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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?