Bigots boycott Target over bathrooms: Inclusive public restrooms aren't "a possible gateway for predators"

If anyone's personal safety is at risk in public facilities, it's trans patrons, not the "family values" crowd

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published April 22, 2016 2:59PM (EDT)


When it comes to basic rights and dignity, if being on the wrong side of history is your jam, by all means, do your thing. But just forgive us if the rest of us find you totally, laughably irrelevant. Good luck with that Target boycott, though!

Earlier this week, Target — which has of late been making long overdue strides toward making its toy and housewares aisles less rigidly gender-oriented — made another statement in its continuing "stand for inclusivity" and affirmed, "We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity." And the company did not mince words when it declared, "Everyone deserves to feel like they belong. And you’ll always be accepted, respected and welcomed at Target."

Naturally, this deeply upset some people. As bathroom panic — long the hill that racists and sexists are willing to die on — continues to terrify a segment of the population that believes in hoarding America's public restrooms for itself, the American Family Association announced a #BoycottTarget initiative over Target's "policy to allow transgender individuals access to opposite-sex store bathrooms and fitting rooms." I think that phrase "opposite sex" should tell you all you need to know about how bright these folks are.

But wait, the stupidity is especially strong in this one. In announcing the move, AFA President Tim Wildmon benevolently explained, "We want to make it very clear that AFA does not believe the transgender community poses this danger to the wider public. Rather, this misguided and reckless policy provides a possible gateway for predators who are out there." The AFA proposes a compromise: "Target should keep separate facilities for men and women, but for the transgender community and for those who simply like using the bathroom alone, a single-occupancy, unisex option could be provided."

Unisex bathrooms and gender neutral are a reasonable — and increasingly viable — option in many places, but let's be real — does the AFA seriously think that Target stores across America should have to go to the trouble of installing brand new bathroom facilities based on its own totally incorrect ideas about trans people?

I mean, I guess Target could do the bidding of a guy who says that LGBT groups are "vile in many ways" — maybe he should hold his breath and find out?

And elsewhere, when an L.A. high school's student body advocated for gender-neutral toilets, protesters this week "took their bullhorns to the school" and waved signs with messages like "Homo Sex Is Sin." How are the rest of us supposed to take these clowns seriously?

What the opponents of progress and basic common sense fail to grasp is that trans people don't actually have a "molest your child in the Target toilet" agenda. Who's really at risk, and from whom? Well, four years ago, Chrissy Lee Polis, a Baltimore transgender woman, was beaten, kicked and spit on by a group of teens when she tried to enter a McDonald's ladies room. Last month, it was a trans woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted in the bathroom at the Stonewall Inn. And if you're worried about predators, how do you explain the Texas man who reportedly raped a 12 year-old girl at a CVS bathroom this past winter?

Trans people aren't the problem, and they're not fighting for the right to use the "opposite sex" facilities. But if the fear of having to wash your hands around a trans person is going to drive you away from major retailers, that's cool. It's just more Marimekko for the rest of us.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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