Target Isn’t Putting Urinals In The Women’s Bathroom, But People Believing It Reveals A Bigger Problem

Last week, Target angered a very vocal minority when the company announced plans to allow transgender customers and team members to use the bathrooms which they felt most closely corresponded with their gender. Since then, people have come out in droves to to announce that they’d never shop at Target again, promising to post up outside bathrooms to police who belongs in which, threatening violence, and making the factually and statistically inaccurate argument that if trans people were allowed to use the bathrooms they were most comfortable with, the incidence of rape and assault in the women’s restrooms (especially against children) would immediately go up. Whew! Nothing like toilets to bring the bigots out.

One Alabama town even made it straight up criminal for trans people to use the bathroom that was most comfortable for them, inviting citizens to call the police if anything made them feel funny.

That was bad, but this is worse: Earlier this week, a woman in Los Angeles posted a Facebook photo in which she boldly proclaimed that Target was removing stalls in female-designated restrooms to bring in urinals so that men could walk in and do what they pleased. She even went as far as to say that this photo is an example of how target was continuing to wage a war against women.

Soon, the photo had been shared more than 15,000 times by people who were just as shocked and outraged as Crawford claimed to be. But all those people sharing ignored two important things: 1) Why would Target just do that when all they said was that they were allowing people to use the restrooms that corresponded to their gender (here’s a quick video that describes the difference between gender and biological sex)? And 2) like many things people post on Facebook to #OUTRAGE others, it was absolutely f*cking false. An outright lie.

From Buzzfeed:

“We are not putting urinals in the women’s restroom,” said Molly Snyder, a Target spokesperson.

In fact, what Crawford saw wasn’t so much a “war on women” as it was a way to give women a place to relieve themselves. The urinals were covered for the express purpose of making the rest of the bathroom unusable while the store was undergoing renovations:

In those stores where the bathrooms are being renovated, stores temporarily used the men’s facilities as the women’s restroom. The men’s bathroom was moved to a private bathroom near the pharmacy.

Not only that, but after the Facebook post blew up, Target decided to uncover the urinals and designate the bathrooms near the pharmacy for women’s use, just so there’d be no confusion. (Now the ladies will no who to thank while waiting in line.)

But as Buzzfeed notes, the initial post has already stirred up a hotbed of controversy, with people who shared it pointing out that it was an “open door for pedophiles” and an outrage that “real women” would have to suffer. People have also thrown around the argument that while current rules regarding restroom use deter nefarious deed-doers, soon the bathroom at your local Target will become a veritable free-for-all, with people snatching children, assaulting each other, and then walking right back out to buy clearance mac & cheese. These people will of course never be prosecuted because we live in a world that’s far too politically correct to charge criminals with crimes.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s go with the pedophile argument first. Not only does it assume that men are out there trying to dress as women to sexually assault children, but it immediately puts all trans people under the suspicion of being a pedophile (not true) and assumes that all pedophiles are strangers. Meanwhile, in reality, The National Center for Victims Of Abuse points out that 60 percent of children are abused by those in their own social circle with less than 15 percent of victims acknowledging they didn’t know the perpetrator. Also, it pretends that pedophiles are exclusively men (six percent of crimes perpetrated against boys are committed by women; 14 percent of crimes perpetrated against girls are committed by women).

This doesn’t mean that the scenario posed by people against Target’s decision–that some guy in an ill-fitting wig will follow someone into the bathroom for the sole purpose of rape–is completely outlandish, it’s just incredibly unlikely. And letting trans people, who are overwhelmingly the victims of crime rather than the perpetrators, use bathrooms that are comfortable for them isn’t going to raise that number. Suggesting otherwise really is bigotry and a succumbing to the fear of something one doesn’t understand and just “feels wrong” rather than “is wrong.” Ya dig?

When “common sense bathroom bills” started floating around last year, transgender individuals responded with selfies they took in the bathroom they’d be forced to use if bathrooms were divided by sex rather than gender. Posted under the hashtag #wejustneedtopee, these selfies were a reminder that most people had probably used the same restroom as a trans person and that nothing bad had happened. Images like these are being posted again now as a reminder that people are just trying to use the restroom and live their lives.

And, as one person pointed out: It’s sad that the whole “bathroom pedophilia” argument ignores the fact that the shadowy figures Target’s opponents are fighting against would still be using public restrooms. Just with boys.

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Boom! #wejustneedtopee #lgbt

A post shared by The People for Bernie Sanders (@peopleforbernie) on

It’s also important to note that most people aren’t not committing sexual crimes against children because they’re afraid of being caught, but because statistics suggest that less than five percent of the population (five percent is an upper estimate, according to The BBC) actually are pedophiles.

But there’s something else that’s baffling: How can we continue to rail against trans people using the restrooms that most closely coincides with their gender identity in the name of safety for the majority while completely ignoring the fact that a bathroom designated for males may be incredibly unsafe for trans women, whether they do or don’t pass for the gender they identify as.

If you’re confused: Exactly.

Here’s a particularly insightful take by a trans man who works at Target in Hawaii. His point–that we should be protecting the human rights of trans people (a significant minority that needs such protection), especially those who don’t pass–is particularly salient.

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Dear Target, I noticed this page is blowing up with #BoycottTarget post about the #bathroompolicy and I feel compelled to share a little bit of my perspective/experience with Target. I've been working at #Target in Hawaii part-time for about 6 months now. I like the job and it helps provide me with income to support my family. At work I'm a pretty quiet guy, but I like to think I'm well liked by my co-workers, supervisors, and our guests. I also like to think I'm a hard worker, and I was pretty happy when a few days ago I received good remarks on my review. However, I admit I have a tendency to drop things, my grocery bagging skills could use some serious work, and for whatever reason I still haven't perfected the whole press the button all the way down on the walkie talkie BEFORE I start talking.. Eh, I'm human. Needless to say, I've racked up some major frequent flyer miles in the Target bathroom over the last 6 months. When you gotta go, you gotta go, right? Up until this week, going to the bathroom at work hasn't felt like a political statement- far from it, but recently, folks sure are making it out to be. As a "passing" trans guy no one bats an eye when I step into the men's restroom. If I were to go into the women's I'm sure they would. I am privileged in this way, however, a lot of trans folks, (especially "non-passing" trans women) aren't afforded the same privilege I am of going to the restroom of their gender identity without fear of being targeted and attacked BECAUSE they are trans or "different." Your policy can't erase that scary reality for trans folks, but it does afford all trans folks the opportunity to determine which space is safest for them. For this I am grateful. It means a lot to work for a company that recognizes this and has non-discrimination policies in place to treat people with dignity and respect regardless of one's gender identity (and sex, race, nationality, etc.) I never really post on company pages, but with all the negative comments, I just wanted to say as an employee, and human who is also trans, I'm glad to work for a company that is LGBTQ friendly. Thank you. It's much appreciated. – Heath

A post shared by Heath Foster Collison (@becoming_heath) on

So, what to do? First, think critically before you share something on Facebook (especially if it comes from a source that happily posts jokes about dragging dead bodies through the woods) and then consider how someone receiving the right to use the bathroom that’s in line with their gender will affect you in the long run, and how it’s affected you already. With literally zero evidence that allowing trans people to use the bathroom will bring any significant danger to the population (just like gay marriage didn’t ruin the sanctity of the institution for anyone else), much less unleash a plague of locusts on America, it’s impossible to justify the boycotts, the anger, and the continued threats of violence against Target shoppers and team members who are just trying to live their lives.