Most women aren't concerned about sharing public bathrooms with transgender women. But many men are concerned about the safety and privacy of the women in their lives, a new online opinion survey says.
A transgender woman is someone who identifies as female, but was registered at birth as male.
Researchers analysed 1,035 comments posted by readers of 190 online news articles about transgender women's use of public bathrooms. The issue is controversial, particularly in the United States, where so-called "bathroom bills" are being considered for transgender use of public facilities.
Men were about 1.55 times more likely than women to express safety and privacy concerns. Women were much less likely to comment on the news stories. When they did, they were more restrained than men.
Women were much more concerned about so-called "perverts" who pose as transgender females, according to the study in the journal Gender Issues.
One reason for men's stronger concerns about transgender women using female-designated public bathrooms is due to the fact that many men see themselves as so-called protectors of women, according to study author Rebecca Stones, of Nankai University in China and Monash University in Australia.
Regarded as 'mentally ill'
Another reason is how some men view transgender women. They don't consider them females, but rather men who are lying or mistaken about their gender identity, she said.
"Consequently, they view themselves as protecting females from these males intruding into private, female-only spaces," Stones said in a journal news release. "This may be further exacerbated by a fear of deception and a belief that transgender people are mentally ill or 'sick'."
In the United States, there is considerable debate about whether transgender people should be allowed to use bathrooms that match their current gender identity, or should have to use bathrooms that match the sex they were registered as at birth.
Opponents believe that allowing the former crosses a societal boundary, and some politicians say they're concerned about the safety and privacy of the women and children with whom transgender females would be sharing a bathroom.