BLOGWhy Target's New Bathroom Policy Misses the Mark

By Kellie Fiedorek Posted on: | April 29, 2016

Excursions to Target with my mom as a kid were always fun. The anticipation as we drove over was exciting—would I be able to convince my mom that I really needed that cherry icee while we shopped? Would I successfully slip away to look at pink Legos on the toy aisle? And, importantly, would she finally give in and buy me overalls, because, come on, everyone was wearing overalls in the 90s. 

Going to Target is something I still enjoy. I frequently go only needing toothpaste and milk, and 1 hour and $115 later I walk out with all sorts of wonderful items that somehow I “needed,” but weren’t on my list.

At least that’s what I used to do until last week—when Target announced that in the name of “inclusivity,” it was opening its restrooms and changing rooms to members of the opposite sex, regardless of their reason for entering. Under Target’s new policy, anyone can now use whichever restroom or changing area they choose without being questioned because that might be seen as “unwelcoming.” 

But most Americans would agree inclusivity should never come at the steep cost of forfeiting privacy and safety in the restroom.

If Target were serious about ensuring that its customers and employees felt “accepted, respected, and welcomed,” it would not have ignored  the feelings of children, particularly girls, who understandably and justifiably would feel humiliated, scared, or unsafe—not welcomed—if they saw a member of the opposite sex in their restroom. 

It would not have discounted the voices of thousands of women and girls who have been sexually abused, for whom the mere presence of a male in an intimate setting can trigger emotional and psychological trauma. 

Ironically, Target, the White House, celebrities like Lady Gaga, many in the sports world, and others recognize the growing problem with sexual assault and have supported efforts to prevent it from occurring. And yet they support policies like Target’s that open restrooms to members of the opposite sex, giving full reign to those who wish to pretend to be women to gain access to women’s restrooms and prey upon young girls.

If Target thinks the only way to help people feel “welcomed” is to throw open the bathroom doors to members of the opposite sex, it has fundamentally misunderstood how to respect its patrons.

While people “deserve to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally,” Target mistakenly thinks that maintaining sex specific restrooms somehow treats people unfairly. Sex-specific restrooms exist to respect citizens and ensure their fundamental right to privacy is not trampled. But by allowing people to use their restrooms and changing rooms based on feelings rather than biology, Target is inviting both those who are genuinely confused about their sex and those who would abuse the policy.

If Target is serious about respecting all their guests and team members, it should consider a policy that better meets its stated goals—one that maintains male and female restrooms and changing areas, while also providing private, single occupancy restrooms for those confused about their gender identity. Such a policy ensures that every person’s privacy needs are met. In fact, every Target I’ve ever been to (and I have probably gone to a Target in 35 states) already has such single occupancy restrooms. 

Target, as a national corporation that serves a diverse clientele, can thus both sympathize with those who are confused about their identity while also protecting everyone’s security and comfort in the restroom.  In fact, it is precisely this respect for every person’s privacy that prompts North Carolina’s law, and many bathroom policies like it, to provide accommodation for those uncomfortable using the restroom that corresponds to their biological sex. Seeking to keep bathrooms sex specific is not about hate or bigotry, but about a commonsense desire for privacy and safety. 

With a stroke of a pen and a splash of rainbow, Target has transformed from a family-friendly store that cared about all of its employees and customers to a negligent store that fails to prioritize privacy and safety, particularly for women and young children. This suggests that Target’s real goal is to feed division and political agendas instead of caring about its actual customers’ privacy.

I hope that Target reconsiders its policy and recognizes that biology—not feelings—is the only sensible basis for ensuring that privacy rights are protected in its restrooms. I hope that they reconsider the interests of millions of people who don’t want to share—or don’t want their mothers, wives, or children to share—a restroom with a person of the opposite sex. And I hope that they stand up on the right side of fairness, privacy and safety.

Kellie Fiedorek

Legal Counsel

Kellie Fiedorek serves as legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.

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