Why I’m NOT Boycotting Target

April 28, 2016

Categories: Justice

I got into a (relatively civil) debate the other day with a Facebook friend who posted on her blog that she was boycotting Target following their recent position on transgender individuals and the use of bathrooms. Here’s what Target said on their website:

We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.

The reason for my friend’s position seemed to be focused on the fear of what might happen if transgender individuals were allowed to use the bathroom of their choice. She had a problem with a person who was biologically male being allowed to use the same bathroom as herself, her daughters, and her granddaughters. In our exchange, she also expressed fear that a pedophile might dress up as a transgender individual and use the opposite bathroom.

Before I describe my position, I want to acknowledge that as a man, I probably have a different perspective on this issue than a woman, particularly when it comes to feelings of safety and security in public bathrooms. I want to make sure I’m listening to female perspectives on this issue as well.

With that said, here’s why I’m not boycotting Target:

  1. Fears about safety and security aren’t backed up by research. There seems to be a persistent fear that transgender individuals will ‘use’ the less restrictive bathroom laws to prey on unsuspecting victims, especially women and children. The trouble is, I haven’t found any evidence supporting this fear. I haven’t found any studies that show different rates of sexual assault or harassment by transgender individuals vs. cisgender individuals. (Cisgender is a term that means your gender identity matches your biological sex.) I haven’t found any studies that show different rates of sexual assault or harassment in places that have less restrictive vs. more restrictive bathroom laws. If someone has a research study showing something different, please send it to me. But as far as I can tell, this fear isn’t backed up by evidence.
  2. True criminals don’t abide by laws and rules anyways. If someone is the type of person that has decided to commit a sex crime, it is likely that they have little regard for the laws and rules of the land. They are past the point of worrying about laws and rules. Because of this, I don’t see more restrictive bathroom laws doing a lot to prevent sex crimes. My opinion is that changing the bathroom rules to be more accommodating to transgender individuals will not result in an increase in sex crimes in public bathrooms. I may be wrong, and I’m open to research that says otherwise. But that is my opinion.
  3. Christian compassion has to incorporate tangible support, advocacy, and justice. A lot of Christians say they love others and have compassion for all people, including transgender individuals. But Christians are among the first to take a stand against equal rights and justice when it comes to transgender issues. This is a big disconnect for me. What does compassion look like in practice? Is it just a feeling? Or does it involve tangible support, advocacy, and justice? There was one time an expert in the religious law asked Jesus what it meant to love your neighbor (Lk 10:25-37). Jesus answered by telling a story about a man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead along the road. A priest and a Levite saw the man along the road, but walked right by him, refusing to help. A Samaritan, on the other hand, had true compassion for the man. He bandaged his wounds and took care of him. He took him to an inn and paid for him to stay there and be looked after. Jesus tells the expert in the law to be like the Samaritan and do what he did. True compassion, according to Jesus, involves action, money, and tangible support. It’s more than a feeling. Similarly, our compassion toward transgender individuals needs to involve tangible support, advocacy, and justice. It’s more than a feeling.

Discussion: How did you react when Target announced its inclusive bathroom policy? Did you struggle with the position, or did you celebrate it? What do you think true Christian compassion toward transgender individuals looks like?


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  1. Stephen April 29, 2016 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    As to point #1, I don’t think the concern is as much transgender people doing harm as those who intend to do harm taking advantage of this “new” ability to use a restroom that doesn’t correspond with their sex. Not that that argument had any more support.

  2. Tom Eissenberg April 29, 2016 at 12:18 pm - Reply


  3. Becky April 29, 2016 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    I think Target’s decision to change their bathroom policy is a huge mistake. As a woman and mother of three daughters, I have an issue with people with male anatomy using the female bathroom, and vice versa. I agree that there should not be injustice or intolerance for people with different sexual orientations, but when you are speaking about public restrooms, and even more concerning, school bathrooms and locker rooms, I think it comes down to anatomy. Even though my 10-year-old daughter is certainly old enough to use a public restroom without me, because of changing policies I will no longer feel comfortable allowing her to go by herself. And my teenaged daughters do not feel comfortable changiing in the school locker room with a transgender student of the opposite sex. But that is becoming a reality in many of our schools.

    And as a broader topic, I struggle with the idea that in order to make a very small percentage of people more comfortable, we are making the majority of people uncomfortable. I think I heard that more than 500,000 people have spoken up with concerns about this: Target should listen to their customers..

    I agree with the first commenter, the concern is not necessarily that transgender folks will do harm but that pedophiles will take advantage, because now anyone can use which ever bathroom they like. I think the best solution would be to have a separate bathroom that is non-gender specific.

  4. Melanie April 29, 2016 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    I applaud Target’s decision about the bathrooms. I also would like to point out that a transgender person would likely have used the bathroom of their choice previously and no one made a fuss. As a woman I frequently have to be aware of the possible threats to my safety; walking to my car at night, going out on blind date, etc but I do not feel a need to worry about transgender people any more than I worry about the other women in the restroom.
    I could be out of the loop here but if not for this highly discriminatory law how many people were really concerned about who was using which the restroom previously.

  5. Collette Stallone April 30, 2016 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    I agree with Joshua Hook’s reasoned points. In addition, chances are excellent that we have all shared the bathroom with transgendered people in the past and didn’t know. This issue is much ado about nothing. There is no evidence suggesting transgendered are more likely to molest anyone….unlike Washington male politicians…maybe we should be more careful about sharing our bathrooms, or any other rooms, with them. (Just kidding, sort of, but there is a point here.)

  6. […] Christians are making the same mistake with issues like gender roles in marriage and church, transgender issues, and gay […]

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