Target has taken a stand regarding the transgender bathroom controversy that has been grabbing headlines in recent weeks. Just this week, the retailer happily announced that transgender customers would be welcome to use the bathroom that best matches their gender identity — a reinforcement of guidelines that had been in place for years. While the move has won praise on social media, the official policy hasn’t sat well with all customers — and by Sunday, more than 340,000 anti-transgender activists had pledged to boycott Target for its transgender bathroom policy, forcing the company to take to social media in order to quell customer concerns.
The move comes after legislation was passed in North Carolina that would restrict someone's public bathroom use to the gender listed on a person’s birth certificate. That move sparked a national debate and prompted several celebrities and companies to boycott business in the state and even pull current plans in motion.
Target now sees itself on the other end of the controversy, after it clarified the company’s position on transgender bathrooms in a statement last Tuesday.
“Inclusivity is a core belief at Target. It’s something we celebrate,” the lauded statement read. “We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”
Since the announcement, the American Family Association (AFA) has started a petition to boycott Target for its stated policy and saying on Friday that it had gathered more than 200,000 signatures of support.
“This means a man can simply say he ‘feels like a woman today’ and enter the women’s restroom... even if young girls or women are already in there,” AFA President Tim Wildmon said in an open letter after the policy was announced. “Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. And with Target publicly boasting that men can enter women’s bathrooms, where do you think predators are going to go?”
In response, reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner addressed the controversy of safety and privacy surrounding the recent bills and policies on her website, saying
We all want safety and privacy in public bathrooms. But these anti-LGBT bills, like the ones in North Carolina and Mississippi, actually make us less safe, not more safe. They open the door to abuse, aggressive and confrontational behavior in bathrooms, and encourage strangers to demand that women and girls prove that they are actually female in order to use the restroom. No one wants that.
Wildom conversely addressed the safety issue himself. "AFA does not believe the transgender community poses this danger to the wider public," he claimed in the open letter. "Rather, this misguided and reckless policy provides a possible gateway for predators who are out there."
In an interesting twist, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said in a town hall style interview with NBC's Today Show last week that he would be fine with Jenner using whichever bathroom she found appropriate if she visited the Trump Towers. "People go. They use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate,” Trump said. “There has been so little trouble. And the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic ... punishment that they’re taking."
As Target has become the centerpiece of this most recent boycott, social media has run rampant with disappointed customers, many of whom are pledging to boycott the store, or at least just the bathrooms. In response, LGBTQ advocates have pointed out that transgender people have been able to use the bathroom of their choice for years.
The concerns and opinions are strong on both ends — but for now, it seems Target is winning the public battle, despite protests to the contrary.