The Sexual Predator Myth: Once Visited on Gay Men, It Now Hurts Trans Women
There's a hidden hypocrisy within bathroom laws based on biological sex.
Elijah Nealy, Ph.Ds, M.Div., LCSW, is Assistant Professor in the Department of SociaI Work and Latino Community Practice at University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, CT. As an out transgender man, he has spent the past 25 years working extensively within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities.
For 12 years, he worked at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Community Center in New York City. Initially serving as the program director for alcohol and drug counseling, then the overall director of mental health services for adolescents and adults, and finally as the Deputy Executive Director of the Center.
His book, Transgender Children and Youth: Cultivating Pride and Joy with Families in Transition, is one of the first comprehensive guides to the medical, emotional, and social issues of trans kids. To learn more about Dr. Nealy, visit elijahnealy.com.
Elijah Nealy: Yes, I think the bathroom debate is largely a distraction, and based on erroneous assumptions: One of which is the assumption that all trans women are predators, and that’s not any more true than the myth that existed 25 years ago that all gay men are predators. The reality is most sexual predators are cisgender straight men. Most women and boys that experience sexual assault growing up experienced that at the hands of a cisgender straight male perpetrator.
The second erroneous assumption is that transgender women are using the women’s restroom for any reason other than what any other women would use the restroom. They’re simply using the restroom to take care of bodily functions that we all have, and that myth or negative myth or stereotype as trans women as predators is not valid. There’s virtually no data that documents trans women attacking other women in public restrooms. It’s simply not true. But it is used and being used to police trans people and to attempt to legislate transgender people out of existence in many ways and to invalidate their existence—their right to exist in the world alongside, the same as, anyone else’s right to exist.
It’s also not very workable, right, because as a transgender man in some states I would be expected to use the bathroom that matches my biological sex. But the reality is I don’t think many women would feel comfortable in the women’s room with me there. And there are trans men all over the country, and in all the states that are looking at these laws are enacting them who move through the world being seen only as men who would be very out of place in the women’s room. And there are many, many trans women who move through the world being seen as women and would be very out of place and at very high risk if they were to be forced to use the men’s room.
So the reality is while there’s this guise of protecting women, it’s both not effective in that it means men like me would be using the women’s room, and if it were really about protecting women we’d see a whole slate of other bills around discrimination against women and women’s bodies happening in the public sphere.
Being able to use a bathroom that aligns with your affirmed gender identity or gender presentation is an absolutely critical issue for trans people. Number one, being able to use the bathroom is a simple biological need and function that we all have, and it’s something that none of us should have to think twice about. It’s something that none of us should need an app in order to find a safe bathroom for when we’re out in public. It’s something that we should be able to take care of and move on with our lives and not even give a second thought to. What we have instead is transgender adolescents, middle and high school, elementary school kids, adults not using the restroom all day long at school because they’re not allowed to use the restroom that matches their gender identity or gender presentation. And rather than experience the gender dysphoria or the harassment that comes with being in a restroom that doesn’t match their affirmed gender they’re choosing not to use the restroom, and there are medical risks, physical health risks associated with not using the restroom for extended hours at a time.
It’s also a way of saying we don’t believe you are who you are. So when Gavin Grimm is told “You can’t use the men’s room” at his high school, the underlying message he’s being given is, “We don’t see you as a man. We don’t believe you really are a man.” And that kind of message is crazy-making for any of us. The reality is: as human beings all of us want to be seen for who we really are. We want to be acknowledged for who we know ourselves to be. We want to be accepted for who we are and loved for who we are by the people closest to us, not in spite of who we are. And when someone, a young trans man like Gavin Grimm, is allowed to use the men’s room, what he experiences is an affirmation that, “We respect, we acknowledge you know who you are as a young man.”
Your gender is your sense of self — it is located very much above the waist. Legislation that compels transgender people to use bathrooms that align with their biological sex, rather than their gender identity, are not really championing public safety. In fact, there is a hidden hypocrisy in those laws that makes the most vulnerable among us markedly less safe. According to Dr. Elijah Nealy, there is a dangerous myth that perpetuates the trans bathroom debate: that trans women are sexual predators (the data does not support this claim, and we heard the same story 25 years ago about gay men). This myth implies that transgender women have ulterior motives when using the restroom, when in reality, like every other human being, they go there to relieve a simple biological need. Insisting that bathroom laws are anchored to biological sex places trans men and women in difficult positions. States with these laws in place would have Dr. Nealy, an openly trans man, use the women's room. It also puts trans women in a very dangerous spotlight by forcing them to enter and use the men's room. Perpetuating false myths and supporting discriminatory laws only serves to invalidate the existence of an already marginalized community who are—whether others like it or not—very real. Elijah Nealy is the author of Transgender Children and Youth: Cultivating Pride and Joy with Families in Transition.
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Yet 80 percent of respondents want to reduce their risk of dementia.
- A new MDVIP/Ipsos survey found that only 35 percent of Americans know the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
- Eighty percent of respondents said they want to reduce their risks.
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Credit: logika600 / Shutterstock<p>Remaining healthy requires regular screenings. Here again we see a disassociation between risk reduction and proactivity. Seventy-seven percent of respondents don't talk to their doctors about lifestyle habits that support brain health; 51 percent have never been screened for depression; 44 percent have never had a neurological exam; and 32 percent have never been screened for hearing problems. </p><p>Common early warning signs of dementia, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to</a> Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, include repetitive questions and stories, difficulties with complex daily tasks, and trouble with orientation. </p><p>In terms of intervention, <a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/does-lack-of-exercise-lead-to-dementia" target="_self">exercise</a>, <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/obesity-dementia" target="_self">diet</a>, building a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/brain-reserve" target="_self">brain reserve</a>, and challenging your brain (such as learning a new language or musical instrument) are all proven methods for staving off the ravages of Alzheimer's. Oxytocin has also <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/alzheimers-oxytocin" target="_self">showed promise</a> in brain-addled mice, while researchers found positive results for a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/intermittent-fasting" target="_self">group of intermittent fasters</a> in promoting neurogenesis. </p><p>Epidemiologist Bryan James says that dementia is <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/04/15/176920391/how-exercise-and-other-activities-beat-back-dementia" target="_blank">not an inevitable result</a> of aging. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It's simply not pre-destined for all human beings. Lots of people live into their 90s and even 100s with no symptoms of dementia." </p><p>Professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, Andrew Budson, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends</a> aerobic exercise and the Mediterranean diet. As has long been known, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and healthy fasts like nuts and olive oil seem to have brain-boosting properties. </p><p>To learn more, take the <a href="https://www.mdvip.com/brain-health-iq-quiz" target="_blank">Brain Health IQ quiz</a>.</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>