Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What Needs To Be Said About The Target Transgender Restroom Debacle


April 19th, Target made the controversial announcement that transgender individuals who visited their stores were welcome to use the restroom and dressing room that aligns with their gender identity. Since then, social media has been ablaze with people on both sides of the issue, either coming out in support of Target's stance on transgender restroom acceptance, or damning the entire company and anyone who continues to shop at or be employed by Target to a fiery eternity in hell due to their “passive acceptance” of the issue.

Dammit, Target!  Why must you force us to discuss difficult topics?!

Let me first say that I do not see this as a major issue and it will have absolutely no impact on the frequency of my visits to Target. Starbucks, Facebook, Target, and various other companies have always been pretty open with the fact that they take a somewhat liberal stance on political issues, so this should really come as no surprise to anyone. Sometimes, that means they come out with a controversial statement or policy that pisses off the ultra-conservatives enough for them to introduce their latest boycott of said-company. Politicians and conservative media outlets get behind this boycott and scream and yell and stomp their feet until six months later when everyone forgets why they were boycotting the company in the first place. Then they go right back to drinking their $6.00 morning latte while they check their newsfeed for the second or third time of the day and put together their shopping list.

I am a straight male, but if someone who was obviously born as a female walks into the men's restroom at Target or any other store because that is where they feel most comfortable and they want to piss beside me, they can be my guest. Stand or sit; I don't care. I am not going to be offended, appalled, or flabbergasted. I am not going to write to the Target corporate office, I am not going to call the media and I am not going to boycott the entire company. In fact, even if I thought Target had made the wrong decision, I would continue to support them. Because even though it's controversial, they aren't afraid to take a stance on an issue that most companies wouldn't be willing to touch.

For what it's worth, I went to Target a few days ago. I went to the men's restroom while I was there,
and did not see a single person walk through the door who I thought might have been coming in hoping to catch a glimpse of my penis as I stood at the urinal. Needless to say, this was very disappointing. Based on the opinions I had read on social media, I fully expected to be miraculously transported to another dimension of strobe lights, techno music and free-flowing rohypnol-laced liquor as soon as I crossed through the threshold of the restroom doorway.

I believe the most important point to this whole restroom debacle, is that by making this statement and welcoming the transgender community to use whichever restroom they are most comfortable using, Target essentially said “keep doing what you're doing.”

While I would never call myself an expert on the subject, I will tell you the odds are, you have already shared a restroom with a transgender individual, long before this big ordeal. The reasoning behind this being that when someone identifies as a different gender than they were born, once they have “come out” to their family and friends, they typically will dress and make themselves up to appear as much like that gender as possible, because that is how they are most comfortable. I won't mention anyone by name, because I can't stand the thought of giving any minuscule amount of publicity to their repulsive family, but if you think about it, I'm sure you can recall someone you have seen in the media recently who is a prime example of this.

Meanwhile, if someone identifies as a different gender but they have not yet come out to their family and friends, I would be willing to bet the last place in the world they want to be caught is entering or exiting said-gender's restroom in public. But by making a controversial public statement, this entire issue became front page news. This statement, brought the company a massive amount of press coverage; not just newspaper, radio and television, but perhaps most importantly, social media. And to quote P.T. Barnum, “There's no such thing as bad publicity.”

I cannot tell you how many people on my own personal social media I have seen posting comments either for or against Target's stance on the issue. I have seen some in favor of the statement proclaiming that because of this, they will forever be loyal customers of Target, and will happily pay a little more to support them. Meanwhile, I have seen an equally-impressive number of people who are so adamantly opposed to the stance, that they are willing to publicly swear before God and everyone that they will never again set foot inside another Target store.

I realize the possibility of a transgender individual choosing to use what some of you might refer to as the “wrong” restroom is not the only issue you have with this situation. One popular argument is
that this opens the door to child predators waltzing into the public restroom of the opposite sex, and if challenged, having the opportunity to simply claim they are transgender and that you are discriminating against them if you do not allow them to use their restroom of choice. This stance, is just simply not valid at all. It doesn't matter what you look like or what you have between your legs. It doesn't matter whether you identify as a man or a woman. This new policy does not change the fact that when you are in a public restroom at Target or any other store, it is illegal to try to see or take pictures of anything you were not meant to see (reference Texas Penal Code 21.15 and 21.16). Also let me just remind you that while you are all so concerned about men using this as an opportunity to walk into the women's restroom to have a look around, there are plenty of predators out there who are the same sex as their victims. In fact, in a disproportionate number of child sex crimes, both the victim and the perpetrator are male.

I have read several social media posts from my ultra-conservative friends, stating that they went to the restroom or dressing room in Target and witnessed a young couple going in together. Naturally, after warning any parents who might have children who were at their local Target store, of the potential increased risk for out-of-wedlock pregnancies, they boldly stated that this was just another example of the side-effects of Target's new policy.

But in my humble opinion, they are terribly wrong about that statement. Target never said that you were welcome to follow your significant other to their restroom of choice so that you may share in the experience. Nor did they say that with the implementation of their new policy, young couples should feel free to use the Target dressing room as a convenient and inviting place for procreation.

I think it's pretty fair to say that if you have a significant other of the opposite sex, and you are following them into the restroom or dressing room, it is not because you “identify” as the opposite sex; you just see this as an opportunity to get it on in public. It seems pretty obvious to me if you read Target's statement and ignore all the propaganda being spewed by conservative politicians and the media, this is just as illegal as it ever was, and could very well end up with this couple receiving tickets for indecent exposure, among other things.

My point of this article is that while certain people see this as such a huge deviation from our societal and cultural norms, it doesn't change the fact that most of the acts they feel Target is now welcoming, are no-less illegal than they ever were. If you walk into the restroom and there is a creepy person, man or woman, standing in the corner, watching you, or trying to look into your stall, you shouldn't ignore them and then post about the experience on Facebook, as another example of why Target made the wrong decision. You should, without a doubt, leave the restroom and immediately notify management and local law enforcement. I assure you, they will take it just as seriously as they ever have.

And finally, while I feel that I am making a fairly obvious statement here, Target's new policy does not by any means make it any more acceptable for a couple to accompany one another to the restroom or dressing room; nor does it advocate for the acceptance of public sex acts.

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Unfortunately, I began writing this article and let myself get distracted by the editing process. So now as I complete the final edit, on August 17th Target made the announcement that they would be spending $20 Million to outfit all 1,800 of their stores with an additional gender-neutral restroom option. According to company spokeswoman Katie Boylan, “Target is all about inclusion. We want everyone to feel comfortable in our stores.”

While in the end, they had to find a middle ground and make concessions to keep everyone happy, I still commend Target for taking a stance on something so controversial. It might not have turned out quite how company executives hoped, but the important thing is that it got people talking about a difficult and uncomfortable topic. Meanwhile, I believe the company made the absolute best decision possible to make sure everyone who comes to their stores is as comfortable as possible while they are there.

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