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Critique Essay Humanities Law/Legal Natural Sciences Nonfiction Social Sciences

Public Discomfort with Gender Appearance-Inconsistent Bathroom Use: The Oppressive Bind of Bathroom Laws for Transgender Individuals

By Lisa F. Platt and Sarah R. B. Milam , 2017

Previous research with transgender and gender non-conforming samples suggests one’s gender appearance is important in regards to safe access to public bathrooms, as expectations in public bathrooms are an example of gender role social construction and are maintained through gender policing. With the rise of gender related bathroom use legislation, such as North Carolina’s HB-2, it is speculated that transgender individuals face the difficult bind of either using the bathroom consistent with their gender identity to avoid harassment, which means breaking the law, or following the law and breaking societal expectations about gender appearance-congruent bathroom use. Using a 2 × 2 × 2 within-subjects, experimental design the current study investigated public reactions to gender appearance-congruent and gender appearance-incongruent public bathroom use, using a 400 person sample taken from Amazon’s MTurk. The conditions varied by type of bathroom (male or female) in the description, type of image shown (masculine or feminine) and whether the condition contained a gender identity description (no description or transgender description). A total discomfort score served as the dependent variable. Three main hypotheses were tested, (1) there will be a significant 2-way interaction between type of bathroom and type of image, with the condition of a masculine image using a female bathroom (gender appearance-incongruent) having the higher discomfort scores, (2) there will be a significant 3-way interaction, and (3) combined all gender appearance-incongruent conditions will have significantly higher discomfort scores as compared to appearance-congruent conditions. The results of a series of repeated measures ANOVAs supported all three hypotheses, demonstrating the importance of gender appearance in public bathrooms. The social justice implications are discussed along with suggestions for future research.

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