LGTBQ Nondiscrimination Policies Used to Mask Indecent Exposure Case

Health Policy Brief #126 | By: April Straughters | January 10, 2022

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Policy Summary

The conversation about nondiscrimination laws protecting the LGBTQ community in public spaces recently became more complicated after a transgender woman was charged with five felony counts for indecent exposure after reportedly exposing herself at a popular Korean spa in Los Angeles.

In June 2021 a viral Instagram post showed women complaining to staff at Wi Spa that a man exposed himself to women and two young girls ages 9 and 14.

Wi Spa staff explained to the women that the person identified themselves as transgender and could not be discriminated against. Discrimination against transgender and gender-nonconforming people is prohibited in virtually every area of life in California, including housing, employment, education, insurance, and public accommodations, according to the Transgender Law Center.

Onlookers can be seen and heard trying to reason with the women explaining the person could be a transgender woman. But the woman who recorded the video insisted that the person was not a woman citing the person’s exposed genitalia as proof.

After this video posted by @CubanaAngel on Instagram went viral, the incident quickly spread from social media to rightwing forums, far-right news sites and eventually to Fox News.

The incident gained massive media attention and sparked two major, violent protests in July 2021 in which two people were stabbed, one seriously injured, according to The Guardian.

Initially some believed this incident might be a hoax. At the time of the protests the allegations were unsubstantiated but in late July it was reported that five individuals did file reports of indecent exposure to the LA Police Department (LAPD), which were “ultimately corroborated.”

The LAPD announced in late August that it had put out an arrest warrant for Darren Merager, 52, who is facing five felony counts of indecent exposure at Wi Spa in the Koreatown neighborhood of LA.

The Guardian reported that police said Merager has been a registered sex offender since 2006 and has a history of previous indecent exposure charges. Merager was convicted of indecent exposure in LA in 2002 and 2003 and pleaded not guilty to seven counts of indecent exposure in an alleged December 2018 case, according to court records. That case is still open.

An LAPD spokesperson told The Guardian the department could not immediately comment on the suspect’s gender identity.

Information posted on womenarehuman.com shows a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Bulletin that pictures Merager and his vehicle and states that Marager was arrested on December 30, 2018 for indecent exposure in a women’s locker room at a West Hollywood park. The bulletin went on to say that Marager, “claims to identify as female so he can access women’s locker rooms and showers.” The bulletin describes Marager as a transient registered sex offender and asks that people report any similar incidents.

The website also reports that Marager identifies as female and says the criminal charges are transphobic harassment.

Cases like this one complicate the conversation on nondiscriminatory laws for the LGBTQ community in public spaces, particularly restrooms and locker rooms.

Given the violent protests, this incident also brings to light that people on opposite sides of this debate are not able to hear one another as this particular case may be outside the realm of the typical dilemma of transgenders using public spaces that have historically been separated between the sexes. This case could actually be one that is about an individual purposely trying to use laws put in place to protect the LGBTQ communities to satisfy fetishes, which doesn’t apply to the typical transgender individual.

Policy Analysis

According to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), public accommodation nondiscrimination laws protect LGBTQ people from being unfairly refused service, denied entry to, or otherwise discriminated against in public places based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Public accommodation laws generally cover anywhere someone is when they are not at home, work, or school, including retail stores, restaurants, parks, hotels, doctors’ offices, and banks. 

The American Cilvil Liberties Union (ACLU) admits that while federal law prohibiting discrimination on gender identity or expression particularly regarding the use of restrooms and locker rooms in public spaces “is uncertain”, most courts have found in favor transgender people being able to access facilities most consistent with their gender identity.

Also  according to the ACLU, state and local laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression should protect transgender people’s right to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

“We believe that laws that ban sex discrimination should also be interpreted by the courts to protect transgender people,” the ACLU said.

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In some places, state and local nondiscrimination laws are much clearer about transgender people’s right to use gender identity-appropriate public restrooms. Many businesses, universities, and other public places are converting their restrooms to all-gender spaces.

A map on the website, lgbtmap.org shows that 21 states and D.C. have adopted state public accommodation nondiscrimination laws that explicitly enumerate sexual orientation and/or gender identity as protected classes; 7 states explicitly interpret existing prohibition on sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and/or gender identity; one state (Wisconsin) explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation only and 21 states and 7 territories currently have no explicit prohibitions for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in state law.

Engagement Resources​

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Women Are Human logo 2022 working

Women Are Human is a non-partisan group dedicated to exploring the totalitarian impact of the gender identity movement on society as a whole, and particularly on women and girls, in every aspect of life, from identity, legal rights, health care, privacy, safety, sexuality, participation in sports, careers and politics, and more.

Movement Advancement Project (MAP) is an independent, nonprofit think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all. MAP works to ensure that all people have a fair chance to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, take care of the ones they love, be safe in their communities, and participate in civic life.

ACLU logo

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was founded in 1920 and is our nation’s guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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