β = -1.29, p = .02, and a two-way
target X aggression interaction, β = -1.07, p = .002, were qualified by a three-way interaction
between gender, target and aggression, β = 1.15, p = .02. We conducted simple slopes analyses to
interpret this interaction. Regression lines were plotted at one standard deviation above and
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variables: gender (0 = male, 1 = female), target condition (0 = transwoman, 1 = transman), and
below the mean of aggression scores. Simple slopes tests revealed that for men, trait aggression
predicted less discomfort toward transmen, t(76) = -.2.73, β = .64, p = .007. In the transwomen
condition, the relationship between aggression and increased discomfort approached but was not
statistically significant, t(76) = 1.78, β = .43, p = .07. In contrast, women’s aggression scores was
unrelated to discomfort in both the transwomen and transman conditions, t(76) = -.32 β = -.07, p
17
= .73 and t(76) = .02, β = .006, p = .98, respectively. For ease of interpretation, we present
separate figures for men and women (Figures 1a and 1b).
Notify the guard. The overall model was significant, F(12,145) = 3.30, R2 = .25, p =
ip
t
.001. Three main effects emerged for notify the guard: gender, essentialism and aggression.
Women were more likely to notify the guard than men, β = .82, p = .03, and higher essentialism
cr
scorers and high aggressors would notify more than those who scored low, β = .45, p = .007. A
us
interaction between gender, target and aggression, β = .94, p = .05. Simple slopes tests revealed
an
that for men, aggression predicted notifying the guard in the transwoman condition t(76) = 2.19,
β = .53, p = .03, but not the transman condition, t(76) = .06, β = .01, p = .94. Women’s
M
aggression was not predictive of notifying a guard in the transwoman condition, t(76) = .30, β =
.07, p = .75 and approached, but was not significant in the transman condition, t(76) = 1.86, β =
ed
.50, p = .06. This pattern is depicted in Figures 2a and 2b.
Approach/ask to leave. The overall model was significant, F(12,145) = 2.66, R2 = .18,
ce
pt
p = .003. A main effect for aggression, β = .69, p = .001 shows that high aggressors would be
more likely than low aggressors to approach and ask the target to leave. An aggression X gender
interaction, β = -.63, p = .01 was qualified by a significant gender X target X aggression
interaction, β = .88, p = .02. Simple slopes tests revealed that aggression predicted that men
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gender X target interaction, β = -1.53, p = .005, was qualified by a significant three-way
would approach/ask a transwoman to leave t(76) = 3.65, β = .69, p = .001, but not a transman
t(76) = 1.11, β = .20, p = .26. For women aggression predicted asking a transman to leave t(76) =
2.08, β = .43 p = .03, but not transwoman, t(76) = .33, β = .06, p = .74. Figures 3a and 3b depicts
this interaction.
18
Stop/wait. The overall model was significant, F(12,145) = 4.17, R2 = .25, p = .001. A
main effect for essentialism, β = .66, p = .005 showed that people high in essentialism would be
more likely than those who scored low to stop and wait for the target to leave. This was qualified
by a significant two-way interaction between gender and target, β = -2.02, p = .001. This pattern -
ip
t
redundant with the above univariate test following the MANOVA – showed that in the
transwoman condition, women were more likely than men to stop and wait, t(157) = 3.81, β =
cr
us
.40.
an
Enter without concern. The overall model was significant, F(12,145) = 3.02, R2 = .20,
p = .001. We found main effects for gender, β = -1.07, p = .01, and essentialism, β = -.58, p = .01,
M
indicating that men were more likely than women to enter the restroom without concern, and
those high in essentialism were less likely than low to enter without concern.
ed
Discussion
ce
pt
Transgender people face bias in nearly every domain of their lives: in schools, at work, in
doctor’s offices, at the hands of police, in airports, buses and taxis, at retail and grocery stores
(Beemyn & Rankin, 2013; Grant et. al, 2011). This bias can also occur in public restrooms,
where they may be questioned by patrons, told to leave, or be met by a security guard to escort
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1.65, p = .001. No differences were found in the transman condition t(157) = -.84, β = -.36, p =
them out (Herman, 2013). Transgender people report that safe access to restrooms is one of their
most persistent and frightening challenges (Doan, 2010), and distress following from harassment
in public restrooms has been directly linked to suicide attempts in transgender adults (Seelman,
2016).
19
This is the first study to directly examine the range of people’s potential reactions to trans
people in restrooms. We sought to discern which restroom people view as appropriate for
transgender patrons: birth sex or chosen gender identity (Hypothesis 1). Our hypothesis was
confirmed: Both male and female participants agreed that transwomen should use the men’s
ip
t
room and transmen the women’s room. There was also considerable agreement among
participants - regardless of participant or target gender- that transgender people do not belong in
cr
us
We also predicted that reactions would be more negative from men than from women
an
(Hypothesis 2), and harsher for transwomen versus transmen (Hypothesis 3). Research on
transgender prejudice consistently shows men reporting more negative attitudes than women
M
(Nagoshi et al, 2013; Norton & Herek, 2013), and transgender discrimination research shows that
transgender women report more verbal and physical harassment than transmen (Miller &
ed
Grollman, 2015).
Our findings did not support this pattern. Rather, we found that reactions varied across
ce
pt
gender and targets. If sharing a restroom with a transwoman, women, compared with men
reported more discomfort, were more likely to stop and wait for the transwoman to leave, notify
a guard, and were less likely to enter the restroom without concern. On the other hand, if sharing
a restroom with a transman, men were more likely than women to notify a guard and to approach
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either restroom.
and ask the person to leave the restroom. The implications of these analyses are troubling – for
both transgender women and men. That is, in instances where transgender people choose the
restroom according to their chosen identity, the reactions from patrons have the potential to be
quite negative. Taken together, this pattern suggests that when transgender people choose
restrooms aligned with their preferred gender, they face risks – risks that range from a sense of
20
discomfort from fellow patrons, being approached and asked to leave, to being escorted out by a
guard who was alerted to their presence.
We also found of evidence that two correlates predict negative restroom reactions:
ip
t
essentialism and trait aggression (Hypothesis 4). Essentialists believe that social categories are
traceable to an underlying biological “essence” that is fixed and corresponds to observable,
cr
identical qualities among category members (Bastian & Haslam, 2006) and may conclude that it
us
category. Here, essentialism correlated with all negative reactions-except approach/ask- for both
an
women and men, and predicted notifying a guard, stop/wait to leave and (inversely) enter
without concern.
M
Trait aggression also predicted negative reactions to transgender people – both
transwomen and transmen- from both men and women. This also is in contrast with previous
ed
research on transphobia, which found that trait aggression was only predictive for men (Nagoshi
et. al, 2008). Here, trait aggression interacted with participant and target gender. In situations
ce
pt
with transwomen using the men’s room, men’s aggression was associated with notifying a guard
and approaching and asking them to leave. On the other hand, transmen face a similar pattern
when they use the women’s restroom. Here, women’s aggression predicted approaching
transmen and asking them to leave, and marginally predicted notifying a guard. These findings
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is impossible to change one’s gender - that one’s birth sex remains a fixed, immutable social
carry troubling implications for transgender people who (whether by choice or policy) use the
restrooms associated with their birth sex. That is when transgender people choose, or are forced
to choose restrooms according to their birth sex, depending on levels of trait aggression in
patrons, both transwomen and transmen face risks.
21
Implications
Transgender people are currently the focus of a contentious debate regarding their use of
public restrooms. In the U.S., several states aim to deny transgender people the choice to use
ip
t
restrooms corresponding to their chosen gender identity. These “Bathroom bills” are increasing,
and proponents focus solely on assumed hazards of transgender women using women’s
cr
restrooms. Consistent with the notion of “penis panic” (Westbrook and Schilt, 2014), they
us
does not support this argument; States with current public accommodations protections for
an
transgender people report no increase in sexual assaults since implementation (Media Matters,
2016).
M
Our findings suggest that in instances where restrictive legislation is enforced, it is
transgender people who may face risks. Despite uniform agreement that transgender patrons
ed
belong in birth sex restrooms, we found that participants with aggressive tendencies may indeed
police the space, and despite being in the ostensible “correct” bathroom, both trans women and
ce
pt
men risk being approached and told to leave – either by a security guard or fellow patrons. On
the other hand, several states have enacted protective legislation that allows transgender people
to choose their identity-based restroom. Yet findings of this study suggest that other patrons may
not support these choices. Transgender women in particular are vulnerable to strong discomfort
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assume that transgender women using public restrooms would attempt sexual assault. Evidence
and from female patrons as well as to be met by a security guard to escort them out.
22
Limitations and Future Directions
There are two limitations to our study we wish to highlight. First, because our study
ip
t
relied on self-report to hypothetical scenarios, it is unclear how closely responses correspond to
actual behavior. Additionally, encountering a trans person in a public restroom is likely to be a
cr
novel situation people have limited experience with. Because people were responding to a
us
have under-reported their reactions. However, none of our dependent variables correlated with
an
social desirability, suggesting that participants felt comfortable offering their unfiltered reactions.
Also, because transgender people report restroom incidents to be common (Herman, 2013), it is
M
possible that our results are a conservative estimate of actual occurrences.
A second potential limitation is that the wording of the scenarios was deliberately
ed
ambiguous and did not use the term transgender. It is possible that had we used the term,
ce
pt
people’s reactions may have been less negative. Also, because the language of the vignette stated
that Kim/Jim felt uncomfortable, it is possible that this may have elicited demand characteristics.
As a result, participants may be over reporting negative reactions. We find this unlikely for two
reasons. First, transgender prejudice is high; when anti-trans attitudes are directly measured,
participants report considerable antipathy (Hill & Willoughy, 2005; Norton and Herek, 2013;
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hypothetical scenario and were not actually experiencing the situation it is possible that they may
Winter, et al., 2008) and report more prejudice toward trans people than toward sexual minorities
(Norton & Herek, 2013). Second, as noted earlier, our reasoning for omitting the term was to
close approximate the ambiguity of these situations. In public restrooms, unless immediately
verbally disclosed, a person’s identity as transgender is not explicit. Even if it were, the term
23
transgender is especially broad and includes a range of subgroups such as transsexuals, crossdressers, and genderqueer (Beemyn & Rankin, 2011). At this early stage of research, it is unclear
if people make distinctions across these subgroups, whether they include such subgroups under a
superordinate transgender category, and if so, how reactions might differ by subgroup.
ip
t
Presenting restroom scenarios descriptively, rather than imposing social categories captures the
ambiguity of these novel situations. This increases our confidence that the reported reactions are
cr
us
There are many potential areas on this topic for future researchers to pursue, but two are
an
especially pressing. First, because our findings show that men and women widely differ in
reactions by target, additional research comparing perceptions of transgender women versus men
M
are critical. This research showed a different pattern than earlier work on general transgender
attitudes, where men’s attitudes were uniformly more negative than women’s (Hill and
ed
Willoughby, 2005; Nagoshi et al, 2008; Norton & Herek, 2013; Tee & Hegarty, 2006; Winter et
al, 2008). Our findings indicate that men and women differed in their negative reactions
ce
pt
depending on target gender. One potential explanation for this inconsistency is because current
transgender attitude scales measure general antipathy toward transgender, cross dressing and
gender invariant people (Hill & Willoughby, 2005), others measure discomfort with those who
blur gender identities (Nagoshi et al., 2008), and others employ feeling thermometers asking to
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a close approximation of actual instances.
rate transgender people on a 100-point scale ranging from cold to warm (Norton & Herek, 2013).
No existing measures to date separately measures attitudes toward transwomen and transmen,
and the development of such scales would be a welcome and important contribution.
Future research in this area should also examine affect. Other than discomfort, our study
did not include an affect measure. We noted above that women may possibly experience fear
24
toward transwomen, but what of transmen? The link between women’s aggression with reactions
in the transman (but not transwoman) condition may indicate anger or hostility. Additionally the
link of men’s aggression to reactions in the transwoman condition could also suggest anger.
Future researchers should examine a broad range of affect, assessing transgender women and
ip
t
men separately for men and women. Research on the extent that affect predicts restroom
cr
reactions would further clarify the pattern observed here.
us
The use of public restrooms is a routine part of everyday life. What is typically an
an
uneventful few minutes for most can be a distressing, humiliating and even dangerous experience
for transgender people (Girshick, 2008; Herman, 2013). This research showed endorsement that
M
transgender people should not use restroom that align with their preferred gender, and that those
who choose such restrooms risk negative reactions from patrons. Yet, risk is also possible if they
ed
choose (or are forced to choose) birth sex restrooms; our findings show that patrons high in trait
aggression would still respond negatively, to both transwomen and transmen. More research is
ce
pt
needed to better understand additional factors that predict these reactions and which factors
predict reactions allowing transgender people to use restrooms without incident.
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Conclusion
25
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31
Table 1 Means, SD and Confidence Intervals for Restroom Assignment
Men (n=79)
Women (n=79)
Total
95% CI
Transwoman
4.92(1.84)
4.72(2.17)
4.82(2.03)a
[4.36,5.27]
Transman
3.02(1.79)
2.61(1.84)
2.82(1.81)b
Transwoman
2.81(1.98)
2.92(1.97)
2.87(1.96)a
Transman
4.17(2.06)
4.61(1.80)
4.38(1.93)b
Transwoman
2.63(2.19)
2.60(1.98)
Transman
2.41(1.71)
1.82(1.57)
[2.42,3.22]
cr
[2.42,3.31]
us
[3.95,4.81]
2.61(2.07)
[2.14,3.08]
2.12(1.66)
[1.75,2.49]
an
Neither Restroom
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pt
ed
M
Note: Means in the column with subscripts are significantly different. (all ps < .001).
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Women’s Room
ip
t
Men’s Room
Table 2 Means, SD and Confidence Intervals for Restroom Reactions
Men (n=79)
Women
(n=79)
Total
95% CI
Transwoman
4.31(1.96)a
5.52(1.60)b
4.93(1.87)
[4.51,5.35]
Transman
4.58(1.58)
4.43(1.84)c
4.51(1.70)
[4.13,4.89]
Transwoman
2.28(1.73)a
3.15(2.09)b
2.73(1.96)
[2.28,3.17]
Transman
2.51(1.67)a
1.58(1.29)bc
2.06(1.56)
Transwoman
1.88(1.44)
2.03(1.56)
1.96(1.50)
[1.62,2.30]
Transman
2.12(1.42)a
1.38(.94)bc
1.76(1.26)
[1.48,2.04]
Transwoman
2.57(1.86)a
4.35(2.34)b
3.48(2.29)
[2.96,4.00]
Transman
2.92(1.73)
2.38(1.87)c
2.66(1.81)
[2.25,3.06]
4.92(1.73)a
3.80(2.09)b
4.34(2.08)
[3.87,4.81]
4.73(1.68)
5.33(1.79)c
5.02(1.75)
[4.63,5.41]
ip
t
Discomfort
Transwoman
Transman
ed
No Concern
M
Stop and Wait
cr
us
[1.71,2.41]
an
Approach/Ask to Leave
ce
pt
Note: Means in columns with subscripts are significantly different. Means in rows
with subscripts are significantly different (all ps < .05).
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Notify Guard
33
Table 3 Correlation Matrix, Means, and Standard Deviations for all Study Variables, Separated
by Gender
2
--- .25*
1.
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
.24*
-.16
.12
.36**
.29**
.22
.30**
Essentiali
sm
---
.19
-.13
.20
.06
.24*
-.13
.00
---
-.67**
room
.01 -.58**
---
.50**
.56**
.38**
-.13
-.37**
-.34**
.52**
Women’s
ed
room
.06
-.07
5. No
.03
---
.29*
-.06
-.27*
6.
ce
pt
*
.26*
-.04 -
Discomfo
rt
7. Notify
.34**
.30**
.38**
-.05
.30**
-.19
.28*
---
.44**
.27*
.50**
.37*
/ask
*
2. 1.
72 11
-.46** 3.
2.
.31** 3. 2.
-.31** 2. 1.
-.55** 4. 1.
.39**
.25
---
.67**
.69**
-.55** 2.
1.
37 90
-.10
Approach
-.19
98 80
.21
.16
19 40
21 82
.44**
Guard
8.
.34**
.25*
75 06
.30*
Restroom
M
68 26
M
.00
4.
.26*
an
3. Men’s
.21
us
n
Ac
Downloaded by [UAE University] at 09:06 28 October 2017
Aggressio
.24*
-
S
D
5. 1.
cr
.09
2.
10
ip
t
1
.27*
.29**
.14
.78**
---
.47**
-.27* 1. 1.
71 32
34
.32**
Stop/Wait
10 No
-.27*
.32**
.29**
.49**
.61**
.57**
-.68** 3. 2.
.15
-.35**
Concern
-
37 33
.48**
-.23*
-.18
-.33**
-.59**
-.46**
-.58**
.03
5.28
3.93
3.51
2.51
4.45
2.40
2.00
2.06
2.12
1.93
1.76
1.69
1.43
3.04
1.30
2.75
1.79
us
1.15
ed
M
an
Note: *p < .05 **p < .01. Men’s (N = 79) correlation coefficients are below the diagonal;
women’s (N = 80) are above. Means and standard deviations for men are presented in the
horizontal rows, and means and standard deviations for women are displayed in the vertical
columns.
ce
pt
55 08
4.82
1.80
cr
SD
Ac
-- 4. 2.
-
M
Downloaded by [UAE University] at 09:06 28 October 2017
---
ip
t
9.
cr
us
an
M
ce
pt
ed
1a) Men
Ac
Downloaded by [UAE University] at 09:06 28 October 2017
ip
t
35
1b) Women
Figure 1. Relationship between trait aggression and discomfort toward transgender targets
(transwomen versus transmen) for men and women.
cr
us
an
ce
pt
ed
M
a) Men
Ac
Downloaded by [UAE University] at 09:06 28 October 2017
ip
t
36
b) Women
Figure 2. Relationship between trait aggression and notifying a guard about transgender targets
(transwomen versus transmen) for men and women.
cr
us
an
ce
pt
ed
M
a) Men
Ac
Downloaded by [UAE University] at 09:06 28 October 2017
ip
t
37
b) Women
Figure 3. Relationship between trait aggression and approach/ask transgender targets to leave
(transwomen versus transmen) for men and women.
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