On June 24, a complaint was filed against a transwoman, alleging that he flashed his penis at a group of women the day before. But police didn’t take the claims seriously. Neither did the press.
Slate Magazine called it a hoax, endangering women by refusing to believe the victims. Now new information regarding the suspect has surfaced as those involved didn’t back down and pressed for due process.
What We Know about the Incident
The transwoman in question is said to have gone into the women’s section of Wi Spa in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles, and flashed natural-born women with full male anatomy. One of the victims posted a video afterward in which she questioned spa workers. She asked, “It’s okay for a man to go into the women’s section, show his penis around other women ‒ young little girls, underage ‒ your spa, Wi Spa condones that?”
The media called it a hoax, endangering women by refusing to believe the victims.
The workers responded by telling the woman that the suspect was allowed to stay because as a transwoman that’s her sexual orientation. The victim in the video is obviously upset. She was called names for stating that she has “a right to feel comfortable without a man exposing himself,” and had to cause a scene to be heard.
When Safety Concerns Are Labelled “Transphobic”
Oftentimes cases like these don’t get the notice they deserve because so many people are afraid of being considered a bigot or transphobic, but there’s nothing transphobic about allowing natural-born women the safety of a penis-free space. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 women has experienced rape or attempted rape. But because the topics of trans rights and women’s rights are politically charged and not always aligned, women who seek penis-free spaces (which used to be the women’s room or women’s section) are often subjected to ridicule.
1 in 5 women has experienced rape or attempted rape.
It’s rebranded victim shaming and victim blaming. The women at the spa were embarrassed in front of a crowd of people and had to stand their ground. In addition, charges were not filed until this week. If the victims hadn't stood up for themselves and pressed the issue, the suspect would have gone free without any repercussions.
The Suspect Is a Registered Sex Offender
Darren Agee Merager is a 52 year old who identifies as a woman but has a penis and testicles. He is considered legally female in the state of California. Merager claimed that the victim is transphobic because “She never saw me naked. I was underwater with water all the way up to my chest” while using the jacuzzi in the spa.
But Merager is not just a transwoman being harassed. Merager was previously convicted of indecent exposure in 2002 and 2003. He was also charged with failing to register as a sex offender in 2008, and is currently facing six felony charges for the same crime based on a 2018 locker room incident. Furthermore, Merager has a criminal history of almost a dozen felony convictions, ranging from sex offenses to burglary. Given the nature of the suspect’s history, it’s not difficult to draw parallels to the current case.
Merager claims to identify as female so he can access women’s locker rooms and showers.
In 2018, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department circulated an internal document to law enforcement stating, “Merager claims to identify as female so he can access women’s locker rooms and showers.”
No matter how we label the situation, a person with a penis went into a space meant for people without penises and caused distress. And instead of taking the claims seriously, police waited over two months to file charges. Now the suspect is facing five counts of indecent exposure. If natural-born women are not afforded penis-free spaces, and proper legal support, repeat offenders like Merager will continue to threaten their safety.
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